Friday, 5 June 2015

Over Where The Spring Lambs Bounce

Along in lines bloomed terrifically some young blondes
with their honey suckled scents lingering in wisps of air,
swelling the field full of amber petals, away from the ponds.
Then at once they scurried from the bippity-bopping of soft hooves
but with delicate legs like theirs, leashed to the ground,
the daffodils clutched to the wind with the lamb; unbound.

It skipped, it sprang, it wobbled about
through the clovers and the daisies
like an adventurous boy scout.
It searched, it smelled, it frolicked along
with the crawlers that crawl
and the flyers that fall.

With the bumps scattered in the ground underneath,
he fell about at first with his weak new legs,
wanting to run about and chattering his teeth.
Grass was rich away from the herd
but this would be his last graze,
for tomorrow the butcher pays.


Beasts that perch on the highest branch, repulsively inspecting the life below them, are the criminals. Their eyes follow every limp and notice each squabble among the young who plead for a morsel of food. Patient creatures; they allow the light to dim inside the elderly and the sick until they can strike. For generations vultures have recalled the tale of the place they hold in the tender balance of things. We must eat, they said. We must take them, they said. We must not question it, they said.

Skeletal trees dilate over the area where scraps of shrubs surface themselves through the mists of sulphur that cover the ground. My mouth overflowed with saliva as I watched some of the inhabitants limp below my feet. Then homing in on one in particular, I noticed a dressing of succulent blood covered the deep gauge on his left knee. Bacteria had already started to dwell in the area, creating a tangy taste within the flesh that I would remember well. He was close to crumbling. I became frustrated as the smell tingled my taste buds. Jagged skin was floating in the calm breeze around the joint. It was mesmerising. His fur patch worked his chest with knots that hadn’t been groomed in years. I admired him as he was unfixable. And with that, the last breath of air chilled his dry sacks then his skinny neck crashed to the ground.

I could not take any more. The odour drowned my lungs, beckoning my aching stomach. I needed it. Spreading through my veins the toxic was infecting my body, attacking at neurons. It was manipulating my thoughts. My neck urged forward allowing the aroma to support my wings, directing them down towards the carcass. The body lay like a bundled coat belonging to a beggar on the streets of Moscow in the winter with a tempting jar of coins in the left pocket. It was mine. Encircling him, I tried my hardest to aviate my wings back to the tree. I did not want to take the last part of him. Everything that he owned, everything that he was, lay limp on the floor. I did not want it. Rotted vegetation was good enough for me. I could not want it. The others stared. My father’s stomach bulged out already full from his morning meal. It came back; that viral demon that resided in the recesses of my heart. Placed there before birth, every vulture carried it around. It consumed your true self and leaves one only able to gain satisfaction by absorbing blood from the weak.

Leaving his bones on the ground I made my way back to their home. They sat waiting for me with proud smiles on their faces. It wasn’t my fault. I turned away and looked at two lion cubs playing together in the sun. They were both pushing around a knotted ball of weeds together allowing one to run around while the other played. An adult lioness basked in the sun a few feet away giving them a few glances every now and again. A hyena wandered around her and tried to get a bit closer to the cubs as they were uninterested in anyone except themselves and the ball of weeds. The hyena looked like he was about to make a run at them and I could see my father’s head veer towards them in my peripheral view. Thankfully, though, the lioness quickly caught on and ran at the hyena first, scaring it away from her cubs. My father stopped salivating momentarily and became quite irritable as he glared at the lioness.

The rest of the family started to gather, swooping down whenever they saw an opportunity. They took as much as they could without a mere thought of restraint flickering across their mind. Some decided to peck at the flesh of creatures that hung on the precipice of death till a full meal was ready. These victims carried a smell wherever they travelled that would have sickened any other animal. Vultures, however, already carry around a stench. The sunsets came sooner and the nights grew colder. Meat ceased to fester in my stomach letting the acid boil, and hunger tightened firmly around my mind. Fewer animals entered our arena. Fewer families left to eradicate.

There was nothing left. The others had feasted until they were sustained, taking what they could day after day. My stomach let out a continuous groan as though from the lesser fortunate from the previous week. Especially fragile with a slight breeze, my skin barely stuck to me anymore. We were weak. A few of the vultures had tried searching elsewhere but we had left nothing for now. Some of the vultures came back hoping for something to crawl out of the sand. Others didn’t make it back. One of the young vultures fell off a branch next to me after a sweltering day under the sun. Another young vulture flew down poking him with his beak and nibbling his feathers. It stayed still and silent on our hazardous land. He became the next feed for the rest of the family. I watched them as I stayed still.

I stayed silent.

Coffee With Clara

Clara’s coffee house stood on the end of Mapley Street with red blinds that by now could only drop halfway down without splitting apart. The place looked out dated compared to the Starbucks a few roads over. There was an ‘O’ on the illuminated ‘Open’ sign that had flickered out almost seven months ago but no one had thought to change it yet.

