Jeopardy On Easter by JUDGE SANTIAGO BURDON

PhotoFunia-1591088957Jeopardy On Easter 

My oldest son Nigel and I went to an Easter Worship Service at a Christian Church with my cousin’s family. We were visiting for the holiday and I thought it polite to accept his invitation to attend the service. I believe it was a Methodist Church. “There’s a Methodist to the madness.” My son was  maybe nineteen years old at the time and had never attended a  Christian Church Service.  Unlike my daughter McKenzie who at age 11 became fascinated with all types of religions. She became obsessed with Buddhism but was confused by why it was defined by some as a religion and considered by others as a way of life.

” How can there be a religion without there being a God to worship?” She questioned.

” I’m not sure what the rules are according to the Religious Practices Counsel?” I answered.

” There’s no such organization. You just made that up. Didn’t you?”

” Yes I did McKenzie. I was without a logical explanation to your question, so I made it up.”

She was correct, however Buddhism is not a religion but a “Way of Life”. And there is no Central Deity or God. Someone had definitely been doing her homework. My children certainly kept me on my toes when it came to answers to questions on  a wide variety of subject matter. Sometimes it seems as if I was a contestant on a  Game Show,  constantly having questions fired at me.

“I’ll take Potpourri for Five Hundred Dollars Alex.”

McKenzie being the inquisitive skeptic she was, a trait inherited from none other than myself, decided we would attend a different Church every Sunday until she was satisfied she had enough information to make an educated decision on God and religion. I was excited to accompany her on the Odyssey. We did the Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witness, LDS, Jewish,(which she enjoyed most) Christian Reformed, Baptist, you get the idea. Luckily her interest diminished right before Football Season started. Evidently the whole business of religion and the worship of a sadistic, mystical entity became unappealing. She focused on Beads, Bead Stringing and Semi-precious Stones. This  pleased her mother being she owned a Bead Shop and is a talented jewelry designer also teaching classes. I was becoming exhausted and uninspired being dragged around Tucson every Sunday.  I looked forward to being able to enjoy my hangovers.

The sermon was lengthy and uninspiring delivered by a monotoned Minister to a yawning congregation.

The stage was filled with scenery representing the miraculous event which was assembled for a play to be performed by the Sunday School class . There was an imitation cave structure with a large boulder set off to the side. For some reason Nigel was fascinated and puzzled by the cave with the large rock.

” Hey Santi, I understand about the cross and Roman Soldiers and all but what does the cave have to do with it?”

” Well son understand that after the Jesus guy was crucified on what they refer to as Good Friday.”

” If they killed him why is it called Good Friday?”

” Great observation. Let me finish and I’ll address that issue.”

I went on with my explanation.

“The body of Jesus was given to his followers and they placed his corpse in the cave.  Then they rolled the large rock in front of the entrance so no one could desecrate the grave. After three days a miracle occurred some say witnessed only by Bartholomew a disciple of the once Jew now Christian, Jesus.”

” Just tell me, don’t go making stuff up.”

” The rock had been rolled away and Jesus came back to life then arose into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God.”

” No way. Tell me the truth!”

I told my children any information I revealed would always be the truth.  I never wanted them to be armed with incorrect information. If they repeated my statement it would be factual. It would be the truth.

” Nigel that is exactly what happened the best I’m able to describe. Well, as told in the Bible the book of a thousand fantastic fairy tales and unsubstantiated stories.”

“So you’re saying all these people believe that story? All Christians in the world believe it?”

” Yes son I swear to you it is what they believe. That’s just one instance of an unbelievable event. There are many more..”

” No way. What’s wrong with them? How can they believe such a fable?”

” They call it faith. I call it gullibility.”

” The Easter Bunny is more believable than the  Jesus Christ story.” He continued. ” Now what’s with the Easter Bunny delivering colored eggs? Can you please make sense of how this all fits together? Why isn’t there an Easter Chicken?”

“I’ll take Paganism for one thousand Alex. Oh boy a Daily Double!”

Laughing at the Great God Pan by K. A. Laity

Pan Joy Morton Cover

Laughing at the Great God Pan

K A. Laity

In 2001 Camden Joy and Colin B. Morton wrote Pan, a book purporting to be ‘A work of imagination endeavouring to recount the Extraordinary yet True events occurring within the City of New York upon April the Seventh, Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Eight when: numerous hearts are engaged; feats of Astonishment and Daring unfold: a man loses his found love: a primitive power draws manifold strangers into a supernatural dragnet: a father’s gift sends a son across the ocean: space-time continuums (QSTs) are repeatedly straddled: tears get shed: after which the assemblage of cross entertainers known as The Fall ceases working together (yet again) and everything threatens to remain exactly as it has been’ which is a nicely balanced evocation of bombast and litotes.

There are lots of books about, by and inspired by The Fall. Ex-band member volumes are a hefty shelf themselves and just about all of cracking quality, too. ‘Inspired by’ is a more tenuous category and by ‘tenuous’ I mean there’s some rubbish out there. I’ve always heard Pan spoken of as one of the better ones, so stuck in lockdown and floundering on any number of overdue projects, of course I decided to pick up a copy to finally read.

It’s not cheap to lay hands on; I reconciled myself to the price because I’ve not had to pay for lots of things since March. As frequently happens with things connected to The Fall, a crazy mix-up ended up giving me half-off on the price, so yay. It’s really more of a novella, so I sped through it in no time, even with stopping to look things up that jogged my memory.

