Fairies in the peanut butter!

These fetid creatures! It isn’t how they make it out to be. All those rubbish fairy tales. Its all just propaganda! I found one asleep in the peanut butter the other day. She woke just as I was taking the lid off the jar. She didn’t look sorry. She simply dabbed some peanut butter into her mouth. You can’t eat peanut butter after something has slept in it!

I can’t take it anymore. I pressed her down into the peanut butter. I could see her little arms swimming in it, desperate to get out. Some people say its ok to break off their wings. But I am superstitious. I don’t like to do that. Maleficent, sometimes the propaganda works even on me.

I put the lid quickly on and binned the jar. I know that’s not right. She might not be able to get out again. Maybe one of her friends came to save her. Almost certainly one did, I heard the bin lid in the night. The next afternoon as I was making the dinner one flew above the cooker and urinated in my mash. I had to throw the mash out. I went for the spatula but I was too late. I hate to squish them, but on the other hand, the ones around here don’t even bother with a veneer of civilisation.

You used to get crickets around here at night, you’d hear them in the summer, then the fairies moved in, spit roasted the lot of them. Never thought I would feel sorry for crickets. And then there’s the constant arguments with the birds. The smaller birds don’t stand a chance, just turfed out of their nests.

I set the cat on them when they first arrived but they sorted that. They darted the cat. Sent her back into the house with a sea of tiny arrows in her fur. Cost a fortune to get them removed and now the cat is afraid of them. She won’t leave the house. I heard they spit roasted the cat down the road for Halloween. Seems impossible but I haven’t seen their cat for a while.

No one who hasn’t lived with them can possibly understand. I have anti-fairy mesh. Its like a mosquito net. Its not hugely effective. Nothing is. Imagine flies with hands and you can see the problem. We have a wildlife pond. It seems to becoming a vacation spot for them. A hundred tiny tents on our grass along with the waste products that brings. Yes that is the bit they don’t tell you about. Fairies have digestive systems! And they all need to ‘eject’ everything every time they fly. Or at least not long after take off. We keep the car in the garage now.

The noise is something else too, squeaky whiny high pitched voices or music, and yes some of them do wear bells. That is even worse. Their parties are like wind chimes on steroids. You can’t sleep through it. Yeh I know earplugs, but last time one of them came into my room, took my ear plugs out whilst I was sleeping.! They use ear plugs as bean bags. Of course they do! Did I mention they get high on sniffing nail polish. Our pond looked like a paint shop after a hurricane as well as being a watery grave for all the newts and whatever else was in the pond. And no nail polish now!

They are making our life hell. The value of our house has dropped-significantly. You have fairies, you can’t sell! You get the odd tourist who wants to see one in real life, who is convinced they are all glitter and tulle and sparkles, only to be scared senseless by their aggression and rudeness. We have had several toddlers taken from our house straight to a secure facility to recover.

The thing is I feel we should be able to live in harmony. I have read all the stories and clearly someone thought that was possible. But they look at us with scorn and anger. I read somewhere they feel sorry for us because of our size. Something that big they say can’t possible survive on this planet. I look at my once beautiful garden. I look at how many of them live here now and I wonder if they aren’t right? Perhaps our time here is done.

Stage Fright

Inside my head.
The ideas form in bubbles.
The bubbles burst,
Before I can get the words out.

I try and find some quiet.

Inside my head!
Some way of making the bubbles,
travel more slowly across the sky.
Some way of articulating what each circle holds.

But instead there is only silence.

Inside my head?
They are all looking at me now.
Sniggering. Laughing.
Wondering why my mouth is open but.

The noise is not coming out.

I hear it. A voice.
I know it is my voice.
I know the voice is my voice.
I know the words are coming out of my mouth.

I can hear it inside of me, but it is disconnected.

I hear it. A voice!
I am reading the words on the page.
Without understanding them.
The person, the person that is me.

Is standing there reading the words.

I hear it. A voice?
Still in my head, the bubbles keep coming,
fizzing out and then bursting like starlight.
I try and see the audience but.

The bubbles obscure everything.

The bubbles obscure e-v-e-r-ything.
I can hear myself still speaking.
I can feel my mouth moving.
Then applause. Applause.

