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Garrison glanced at his phone. 7:45am.

He sat perched on the edge of his bed – tense and uneasy. It was still dark outside. His smart trousers chaffed against his more than amble crotch, while his starchy shirt heaved and gritted its teeth, desperately trying to contain his explosive biceps.

He looked at the phone again. 7:46. Garrison was all at once dreading the call and craving its arrival.

Being a secret agent isn’t what it used to be, he thought to himself. Once upon a time, he’d hop from one nerve jangling, adrenaline pumping mission to the next. One week he’d be assassinating the leader of a newly formed dissident African Republic with just a potato peeler, the next he’d be infiltrating a Lithuanian drugs cartel, posing as a busty Vilnius call girl. They were exciting, heady days. But above all, they were busy.

But in these more austere times, field operatives at the agency were no longer paid a salary. As part of a savage budget cut, the powers that be forced John and his fellow agents to go freelance. Now they found themselves pitching for whatever missions were on the go – undercutting each other’s quotes, waiting months for their invoices to be paid and anxiously hoping there would be enough espionage to go around.

Lately however the international geopolitical landscape was unusually serene. No-one was invading anyone else. Nobody seemed in the mood for politically motivated murder. The arse had fallen out of the illegal arms dealing industry. Spy business was slow. The gaps between missions began to grow and the bills started to pile up.

Garrison was finding living in London without a steady income extremely challenging. He was forced to downgrade his beloved Knightsbridge penthouse to a flat-share with a loud and sexually aggressive professional couple in Chigwell. A second hand mountain bike replaced his Aston Martin. He went weeks between Martinis – until Aldi began running a very decent deal on Vermouth.

Now he was sitting on his bed, hoping that the recruitment agency would call – and that he would be able to get some temping work today. The Dressed and Ready List, they called it. You get up, you get ready for work — and then you wait to see whether there is any. If you don’t get a call by eight, you can pretty much undress and go back to bed. It was, Garrison decided, the most depressing experience of his life. And he was an orphan.

Garrison had dined with royalty, been congratulated and thanked by Prime Ministers – now he was hoping there might be a half day’s data entry on the go somewhere.

‘Suck it up, John,’ he told himself.

His phone lit up. He recognised the number. He took a deep breath and concentrated on sounding ready – but not desperate.

‘Hello,’ he said, sounding desperate.

‘Hi John, it’s Amanda for Robinson Recruitment. How are you this morning?’

‘What’ve you got for me?!’

‘Ooh, you’re keen, aren’t you hun? Right, well I’ve got an insurance company who needs someone to un-staple around eleven thousand brochures and then re-staple them with some slightly smaller staples. They’ll need you to wear brown shoes.’

‘How much are we talking?’

‘It’s, eh, seven pounds an hour.’

‘Seven pounds?’ Garrison growled. ‘Seven. Fucking. Pounds?’

‘Shall I put you down for it?’

This situation reminded Garrison of a time he had found himself in Prague a few years back. He had cornered a double agent who was in possession of some highly sensitive data – the kind of data that, in the wrong hands, would compromise the safety of every man, woman and child on the face of the planet. Following an intense and exciting fist fight, Garrison had the agent pinned to the ground. He refused to tell Garrison where the flash drive was. But Garrison was renowned as a man that didn’t take no for an answer. He was a man used to getting what he wanted. It took him nearly twelve hours, and some of the most toe-curling ‘techniques’ in his locker, but the treacherous little canary finally sang for Garrison. They gave him an MBE for that one. But that was seemed like a million years ago now.

‘OK,’ he replied, finally. ‘Seven pounds it is. Email me the address.’

He grabbed his Oyster card, took a long, hard swig of Aldi own-brand vermouth — and left.

The End.

Blood-on-the-Paddle-5

The End. That’s how this story will finish. With an ending. With a conclusion, a denouement, an answering of unsatisfied questions. Everything wrapped up in a neat little package with a satisfying bow. If only life were that simple.

I can’t see any end to this. Except maybe ‘Happily never after’.

I turned it over in my head a billion times. The rights and the wrongs. Flipping them like thick airy American style pancakes. The morality of the eggs congealing with the necessity of the flour and the impulsiveness of the milk. With a teaspoon of incendiary baking soda for good measure. All bubbling away on the skillet that is my tired mind. Flip. Flip. Flip. Heads I lose. Tails he wins.