The book itself is lovely, a product of Tom Devlin’s Highwater Books, which I knew mostly from comics by folks like Megan Kelso and Matt Madden. It was designed by Matt Lerner of Rag and Bone Shop with exquisite typeface and a subdued yet unsettling image of Pan on the cover and printed on luxurious paper. The title page with the above précis features calligraphy by Nancy Howell and is just beautiful. There’s a pull quote from Jon Langford of The Mekons to offer street cred to the unwitting innocent (i.e. non-Fall fan) who might pick up the book. My copy is signed twice by Joy.

What about the story itself? Buring the lede again: it’s fun. Do you have to be a Fall fan? Possibly, though I think Ballard and Dick fans may enjoy it for non-Fall related reasons. People who prefer their fiction meta will get a kick out of it. Fans of Pan, you will deffo enjoy. It kicks off right at the epigraph which purports to offer a mini history of Pan in the Western world by ‘Magnus the Good’ (resonant of Olavus Magnus but not quite) and translated by an ‘R. Totale’ in two volumes back in 1923.

The epigram establishes the impetus setting all the action in motion: the god of Panic, having been subdued by fire and death was then bisected, his head buried by the Celts, his body taken to the ends of the earth by ‘the North sea-dwellers’ or as we call them, Vikings. ‘His Head, kept by the Celtae in the ground, occasioned sorcery to render the grave as hot as the fires a warrior finds in beastly dens…’

The book opens in a Manhattan office, overlooking the Seagram’s building with Clarke suddenly meeting two very strange fellows who seem rather…shall we say, alien. Clarke being part of the music biz, that’s not so outlandish as it might seem to others, but he begins to be unsettled, especially once they mention his friend Vaughan (I have to believe that’s a Ballard ref). Are they private eyes? Fortunately his boss crashes in with news:

‘The Fall!’ Brandon shouted at Clarke from a short distance. ‘Clarke, hey! The Fall; tonight at Brownie’s; you remember; punk rockers from England? God, Clarke: fuck I always hated all those guitars; no more; The Fall’s in town!’

If you’re not a Fall fan you won’t know the cataclysm that announcement contains. There are bad gigs – and with the Fall legendarily bad gigs – and then there’s the meltdown at Brownies (if you want to see it for yourself, you can). An apocalypse no one thought the band could survive.

[Spoiler: it did (but that’s another story).]

‘Meanwhile, in a far-off place called Newport, Wales, the bell of a record shop rang and Colin B Morton entered.’ Yes, it’s that kind of book where one of the co-authors is a character in the wildly esoteric adventures. His dad, as it happens, has given him the head of Pan which had been dug up at an archeological dig at Caerleon (notebooks out, medievalists). The head has told him to head to New York and to play the fruit machine at his local to provide cash for the journey.

The scenes in the record shop and the pub are excuses for a lot of Fall fan jokes: ‘This amused Colin, for it was the cry of every Fall fan down the ages. At any given moment, The Fall was not as good as it used to be.’ Pointed mentions of Mark E. Smith’s procog intrigue the girl on the not-so-megastore check-out desk to the point where she ignores Colin and pores over the FallNet.

He leaves for the pub to join his mates for a few pints of Brains Skull Attack and discussions of everything from the occult, the Mekons, Swamp Thing, Pan’s head, the Liverpool Scene, and of course, the finer points of why The Fall was not as good as it used to be.

Colin heads off to NYC and many disparate threads begin to intertwine, strangle one another and fray like the band is about to do onstage. While it is not always about The Fall, it is always about The Fall in the sense that physics exists only to examine the finer point of whether the band 1) exists 2) is better or 3) is worse than it is any other given point in the time-space continuum.

‘Do you remember last year, in Belfast, when all the members dispersed? Snook believes that, in the brief period, The Fall still existed. It’s just that there was nobody in it, you know?…Snook also believes…that, for those few moments when The Fall existed with nobody in it, it went spindizzy about the world. Like some sort of prowling phantom, you know? It traveled around the globe, almost as a virus or something, disrupting various musical personalities in which it did not belong.’

Precog: it’s a drug. Like love, I guess. So if this sounds like something you’d enjoy hunt it down like a lost Fall member and lay your hands on it. Don’t lay your hands on ex-Fall members though. They’re not books.

K A LAITY IS HERE

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Cut From A Different Cloth by Robert Ragan

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Cut From A Different Cloth

An alarm clock goes off. Outside, what little dark there is left waits for the sun to show up. Fuck my life, having to get up and go to work.

It would be okay, but I always do something wrong giving the people I work with a reason to bitch and talk shit.  Most days it’s unbearable, I want to tell them all to fuck off and walk all the way home.

Can’t do it, what’s my pride, health, and peace of mind when I have bills to pay. Without going through all this hell, I’ll lose everything I’ve got, which isn’t a whole hell of a lot. But every bit of it I worked for.

It all came honestly. I feel like I may have been switched at birth. First of all, my momma never done no harm to anyone. It would have taken too much of her energy, maybe even forced her off the couch.

Momma had no ambition, no goals in life. All she had to look forward to was whatever was coming on TV. Her bed was lonely, she was never unfaithful to my father. Not even when he stayed gone; off somewhere getting in trouble and not when he was locked up facing the consequences for his actions. Let’s just say my older brother, Sean, kept her busy trying to keep him out of trouble.

