A candle that never measures time because I have no fires left to burn, a cluster of stars that glitter the promise of another world I have not the strength to hold and scatter. You glow in the light of a new sun, sleeping in the painting I captured of you — resting without a pillow as you used to do. Outside the world sings; burdens breathe, are borne as the wind shakes the tree. But here where time does not melt, and stars cannot shine free, I have only the memories of us as a means of release.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: Friday Fictioneers, 14 July, 2017
Image credit: Janet Webb

Many thanks to Rochelle for organising Friday Fictioneers.

A Dance to the Sound of Rain

Angelica dances the allemande to a polyphony of rain on the tennis ground — the gentle timbre of the net, the dissonance of asphalt. We are passing through; the journey has been long, and she has not uttered a word. But as she twirls — barefoot in the deluge — with the caress of green velvet against her leg, I realise she will always be free in a way I can never be — who is the captor, who is the captive now?

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week 76
Image credit: Sam Burriss via Unsplash

Many thanks to Sonya for organising Three Line Tales.

The Last Day of Raul

School is out forever. This should be the beginning of everything. But it will be the end. He looks down at all the pendejos. Is this what they want? Something unforgettable? He doesn’t care who sees. He’s pushed to the edge. ‘Yo mamma’s so fat they close the freeway so they can tow her,’ they’d laughed. His mom hadn’t worked since the stroke, and the old man, the borracho, was drinking the insurance money. After years being pushed around, kicked in, beat up he knows you have to do something drastic to get attention. He might not be good at much, but he is good at math and science. He knows a 9mm Hydra-Shok hollow round weighs 124 grains, will travel at over 1,010 feet per second, he knows to adjust for the easterly breeze and recoil at approximately 32 yards. He raises the Smith & Wesson. It feels heavy now the moment has arrived. He sees Raul, he hears Raul, he hates Raul. Raul, yo brain’s so small they’re gonna be picking it up in a test tube.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: FFfAW Challenge-Week of July 11, 2017
Image credit: Grant-Sud

Many thanks to Priceless Joy for organising Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.

Crime and Device Management



‘JIT. Just in time.’

‘Justin who?’

‘Just, in, time. It’s a programming term. Describes the process where source code is compiled into native machine code just in time upon execution, it allows for greater flexibility.’

‘What the fuck’s that gotta do with anything?’

‘I’m just saying. You know, the importance of doing things just in time — at the right time. For efficiency.’

Jez didn’t expect a dinosaur like Deez to understand. The guy was still driving around in a Morris Minor like it was 1967. But he was getting tired of this shit. It’s not like he chose a life of crime. It was an accident. That and genes.

‘Well thank you very much for that relevant information. What the fuck is wrong with you? Seriously. Knob.’ Deez shook his round bald head and faced the whiteboard again. ‘Anyway, Scoot, Lump, Tez. You’re gonna be in first. Through here. Two minutes tops, alright? We’ll wait outside. Then Jez, me, and Audrey will go in. On the way out, I want Audrey first–‘


‘What?’ Deez cast Jez another bulldog stare.

‘FIFO. First in, first out. It’s a method for processing information in a pipeline. It’s very efficient.’

‘And your point?’

‘That Scoot, Lump, and Tez should come out first, since they went in first. That’ll give you, me, and Audrey more time to do what we need to do. I’m just saying. What?’

‘Stop acting like a prick. You in or not?’

Out, he wanted out. Going straight just wasn’t cost-effective anymore. But he didn’t want to end up like the old man. By the time he was six the guy was already doing life. So many blokes came and went in that little two bed semi he forgot what the old man looked like by the time he quit school at fourteen. ‘I’m in. It’s just–‘



‘The alarm will be silent.’ Deez continued with his scrawls on the whiteboard. Jez looked on and sighed. A data flow diagram would have been easier to follow. Looked like Deez had trouble following his own boxes. ‘The safe will be here. No, wait. Erm… Is that the? Here. Yeah. Keep an eye on your watch,’ he flustered on. ‘I reckon the old bill will be around within five, six minutes max. Best be safe.’

His mate Zed had gone legit. Kind of. Once he found his way around computers, he started with scripts. Easy money. Phishing, trojans, ransomware, that kind of thing. Zed reckoned half the world’s viruses were created by anti-virus corporations or government agencies anyway. Then he got a call. And now he reckoned he was making six figures in the employ of tech firms and MI5. Called himself a white hat. Jez wondered what kind of hat. Baseball would be perfect, he’d stretch to a Trilby, but no way was he going to wear one of those poncy top hats.

After the briefing Jez collared Deez. ‘You know I’ve been looking at the way you’ve organised your information. You got all those notes and shit lying around. You could put them in a spreadsheet. It’ll be easier to manage. Easier to divvy up things too.’

‘A what?’

‘You know like Excel?’

‘I excel enough thanks, mate. Been doing this before you were fuckin’ born.’

‘I just thought–‘

‘You thought wrong. You been on them drugs again. I told you about that shit.’

‘Not drugs, Deez. Eduction, mate. Education.’ Jez was really getting sick of this. ‘Had time to brush up on the inside. Courtesy of her Majesty’s pleasure.’

Deez looked at Jez like the man had spat in his beer. ‘What the fuck did you do that for?’

‘Doing a BSC in computer science. It’s the future. You gotta move with the times, man. All this going from house to house, burglary and lugging shit about. That’s over. It’s all cyber now. Bitcoins and shit like that. You can rob some poor bastard in Bermuda while sitting having a beer and scratching your balls. That’s the future.’

‘Sounds like bullshit to me.’ Deez started to walk away. ‘We’re still doing this. You in or not?’

‘What about the driver?’