I had still not asked him his name. I didn’t need to. All I needed to know was that he was the most dangerous man I’d ever met. And that in a matter of minutes, one of us would be dead. He grinned maniacally from the shadows to my left as I banged on the safe-house door.

‘Detective Garrison. Here to see the girl,’ I barked through the bolted oak.
‘But I thought you were… suspended.’ He can’t have been more than twenty. This was their foolproof plan to protect Sandra, the last living lollipop lady in town? I was right not to trust them with her safety. If I could gain entry this easily, he could have too. So why was I escorting him right to her?

The door edged open and the pimply face of the young officer, all flushed and nervy, peered out.
‘God damn it, son,’ I growled with a practiced weariness. ‘Open the door. Or I’ll have your badge!’ The door closed again and then, after the jingling of a chain, re-opened fully. ‘This is Miss Rebecci’s attorney. Mr. – eh – Mr. Smith.’
‘Who?’ The young man’s face crumpled in confusion. But almost immediately his dead body crumpled in lifelessness. Bang! I watched him slump to the floor and then turned to the see the maniac holding his smoking berretta, still smiling like the lunatic he undoubtedly was.

‘Why did you do that?!’
He shrugged with a casualness that confirmed his insanity, if such confirmation was still needed, which it wasn’t. ‘We omelette makers can’t mourn the cracking of every egg, can we John?’

I pored over this dire situation, like yellow eggy liquid mix flowing onto the heated frying pan of my conscience. It was impossible to know where the salty, sinewy egotistical ham ended and the cheesey possibility of redemption began.

I stepped over the twitching corpse of the rookie and headed for the bedroom. She was asleep when I entered. She stirred and shielded her eyes from the light cascading in from the hall.
‘John?’ she groggily whispered. ‘Is that you?’
‘I’m here Sandra.’ I took her hand in mine.
‘Did you find him?’
I nodded, fighting back tears.
‘Did you kill him?’
I shook my head. ‘He’s here with me. I’m so sorry. I’ve messed everything up. Please forgive me.’
She sat up rigid in the bed and flicked on the bedside lamp. ‘But John, there’s no-one there,’ she stammered, turning pale. Twist!
‘What?’ I looked around. He was nowhere to be seen. ‘But we came here… together.’

Sandra gripped my face with her delicate palms and looked deeply into my eyes. My brain was scrambled like eggs heated in a pan with butter, milk and seasoning.
‘But if he doesn’t exist…’ I shuddered. ‘Then who— ’
‘Sorry about that,’ the maniac interrupted. ‘I needed to use the toilet.’ He stood in the doorway grinning like the psychopath it was no longer in doubt that he was.
Sandra screamed. ‘It’s him! Why did you bring him here?!’
‘I don’t know. I sort of thought he wasn’t real and that I was him all along. Or something.’
‘What?! What are you talking about?! Why the fuck would you think that?!’

There was no time for explanations, as the confirmed nut-job raised his berretta barrel and trained it at Sandra. I leapt forward, springing off the bed like crispy bread from a toaster.

Bang! The gun went off and I felt hot steel slice through my taut bicep. We grappled. He was lanky and slight. But his undisputed mental instability more than made up for his lack of strength. He pinned me and raised the gun nozzle to my temple.
‘Farewell, John Garrison,’ he sneered. ‘It’s a pity. We made quite a team.’
I closed my eyes and exhaled deeply.

BOMP! I thought, that’s not the sound a gun makes. Opening my eyes, I saw Sandra standing over me, lamp in hand. The certified wacko lay bludgeoned on the floor.

Sandra smiled and offered me her hand. ‘Let’s go home, John Garrison.’
‘Can we stop somewhere for breakfast?’ I smiled, weakly. ‘For some reason, I’m absolutely famished.’

The End.

BOTP-Feature-4

‘It’s not your call to make, Garrison!’ bellowed O’Lynam, slamming his fist onto solid mahogany. Coffee breached the cup’s rim and flowed onto the desk. ‘I’ve had it. You’re too much of a renegade. You can’t keep playing by your own rules!’