People always said that I was the quiet, more mature one. I’d make straight A’s at school but have my accomplishments over-shadowed by him busting a kid’s eye socket on the school bus.

He tried to get me to smoke marijuana and do speed. But I left all the mind-altering drugs to him. Growing up I was always the pussy little sissy boy.

Other kids saw my older brother picking on me. It became open season. I got my ass kicked by a gang of bullies. Sean stood there and watched. Never lifting a hand.

He only said, “Brad, you better punch that little prick in the mouth.”

After it was over, on the walk home from school, he made fun of my black eye and busted lip.

“Dad would be so proud of you,” he  said before laughing.

“Oh, I’m sure he would have been proud of you for just standing there watching,” I said.

Sean stopped beside the road, with both clean hands against my chest, he pushed me down in a ditch bank filled with over-grown weeds.

Looking down on me, he said, “I fight my own battles buddy boy, you fight yours.”

When we got older, I got a job and he went to jail. Apparently, Sean was pissed off over a woman and decided to break some guys ribs with a baseball bat. Needless to say, I didn’t see my brother for a few years.

Mom did one time, but just like dad he told her not to come back. Said he didn’t want her to see him that way. Too bad he wasn’t out when dad came home.

I was working and paying all the bills for mom. But the old man was more proud of his oldest son doing time for roughing someone up. I told my mother if she needed anything to call me. I left her there with the madman she married.

It didn’t take long, and my father tried to steal another car. This time he raised the stakes toting a little 38 with ragged tape on the handle. Daddy done lost his mind! Pulling over and shooting at the law. Luckily, they didn’t kill him. But this time he was going up the river forever.

While all this goes on, I’m getting up early everyday going to a job I hate. Sometimes I think…man my father wouldn’t put up with this shit. He’d see his wife and kids starving and sleeping on the streets before he’d get out of bed early and hear a bunch of bullshit at a job.

My brother wouldn’t either. That lazy fuck wouldn’t work at a pie factory tasting pies for a living. His crimes and failures have always up-staged my success and trying to be a decent person. At least I can say I got him one time.

Sean ran up a huge debt fronting ice for himself and his little lowlife buddies. When drug dealers were threatening to kill him, all his buddies disappeared. With no where on earth to turn, he called and asked for my help.

I said, “I fight my own battles buddy boy, you fight yours.”

Fuck fighting, I’ve got to go to work like a responsible adult. Still, I don’t want to see my brother get horribly beaten or shot. So, I told one of my cop friends what was going on. Asked him to look out for Sean.

This cop and I were good friends back in high school. Pulling no punches, he says, “I’ll do what I can but if someone’s after Sean then you know he’s probably got it coming.”

I tried to tell Sean to get a job and live like a normal human being. But  deep down I guess he just always wanted to be like our father.

Doing stupid shit and being locked in a cage just never appealed to me. Work doesn’t appeal to me either, but I’ve got to get up and go whether I like it or not, because the bills keep coming.

Fuck my life!

The Road – A Landmark Novel by Mark McConville

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The Road – A Landmark Novel.

When you think of masters of American literature, Cormac McCarthy pops up as a true contender. Within his works, stories bloom and portray struggle in the wilderness, the American outback where greed escalates and where cowboys try to survive life-threatening onslaughts. His books aren’t for the fainthearted either, they’re works of fearless fiction that bend normality and don’t adhere to rules. The pages are harsh, often controversial, and fully exert the notion to read on.

By bridging the gap between goodness and evil in his novels, McCarthy paints pictures of blood-soaked faces, revolt, rebellion, heartbreak, and fearlessness. He’s a master at this, a genius at spearheading realism in a fictional setting. Often, many writers can’t write like this. Often writers who try cannot place realism into their stories. Not all stories need that spine tingling narration, but when it’s done right, it is captivating.

Some readers may feel overwhelmed when they first read a McCarthy novel as they’re intricate, low paced, slower than your suspense novels. They’re deep filled though, they’re weighty, spontaneous, charged, and there are no flashy instances. Take The Crossing for example, a book which follows a wolf that kills cattle and other livestock. In this work, McCarthy describes the outback and the people like they have blood in their veins and hearts in their chests. But is there any other writer who can use simple techniques to create a piece of unconventional art like this, a story that should be tedious and lifeless? I don’t know if there is.

Picking up The Road by Cormac McCarthy is like giving your time and effort to a newborn child. It is a demanding read, one that is equally breathtaking and cathartic, born from a mind that is knife edged. Also, incredibly devised, The Road marked a grand return to bleakness for McCarthy too, a reoccurrence for the master of American tales. His other frantic novel, Old Country For Old Men, was a blockbuster, and The Road is no different.

The novel follows a man and his son through sprawling apocalyptic America. An American landscape, brimming with scavengers and looters, people hell bent on causing chaos to survive. This chaos erupts at points in the novel, as the man must stave off the enemies who want to capture his son. The man will do anything to keep the boy safe, he’ll grit his teeth, he will pulverize who comes in his way, and he’ll follow the road which may take them to safety.

But, are these two survivalists don’t know what’s up ahead. In their dreams, they think life may be worth living, but we know as the readers, that when an apocalypse hits, life drains rapidly. Armageddon has overthrown every morsel of reason, every piece of salvation, and the man and boy are stuck in a whirlpool of constant dispirit and broken luck.

By walking down the notorious road, they run into obstacles, wild animals, and unpredictable terrains. And this is all captured in McCarthy’s powerful prose, his compelling writing. Writing that takes your breath away, a style which has been strategically worked upon. Through and through, the diction is flawless, captivating and original, marking the road as a stellar piece of literature.