Deez threw his arms in the air. ‘What? I suppose that’s another wanky computery word is it? Driver. What you gonna educate me about now? I just need to know if you’re–‘

‘No. I mean whose doing the driving? In the car?’

Just another few years to go. The problem was keeping his nose clean in the mean time.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: MS-DOS Blue Horizontal by Kjetil Korslien / CC BY


‘Why did you do it? Why go to… such lengths?’

The girl said nothing. She continued to stare out of the huge sash windows that wouldn’t open. At the grey skies beyond them.

‘You know we’re still trying to piece things together. You could help us a little.’

‘You ever been in luf?’ She turned around. Her face was beautiful, in a classic way. Like one of those models you see in arty black and white lingerie ads. All cheekbones and chiselled nose.

‘Love? Is that what you call this?’

‘He luffed me.’

‘I don’t call it love. I call it–‘

‘What would you know?’

‘Listen, Amber.’

‘Don’t call me that.’

‘Okay. What do you…?’


‘Is that what he called you?’

‘That’s my name.’

A nurse came to check on the charts at the foot of the bed. Detective Matthews excused himself and let the nurse take and record the girl’s blood pressure. The girl looked fine. Damn fine, he had to admit it. But multiple contusions, from blunt trauma, had been recorded across her whole body. Fortunately, there were no signs of any organ damage. He guessed the bastard couldn’t bring himself to touch the face. He’d thought he’d seen it all. Some guys got pretty obsessed, usually those middle-aged office types, the quiet ones who’ve squirrelled away a good-sized nest. Kept to themselves. Some were married, nothing new there — a bit on the side. God know’s he’s been tempted a few times. But it was usually flowers, designer clothes, diamonds, shit like that. But this took obsession to a new level.

The nurse left the green curtains open. She smelt of disinfectant and soap as she walked past and flicked Matthews an unsmiling nod.

‘How did you meet him?’

‘On the street ain’t it?’ Amber shrugged. She still wore the shadow of mascara around her perfectly shaped, almond eyes.

‘What he just… picked you up?’

‘He was nice.’

They all are. At first. ‘Don’t tell me, he had some fancy car. What was it Ferrari? Porsche?’


Smooth. Twelve years in the force, another twelve to go on the mortgage. And he was still driving around in a ten-year-old Mondeo with almost two hundred thousand on the clock.

‘But what made you… agree to it?’

‘I weren’t no prossie or nuffin, if that’s what you’re thinking.’

‘I wasn’t thinking that. But you agreed to…’

’Why wouldn’t I?’

Matthews threw a picture down onto the meal table. ‘Remember her? That’s what you used to look like Amber.’ The picture showed a young girl, around sixteen. Pretty in her own way, in a natural way, but without the cheekbones and whitened smile. The eyes were downturned, the nose rounded.

‘I told you–‘

‘And I’m telling you, Amber. It’s time to start dealing with things. Listen.’ Matthews sat down in the green plastic armchair and leant forward. Christ, she was young enough to be his daughter. ‘I know this must be difficult for you. And we — the police — and the hospital, the doctors, are here to support–‘

‘What makes you think–‘

‘We’ll support you in whatever way you need. But we need your help. Please. Before he does this to somebody else.’

After it came to light what had happened they nicknamed the guy Professor Higgins.

‘You know it wasn’t easy tracing who you were at first. But I guess he didn’t feel the need to mess with your finger prints. Lucky for you you’ve been in trouble with us before haven’t you? I’m glad you decided to talk to us.’

‘I don’t know where he is, I already told that other guy.’

‘He’s finished with you, Amber. Time to wake up. Why else would he have done this and left? Your parents will want to see you soon. They’ve been pretty worried. You should have contacted them at least.’

Were they in for a shock. Matthews left her to stare out of the window. Beyond them the skies had darkened. A storm was arriving.


Matthews turned around and peered through the curtains. ‘What?’

‘He said he’d make me famous. All I needed was a little work. Said he was an artist. I was a work of art.’

Little work. Christ, major overhaul was more like it. Matthews couldn’t help raise a smile. ‘Well, you’re going to be famous now that’s for sure, Amber.’ What was it with kids and fame these days? It was like fifteen minutes wasn’t enough, they wanted fifteen hours, fifteen tomorrows, fifteen lifetimes of being famous. Whatever the hell that meant. And at what price? ‘We’ll be in touch, Amber. Get some rest. They’ll be some officers around. In case he tries to contact you. If you need anything, just let them know. Here’re my details.’

Matthews gave Amber his card and a paternal pat on the shoulder. His phone rang just as he pushed past the curtains into the ward.

‘Hello? Yes dear… No, no… I’m just leaving… Yes… I’ll make it don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with your hair… it’s just the theatre. You look beautiful… No… I swear… Just wear anything… It doesn’t matter… I don’t mind what you look like… Why should that bother you? No, no… Okay… Yeah, I love you too. See you in a bit.’

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: Beauty by Leslee Mitchell / CC BY

The Bicycles

‘Two bicycles, we had two bicycles, heavens knows where he found them, they were identical, can you believe that, exactly the same… yes, like us, he said, brought them down, he did… in his van… those were his words: identical… yes… we were the same, inseparable… the pier… it was a hot… oh such a hot summer… lovely… we had ice cream… seagulls, the blasted seagulls were all at them, we ate them ducked in, facing the wall… ha! where’s Margaret… the ice creams melted, ran right through our fingers, we washed them off in the sea… right there, he did it right there in the water, the old fool, asked me to marry him… of course, I said, of course I would… what else could a girl do, pregnant, nowhere to go… so beautiful there, can we go back… where’s Margaret… have you seen my daughter?’