Garrison finally looked up from his feet and raised his eyebrows.
‘Are you done?’
‘No. You are!’ O’Lynam spat. ‘You’re done on this case. You’re done on this force. You’re done. Period.’
I guess you could say O’Lynam wasn’t amused to hear that Garrison was hiding Sandra Rebecci, a prime witness, at his place.

Garrison rose from his seat and straightened his jacket lapels. ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, boss. I’ll be sure to give Sandra your regards.’
A smile cracked across the chief’s face. Perhaps he’d finally seen sense. Perhaps the rage had subsided and he was lightening up, succumbing to Garrison’s roguish charm. The smile widened into a full on grin and then bore teeth. He cackled at Garrison.
‘You don’t get it, do you Garrison?’ He was nearly choking on how amusing he was finding it all. ‘She’s not there. We picked the popper up twenty minutes ago. Why do you think I kept you here this long?’

Garrison’s eyes narrowed and his teeth gritted.
‘Where have you taken her?’
‘Where you should have taken her in the first place. An official police safe house where neither you or the killer can lay a hand on her.’
‘Where?’ Garrison growled.
‘Hand in your badge and gun on your way out.’ O’Lynam took a gulp of coffee and batted his hand towards the door.
‘She won’t be safe. He’ll find her. She was safe with me, God dammit!’

Three cops took enormous pleasure in restraining and removing Garrison from the chief’s office.

He returned to his apartment to find it empty. The serenity Sandra had brought to his home and indeed his soul was gone. All that was left now was disarray.

‘All is lost,’ he muttered to himself. ‘I’m at my lowest ebb.’ Just then the phone rang.

‘Is this Detective John Garrison?’ a low, raspy voice inquired.
‘Once, perhaps,’ Garrison replied with barely enough energy to hold the receiver.
‘My name is… well my name is not important, Mr. Garrison. I’m the maniac you’ve been looking for.’ Garrison turned as white a sheet that had been thoroughly cleaned recently. ‘It seems we are both looking for the same lollipop lady.’ Garrison could feel his knees begin to buckle. He righted himself against the table. ‘I have a proposition for you, John. Meet me at eight.’ And he hung up.

He called back a moment later to specify a venue for their meeting. And then hung up again.

The statue of Eris stood in the North West corner of Nulty Park, in a dark, overgrown nook, hidden from from the joggers and dog walkers. Garrison looked up at her flowing robe and cascading hair. She looked all at once powerful and vulnerable. A big marble contradiction. Her eyes reminded him of Sandra’s.

‘The Goddess of Chaos,’ the raspy voice whispered from the shadows. A tall, jaundiced looking man emerged from the gloom. ‘I thought you’d like it.’
‘She’s not my type,’ Garrison snorted as he casually lit a cigarette.
‘You came alone,’ the lunatic slithered past Garrison and examined the statue close-up. ‘I’m impressed.’
‘I’m not scared of you.’
‘You have no need to be, Mr. Garrison. You’re not really…’ He paused and licked his lips ever so slightly. ‘…my type.’

‘Give me one reason not to arrest you right now.’
‘Well, forgive me. But haven’t they given you the sack, Detective?’ His voice was getting more and more high pitched the more amused he got.
‘Then give me one reason not to break your neck and end this right here and now.’
The stranger lit up with delight and turned to Garrison, wide-eyed and practically giddy. ‘Because they’ll never let you see her again.’

The stranger leaned in to Garrison’s ear and whispered. ‘I know where she is. But I need your help to get to her.’
‘Why would I do that? You’d kill her if you got your hands on her.’
‘And you’d take her from me if you did. Why don’t we…’ He licked his lips again. Garrison shuddered in disgust. ‘…cross that bridge when we get to it?’

To be concluded…

Blood-on-the-Paddle-3

Weeks passed. Lollipop women fell. Hard, bloodyily, and by the dozen. The police tried to get them off the streets and into protective custody, but there was years of mistrust between the fuzz and the poppers – a culture of harassment and mistreatment that wasn’t just going to be kissed and made better. Many refused the sanctuary and took their chances out in the open – plying their trade in broad daylight – easy prey for the maniac.