It is done. But what is done?

The bubbles obscure everything!
I don’t remember any of it.
Just the bubbles.
The bubbles. The bubbles.

Bursting, across the sky in front of my eyes.

Obscuring everything?
My mouth smiles.
But it is not my smile.
I leave the stage.

Cinders

Beltane.

There is fire in the night. I dream of men dancing naked. Sweaty, smelly, ashen men, lit by fire dancing in darkness. Of witches screeching, of eyes caught in firelight. Of rhythm. Of smoke and stars.

I remind myself this is a Maths exam.

But there it is. The thought in my head. The numbers blur on the page. I look at my palm. At the tiny cinder of heat in the middle of it. I blow on it. To cool it. To cool me. Why me.

I can throw fire.

Out of the palm of my hand. The cinder embedded there glimmers in the dullness of the hall. I could burn this place to the ground. With everybody in it. I look around me. There is the invigilator.

An old man in a cardigan.

It’s always the same. They always wear cardigans. Woollen cardigans are best for soaking in water and dousing the flames. I know I have watched them beat flames in the night when I could not control it.

Polyester burns green.

Everyone else is writing. There is the noise of thousand of pens scrawling across wooden desks. The gentle tap of fingers on soft calculator buttons. Buttons. After the last fire there were buttons. Giant buttons.

One of the dead must have had a jacket with buttons.

They all think it was me. The cinder burns my left hand. It is a flame waiting to be lit. It was me. I have been out of control. I am now in control. The fire burns with me, not against me.

Beltane.

Flames licking the night sky. Wolves howling at the moon. The crops, we need them to grow this season. I belong to the past. I am no use to the future anymore. I must make a life here.

Calculus.

I cannot focus. Somewhere inside of me the fire burns endlessly. I feel hot. From my toes to the top of my head. I push it away forcing it all into that point in the palm of my hands. That cinder, it grows red hot.

Trigonometry.

Triangles. Three sides. I scrape the cinder with my fingers and smoke rises. I shove my hand under the desk to hide it. Why me? I wonder. Why did this happen to me. I shift in my seat. I shuffle. I try and focus.

Beltane.

There is a ringing in my head. I look at the panel where the fire alarm is. The ringing, it is only in my head. Can no one else see the smoke? I take a sip of water. I stroke the cinder. I must stay calm.

Algebra.

I pull my hair until it hurts. The girl across from me looks at me. She is something I am not. I try and ignore her. Still the fire rages inside of me. The cinder burns brightly. I can smell smoke. It is 3 desks to the wall. I can see the fire alarm.

Statistics.

I look behind me, I look all around me. Everyone head down, scratching away. The man in the cardigan looks at me. I can see him thinking. He is coming towards me. I am moving.

Beltane.

I did not intend to move. He is getting faster. I fling myself out of my desk, leap for the alarm. My hand smashes the fire alarm. Smoke rises as everyone flees the building. I fling flames at my desk. I want to be innocent.

No one is innocent.

Just the Flowers Screaming

I look at them but I cannot see it.

The flowers are all withered now.
They were cut off from their life force,
And brought inside,
Placed into water and a vase.
So we could watch them die.

And they died beautifully,
For our amusement.
Sitting on the table,
Brightening everyone’s day,
With their prolonged elegant death.

We gave them just enough water
To let them bloom.
But not enough to let them live.
I tell myself it was like being in a coma
But I am not so sure.

Perhaps their wretched screams
Rended into the night,
Too high pitched for us to hear.
If so I slept through it.
And woke afresh as they struggled on.

Perhaps their quiet malice
seeped into my dreams.
Maybe their perfumed mist
Blew into my food.
Just enough to make me feel uncomfortable.

Did the great artists know of such things,
When they named their pictures of fruit and flowers,
‘Still life’
Was it there, life still,
as they stood bright on the window sill?

Life seeping away, for my amusement.
Were they weeping tears of nectar
Holding their petals high until the last.
As we pressed our noses into them and
commented frivolously on their beauty.

Maybe when I pluck them
From the vase that was their tomb,
their spores will prick my skin,
Infect it with their vengeance
Tormenting me with itches in the night.

I look at them but I cannot see it.
There is no beauty in their death.
They belonged in the earth.
There was only beauty in their life.
To pick them, put them here, it was not right.