The nurse moved towards the bed and adjusted the blinds until shadows submerged the room, she knew it helped the new patients calm down. ‘You were found by yourself, dear. Do you remember? We’re trying to locate your family, do you remember your name? No? Well, the doctor will be here shortly, he’ll be able to give you something to relax, okay?’

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week 75
Image Credit: Meghan Yabsley

Many thanks to Sonya for organising Three Line Tales.

Sympathy for the Mower

Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name. But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game. Simon turns up the music. Pushes his wireless AirPods deeper. The sun is shining. Things are hotting up. But never mind Gethsemane, forget St. Petersburg. Did the Devil, or Jagger for that matter, ever mow a middle England lawn on a hellish hot day? He doesn’t think so.

Suburbia is the new purgatory where all the city sinners secretly yearn to suffer out the rest of their eternity.

You get that hybrid German saloon at 8% APR over three years, it tells everyone you’ve made middle management. The kids are trainered and shirted with crocodiles and polo players; striped and ticked — all off eBay, but nobody’s to know. Just Do It. You’ve said goodbye to the old neighbours with their caravan blotch on the driveway — really sorry to leave, so happy to go — straight into that brand new, mock-Georgian three-storey around the corner. That just leaves mower envy as the last vestige of suburban one-upmanship.

How relieved Simon is then that his new neighbour makes it so easy for him. Look at the knob with his red snake of electrical cord — twice wrapped around his ankles, hopping and skipping over and through it at each turn — while Simon cruises freely with his petrol, 48cm rotary with a wave and a smile. Hear my roar. Please trip, please trip, he thinks.

Andy’s wife parks up in her battered Ford Focus — not even air conditioned. She even smiles. Goes right up to him with a peck. On the lips. Andy’s mouthing something now over the Ronsealed fence. Simon shakes his head and points to his ears. Let me please introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste. They’re hugging, they’re actually hugging. They think they’re so fancy with their PDA, their ‘daarhlings’ and ‘honey-bunnies’. But with his 75 litre grass catcher Simon can mow for longer than Andy; with his 65.2 MPG he can travel farther and in style.

He leaves them on their half-cut, weedy excuse for a lawn, coiled and entwined. He’ll call Jill and the kids tonight. No reason, just wondering how you all are.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: Half Finished by John Curtis / CC BY

The Takeover

Sally’s desk remained untouched with its rainbow of highlighters and paperclip cup.

Employees had been disappearing without any farewell emails or Krispy Kreme boxes in the kitchen.

New management weren’t hot on big goodbyes, it seemed. Then Jim overheard rumours. They were ‘making a meal of things’; Sally had stormed out of a conference: ‘Cannibals!’, she said, ‘they’re having a feast!’

Sally was ‘bitter’, explained Xavier. But they were offering him Sally’s position, a significant pay rise, and a company car.

Unbelievable. They were fattening him up. ‘Screw you,’ said Jim. ‘What do you think I am? Fucking foie gras?’

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: Friday Fictioneers, 7 July, 2017
Image Credit: Claire Sheldon

Many thanks to Rochelle for organising Friday Fictioneers.

The Snake in the Glass

Aunt Hilda came for a cuppa. By the time she left, mom had missed the bus. ‘That woman can talk the hind legs off a monkey.’ As well as muddling her phrases, mom blamed others — ‘if she hadn’t made me late for bingo, we’d be a few quid richer, instead of being on the treadline.’

It wasn’t her fault. It was love’s. Love had lured her into marrying the old man. Love had coiled itself and made her stay. Love had fed. She blamed love for everything. When cousin Sarah got divorced after a year, she said: ‘I told you, people in greenhouses shouldn’t gather stones.’

But even when she cursed the old man, there was love beneath the regret. I had hoped the news of my engagement to Paul would reawaken those feelings. But all she said was: ‘Hark my words! That man is nothing but a snake in the glass. And the glass is always cleaner on the other side.’ I guess that was her way of saying she loved me.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: FFfAW Challenge-Week of July 4, 2017 #2
Image credit: Kecia Spartin

Many thanks to Priceless Joy for organising Flash Fiction of Aspiring Writers.

No One Plays Here Anymore

It was summer and no one played here anymore — not like they used to. Gangs had decamped to hot street corners, waiting, straddled on bikes, to upheave convenience stores two at a time; they ambled aimlessly with digital appendages, and conversed on kerbsides, abbreviating their emotions with rapid fingers; or else they obliterated boredom with drink and rage until the rage imploded and touched someone else’s life. After they had stalked him from a distance, the exorcism of boredom was filmed, uploaded, and soundtrack with rallying calls of joy and laughter; Keith’s unread newspaper had escaped its own folds and lay like loose sheets soaking his life away — turning his memory into another story; senselessly everything blackened, Keith’s world silenced itself as the sun continued to shine and the birds sing in the park where no one played.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week 73
Image by: Christian Widell

Many thanks to Sonya for organising Three Line Tales.

A Better Future

Passport checks took too long. Their questions were difficult to hear. Somewhere a dog barked. But they are moving again. Tyres rumble beneath as rain echoes in the boot’s darkness above.

What happened to Great Britain? his daughter had asked. What could he say? How could he explain something millions couldn’t understand? ‘It wasn’t meant to be like this,’ he said. It never is.

He pulls Carly closer as the car boards the ferry. Everything will be alright when we get to Europe, he silently promises her. But he knows it’s a lie. They have names for people like them.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: Friday Fictioneers, 23 June 2017
Image credit: Ted Strutz

Many thanks to Rochelle for organising Friday Fictioneers.