‘So what’s the plan, Gin? Wait until there are no more lollipop women left to kill?’ one of the guys down at the precinct guffawed as he passed Garrison’s desk. ‘That’s one way of stoppin’ him, I suppose.’ And he high-fived a grinning colleague. Garrison sighed and kept his head down. He no longer had the energy to fight. All the gin he’d been drinking had made him sleepy. The cop leaned in close and sneered. ‘If you ask me you’re doin’ us all a favour, blowin’ this case like this. Those poppers are a cancer on this city. I say we’re better off without them. We have machines now that can do their job.’ Garrison gritted his teeth and remained still, knowing for a fact that this asshole cop used lollipop women every week. He lived near a school and it was widely known that he was partial to crossing the road near it around three o’clock, whenever the wife wasn’t looking. This town’s hypocrisy would be laughable if it wasn’t so disgusting and not at all funny.

Garrison was running out of time. But he had one ace in the hole. A card he didn’t want to play. But his deck was running out. And so it was one card he’d have to play soon. If he had any intention of winning this game of cards that he was playing.

He sighed and turned the key. His apartment was… tidy. He could see the floor. He breathed in deeply – that stale stench of week-old gin was replaced by a fresh citrusy aroma.
‘I got a little bored, so I cleaned. I hope that’s OK.’ Sandra had been staying at his place since they met at the bar, but he hadn’t told his bosses about her. Right now, Garrison couldn’t trust anyone. Who knew how high this thing went? He reasoned that the less people that knew where she was, the safer she’d be. If he could save one popper, at least that’d be something. At least he wouldn’t have failed completely.
‘It looks… great. Thank you,’ Garrison smiled and made a beeline for his drinks cabinet.
‘I threw them out,’ she stammered. Garrison turned with angry all over his face. ‘I’m sorry. I need you at 100%. I don’t want to die.’ Garrison’s rage dissolved in a flutter of those lashes.
‘You don’t understand, Sandra. I need it. It clears my mind. The guys down at the precinct are right,’ he slouched, ashamed. ‘I am Gin Garrison. John Garrison is long gone.’

‘You know there are… other ways to clear your mind,’ Sandra smiled. The sort of smile he hadn’t seen her smile before. The sort of smile that once smiled, can’t be unsmiled. She unpopped the buttons of her ankle-length luminous high-vis lollipop woman coat and let it drop to the floor. She wasn’t naked underneath it, or even in racy underwear, but the dress she was wearing was definitely sexier than her work gear, so it still had the desired effect. Garrison gulped audibly and considered the ramifications of sleeping with Sandra Rebecci. He was her protector now. She was scared and vulnerable.

‘That’s probably not a very good idea,’ he said, responsibly. Nonetheless, she stepped forward and tried to kiss him. He pulled away, responsibly. And although Garrison resisted three times, Sandra wouldn’t relent and so it was clear that she really wanted this and it wasn’t Garrison taking advantage.

They made love. There is nothing more to say.

To be furthered…

Blood-on-the-Paddle-2

If John Garrison was going to find the messed up, psychopathic sonuvabitch knocking off and chopping up all those lollipop women, he needed information. And he knew precisely the place to find some loose tongues.

Rule number one of being a smart detective; learn who drinks where. So being a high-functioning alcoholic had its perks, after-all. If Garrison was looking for the lowdown on hookers, he’d haul ass to Mac’s. If he wanted the skinny on a crooked cop, he’d hightail it to Rudi’s. But O’Halligan’s was where the poppers hung out. Every afternoon after school finished, you’d find a dozen of them in this seedy dive, resting their lollipops, downing scotch and wondering where it all went wrong.

Garrison pushed open the door, momentarily casting pure natural light across a place that didn’t need or want illumination. The joint was dead. If there wasn’t a lunatic on the loose bumping off poppers, this place’d be jumping – well, slumping. But now there was only a handful of hardy paddle-hags propping up the bar. Garrison pulled out his badge and sidled up to the large woman sucking on something brown and debilitating.
‘Haven’t you been instructed to stay home, Ma’am? You know it’s dangerous out there for someone like you.’
‘Someone like me?!’ The old dame cackled – her rapidly yellowing teeth nearly as luminous as her tight knee-length high-vis number. ‘I ain’t scared,’ she slurred. ‘I’d welcome it. YOU HEAR ME?!’ she suddenly bellowed. ‘I’D WELCOME IT!’