It’s also the bond of these two characters that embeds emotion and grips the attention. They talk, they smile, they clasp hands, and they argue. These are all the traits of a typical father and son relationship, and McCarthy has woven it into his tour de force majestically. And at points, poignant moments are scattered in the pages, moments where realism studs the inner core of sadness. For example, there is when the man and boy find an old drinks machine, one filled with old cans of coca cola. The man eventually breaks open the machine and hands his son the beverage, and as the boy drinks it he falls in love with a taste he hasn’t experienced before. In this simple embrace, this tender instance, the story takes a stab at realism in such a moving way.

The Road is a melancholic piece of work, one which showcases McCarthy at his unnerving best. He notably adjusts his writing style in some places, but we all know it’s him pulling the strings. By weaving prose of wonderment, segments of genius, the American wordsmith deserves praise. His work, through 12 novels, should be acknowledged more so than it has been. Being the underdog suits McCarthy anyway as he is never in the limelight, he scorns interviews, and lives a sheltered life.

After The Road was published McCarthy received the coveted Pulitzer Prize in literature, an accolade some writers dream of winning. This is deserved, as The Road is undoubtedly his most accomplished novel.

The Road.

Classic Noir: Two by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding K. A. Laity

People have been talking about Bookshop as an alternative to the ‘zon so I hopped over to set up my profile there and see what they have. Disappointingly, they have a very patchy collection. Ironically, as they sell themselves as a booster of independent bookstores, you’ll mostly find volumes from the not-so-indie presses. I tried to add some things with ISBNs, but if it’s not in their database, you can’t add it. Out of the couple dozen (?) or so books I have out, I found a random 5.

Unable to burnish my own self-serving profile, I decided to set up some recommendations, including a ‘Godmothers of Noir’ list. I figure I’ll add to as I go along, but as you can imagine, I ran out of steam because data entry is boring. So to prod myself into doing more, I offer a couple recs here.

Elisabeth Sanxay Holding was ‘the top suspense writer of them all’ according to Raymond Chandler. Jake Hinkson agrees, acknowledging that the reason she tends to be dropped from the noir canon is largely because she doesn’t fit the hardboiled cliché. He argues that despite her ‘comfortable’ appearance, ‘I’d wager everything I own in the world that if you could have sidled up to Holding at some stuffy dinner party and asked her what she was really thinking the answer would have been darkly funny and perceptive.’

KILL JOY (1942) is the story of Maggie MacGowan, a young woman with ambition working as a servant in quiet house when she’d much rather be working in an office. While the housekeeper reads the sensational headlines about a local murder, tutting that the young woman ‘brought it on herself’ probably from wearing pajamas or shorts—‘and shorts they are!’ Maggie chafes at her position, but release comes through trying to help the young niece Miss Dolly, who flatters her ego and then confides in her like an equal: she’s in danger and afraid and needs to flee. She wants Maggie to come as her secretary. Because Dolly appears to be everything chic and sophisticated in her eyes, and she’s getting threatening notes from someone who signs his name as Othello, Maggie is won over to the scheme and they sneak away.

It all seems exciting and romantic but Maggie is dismayed to find they arrive in the dark of night at a ‘nasty dirty’ little house on the water. There’s no food but there are two strange men: Neely, a Dutch artist who seems unconcerned with anything, and Johnny Cassidy, a smooth talking fellow who alternately entrances and disgusts the young woman. One minute he’s putting on a cod Scots accent to tease her and the next he’s muttering dark drunken ramblings.

Dolly’s lawyer shows up but soon appears floating in the estuary. And things really begin to unravel. At first Maggie is primly determined to get herself out of the increasingly-gothic surroundings, but she’s checked first by sympathy for Dolly and then by a growing fear that she can’t escape. The bohemian group intermingles with the local Long Island gentry. Maggie learns that all the ‘class’ she attributed to Miss Dolly is really embodied by Gabrielle Getty, whose husband is another circling around the eternal victim—unless it’s Miss Dolly herself who’s only playing a part.

The book will keep you guessing as to who’s knocking off one inconvenient person after another right up to the end. It’s fascinating to see the changes in Maggie who is initially crushed by finding out that she’s not as smart as she thought she was, yet bounces back with real courage and plenty of pluck.

THE VIRGIN HUNTRESS (1951) could not be more different. Like Hughes’ In a Lonely Place (1947) this novel plops us into the mind of misogynist, self-pitying manipulator. The novel opens on V-J Day, neatly taking advantage of the noir hinge between the war and post war periods. Montford Duchesne is not quite in the same celebratory mood as the rest of the population. The end of the war means the end of his job in the shipyard on Staten Island. It means more difficulty coping with his landlady’s daughter Gwen, who’s determined to marry him. He thinks he deserves better things.

It’s interesting how different Maggie’s ambitions – initially just as self-deluded – compare to Monty’s: Maggie realises it’s herself that needs to change; Monty stubbornly waits for the world to change around him. And there’s that thing he can’t quite bear to think about in his past. The (mostly female) ghosts that haunt him lead him to a random change of plans. In the chaos of the celebrations, he wanders away from his would-be fiancée to offer assistance to a couple of women in a Rolls who are being menaced by a sailor who’s trying to force them to celebrate with him.