What Keeps Humankind Alive

The sun shining through the bars of the window is the first thing he sees as he wakes. It frightens him until he sees his bare chest. He touches it with unfamiliar hands. He lies there stretching his fingers, obscuring and revealing the light — the light is strange, warm, and makes something inside him stretch out and want to reach for it too.

The last thing he remembers is walking the street. It was late, dark, yellow lights on puddles, people laughing and pointing, it was cold, his friends had left him, he was alone. And now he is here. Wherever here is.

He leaps off the small bed and lands on strange feet — they have uncomfortable fat stubby things on them, five on each foot. He is relieved to see he still has a few feathers protruding from his vital parts, but they malt as he walks to the door. He bobs his head against the metal hatch. The dull thud, rather than the expected sharp tap, hurts his brain. He staggers back as the hatch slides open.

A pink face presses itself against the bars. ‘Ah, well if it isn’t the chicken man. Slept off the booze now have we? Ready to tell us your name?’

He tries to speak but can only cluck.

‘Hey, lads. Looks like our guy’s still too chicken to speak.’

‘He looks more like a cock to me!’ laughs another voice

He presses his painful, bloated face to the bars and sees a group of them dressed in tight-fitting, black jackets with big, silly, silver buttons reflecting their laughing pink faces.

The one behind the door, pushes his nose closer and grunts. ‘Well? Want to tell us what you were doing walking like a plucked chicken out on the high street last night? Do you remember pal? Stag do was it? A prank? Do you remember your name?’

‘It’s no use Steve. Guy’s obviously bat-shit crazy. Let’s wait for the head doc to sort him out.’

He can only cock his head and peck at the door. When it hurts his head, he gives up, dances around the cell a few times clucking. Some things start coming back. The darkness, the hot house where they were all crammed together, the noise, a loud noise, then they were all running, many of them into the night, human voices ushered them on, the outside looked as dark as the inside, but smelt better.

We all have things we try to keep hidden, like a yolk swathed in albumen, that is in turn concealed by a fragile shell. That is the mind. And when cracks begin to form, it is inevitable that everything ends as a sticky mess, and what was kept hidden, becomes exposed and frightening. That is madness. We are all born mad, some remain so. And some don’t know it, until it’s too late.

It’s too late, he thinks. Get your clucking act together. The only way he can get out of this mess, is to pretend to be human, until he can figure out what’s going on. But what he’s heard of humans seems frightening — snapping of necks, slitting of throats, chopping of limbs, that kind of crazy thing. He doesn’t know if he has it in him. But he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. He looks at the pigs, sitting with their big, bloated faces grunting and squealing in their desktop troughs, their pink, hairy ears pricked up, as a duck in a white coat waddles up with a clipboard. He looks at them and thinks, ‘when I get out, I’m going to carve one of you up. I’m gonna be a man. I’m gonna stay alive.’

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to daily prompt: Exposed
Image: Chicken Head by Ann Nguyen / CC BY

The tite is taken from a song written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, which featured in The Threepenny Opera, and concerns humankind’s hyprocrasy and inhumanity. Here’s a wonderful version performed by Tom Waits:

‘We are all born mad, some remain so.’ — Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot.

Good Apparel

There was this building once. Some imposing Victorian edifice with nothing but forests around. I don’t know how I got there. One minute I was stuck in a corporate minefield, terror-filled, languishing, propped up in a sales meeting next to other nine-to-five corpses in suits. The next thing I knew, I was in a circle swapping coping mechanisms with other shellshocked survivors of life and mental misfits in gowns.

A small bearded man, who I later learned was in charge, crossed his short legs, leaned back, and stretched out his arms madly. ‘How about you. Yes you,’ he pointed. ‘What are your aspirations now you’re here?’

‘So, erm…I can put my socks on.’


‘Yeah, you know, those things you put on your feet to stop them sweating in shoes.’

‘I know what socks are. But that’s your main goal? To put socks on?’

‘It’s not my main goal, but it’s the only one I can think of right now,’ I said raising both bare feet in the air.

‘Well,’ he said rustling his beard, ‘it’s a good a place to start as any, I guess. It is all about emotional apparel, after all. You can put your feet down now.’

‘Emotional apparel?’

‘Hmm…How can I explain?’ he said rocking and hugging his shoulders. ‘Emotional apparel is what you wear in the morning, a bit like socks and pants no one else can see. They define how you feel for the rest of the day. You wear uncomfortable pants in the morning, you’re gonna be restless all day. Same with socks, put on a bad pair, walking’s gonna hurt. Life,’ he said slapping his cheeks, ‘is all about picking the right emotional apparel.’

Suddenly things slotted into place. My socks and pants were the problem. Over the winter, they put together an action plan so I could learn to wear socks with exuberance again, and avoid accidentally slipping on a pair of distressed pants in the process. It took some practice. I couldn’t get the hang of it until they forced pills down my throat; they kept my mind so wonderfully warm and cosy like a thick, knitted, cashmere beanie that the last thing I said as I walked into the forest was, ‘Now that,’ I said smacking my head with excitement, ‘is the mark of a good apparel. Thank you.’

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: Socks by Luca Prasso / CC BY

Sandra Invites Herself to Dinner

Sandra must have left the door open behind her. Frank turned around and got a fright. Standing in the doorway staring at him with black eyes that sat on a wrinkled, gaunt face, patchy with white stubble, a black hat clasped to his chest, was a man with shoulder length black hair. He stood in the door way looking at Frank saying nothing, cocking his head from side to side as if listening. Frank didn’t know what to say. Was this the ‘crow man’ Sandra had talked about? There was something about his eyes, tranquil and yet full of dark, dead mystery that scared him.

