Answering Doors

Opportunity rasped
repeatedly at my door
knuckles bloodied, bruised and broken
until they were incapable
of knocking again
I chose to open up
once silence fell
with head bowed
I took it’s palms in mine
and healed sores with words
Why didn’t you answer ?‘ Opportunity asked
and in my mind
the truth was told
– ‘there are far more deserving than I‘.

Thanks for taking the time to read this poem. I hope you enjoyed it. If opportunity knocks, always answer because it may take you to places you could only dream about.

Take It Easy

Paul

Great Grandad Grandstand

I remember the things I learned
watching Grandstand on Saturday afternoons
at my Great Grandad’s house
like the rules of snooker, darts
and horse racing
how to pick a winning horse out the newspaper (look at the jockey)
sound like Woody the Woodpecker
how to use a mangle to dry out clothes
still steaming from the old washing machine
I found that snuff tobacco was minty
and cured a sniffle
that I preferred my squash diluted
and scotch eggs and ‘black bullets
are the food of kings
The most important thing
he taught me and many others
           – was kindness.

Although Grandstand Saturdays came to an end
I still keep what I learnt
sacred in my mind and heart
except the food
I eat that.

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem. A little letter to my Great Grandad who used to have me round when I was a kid.

Take It Easy

Paul

The Stranger

The New York night was bleak, cold and solemn. Even the moon concealed itself in the comfort of clouds so it would not bear witness of what was to come. Tonight, death felt inevitable.

Carter Samson’s stomach rumbled as he got out of the elevator at basement level. His senses took ten seconds  to adjust as he stepped out of the soft lighting and droning muzac into the pitch darkness of the subterranean garage. Clumsily, he pulled out his keys and used the mini torch on his keychain to light the path to his car, clicking the remote central locking. He climbed in, started the engine, then felt the firm crush of steel on the back of his shaved scalp. He checked his mirror and stared into the eyes of a face he didn’t recognise. 

‘Where did you hide the bodies Carter?’ the Stranger asked calmly, in a thick Russian accent.

‘W-w-w-what do you mean? I think you have me mixed up with someone else’ he snivelled.

‘Carter Samson, or should I say Cesar Samsonivich you’re not going to get away with murder any more, I know who you are and what you’ve done. This is the last time I ask, where did you hide the bodies?’

The worry on Carter’s transformed to a wide grin, a gold tooth glinting in the mirror’s reflection. ‘I didn’t hide the bodies, Comrade, I feasted on most of them and fed some to my wolves back in Saint Petersburg, well my Russian delicacies anyway. I am the embodiment of the demon, Bauk and tonight I will feast on you. It has been a while since I’ve tasted a Russian eyeball and heart. and I am hungry’

‘Oh, tonight you will only be tasting justice for the lives you’ve taken, zasranec. Turn off the engine. Now’, the Stranger replied angrily.

‘You can’t kill me here, there is security all around, you will never get away. Mmm, I  can smell the doubt on you now. A pity. It sometimes gives flesh a sour note. Maybe your blood will be sweet, though, we’ll see’ Cesar said matter-of-factly.

‘You talk of security, Comrade, but I got in here unnoticed. Very easily. I have no doubt I will be ending you tonight. So tell me, how many have you killed in total? I know of forty-seven in the Motherland and thirty-five in Finland, and for the last time turn the fucking engine off, ’ the Stranger demanded.

‘You are quite the investigator, aren’t you. Okay I’ll play along. You’re right about Russia and Finland, very tasty morsels there. Especially that young couple from Lieksa, they were pure, saving themselves for marriage. I gave them a taste of each other before they died, it seemed fair but they didn’t want to taste each other so maybe their marriage would have failed. There were only ten in England, I wasn’t there long. Then two here in America. The Americans taste of processed foods. My palate is more  refined, I can keep you alive while I gorge on you and tell you how you taste if you wish?’ Cesar replied with a maniacal look in his eyes, his lips being soaked by his meaty tongue.