The rescuer gets invited along since they’re all heading back to Manhattan and at first it seems like a dream come true for Monty: away from his down-at-the-heel life and into the wealthy world of Argentian oil wealth. So what if Rose has her suspicions about him. Her tia Luisa takes an instant liking to him and invites him to use her brother’s hotel room while he sorts himself out.

Monty veers from arrogance to abject self-loathing: ‘This time he paid, this time he tipped, lavishly. Maybe she was noticing. After all, he thought. I’m not an oaf. Not a hick. My father’s people…I went to a really good school.’ Like Dix Steele, Monty wants all the things he thinks he deserves while knowing the world is against him. Oh and there’s that thing haunting him, that give him nightmares and makes him sweat and act belligerent and desperately try to fix things so no one will find out just what he can’t bring himself to remember.

Both of these books will grab you and have you flipping pages right to the end. While some of the noir tropes will be familiar, you’ll find plenty of surprises, too. Even bit part characters are memorable and distinct (wow, Monty’s mother). See the ongoing list of ‘Godmothers of Noir’ here.

Editors – An End Has A Start: Retrospective by Mark McConville

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Editors – An End Has A Start: Retrospective.

When beauty in music shrouds the world’s pain and its destructive nature, it’s a major success story. When music ripples through your thoughts and makes you see that it can be a lifeline, is a magical feeling. And music is ultimately a gateway to wider terrains and landscapes, even when you’re sitting in your generic room, listening through earphones and mimicking your favorite singer/artist. Music also sets us free, it makes us become live wires and it can calm our restless hearts. From punk to pop, the music we choose isn’t always about trends, it’s about how it affects us. Emotions trickle in, heartfelt lyrics bend our minds, and noise consumes us. Through time, we hear certain songs in bars and dingy party halls at the edge of sunrise, singing to the beat of our feet, and saying to ourselves ‘’This Song Has Saved My Life’’

In 2007, a band named Editors descended back into the music melting pot. The act, were no strangers at recording albums. Their debut record, The Back Room, which was released in 2005, catapulted them into the limelight as a band to scrutinize for good reason. That album catered to the rock faithful and blew the roof off. For a debut record, it spawned many singles, placing a band, which came from humble settings, into a grandiose way of life.

But, it would be their second release that sparked a revolution, and made the outfit a household name. An End Has A Start was the prize. A collection of emotional dreams populated with infectious hooks and lyrical spontaneity. Leading man Tom Smith sang astutely, bellowing out his grievances like tales of unrest, and turning musical gears smoothly. He’s a lyrical master, and on An End Has A Start, his inspiration spiked, forming written artistry which eclipsed the brilliance of The Back Room.

How could they surpass such expertly crafted songs? Well, by adding measure and substance, and thought-provoking synergy, that’s how. And little notes of post-punk and rock charms were instilled too, making the album a showstopper. Every track had a beating heart, every piece had been drawn from incredible minds.

These minds all clashed in an honest way and An End Has A Start birthed a new chapter for Editors. All the songs on the album resonated profoundly, certifying the band as a major player. ‘’Smokers Outside The Hospital Door’’ kick-started the record poignantly and delivered lyrics that highlighted desperation and hardship. Smith, as the singer, sang with the utmost desire to pass his point across through all the static noise. He outdid himself lyrically, calling on his devices and mind, to create a masterful spark of reason. The instrumental aspect of the album is astounding also, as the drums beat like hearts and the guitars come alive.

Single number two, An End Has A Start kept the album moving. It is a wonderful, emotional, compelling track. Smith sang diligently as always and his lyrical ability shined brightly. He vocalized his feelings describing a broken world and angels and demons. It is one of the most astutely created tracks in the rock world. Sublime in its execution.

And every rock album has its swansong. And this record was no different. ‘’Push Your Head Towards The Air’’ rattled the cage of ignorance and drowned out the arrogance. It was a magical moment. Smith’s voice was ludicrously good and lyrically it spoke like a dignified angel. It conjured up a feeling of hope when it was dead. A drastically different track by Editors, a track of vulnerability.

An End Has A Start was an emotional album brimming in lyricism and rhythm beyond your bog standard release. It struck the core of anguish and left the listener breathless. Musically assertive, the opus ingrained normality and augmented it to the next level.

Murder in My High School by K. A. Laity

in cold blod

This is not going to be a lurid tale; more of a puzzled one. A colleague share a link this morning about the need to compensate formerly incarcerated people for telling their stories—particularly for those events seeking to redress the criminal (literally) imbalances in the justice system. It got me thinking about a weird thing from my own past.

My high school, like many American schools of its time, would have ‘assemblies’ from time to time of varying sizes (don’t get your hopes up, Austen fans—not that kind of assembly). The whole school would get together in the gymnasium, but there was a block of classrooms that were separated by moveable accordion panels to bring six or eight classrooms into one big one.

Sometimes they did it for films: one time Fail Safe, the 1964 Sydney Lumet cautionary nuclear war film (that’s kind of a po-faced remake of Dr Strangelove) –why? Who knows? Cold War romanticism from some faculty member? More striking in my memory is when they showed us In Cold Blood, which gave me a whole new fanaticism for Capote’s novel and true crime. I remember the gym teacher who taught ‘history’—for whom I used to grade quizzes because you know child labour laws were lax and I was bored with the quizzes themselves—making fun of the actress screaming before her character was murdered. ‘Isn’t that the worst scream ever?’ he said laughing, then turning the sound back up.

All the misogyny I remember well, too.