A funeral of men

This is a funeral of men.
They have come to bury their secrets.
I have come to bury my

Aunt.
Aren’t?

You supposed to wear black.
I am the only woman here.
I am wearing

Red.
Red,

I read all the notes she made.
Times, places, sizes
They paid cash or she gave them

Credit.
Credit,

Where credit is due.
She was discreet,
Had her secrets

Too.
Two

People in the night.
No one was hurt,
No crime

Committed.
Committed

Men, my father too.
His wife’s sister!
He knew her

Well!
Well!

My mother said,
My sister, she made her bed,
It was hers to

Lie in.
Lying

Men to chaste wives.
Who must have known what she did.
How she

Lived.
Livid

Wives to soulless men.
Times were different then.
A scandalous life has

Passed.
Passed

Her secrets on to me
I might release them all
For the world to

See.
See

Them standing sombre
As if their secrets are now safe
As soon as she is in that

Place.
Place

Your trust in me
Those brief moments in the dark
This is a funeral of

Men.
Men

Whose secrets I now hold
My aunt was a whore
Or so I am

Told.
Tolled,

A payment of money
For services given.
For secrets

Kept.
Kept

But only if you pay
My aunt’s insurance
For my rainy day.

And her-

And her-

She is a child of the gaps.
Of the spaces between the things we say.

Her noise is voiceless.
Because its only purpose is to shield us

From the realisation, that we are a shell.

Of what we used to be,
Of what we wanted to be.

The inside is hollowed out.
Trauma, life has eaten us up.

We have no words to say to each other.
We savage our partnership with silence,

And salve it with cool contempt.
All so we can survive it.

And her-

She is a child of the gaps
Filling our void with her noise.

Noise, any noise, just noise.
Because the noise binds us together

Fills the holes where the world leaks through.

And the silences tear us apart,
Rends us in two.

She is the life raft of words.
Dragging us from the isles of despair.

And we cling to it, to her,
As if those words belong to us,

As if her birth somehow gave us the right.
One day her voice will be her own.

And we-

We will face the gaps alone.

Conceived

I am thinking of chopping it off. My hand that is. It keeps oozing out the past at every opportunity. I have lost control of it now. Completely. And it is only a matter of time before someone guesses. Especially here, in the nursing home, where death stalks every corner. It is my own fault. I should have removed it before I came here.

Once there was a bad man. Bad to me. Bad to others. I was at a party. He passed out on the floor. I remember the very solid thump as his head hit the ground. I did what anyone would do. I stood staring for a moment. Unsure.

Then I put my wine glass carefully on the table. I checked for a pulse. He was still breathing. I tried to bring him around. Perhaps not very hard but I did try. At first. I took out my phone. I looked at it. The thing is –he was a very bad man.

I clamped his nose between my fingers and jammed the palm of my hand into his mouth. I put my legs across his chest, settling my knees beneath his rib cage. Basically I stopped him breathing. I waited, with my head turned to the door. No one came.

I told myself I had helped him to die rather than you know-the ‘m’ word. For all I know he would have died anyway. It was a long time ago.

The official verdict was death by accident. It was a very nasty head bump. Someone else found him.

Except now my hand.

I wake up in the morning and there it is. The very shape, room for a nose, my hand clamped in that position. Immovable. I have to purposefully will it to release itself. There is the gap between my two middle fingers. Holding something that is not there. My outside fingers tight together. They are just held there in suspension. As if. As if they are still clamping a nose. My palm presses forward. It is all there in the muscle memory of my hand. Which is why I need to get rid of it. Do you know how hard it is to get a knife in this place? My hand has gone rogue.

It doesn’t stop in the morning either. I will be sitting having coffee. I say coffee but it is murky brown tasteless stuff. I will be having coffee with a friend and I can feel my hand contract and form the shape. It just happens. I cannot control it. I know they look at me as if I am odd. Every person in this place is odd though, it is the privilege of old age. I think they want to get a doctor to look at it. That can’t happen. That will be a disaster.

I dread finding someone collapsed in the corridors in case I am tempted. I am tempted. I can still feel his body spluttering underneath me. I feel him struggling for breath even unconscious. And I just held my knees tight. His rib cage could not move. He was unconscious. I am sure he was unconscious. He was mostly unconscious. He was a bad man.