Seeing the disgust in the Stranger’s eyes, Cesar used this as a distraction and pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator then braked. He no longer felt the gun on him. He turned his head, hoping to see the Stranger crumpled and disoriented in the back seat but his hope immediately turned to horror. The gun’s chamber met his eye and he felt the faintest glimmer of heat on his eyeball a millisecond before the bullet killed him.

The Stranger climbed through to the passenger seat and turned off the engine. He pulled a small axe from the back seat. It had nearly ripped him open when Cesar had tried to knock him off balance but now he was meticulously hacking through flesh, sinew and bone. He started with the head, it always took the longest time and the Stranger wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Once the head was detached, the hands, feet, arms and legs quickly followed. It was a tight space to cut up a dead body and somewhat impractical but the Stranger had worked in tighter spaces before this. He knew once the remains were bagged up, there would be much more space. 

The Stranger drove Cesar Samsonivich’s car to the Russian embassy. He wasn’t worried about being caught; the tech team knew how to get the Motherland’s preferred candidate into The White House, so making a car disappear from traffic cameras would be easy. When he pulled into the gates, a man he recognised as Ilya took the keys and drove it to the hidden workshops where there was a team ready to change the car’s silver colour to something darker and remove the New York State license plates. The Stranger knew the plan; the car would be sent to Russia by plane tomorrow with the bags of Carter’s body laid out on the leather interior and be used in a propaganda campaign to arrest some foreign nationals the FSB had identified as terror cells. Some information would be leaked. The State media always needed fed and dead bodies and terror cells always kept them full for a few days. 

The night felt cold and pure as he walked through the embassy gardens toward the rear door. The guards on duty saw him approach and waved. The youngest asked him for his identification even though they had sat together at the breakfast table earlier that day. He appreciated the normality after killing that piece of scum. The Stranger looked up watching the breath escape his mouth. He caught a glimpse of the moon peering out from behind a cloud seemingly happy at what was going on underneath it as it grew brighter. He opened the embassy door and let the rest of the night swallow him up.

Thanks for taking the time to read this short story about The Stranger. I may do a crossover with the main character in this and Killing Time in NYC. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Take it Easy,

Paul

Morning Fishing Trips

A September Saturday in 1995
the four a.m. sea air is salt-sour
silicate sand shimmers
under the after-midnight-blue canopy
the waning moon a spotlight
on discarded worm skins

I dig since I’m the youngest –
because even morning fishing trips have hierarchies –
success arrives after ten minutes
of shovel and scoop
we loot the fresh bait
they can wriggle all they want
we own them now

we march in early morning muteness
preserving our energy
until we can cast off
and pour ourselves a flask-coffee
topped with a nip of whisky

destination reached we pick our spots
wisely or not
our rods are set
with hands stained with dying worm-dye

waiting for the first ripple
or bend of pole
the craic is quiet
about the things men like to talk about
as dawn passes over us

an hour passes by
then three of five rods
begin to quiver
the ancient part of our hunter-brains
spike our natural instincts

we let our rods sway
luring in the line tenderly
then reel rapidly
drawing in a decent-sized pollock
the crack of the baton
gives me the first of a few fish
caught before the nearby B&B’s
serve their breakfasts.

After some further success
we head back to the van
our shoal are all fair sizes
my pollock glimmering longest in the bucket
but hierarchies exist
and I may get landed with a small plaice
but where there are hierarchies
there are rites of passage
and it’s the first fish i’ve caught
so I get to keep it

I also get to gut all the catch
my fumbling numb fingers
dyed crimson by dead fish
find their rhythm
and I’m proud to be
on the first
rung of the hunter’s hierarchy.

I used to go fishing in Northumberland regularly, this poem is about when i first started out, I was 12. One of our neighbours took me with his friends, it was always a great experience.

I hope you like it.