Films were always a welcome relief from the day-to-day grind of classes, especially in that term where I was stuck in a class with a teacher who had given up on everything. But I remember the weird day that they brought in a murderer to talk to us. Once more all the walls folded back. We turned our desks around to face a different front. And a quiet unassuming old man told us that he committed murder in the heat of a moment of anger as a young man and spent a lot of years regretting it.

I suppose, in my school where they were churning out better autoworkers for tomorrow, it was a warning: Think before you knife someone. Perhaps it was just another indication of how little they expected of us: try not to murder someone. I remember his regret, his quietness. I remember more the students’ heady combination of fear, fascination, and a kind of intoxication as the two mixed.

I remember the disappointment many had that he was not some slavering beast held by chains but a tired older man who spoke softly to us about lost time. I suppose things that might have been on adults’ minds at the time included the recent memory of ‘Michigan’s Ted Bundy’ but I don’t recall thinking about that at the time. The invulnerability of youth. I remember his sadness. I remember thinking about all he might have done instead.

On Being Fourteen Years Old and Loving Miss Perkins by Stephen J. Golds

On Being Fourteen Years Old and Loving Miss Perkins

 

Miss Perkins had been teaching at my high school for nearly a year and I was in love with her. It was a fourteen-year-old boy’s love for a personification of a wet dream twice his age, and I carried that love around in my chest like a loaded revolver.

 

Miss Perkins was a teacher at my school, but she wasn’t my teacher. If I had her as an educator, I might’ve learnt something (and not crashed out so spectacularly). I only snatched glimpses of her strolling to and from the faculty lounge, the sounds of her high-heels on the cracked concrete tearing into my adolescent hormonal heart like a power drill. Miss Perkins waltzing across the title screen of my ‘The Wonder Years’ to the soundtrack of ‘The La’s – There She Goes.’

There was a rumor floating around the school like a bad fart that she was fucking the geography teacher. I liked to think that the rumor wasn’t true. Kids made up a little song about it; “Perkins sucks Berkins.

Berkins licks Perkins.

Perkins fucks Berkins.

Oh yeah, baby, baby!.

Sometimes, spurned by the madness of the crowd, I would join in unenthusiastically with the chant, mouthing and mumbling the words like an atheist singing hymns at a distant relative’s funeral that they’d been obligated to attend.

I didn’t really like the geography teacher whose name was, as the song creatively suggested, Mr. Berkins. I think it would be more honest to say I hated him. He was skinny with brown moles all over his pink skin, his grey eyes bulged out of his head like two half-buried golf balls and he spat when he shouted at you for forgetting your homework or for being late. Long thick black hairs tangled out from his nostrils and when he breathed the hairs slithered and twisted like snakes in dry, black holes. Sweat was always seeping out of the large pores on his forehead.

Whenever I saw him with Miss Perkins, he would always be trying to make her laugh or trying to touch her arm or shoulder subtlety, the sly little prick. Always pretending that he was something special and not just some ghost of a robot. I knew his game. I was on to him. He wasn’t fooling me.

 

Miss Perkins looked like one of the women from the Victoria’s Secret catalogue that I kept stuffed underneath my mattress. Blonde, busty, beautiful, young, and probably intelligent too. Nothing seemed to touch her because she was above it all. Berkins on the other hand seemed old and crustified like a piece of dinosaur shit in the sun, even though I’m sure he was pretty young himself.

I remember one afternoon he sent me out of his class for swearing at this fat girl called Shelly. She said I pretended to drop my pencil on the floor, so I could snatch a peek up her skirt, when she had in fact swung open her fat white thighs like the jaws of a shark to show me her whirlpool-like snatch.

After the lesson had ended Mr Berkins called me back into the classroom as everyone was leaving and cross examined me with the eyes that looked as though they were trying to leap out of his face. He kept looking at me as the sweat slid down his shiny forehead and cheeks. Finally, he took out a white handkerchief from his V-neck sweater’s sleeve and mopped at his brow. I couldn’t believe he kept a handkerchief stuffed up his sleeve, to me it was surreal and ludicrous and justified all the hate I felt for him. He finished drying his face off, smiled a slick grin and asked me whether I would like it if he looked up my mother’s skirt. I couldn’t believe it. What kind of a question was that to ask a kid? I knew he was trying to beat me, defeat me. I didn’t know what he was trying to defeat me at, but I was sure I wouldn’t let him win. I licked my lips coolly and said in as manly a voice as I could force out of my shallow chest, without it breaking, that if my dad caught him looking at my mom’s pussy, he would kick the shit out of him.

As soon as the words snaked their way from my mouth and birthed themselves into the awkward silence, his eyes jumped from his head, all white and like lemmings at a cliff edge. He scratched at the bald patch in the center of his head and kept saying the word “quite, quite, quite, quite”, as he scratched, nodded, and stared.

Finally, he pointed a thumb towards the classroom door, telling me to get out and we both knew I had won something ridiculously small and worthless. I attempted some kind of a strut out of the classroom, almost feeling like the character McMurphy from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and refusing to acknowledge the possibility that a woman like Miss Perkins could be interested in such a man as Mr Berkins. A loser pretending to be some sort of a hot-shot. A man outwitted by an always outnumbered and outgunned fourteen-year-old boy with dirty socks and holes in the soles of his shoes.

 

In her second year of teaching Miss Perkins handed in her resignation and disappeared from the high school and my life.