Every day, in the papers, or on the news, the city fathers patted themselves on the back. Talking of the boom – a new golden age and an end to recession. House prices had risen again. Bonuses had rocketed. Champagne corks had joined them. But there was little cream to be found at the bottom – out on the streets. Try telling one of these poppers that the good times were back. They’d laugh in your face. There was no hope here. Apart, perhaps, from the faint hope that the next whiskey would dull the pain enough to bare.
‘No-one cared about us poppers until someone started bumping us off,’ she grinned sardonically. ‘I welcome it,’ she whispered sadly.

Garrison turned to the bartender and ordered the woman another scotch – plus one for himself. As he tipped the spiky liquid into his mouth, he felt a tentative tap on his shoulder.
‘I saw him,’ a timid voice said. ‘I looked into his eyes.’ Garrison turned, the sting of alcohol still ringing out around his oesophagus. She seemed fragile and scared. Her oversized high-visibility coat gave her a vulnerable air – like a child huddling for warmth and security in her father’s jacket. But she was no child. Her adult bosom assured Garrison of this.

‘I’m Detective Garrison,’ he said, re-producing his badge.
‘Sandra Rebecci,’ she nodded.
‘Who did you see, Miss Rebecci?’
She looked around nervously and leaned in close. ‘The devil himself,’ she whispered solemnly.
‘Really?!’ Garrison gasped, turning pale with horror.
‘Well— no. The murderer, I mean. I saw the murderer.’
Garrison breathed an audible sigh of relief. ‘So— you didn’t see Satan?’
‘No.’
‘Oh, thank God.’ Garrison took another sip of scotch to settle his nerves. ‘Why did you say that then?’
‘Sorry. I just meant that he was pure evil. I guess it was for effect.’
‘Well next time, just— say what you mean. OK?’ Garrison shook his head despairingly. ‘So, Miss Rebecci. If you saw him, why didn’t he—’
‘Kill me too?’ she asked. Garrison nodded gravely. ‘He said—,’ she paused. ‘He said he wanted to save me until last.’

To be furthered…

Blood-on-the-Paddle-1

Gin Garrison, the guys down at the precinct had taken to calling him. A “nick” name.

But a John Garrison drunk on two bottles of Gordon’s was still twice the detective of any man down there. Meaning that he’d have to drink four bottles to be merely as good as them. If he were to drink any further gin beyond that point, then of course that would render him inferior to them, but if they were to have any gin themselves in the meantime too then that would have to be taken into account as well, but the point is, there’s a lot of gin between him and them. They had some nerve, those guys down at the precinct.

‘He’s not fit for duty,’ Garrison overheard one officer wearing a towel say to another in the locker room.
‘He’s lost it,’ another one sneered, shaking his head.
‘The sarge needs his head examined if he thinks Gin Garrison can catch this serial killer.’

Maybe they were right. Maybe Sergeant O’Lynam did need his head examined. But if it was examined they’d probably find traces of ‘being a smart guy’, because if there was one son of a bitch on this planet that could find this killer – it was John Garrison.

‘Someone’s killing all the Lollipop Women in the city’, O’Lynam briefed Garrison. ‘The media have dubbed him the Lollipop Woman Killer. Until someone thinks of something better anyway.’
‘Jesus Christ,’ growled Garrison. ‘A city without Lollipop Women.’
‘It’s chaos out there,’ nodded O’Lynam. ‘The bastard leaves a note with each corpse. It contains a sick joke.’ O’Lynam produced a scrap of paper inside a tiny plastic bag and read it aloud. ‘Why did the serial killer cross the road?’
‘To murder the Lollipop Woman?’
‘Yes that’s… exactly what is says. How did you know that?’
Garrison looked gravely at O’Lynam and then into the middle-distance. How did he know that? Was it because, given his 38 years studying them, he knew exactly how these sons of bitches thought? Or was it because, given the context of what was happening, it was a fairly straightforward and logical response to the traditional joke set up? Or was it because John Garrison was the serial killer all along – but just didn’t know it yet?
‘Call it a hunch,’ Garrison croaked as he lit a cigarette, flagrantly disregarding the city-wide ban on smoking in public buildings.