I feel the last gasp of air come out of his mouth. I can feel it on my face because I leaned in. Because I wanted to feel it. And my hand, now my hand, keeps going back to that position. Covering his nose.

I worry about the hand. Would it be safer to chop it off? What if someone sees? Guesses? Knows? But I am helpless in this decision and google and youtube have been useless in giving proper instructions for hand severance.

I find myself making that shape with my hand in front of the TV. With my left hand when I am doing the crossword with my right. I pray now for the end to come for me. I have had a long life, but that night is still with me. Still inside of me somewhere and it keeps bursting out in the form of my hand.

I remain unrepentant, he was a very bad man. My hand is sorry but I am not.

Epilogue

I look at my mother’s body. It is the last time I will see her, laid out in the coffin. There it is, even now, that strange shape she used to make with her hand when she was nervous. Where did that come from? I take her hand in mine and try to stretch the shape out. But the fingers won’t move. They are stuck forever in that position. It was a shape I always associated with her. I never saw anybody else do it. I am alone now. There was always just Mum and me.

I know nothing of my father. He died on the night I was conceived.

Green eyes and wildflowers

I have green eyes.

Children with green eyes,
always tell lies

That is what he said.
As he stood over her body.
I knew that she was dead.

Children with green eyes,

He put her in the ground.
Her body, frail and small.
I never made a sound.

Always tell lies.

There was nothing I could say.
When he came to touch me.
Another girl, a different day.

Children with green eyes,

I watched the wild flowers grow.
Never ever doubting.
I knew the things I know.

Always tell lies.

Year upon each endless year.
I watched the wild flowers bloom.
He seemed to have no fear.

Children with green eyes,

I watched over her grave.
And silently I waited
I told myself, be brave.

Always tell lies.

Then one day he came.
An emerald eyed policeman.
Who even knew my name.

Children with green eyes,

He had read the files.
He had seen the truth.
Travelled a hundred miles.

Always tell lies.

To dig a patch of ground.
To hear a child’s story.
To help me make a sound.

Children with green eyes,

I finally found the words to say.
His story was unchanged.
What it was I saw that day.

Always tell lies.

I heard the judge’s verdict,
You know what she said.

Children with green eyes,
Always tell lies.

But not about death.

Portrait of a town: After School

There’s a new child at school. She heard it on the grape vine. That can only mean trouble. There will be a parent, most likely a woman. That can’t be good.

She stands, there absorbed in the conversation, lightly touching an arm when required. Enthusiastic. Laughter. ‘We must do coffee.’ She says it knowing the listener will be honoured at such an invite.

She spots the child before she spots the parent. Seeing the parent is positively shocking. It always is. Nothing can prepare you. She takes in the clothes (autumnal colours), the hair (average colour), the total lack of makeup! On a Tuesday too. She watches the woman collect her child, look around her for a face that might smile, someone that might catch her attention.

This is the danger moment. She knows that. That point in which it can all unravel. It will be Charlotte’s fault. Charlotte likes strangers, she can easily be drawn into a conversation with that woman. And then bang! Things will change. She will seep into the friendship group. They won’t be this tight knit circle. She will have to admit someone new. Uh Uh.

She looks at the woman hoping it is her eye that is caught. Because she will give her daggers. These are my friends and you can’t have them, not a smile, not a word. They are mine and this is my world. And you are intruding and don’t think you can change anything because you can’t. She wants to pierce her heart. You can do that with newbies.

She can see that other frump magnet standing off to the left. The frump magnet has been here a whole 12 months and whilst her children have made friends she absolutely has made sure that frump magnet never has. She can taste that victory, see the forlorn look in that woman’s eyes everyday when she comes to pick up her child. It makes her smile inwardly. The outward smile is perfect. The inward more twisted. She does not let on.

This is her playground. She was always popular at school. The pretty girl with the swinging hair. And now she is popular in the playground and no saggy boobed badly dressed newbie is going to ruin it. The new woman was thin she had to admit that, and those breasts may have been real. But wait –her teeth, oh dear god, unwhitened teeth. There should be regulations. She hoped her child never made friends. Her child never did. She was loyal like that.