‘Excuse me,’ Frank managed to force out. ‘Can I help you?’

But the man just smiled and dashed away, leaving an empty doorway that seemed to darken as if he had left his shadow behind. Frank’s feet didn’t want to move but his mind willed them along slowly. He crept to the doorway. The man had left a sickly scent, like a mixture of old-fashioned soap and soured milk. Frank peered cautiously down the corridor only to see Sandra hopping back out of her flat a few doors down wearing a small black dress, and struggling with some high heels.

‘Sorry, it took me so long. It’s been a while since I’ve worn this one. Not much occasion now you see. You know what I mean? How do I look?’

Frank clammed up his lips, forced a smile through them, and shrugged.

‘Great! Thanks!’ said Sandra.

This was maddening, thought Frank. Why couldn’t he just be a man about it, chuck her out. Put his foot down. There must be a small bit of him somewhere that was capable of action and cruelty; some part of him that still allowed him to dictate his own life, rather than being pushed around by circumstance. He searched and searched, but found nothing.

Sandra helped him put the aubergines in the oven, reminding him not to add salt, and overdid it with the pepper in compensation.

‘Pepper protects, mum used to say!’

‘Will you stop it!’ Frank felt something welling up inside him that compelled his voice and made it louder. ‘Just bloody stop it! I don’t give a shit what your mom used to say! This is a private meal, do you understand? Private. Me and my wife. I didn’t invite you. You’re not wanted. Now please,’ Frank closed his eyes, trying to find some happy composure. ‘Please, thank you for the help, but this is not the time. Please leave, before my wife comes.’

‘Wow! Sorry. You’ve got issues. You should get it checked out.’ said Sandra. ‘Maybe I should go.’ Sandra’s face became shocked and sad. She put the pepper mill on the side, and walked out of the kitchen muttering to herself.

Frank breathed a sigh of relief. That was all it took. A little anger to get things done, perhaps he should do it more often. But then he remembered that book Mary had written and he struggled to read, where she kept talking about how bad anger was; anger fuelled more anger, it was the sewage that clogged up the drains of our lives, Mary had said. Well it worked here, how about that Mary dear? Put that in your book and publish it. He had no complaints about anger at that moment. Not one, it empowered him; it had bought him the freedom from his strange, needy neighbour to give him space to worry about the new, creepy one while he tried to patch things up, and grovel with Mary.

After a few minutes, Frank heard a noise and rushed back into the living room. ‘Oh! Fuck! No, no, no, no! Sandra, you can’t lie down here! Sandra!’ But Sandra couldn’t hear him, she had fallen asleep, snoring with her mouth open on the sofa, one leg up, and one leg trailing on the carpet. After Frank failed to wake her, he draped a blanket over her, perched on the armrest, and hated himself again.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to daily prompt: Blanket
Image: P1040401 by Seika / CC BY

An extract from my current work in progress, entitled Flat 21. Find more information here.

Making Progress

Thank you for those who have shown interest in my latest project, provisionally entitled Flat 21. This novel is my current priority and is progressing well. Other blogging activity may drop off for a while, but I’ve added a ‘Works in Progress’ section where you can find more information about Flat 21. I’ll post more updates as I go. Thanks.

Frank Gets Depressed

Another day off work, another day in bed, the thin curtains barely containing the glimmering nausea of the cold, spring sun. The first thoughts Frank managed to locate in the vacancy of his brain was the same one as before: ‘I’m trying’.

He’d spent a lifetime trying. Trying to be happy, trying to find love, trying to make marriage work, trying not to get divorced, trying to get a job, trying not to get fired. He was awful at trying.

A week ago, Frank had managed to secure a much sought after morning appointment at the GP surgery.

The young locum with nice legs but a brash manner, looked him up and down. ‘Good morning,’ she checked and double-checked her computer, ‘Mr. Canda. What can I do for you?’

‘I’m not feeling very well.’

‘In what way?’

‘I just feel like things are a struggle.’

‘In what way?’

‘I’m struggling to get up in the mornings.’

‘Are you getting to sleep early enough?’

‘Yes. It’s not just that. I’ve lost interest in things.’ He was going to confess about his love life, his failed marriage, the lack of sex, the lack of drive. ‘Just everything,’ he sighed.

‘How long have you been feeling like this?’

Frank tried to think, but he couldn’t remember. Thinking had become a hazy activity, fraught with the danger of remembering things he didn’t want to, and fighting himself to recall to the things he did; like his credit card pin number while a formidable queue was gearing up their tutting muscles behind him; or where he parked his car in a multi-storey, so he had to walk through all levels which looked the same as every other level, except one of them had a black Mondeo, that was how he could tell he was on the right level, until he realised each level had at least five black Mondeos as far as he could see; eating too had become a tasteless pastime.

‘It sounds like you may be experiencing depression. Have you had any problems like this before? Any history of mental illness in the family?’

Frank tried to think. There it was again. That grey, nebulous haze he used to call memory. His Uncle Dan had been caught walking the streets in a woman’s nightie and after that he wasn’t quite right again; and his old man, cranky, shouty and susceptible to wild mood swings would often lock him and his sister in a cupboard. Was that mental illness, or was that struggling to cope with life? ‘I don’t think so,’ Frank shook his head.

‘Well, congratulations,’ said the locum with the nice legs, ‘it looks like you may be the first then. I’ll write you up some anti-depressants. Do you need anything to help you sleep?’ Frank shook his head. ‘These should help you with your general mood. Take one once a day. And come back and see me in two weeks and we’ll review how you’re doing. Then we can discuss any further treatment such as counselling.’