‘So… How’ve you been sleeping, Garrison?’
There it was… finally. Garrison had expected it sooner, but he knew it would soon rear its ugly head before long. The concern. The pity. The cowardice. O’Lynam wanted to support Garrison, sure. But deep down he longed for a reason to haul him off this case. Something to take the decision out of his hands. A health issue. A ‘well I tried, but I gotta follow the docs on this one’. Garrison wasn’t about to make it easy for him though.
‘Good,’ Garrison smiled. ‘I’m sleeping well.’
‘What about that sleepwalking?’ O’Lynam raised his eyebrows. ‘You know, where you’d fall into a really deep sleep and then wake up in strange places. Miles from home? Is that still happening?’
‘No,’ Garrison lied. ‘Anyway that’s entirely unrelated to this case. Let’s get back to that, the case, now.’

‘I’m sticking my neck out on the line here Garrison. Don’t let me down.’
‘Have I ever let you down before, Sarge?’
‘No,’ sighed O’Lynam. ‘And that’s what I’m worried about.’
Garrison wasn’t entirely sure what O’Lynam meant by the quip. But it was a nice button to end the conversation on. So he didn’t reply.

To be furthered…

Gigantic

September 8, 2014

A #200v200 story for the Pixies song ‘Gigantic’

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   You know, a lot of people are talkin’ shit about you? Doubtin’ you. Yeah, they’re looking at you, sizin’ you up and they’re sayin’ you won’t make it in this game. They’re callin’ up their friends, tellin’ anyone who’ll listen that you’re not gonna cut it. They don’t think you’ve any business bein’ out there. They say you’re weak. They say you can’t be trusted – that you’ve lost your nerve. They’re laughin’ at you. You’re a fucking laughing stock. 

   Well? Are they right? Are you a joke? Are you weak? No. Sorry? What was that? No! Oh, sorry was that some… flea or a tiny little mouse I heard speaking there? Is there a talking mouse in the room? NO! That’s better. You’re the best there’s ever been. There’s no-one better than you. You’re a colossus. You’re fucking gigantic. Am I right? Yeah! Who’s better than you? No-one’s better than me! What are you?! I’m a colossus! Say it like you mean it! I’m fucking GIGANTIC! Now grab your fucking lollypop and let’s prove those assholes wrong! YEAH! Let’s get out there and help those fucking kids get across that fucking road without getting hit by any fucking cars. ARRRRRGHGGHG!!

The Go-Getter

September 8, 2014

Another #200v200 submission.

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      Cousin Eoin is the gold standard. To whom everyone and everything within my family is held up. Especially me. I’ve never met Eoin. He’s my second or third cousin who lives on the other (better) side of town. I’ve never seen a photo of him or spoken to him on the phone. He “doesn’t bother with Facebook or any of that nonsense”. There is a remote but very real possibility that Eoin doesn’t actually exist. He may just be a figment of my mother’s imagination. The son she always wanted. A lady-charming, go-getting, money-earning, child-siring, birthday-remembering, celebrity-knowing stick she dreamt up one day to beat me with.

      I went to visit her the other day. I had to take two buses to get there (not that this effort would be acknowledged). I found her standing in the front room, just staring out the window. I asked if she wanted tea. She didn’t reply. She didn’t even turn to look at me. I found the newspaper in the kitchen. South Dublin Man Jailed For Child Sex Offences. So now we know two things for sure. One; Eoin does indeed exist. And two; I’m looking pretty fucking awesome all of a sudden.

F*cking West End Girls!

August 5, 2014

Headstuff.org asked me to write something about The Pet Shop Boys ahead of their appearance at this year’s Electric Picnic. This is what I came up with…

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   “Well, what about if we meet somewhere half way then?” Terry, Liam and Alex leaned in close to Ricky, hoping to hear the other side of the conversation. Ricky shook his head and rolled his eyes as the reply came back to him. “I dunno, somewhere equidistant for all of us? Old Street maybe?” Terry nodded approvingly. “It’s just that we always seem to be the ones having to go to you. It might be nice, for a change, if you guys came out this direction.”