A very short while after Mr Berkins quit as well and for the first time I could almost empathize with him. Understand where he was coming from.

A little piece of the sunshine had been stolen from the school and it was now a lot darker and less fluid and more mechanical within the hallways and the classrooms. I supposed even though we were completely different human beings we’d both discovered a red rose growing out of a pile of horse shit and we both knew that with the flower gone, there was only the pile of shit left behind.

 

Much, much later, I found out that they had gotten married.

 

Mr. Berkins had won after all.

 

 

 

Leaving Home For Work with OCD by Stephen J. Golds

Leaving Home For Work with OCD

 

Okay, I’ve got my bag. I’ve got my wallet. Check. Subway pass? Check.

Wallet.

Subway pass.

Touched them?

Yes.

Yes.

In my pockets. They’re there.

Okay, keys. Yes. Keys. Got them.

What about the windows? They’re closed. Checked? No, but I know they’re closed. Okay. Go and check them again. Touch the glass. Touch the handles. Yes, closed. Securely closed. Touch them. Make sure.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

Seven touches means they’re shut securely. Lucky seven. Lucky seven. Lucky seven. Windows are securely closed.

Okay, gas cooker. It’s off. Touch it, make sure. It’s cold to the touch. Touch it seven times.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Lucky seven.

Is it leaking gas? I can’t smell any gas. Ignite your cigarette lighter over the grill. Make sure. Fuck, I almost forgot my cigarettes and lighter. Okay. Got them. They’re in my jacket pocket. Touch them. Check. They’re there.

Try the gas cooker. Yes, okay. No explosion. I’m still here. No leaky gas. Touch the valve. Make sure it’s off. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Lucky seven. Gas stove is safe.

Go and touch the windows again. No, they’re securely closed. I did the lucky seven count. Go and check them again. Touch the glass again. Touch the handles again. Yes, closed. Securely closed. Touch them. Make sure.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

 

Okay. Fuck. Going to be late to work.

Front door.

Bag in right hand. No, change it. Left hand. Bag in left hand. That’s better. Okay.

Wallet? Yes. Touch it. It’s in my pocket.

Subway pass? Yes. Touch it. It’s in my pocket.

Cigarettes and lighter? Yes. I’ve got them. Touch. Yes, In my jacket pocket.

What about the refrigerator? It might be open. Fuck. Quickly go back and touch it.

Okay, refrigerator, it’s closed. Touch it. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Lucky seven. Lucky seven. It’s closed securely.

Front door again.

Keys.

Are the lights off? Yes!

Keys. In my hand.

Open the door and leave. Okay.

Lock the door. Check the handle. Yes, it’s locked. Check it. It’s locked. Check. It’s locked. Locked. Locked. Locked.

Fuck, going to miss the train again.

Check the door again.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

Lucky seven. Door is locked. Let’s go.

Go back, check again.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Lucky seven. Lucky seven. Lucky. Seven. Lucky fucking seven. It’s fucking locked. Let’s fucking go already.

It might still be open. Check it again, just in case.

Fuck!

Touch it.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Okay! Lucky seven. It’s locked. Calm down. Let’s go. I did the lucky seven count. Lucky fucking seven. It’s good. It’s locked.

 

 

Almost at the subway station. I can make it with five minutes to spare.

What about the front door?

It was fucking locked. I fucking checked it.

Go back make sure. Do the lucky seven count three more times. Just to be sure. Need to be sure.

Fuck!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Mr Golds

Waiting on Ernie Scenes from an open Dublin Legal Clinic by E F Fluff

Waiting on Ernie

Scenes from an open Dublin Legal Clinic

 

Waiting at open legal clinics is often bleak.

Today a man in his middle to late twenties came in. Thinning nondescript brown hair plastered in feathers to his head, he’d obviously been running and was having difficulty. As there were no more seats, he asked the man nearest him if he could sit down, the man pointedly ignored him.

An older woman, somewhere in her late fifties or sixties asked him if he needed to sit down, and he was very grateful. After she got up, the man who had pointedly ignored him offered her his chair. She pointedly refused.

“It’s an emergency…”

“It’s an emergency…”

His voice was tired and increasingly emotional and it took a moment to realise he was talking to his phone and not his knees.

When he finally got through, the person on the other end began asking him why he was calling. Bewildered, he entered into a weird back and forth repetition of explaining he had four missed calls from them.

 

There’s a point in all this where you find yourself recognising old keys of gaslighting and psychological abuse and end up quietly hoping it’s someone’s overworked key-worker on the other end, and not a relative or spouse.

It was his father.

What followed was a very contained partial breakdown filled with a deep nausea layered fear.

 

He was there at the clinic, waiting to see [redacted] but there was a “huge queue ahead of me”, and “don’t know whether I should stay or just see him in the morning, I’m very tired, I’m very tired.”

“I’m just doing what you told me to do.”

“Look, I’m doing what you told me to do, if I go to prison, if I go inside, I can’t, when I come out, I can’t go back on the streets…”

“I know you told me there’s good people out there, to have faith that there’s good people but I -’’

“I know, I know…I just…”

“There’s bad people out there, there’s a lot of bad people out there with bad intentions, not all of them are good like you Da…”

“Okay, okay, I’ll do what you tell me to do…”

“I am doing what you told me to do, listen please, it’s just hard…”

“Like what if the judge is having a bad day and is in a bad mood and doesn’t understand where I’m coming from…I just can’t…I can’t…I -am- doing what you told me to do…”

This doing what he was told boiled and tangled over in inflection and seemed to have multiple meanings. Its repetition seemed to make the older man on the other end of the line raise his voice so he could be heard, briefly, quite clearly around the waiting room.