Counselling, thought Frank. That was a scary thought, that meant exposing himself, opening up, swapping that deceit for honesty again, or making the deceit more honest. It meant being frank. Either way it wasn’t something he was looking forward to.

A week of swallowing the little green and blue capsules religiously every morning with a glass of tap water followed by a slice of toast and wild strawberry jam had done little so far to alleviate the worse of the torpor. The nebulous haze was still there, Mary was still leaving him, he still couldn’t remember the things he wanted to, and the things he wanted to forget kept bugging him like a crazy fly buzzing against his cranium at night.

Another hour had gone. How exactly was that possible. He hadn’t done anything, no reading, thinking, moping, growing, or diminishing; he had somehow wasted an hour just existing without knowing it. He showered and got dressed into jogging pants and a loose t-shirt, he would save his better clothes — his chinos and blue Oxford shirt — for when Mary was here. He’ll pretend it’ll be one of those dining programmes where guests arrive at each other’s houses. She’ll come in a little black dress, present him with a bottle of supermarket Chardonnay, a European kiss on both cheeks, mwah! mwah! Hello darling. Please come in. The table arranged with napkins stuffed into flutes, artisan placemats, some Miles Davis on the stereo, the weather will be nicer then too – the grey skies gone. A cool breeze drifting from an open window. He was looking forward to it. Things were going to change. He was going to sort his life out. He would dig out some dignity, crawl on the floor and beg Mary to stay.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to daily prompt: Grey
Image: Happy pills! Brooches for you! by Pati / CC BY

An extract from my current work in progress, entitled Flat 21. Find more information here.

The Heart Without, Within

Her mom told her everyday to never go down there — and twice on a Sunday. But after years of being told this, there was only one thing Cindy could do. One night, feeling its inexplicable pull, after her mom had gone to sleep, Cindy grabbed her dad’s old Maglite and went to the basement.

She stood on the threshold in her slippers and dressing gown with an ear pressed against the peeling door. It was already past midnight, she should be sleeping, but the extreme stillness wouldn’t let her rest. There was no harm in looking; after all, it was too late to expect approval from her mom. Or that feeling she often saw on her friends’ faces, which she imagined was acceptance or love or something comforting like that — it was too late for that too.

Cindy opened the door. A creak announced a strange draft, one that smelled cold and ancient. She tried the light switch. Nothing. She tried it again. Still nothing. The descent was exhilarating, terrifying, all-consuming; all her fears reeled and cycled together at each step as the torch failed to shine past the heavy curtain of darkness. What was her mom hiding down there? At the bottom, she managed to make out a scattering of odd things: battered, leather suitcases with rusted clasps; scrawled, cardboard boxes stacked and sagging beneath each other — PHOTOS, MEMORIES, DIARIES; worn armchairs sitting on top of each other; her old bicycle with the pink basket parked next to her baby cot. Then she saw a child’s hand. It was attached to an arm on the ground. She stifled a silent scream. But it was only her old doll, Annie.

Then something else caused her heart to erupt through her mind and leave her body frozen. A figure stared at her from the shadow cast by the torch. Cindy’s mind wanted to run, but her feet couldn’t move. She turned the torch slowly until she found a pair of dead mannequin’s eyes staring back at her. The mannequin screamed. She screamed. The mannequin moved. In panic Cindy swung the torch, to her left, then to her right, she swung its weak light and found only darkness. She swung it back, but the figure was gone.

It had moved closer in those short seconds. It was upon her. She could smell its breath. It reeked of alcohol. Its voice was familiar.

‘I told you to never come here!’ The face in the torchlight was strange, yet familiar; the eyes were distant, filled with raw sadness and wet with tears. The voice slow.

‘Mom? Is that you?’

‘You shouldn’t be here.’

‘You scared me. What are you doing here? What’s going on? I thought you were asleep.’

‘Please, go away. Leave me.’

Her mom, whom she was used to seeing as forceful and inaccessible seemed so frail in the gloom of the basement. They stared at each other not knowing what to say. The first thing Cindy thought was, she must miss dad too. But her mom never talked about him, they didn’t talk about him since he left. In that moment, half-clothed in shadows, Cindy realised they didn’t really talk about anything anymore.

She extended her hand and felt the unfamiliar touch of her mom’s, who recoiled as more tears refracted in the beam.

‘It’s okay mom.’

At that moment, Cindy understood nothing is for free, everything had to be earned, companionship, respect, love, nothing is taken for granted; but sometimes, between parents and children, hidden reserves are kept, strewn somewhere among the bric-a-brac of the dark recesses of the heart. It was just a matter of finding them again.

‘Please, leave me alone.’ Her mom cried.

But Cindy didn’t. She couldn’t.

She sat next to her mom on the cold, dusty floor of the forbidden basement among remains of the past. She saw her mom as she had never seen her — vulnerable, fragile. She put her arms around her, her mom recoiled until her slight push became a deep, embracing pull and they held onto each other fully with tears wetting each others shoulders.

‘I’m sorry, honey.’

‘What for?’

‘For failing you. I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to see me like this.’

Cindy said nothing and held her mom closer. How could she blame her? Dad’s leaving was his problem, not hers. And her sadness wasn’t entirely her own fault either. Her parents — grandpa John and grandma Marie — were messed up, and probably their parents too; each generation messes up in their own way and carries a little of the carnage over for good measure. Within that big soup mixture parents force feed their children — that magical elixir, they tell their children is for their own good — is a potent concoction of the happiness and pain they endured, sprinkled with hope that their children will succeed where they failed. Or fear they will follow in their own failures too.

‘I come here to get away from things,’ her mom said.