   Alex extended out his bottom lip, impressed with how Ricky was handling this delicate negotiation. The girls had a habit of getting offended quite easily. This had to be approached with care. Ricky was being firm but not aggressive, clear and concise but not dictatorial, just like they all talked about before he dialled. Ricky was definitely the right man for the job. Terry would have caved at the first protestation. Alex would have flown off the handle – cursed and yelled at them. And Liam, well Liam would have over complicated things. They would have ended up meeting in Luton or somewhere ridiculous. 

   “No-one’s calling you lazy!” Ricky raised his voice for the first time. The other lads patted their palms in mid air, gently encouraging him to remain calm. Ricky nodded gratefully and took a deep breath. “I know there’s nice pubs near you but there’s nice ones round here too.” Ricky’s patience was clearly starting to run dry. “Well, how do you know? You guys never come out here.” Ricky frowned and shook his head. The boys knew exactly what this meant. It wasn’t happening. The girls weren’t going to budge. Every week they had talked about finally bringing it up with them. But every week they put it off. It wasn’t worth the hassle, or the argument. It was just easier to keep things as they were, not rock the boat. But today, for some reason, they had decided that enough was enough. All they wanted was one tiny little grain of compromise. Something they could point to and say ‘See, they don’t get their way all the time.’

   “Hold on a second.” Ricky covered the phone with his hand. “They’ll be in that place on Shaftesbury Avenue from nine. We can either join them or not. It’s up to us.” Terry fell back onto the sofa, deflated.
   “What should we do?” Liam asked desperately.
   “If we cave now, that’s it. There’s no going back,” offered Alex gravely.

   “But what if they meet other lads tonight?” asked Ricky.
   “You mean… boys from the West End?” Terry looked up from the couch in horror.
   “Maybe. It’d be a lot handier for them.” The four lads looked at each other, utterly depressed by their predicament.

   For the umpteenth Saturday night in a row, the East End Boys got their bus, DLR, tube and met their West End Girls in the West End. But from that night on, it was never quite the same between them. Something was broken, never to be repaired. And the Pet Shop Boys had made it all sound so glamourous.

Me > Moon

July 19, 2014

In honour of the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, Headstuff.org asked me to write a little something.

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   45 years ago today, man walked on the moon for the first time. And quite frankly, it feels like everyone’s been banging on about it way too much ever since. The moon this. The moon that. Oooh, isn’t the moon wonderful? Isn’t the moon beautiful? Isn’t the moon doing a great job with all that tide business? To be perfectly honest with you, I’m sick of hearing about the moon. It isn’t all that. It’s average at best. So, here are three reasons why I’m better than the moon.

   Reason #1: Train Door 6th Sense. I’m quite good at knowing where the doors of a train will be before it arrives. When I get to a train station, I have an uncanny sense of where to stand so that the doors will stop directly in front of me, therefore increasing my chances of getting a seat on said train. There is no recorded evidence of the moon ever displaying such skills.

   Reason #2: Good Legs. My wife assures me that I have “decent legs” and that I should wear shorts more often as they suit me. They’re “definitely” one of my “best features”. She didn’t have to say this. I didn’t ask her what she thought about my legs. This compliment was entirely unsolicited; therefore I can only assume that it’s accurate. The moon, on the other hand, doesn’t even have legs, let alone decent ones. It’s just an awkward, inelegant, limbless floating ball.

   Reason #3: Parental-Techo-Patience. I am extremely patient when my Mam or Dad call to ask me how to use high-tech devises such as laptops, phones or televisions. I never get short with them and never raise my voice, no matter how frustrating the exchange becomes. Notably, I once walked my Dad through the forty-minute renewal of a Norton Anti-Virus subscription. That was my Fifth Symphony. I accept that, as the moon has no parents (that we know of), perhaps this is an unfair comparison. But I’m so good at this that it’s safe to say that even if it did have parents, it wouldn’t be able to match my blend of insight and light touch.

   There are a further eighteen reasons why I’m better than the moon – each more compelling than the last. However, as one of them (#13) is ‘a sense of when brevity is required’, I won’t drag it out any further. I believe I’ve made my point. So yes, by all means celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing if you like. But maybe, just maybe, I’ve made you think about whom it is that you’re mindlessly showering with your awe and admiration. And maybe, I’ve made you question, just a little bit, whether it deserves it. Thank you.

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