Take it easy

Paul

The Shows

We called the travelling funfair
“The Shows”
the same way our parents did
when they arrived in The Wick
late summer excitement
that smelled of hot sugared doughnuts, flowing diesel and damp trampled grass
the air was always a kaleidoscope
of flickering lightbulbs and brightly painted plywood
shrill screams of exhiliration could be heard over a mile away
layered over a techno soundtrack
thumping with the pulses of waltzer-spun teens
and kids riding the ghost train anticipating the supersoaker squirt on exit
sometimes I liked to play the bandits
tuppence to ten-pence a go
so nothing to lose really
the games were good to –
one night I hooked six banana-yellow ducks
and walked home with six goldfish
struggling to hold the punch balloon and pink-pillow candy floss in my other hand
it was a great time to be alive
amongst crowded smiles and double denim
spending my paper round and pocket money like fun was going out of fashion
and just the other day
I saw an internet flyer
“The Shows” are back this year
travelling up and down the coast
and although I’ll not see them
I can taste the air –

the flavour of excitement.

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem and feel free to check out some of my other writing.

Take It Easy,

Paul

Birdsong

Instead of sleep
in the early hours
I sit and listen to the
siren song of the starlings and finches
at four am
they gather on the dew-kissed fencetops
when the delicate new day
is climbing from grey earth
to sherbet-pink sky
and I wonder what’s to come
in the next 19 hours
before my head hits the pillow
because – although most days are the same –
like the dawn chorus
everyday is different.

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem. If you want to read more, please explore the site.

Take it Easy

Paul

Wetland Character Building


I almost drowned once
down near the mill
swimming the current of the Coquet
three quarters of the way across
my legs lost power
against the undertow
I’m lucky Peck kept his eyes on me
as the river reeds
wrapped around ankles
my head bobbing up and down
like a braeburn on bonfire night
and the rest of the boys
jumped back in
like working-class Hasselhoffs
and pulled me to the side
they were much stronger swimmers than me

a quick rest and pat on the back
spitting up some of the river
then swigging back
some calming Carling
the realisation – dawned on me –
I had to swim back
facing a new fear head on
because backstroke was no good
I’m lucky I’ve got such great mates
we swam back together
like geese fly
    – in formation –
reaching the riverbank’s safety
and although my swimming didn’t improve that day
my character did.

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem, an autobiographical piece of my younger days.

Hope you liked it and if you did, feel free to leave a comment.

Take It Easy

Paul x

The Magpie – A Short Story

I can hear a constant thumping on the door. That pisses me off. That’s what the doorbell’s for. Probably the pizza delivery guy. He never uses the bell.

I pull open the door and two men in black tracksuits push me back, one of them slams the oak shut. I hope it hasn’t splintered. It cost a fortune. The two invaders look and smell like a day-old shit that hasn’t been flushed. The tall one’s nose is twitching. Maybe his aroma is burning his nostrils as well as mine. The smaller of the two ushers me to sit on a stool next to the marble island. “Keep quiet and we won’t ‘urt ya”, the taller one spits out in a thick cockney accent. I keep my mouth shut. It gives them the illusion of control.

“The car keys, your phone, wallet, laptops, all your gear, where is it old man?” says the shorter of the two. He seems to be the brains of the operation.

“Well I wouldn’t keep them in the kitchen, would I?” I reply.

“You stay ‘ere and watch ‘im, I’ll check the place out” he orders, giving me a slap with the back of his hand. He’s happy with himself as I wipe my lips checking for any signs of blood. “Be quick” the taller one replies. I watch as the shorter man scurries off in the direction of the lounge. He’ll be happy with what he finds in there. I like expensive things. It’s why the people who hire me call me The Magpie.

“We’ve hit the jackpot” I hear him shout.