Cindy didn’t know how long they had been sitting there, but she could see the appeal of descending where nobody came, where nobody could see you, where there were no distractions, and be free and apart. Her mom wanted to keep it exclusively hers, she understood that. But Cindy felt its danger too, of the madness of darkness that consumed, working its way towards the heart without, within, and back again at the sacrifice of all else.

‘Come on mom. Let’s get some sleep. Then tomorrow we’ll clean things up a little.’ She grabbed hold of her old doll. ‘Put some things up for sale. I forgot about Annie. You think anybody will buy this? Maybe we’ll fix up the lighting, put some new chairs here, get some books. You can still get away mom, but isn’t it better to do it somewhere brighter, more comfortable? Or we can go for a walk in the park. Like we used to. How about that? I love you mom.’ She rested her head on her mom’s shoulder like a child does.

‘I love you too, honey. I’m so sorry.’ She kissed Cindy’s hair, the way a parent does when their heart tells them their child is in need.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: _GBD1020 by Gabriele Diwald / CC BY

The Unremarkable World of David

David wakes on swollen mud banks, under the shadow of dead trees where dull rushes struggle to stretch into the brown haze of sky; a lone crow dives and caws above. This is David’s world, this is his mind — where he decided to live long ago — where stories were born, residents became characters, and time was held within its own sphere; where, when real stars died, his continued to shine, vibrant and clear. But something happened. David’s world became sick. Time turned into an unending, bituminous stream, over-spilling and consuming everything. But this is David’s only world — his source of everything. He continues past his old house, near a crossroad of innumerable paths where unreadable signs hang. David finds a rusted cart sagging with wood. It is something new to his mind. He tries to write about it. But worryingly, the cart has no past or future, offers no story, it just exists without meaning or purpose; David doesn’t know how to comprehend something like this anymore. And so, he writes nothing.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: FFfAW Challenge-Week of April 18, 2017
Image by: Yinglan

Moving On

It was supposed to be a quiet Sunday lunch, but Elsie wouldn’t shut up. She kept going on and on; Bill was getting earfuls between mouthfuls.

‘Get over it,’ said Elsie, ‘there is no us anymore.’

‘But, I love you,’ said Bill.

‘It’s over. Move on,’ Elsie kept repeating.

Bill refused, raised his voice, got a few looks. Welled up with tears. She was driving him crazy.

He glanced over his plate at the young couple, smiling and laughing like he and Elsie used to when she was alive.

Move on how? It wasn’t that easy anymore at his age.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: 100 Word Wednesday, Week 14
Image by: Anjo Beckers Photography

The Handle

No matter what Alan does, the handle always breaks. It is held to the door by four, small screws and has no connection to the one outside — although he finds that when one breaks so does the other. When it breaks on the inside, he has to insert his finger nails into small gaps around the frame and pull the door before leaving; if it breaks on the outside it is easier, he can just push, and worry about having to pull again later.

Damn that handle! Alan stares at it in his hand. It’s going to make him late for work again. The handle has seen better days, it has been mended and taped so many times; cracks are beginning to show, he doesn’t know how much longer it will last. If he fixed it good and proper — perhaps got a new door — it would shave precious moments off his day. Imagine the things I could do then, he thinks. Standing here before the door — perched before this moment of pulling that preceded later thoughts of pushing — he thinks of the wonderful things he could do, if only he fixed the handle. Accumulated together, he calculates the time would allow him to read a third of a book a week, perhaps plan out a career change, sleep more, eat better, put together that online dating profile, get some time at the gym.

If he had a letter box, he could pull it, grasp the metal lip between his index finger and thumb, how delicious that would be; he would already be stuck in traffic now. If he had a letter box, he could attach the handle to a string for later retrieval so he could arrive home in style, with the pretence of turning a handle like most people did. What a sight his door must be when he was at work, those small holes exposed and getting grubbier around their edges.

And what a strange shape the handle is! He’s never noticed that before. It feels so uncomfortable in his hand. If only it were round. How pleasurable his grasp would be then! He would stand and turn it all day long. Holding an oval handle seemed very displeasing.

Alan thinks about the pulling again, locates the optimal place around the door frame to insert his fingers. If only Sally was still living with him, she would be helping him open the door now. She would know what to do. She would have replaced it for something solid, reliable, perhaps made of heavy brass. How happy a handle like that would make him feel. But Alan has been pulling and pushing everyday for so long now, struggling to get in and out, that it would be frightening if he didn’t have to do it anymore. Perhaps he should leave it as it is.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: handle by Aamir Raza / CC BY

Inexplicable Splendour (Part 1)

‘It would be better if there were nothing. Since there is more pain than pleasure on earth, every satisfaction is only transitory, creating new desires and new distresses, and the agony of the devoured animal is always far greater than the pleasure of the devourer.’

– Arthur Schopenhauer

One cold Wednesday afternoon Harry stood up and said, ‘Fuck this, I need to detoxify. Coming?’

Harry Szabó didn’t talk like most people I knew. But it gave him a unique charm. And I couldn’t help liking him. Detoxification for Harry meant drinking himself into oblivion. ‘Purification through alcohol cleanses the toxins of working life,’ he said.

I guess Harry was what you’d call the nouveau riche. His family was Hungarian or something and his uncle had died leaving him a fortune. But he wasn’t exactly subtle or wise about it if you asked me; he would often turn up in new designer suits, sports cars, and latest gadgets; but the most perplexing thing was his decision to keep working. It’s not like the civil service is the most exciting of careers. Most days, working in local government is like sitting and watching a reel of endless red tape unravel slowly.

‘Why are you still working?’ I asked him over beer that evening. ‘I mean, with all that money, you could retire. Go on a permanent holiday.’