“I am doing what you told me, I am, I am trying…ok…ok…look, I can’t, I did what you told me…if this goes -’’

The Da on the other end of the line seemed to interrupt a lot.

“I am…I am…”

“I am doing what you told me, but you don’t understand…”

“I’ve suffered enough…”

“Like…I know I have a beautiful apartment and I want to keep it and not lose it if I go inside, if this goes -’’

“I can’t…I just -’’

“I am doing what you’ve told me to do, I am…it’s just…I’ve suffered enough…”

“You…you don’t understand…I’ve suffered enough, I can’t, if I go back on the street…”

“If I come out, and I’m back on the street, you’ll have to help me…please…I can’t…I can’t…”

“I am doing what you’ve told me…I am…”

“Please. You’ll have to help me, please…”

“I can’t…I’ve suffered-I -am- doing what you’ve told me. I am…”

“I don’t know whether to wait here or -’’

“Okay, so the morning then…what time will I see you, 9am? And you’ll drive me there in the car and we’ll see him be -’’

I wondered which court he was. Or how that court worked. My experience of the lower courts this far had been of 10am roll call. As he went back and forth between emotional pleading, affirming he was doing what he was told and trying to make clear what was happening in the morning and whether he was being picked up. I wondered how far the drive was, an hour didn’t seem like it’d cut it. You did not want to be late.

“Okay-okay so I’ll get up and get the Luas there…okay…”

“But like, please could you just phone me in the morning…”

“Please, please could you just phone me in the morning…”

Seemed like he wasn’t getting picked up after all.

“I will have my alarm set, I will!”

“I will! I just, please, please just say you’ll call me, please!”

 

You see glimmers of ADHD and ADD at the oddest times. You’ve long ago learnt to recognise the plaintive out-stretched grasping hand of people scrabbling, pleading with others, their friends or family, neurotypicals they know, just to offer some sort of purchase or support, a safety rope hack around the endless-weathering of being discombobulated.

“Look…please just say you’ll phone me in the morning!”

“What? No! Just please, please say you’ll phone and say ‘Ger, Ger, are you up, c’mon get ready’ and I’ll be up ready and get the Luas in. Just to make sure, just to make sure I don’t ’’

“No I won’t! I won’t! I just, please, please just say you’ll phone me in the morning, with good time, just to make sure I can’t -’’

“I won’t, please just say ‘Yes Ger…I’ll phone in the morning Ger…’ I just need to make sure I -’’

“No, I do have my alarm set! Just please say you will. Just that you’ll phone and say ‘Ger, are you up?’ just to make sure I-’’

“I will, I will. Please…”

The pleading bubbled out into the waiting room to growing discomfort as everybody else just pointed stared at the floor, their papers or the middle distance.

“I did do what-I am doing what you told me, I am -’’

“I can’t…I can’t…”

“Please, please just say you’ll phone and say “Get up Ger, are you ready, and I’ll be ready…I will…”

“I will have my alarm. But just like in case my phone breaks or the alarm doesn’t go off or-please, Please!”

The voice on the other end appeared to change subject on Ger a couple of times as he struggled to answer those points and continue pleading his case.

 

As the call wound down, he was still pleading at the same time as confirming he would be there, he would, and that he’d see them in the morning, he was going to get the Luas. In the long goodbye, the voice rose loud again to be audible in reminding him to do as he’d been told and disappeared into the indistinct of phone calls.

They seemed to agree that he didn’t have to wait. I fought the urge to tell him to just wait, just wait, it would be better if he waited.

He was still pleading when the call ended and dissolved into emotional sounds close to stressed whimpers and anguished sighs.

Irritated, I couldn’t help myself.

“Here Ger, I’ll call you…”

“What?”

“If you give me your number, I’ll call you and make sure you get up in the morning.”

“What? No it’s ok-are you sure-I -’’

“I’ll phone you in the morning and make sure you get up.”

The older lady who had given him her seat looked up from her papers and nodded at me. I nodded back.

A sweaty mess of stress, he struggled over to me whilst gathering his bag and twisting his hat. He came over to where I was standing, I had my phone ready, and he fumbled his back out of the pocket he’d shoved it.

He was about to give me the number then he seemed to get a sweaty air of worry or paranoia, and began telling me…

“Actually it’s okay…it’s okay…he’ll call me, I’m sure, it’s okay, I’m sure he’ll call…it’s okay, thank you for your kindness…I’m sure he’ll call…thank you-I’m sure, sure it’ll be okay and he’ll call…”

 

I’d like to say Ger bustled himself out, but it was more a sort of wet towel tangling and untangling itself out of the waiting room.

The old lady looked back up at me and offered a complex nod and tilt of the head with a grimace that rolled into rueful eyebrows.

I nodded back and shrugged as if to say “someone had to” and “what are you gonna do…”

She gave a backwards nod and I replied in kind. Both silently agreeing that “he’s probably not going to call him”. And she went back to her documents, and I went back to staring at the news on my phone.

Bio:
E.F Fluff is still trying to escape a Kafka-esque nightmare of corruption, death threats, violence, white collar crime, and bigotry in Finland, and Ireland. Seriously.
Photographer credit:
Sunlight Chambers Photo used with kind permission
by photographer
Infomatique aka William Murphy