She made a note to look out for what kind of car she drove. She suspected, horrified- that it may not be a 4 wheel drive. There was no way this woman could ever join her friendship group. Ever. She watches Charlotte closely. Charlotte had invited the previous newbie child to her daughters party. She’d even engaged that frump magnet woman in conversation on the door step.

There had been nothing else for it, she’d had to stage an intervention. Made it look like the newbie child had deliberately spilled something on Charlotte’s carpet. The frump magnet and her daughter were never invited back. To any party. Ever. It had been a close call. The child had cried, said it was not her fault. She had to insist she had seen it deliberately done. The child had simply poured the red cordial onto the white carpet. When in fact she had to twist the child’s hand to pour it out.

It was a horror story. She had very nearly been caught by Amber. Amber was her best friend but she wasn’t always sure that Amber lied on her behalf in a way that indicated the commitment required from a best friend. Amber’s husband was not as attractive as her husband but Amber’s husband found her attractive. Wasn’t that the key to a best friend? She doubted that her husband found Amber attractive. Although she did note how they sometimes seemed to laugh together. She must talk to Amber about that. It was important Amber understood who was more attractive.

She swished her hair. Flashed her teeth. Glad she was wearing heels because that very tall thin woman with a daughter in the year above was here again. She hated her. They all hated her. Even more than the newbies, they all hated her. She was so nice as well. She always smiled and said hello. But there was unanimous agreement she could never be part of the group. Ever.

Her husband doesn’t understand. He thinks her obsession with women in the playground is childish. But his fashion sense has failed since they had children. He wears a lot of beige and brown. She isn’t sure how much longer she can be married to someone who wears brown. The whole house is white and charcoal, which is a problem because white and grey are this seasons colours.

Charlotte. She is watching Charlotte and the newbie just in case. Charlotte still has a beige bathroom, which is at least 5 years old. It might be time to find a way of getting Charlotte out of the group. Charlotte is a risk. She doesn’t follow trends. She hasn’t read the latest magazine and she suspects Charlotte might visit a unisex hairdresser.

She smiles, she talks. She simpers. She smirks. She thinks about strategy. She looks at Charlotte, is that camel she is wearing? So last season. And leopard print when snake is in?

She watches her own child run towards her and is struck by how much prettier her little girl is compared to everybody elses. Thank goodness, she can’t imagine what it would be like to have an ugly child.

Blood is red

I was stabbed when I was 13. I don’t really remember it. It was 10 years ago.

I see the posters up everywhere. A picture. A boy. Not much older than me. I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t remember. I don’t think it can have been me. He was so much bigger, not older just bigger. He went to my school.

He plunged a knife into my stomach. I remember that bit. The knife. His surprise as it hit something hard. Like I had a rock inside of me. It was inexplicable. He left the knife there. Twisted it. I was looking into his eyes. He looked down. At the knife. A frozen moment. I don’t remember anything else.

No one ever saw him again.

I look at the posters. I feel for his family, but I can’t help.

All I remember after that is lying on my bathroom floor with the knife still inside me. Blood pouring out of me. Its warmth and life seeping through my fingers as I desperately tried to hold my body together.

I remember pulling the knife out. Just pulling it out. I don’t remember pain. I remember my mother coming in, the look of concern on her face. I remember days in bed. Healing when I should have been at school.

After that we grew apart my mother and I. As if she knew something I didn’t. I moved out a few years ago. I haven’t seen her since. She never called the police. Nor did I. There was no ambulance. She literally bandaged me up, put me to bed and left me to heal.

I remember her looking at the knife, at me, at my blood soaked clothes and the floor. So strangely. I guess she had never seen anyone stabbed before.

There is still a scar. I know if I told the police perhaps his family would have some closure. Perhaps every year on the anniversary the posters would not appear. Perhaps they would find out what happened.

My mother burned the clothes, cleaned the floor.

I still have the knife though. An odd idea. I carefully wrapped it. I never cleaned it. I have read a lot of books since then. I take the knife out every anniversary. I carefully unwrap it and examine it. The blood is still there. The problem is every book I ever read said human blood was red.

The blood on the knife, my blood, was not red.