‘Without the flagellation of employment, the absolution and purification is less satisfying,’ he said. ‘Besides, I’d miss my buddies.’

‘Well, I can’t say I’d be so willing to put myself through much more flagellation if I was in your position.’ I took another swig of beer. The alcohol was getting to my head. ‘I would tell them to stuff their job up their arses and say, “fuck you all!”‘

Harry laughed and called me a crazy drunk who couldn’t hold his drink. ‘You’re so desperate for approbation to define you,’ he said, ‘your desperation is like isinglass, transparent and glinting, it’s quite charming in a way.’ There he went again with his fancy words. I didn’t know what isinglass was — sometimes I wondered whether he understood half the things he said.

Harry didn’t turn up for work the next day. I caught up with Wendy at lunchtime. Wendy worked in finance, and was another reason I was in awe of Harry. It was no secret they had an on-off relationship. Wendy and I had reached that stage of familiar friendship where anything intimate was forbidden by an unspoken law. I was a shoulder to cry on, an ear to complain to. I would spend hours listening, wishing we were lovers, while she complained how Harry didn’t love her. Although I remember Harry once telling me about the ‘potent, interminable passions she aroused within every sense and feeling’ of his being. I guess that was his way of saying he loved her.

Wendy said she hadn’t seen him.

I tried calling Harry, but got straight through to his answer message, and hung up. I missed his strange charm and fancy words. I wanted to learn from him. Although, I wouldn’t admit it then, I wanted to be him — be him, so I could be with Wendy.

My phone buzzed. It was a voice message from Harry. ‘Hey you,’ he said. ‘Hope I’m not discommoding you. Sincere apologies for the protracted silence, unfortunately the privations of life were in some desperate need of redress, hence the absence today. Listen, I need to discuss something with you surreptitiously. Meet me at Duke’s in an hour. Hope to see you then.’

Duke’s was a jazz bar near Embankment that Harry often frequented. He enjoyed jazz because, ‘the disarrangement invigorated and enlivened the soul, it helped to assemble the disparate facets of being, it fashioned inexplicable splendour from chaos and nothingness,’ he had a habit of telling me. It was a busy night. The live band almost drowned out by chatter and laughter. I found Harry in the corner with Wendy. She looked beautiful, and radiated even without make up. I wondered if she and Harry had been together that evening. I imagined them together in bed, and cast a nervous glance at Wendy as I sat next to her.

‘Hey man’ said Harry, ‘glad you could join us. I was worried that you would forsake me. I am cognisant of the short notice, for which I apologise, but it’s a rather grave matter, I’m afraid.’ He said without taking his eye off the band. ‘That’s why I requested you both to come down. Naturally, you should be disposed to the entire truth, but certain protocols and discretion need to be considered. Let me get you a drink, and then we’ll go for a walk.’

‘I’m good.’ Curiosity had quenched my thirst, and the noise of the bar was making me nauseous. ‘Some fresh air would be nice though,’ I said.

‘Well, I won’t remonstrate,’ said Harry, flicking his immaculately pomaded hair. ‘Let’s make haste. The agitation is perturbing’.

It was just before midnight, and I remember, it was unusually quiet for a Friday night. In the distance there were voices, half shouting, half singing as we walked across Waterloo Bridge. We rested in the middle looking out across the black, gleaming river towards St. Paul’s. Harry found some stones, and skimmed them with ease. I wanted to do the same, but had a feeling mine would sink. Wendy wrapped her arms around herself; I stood close so our elbows touched, and breathed in her perfume in the breeze.

‘It’s difficult to know where to start,’ said Harry. He turned around and faced us with his arms outspread, elbows resting on the bridge. ‘You see, something of controversy has arisen. A matter that calls into question my very existence. I told you that my recent fortune had been the result of an uncle who had passed away. That isn’t entirely true. It wasn’t my uncle. It was my father.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ I said instinctively.

Harry ignored my comment. ‘And I’m afraid it’s all rather catching up on me now. A bit of an inconvenience really. You see, he didn’t just pass away. He was murdered.’

‘Murdered? How?’ I said.

‘Shot. In his bed. Police said it was a break in, but there was no sign of a struggle, and recent events suggest otherwise.’

‘What recent events? What’s happening Harry?’

His face had a worried expression I had never seen before. ‘I’ve become the recipient of some rather threatening communications. Letters through the door, mainly. Each describing horrific ways I could perish. And I’m afraid it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer disregard them.’

‘That’s awful, Harry,’ said Wendy. ‘Have you been to the police?’

‘Oh, they are of no assistant at present. So I had the compulsion to divulge my secrets,  before it’s too late.’ And then he turned around and faced the river. Started saying things like, ‘Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song’, which I later learned was from a T. S. Eliot poem. And strange things like how hypnotic the wide, expansive nothingness of the river was; of how it was like brittle glass. ‘Feels like you could walk on it,’ he said, ‘and be caught precariously between two things, drowning and existing.’

Dreams arrived in fitful spurts that night, in them Wendy and I made love. In my dreams I was inside her. And yet she remained distant, ‘like an enigma, waiting to be deciphered’ as Harry often said. And then I dreamed of Harry, we were driving in his Porsche. The sun was shining, John Coltrane was playing on the stereo. I was telling him how great sex was with Wendy. He said he was happy for me. Then we were being pursued by these dark vans. I jolted awake, sheets drenched with sweat, around 06:30 — too early to get up, too late to go back to sleep. I thought about Harry’s revelation, about his murdered father, and the death threats; and then about Wendy again, caught between images of sex and death when the phone rang.

‘It’s Harry,’ said Wendy. ‘He’s gone.’

To be continued…

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: Domes of London by Tom Waterhouse / CC BY