I’m getting more and more pissed off. These two cockney cockroaches think they’re going to rob me, one gave me a slap and called me an old man. I look at my lanky guard. He has a good foot on me but his frame is slight. His eyes are darting back and forward and he keeps touching his jaw. It’s clear now that he’s full of cocaine. I stand up from the stool. Just to see his reaction. He’s twitching. He says “sit down now”, pulling a knife from his hoodie pocket. It’s only a small blade. Four inches, if that. Probably stole it from his mothers kitchen drawer. I raise my arms in submission and step back further from where I came from. I sit on the stool furthest away from him. “You should be fuckin’ scared old man” he says.

“How old do you boys think I am?”, I ask.

“Fifties innit” he says.

“A couple of cheeky, robbing cockney bastards”,  I say.

“Forties? It don’t matter, you’re still ancient compared to us”, he laughs, pleased with himself.

“I’m in my thirties, you little twat. And since you’ve pissed me off so much, I won’t let you leave this house alive.” I stand up again, stretching my arms out, then sitting back down immediately. I doubt he notices what I slip in my hand. He walks straight towards me then picks up a glass from the island. Pours himself a glass of water from the tap. Gulps it down. Burps in my direction. Laughs again. 

The short one returns with my laptops, Ipad, Mac, Apple Watch, Rolex, Omega, Breitling  and the keys to my Jag. My wallets sitting on the top of the pile. “I’ll need help with the TV’s then I’ll check upstairs. May as well check the basement as well,” he says greedily.

“I’ll get the TV’s while you keep an eye on him,” the tall one replies. It’s agreed. I watch the tall one walk through to the lounge. 

“Must be pretty embarrassing for you is it?” I ask.

“What you talkin ‘bout?” he replies, a glint of confusion in his voice.

“That you need to bring along the big one for the higher stuff, ‘cause you’re a short arse?”.

“Shut your mouth, it ain’t like that. One more word and I’ll do ya”, his voice is full of spite.

“Sorry Jim, no need to get so angry”, I reply.

“Who the fuck is Jim, you old twat?”, he says, stepping closer.

“Sorry, I just came up with names for you both” I reply. He steps closer again.

“Yeah? Jim and what?” He snarls. He’s within a couple of feet. 

“Jim and the Beanpole obviously, like a budget Jack and the Beanstalk”. I see him open his body up, pulling his right arm back to throw a punch. I’m too fast for him and cold Japanese steel slides through his shoulder like butter, severing the tendons with ease. He lets out a wail and slumps to the floor. He’s sobbing and I can smell piss. I’m glad I bought the new mop last week. 

Beanpole has heard the wail. He comes running through, his small blade in hand. He lunges, but I drop down pulling the knife out of Jim. He stabs down but I roll out the way and slice the back of his ankles. Then the backs of his knees. He goes down. I get his used glass from the counter, swing my arm as hard as it will allow and bring it crashing down over the bridge of his nose. He passes out. 

The doorbell rings. I go to answer it. “Who is it” I ask through the door.

“Pizza delivery” replies a young voice. I open the door and hand him a tip. He smiles at the sight of the £20. I hear a scooter engine start up and fade into the distance.  I take a slice of pizza from the box, savouring the cheese. I’m always hungry after a fight or a kill. It’s the adrenaline crash. 

I’ve made sure Jim and the Beanpole are unconscious. I carry them to the basement. All my equipment is down here. I can have some fun. Should I use the axe or the saw or maybe both. Definitely the mallet.  I hear a phone buzz in one of their hoodies. It pulls me back to the present. It’s Beanpoles. A text message. I’ll reply to that later. I’ll keep the phone as well. It’s expensive. 

Thanks for reading, i’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take it easy,

Paul

Celebrating a Win!!!

Hey everyone, just a quick post to say I won a writing contest in April for Press 53.

The contest was to write a 53-word short story using their prompt of taste. I found out on Friday that I’d won and I’m really happy about it.

If you want to read “That Awkward First Kiss” click the link:

https://www.press53.com/53word-story-contest

Thanks for reading.

Take it easy,

Paul

Image courtesy of Danny Howe via Unsplash.