“Thanks for the tips Marge, I’ll be sure to name my character after you!” Joe shouted as he waved back to the grocery store, holding a plastic bag nearly half empty. He walked along into the café, then sat down at the nearest table to the door and got out his pen and pads of paper. They already had scribbles all over them. She brought over a full plate to a man, who was sitting at a table next to the counter. He sighed as he slouched in the chair. As she put the plate down, she rested a hand on his shoulder, stroking off the dust from, what looked like, weeks of work at the construction site with no time to wash his overalls. He was a fairly large man and came here almost every morning. They exchanged a few words and he smiled as he tucked into his breakfast. She had a quaint kindness about her that Joe had always adored. She was the main reason most of the customers went there and didn’t Joe know it. That and the killer tuna salad sandwich her cook can make. Clara came over quickly and brought him his morning coffee: black. She was a timid woman who got along well with all her customers, unlike the usual boisterous characters in the area. Her thirty year old body wasn’t skinny, and her hair was always pinned up with one or two stray hairs that would rest on her cheek bones. She wore plain clothes and wore very little make up but she had an essence about her that called the community to her café like homing pigeons.

“Are those new shoes? They’re pretty.” Joe asked eagerly.

“Oh, yes. Bought them the other day at that market down town.” Clara replied while writing down his orders, oblivious to Joe’s attentive compliment.

“Rick looks exhausted today,” said Joe.

“I know, he just said that he’s worked double shifts this week,” she said as she glanced over at the table she had just served. “But how’s the book coming along?”

“Oh not too bad, I guess.” Clara smiled and squeezed Joe’s arm slightly then went back to the counter.

Behind him Joe heard someone screaming. Turning around to the window next to him he watched a man in a smart business suit yell down the phone. He was threatening all sorts of things that shocked even his creativity, before throwing the phone to the ground almost hitting a homeless man in the process. Leaving it lying on the floor he walked in, composed and sturdy again. Getting nowhere with his novel, Joe gawked at him as he sat down, concluding that he must live a stressed lifestyle to look so self-assured after that outburst. He got out the business section of the Independent and sat to read it only a few tables away. Close enough for him to hear when Clara, unaware of what had just occurred, came over to take his order. Getting to his table, she quickly went back behind the counter to bring over a high chair for the woman sitting at the table next to him, who was struggling to hold a toddler with one hand and a forkful of chicken nuggets in the other. The woman gleamed at Clara, while sitting the child down and proceeded to cut up the nuggets into bite size pieces. Clara went back to serve the man at the table, as Joe continued to stare at them. The man hesitated before looking up as though he was finishing reading a sentence. But then as soon as he saw her waiting patiently with a notepad still in hand, he smiled and asked for a latte with two and a half teaspoons of sugar. “Also what do you suggest as an accompaniment? A lady as beautiful as yourself must have exquisite taste.” His hair was perfectly combed back with just enough gel in it to shine slightly under this lighting. She had probably noticed that by now, Joe thought with a jealous tick coming along. She giggled at his boyish charm and suggested the scones. The toddler next to them started to cry, annoyed about one of his toys falling on the floor. Joe didn’t mind the noise too much, as his sister came round frequently with her two year old son. He did mind, however, that he could no longer hear the conversation between Clara and the man. They conversed for a few minutes and Clara’s smile had not once been interrupted. “Oh, Lewis you are so funny,” Joe heard Clara say when the child’s shrieks eventually subsided.


The next few weeks past in this manner with Lewis coming in in the mornings for a latte and scones then leaving for work while Clara giggled to herself as she cleaned the dishes. He seemed to work almost every day, whether it was a weekday or not. His handsome face and sturdy stance made her act like a young girl again causing Joe to grow more and more uncomfortable each day that Lewis came in. He fidgeted while watching Lewis and Clara speak each morning. Her lips had been smothered in a dark red lipstick lately, where packets of laughter escaped every now and again. They chimed in Joe’s brain leaving him with a pain that wouldn’t subside. He tried to carry on working on his novel though, staying from morning till late afternoon talking to Clara at every opportunity.


On a Saturday morning, Joe walked past Marge’s grocery store where she had bunches of flowers out on the front stand. Joe stopped mid walk to stare at the newly bloomed sunflowers. They were a deep purple, like the colour of Clara's apron. “These would be great for Clara don’t you think, Marge?”

“Oh wonderful, sunflowers are just the sort of thing that suits a woman. I see men who come here and always go for the red roses. Roses are for young sweethearts that you don’t much care to see when they grow old and haggard, like me.”

“Now don’t say that, you still are bursting with vibrance! Maybe these’ll put a bright smile on her face.” As Joe said it, he also mumbled a comment, which was inaudible to Marge.

Joe looked down at the flowers with a disappointed look so Marge shyly ignored what he had said.

“You should ask her out before it’s too late. And don’t give me that look I know you’ve always had a thing for her.”

Joe smiled, as though thinking back to a fond memory, and paid for the sunflowers. As he walked the few metres down to Clara’s, his hands trembled holding the bouquet of flowers. When he walked in he strode right up to Clara and handed her the flowers surprisingly confidently. “Oh thank you, Joe. These are beautiful,” she said smelling the flowers. She gave him a hug that reminded him of ones that old friends do when they haven’t seen each other in a long time. He stood, unable to move, and after a long pause managed to fumble out a few words to her, explaining how they reminded him of her then sprinted out of the café to figure out what to do. The homeless man was sitting there as usual. Joe rubbed his face, troubled from the ordeal he had just gone through. “Mate, you don’t look too well,” the homeless man said to Joe. He chuckled at the irony then took a deep breath and went back inside. Clara was filling up a vase full of water for the flowers as he opened the door and placed them on the counter top.

He sat down and while Clara brought him over some coffee and a sandwich. “On the house.” Joe smiled at her while sipping the coffee. He got out his papers and wrote with a spirit that hadn’t been there earlier.

‘Lewis hadn’t come in today’ Joe thought. But he briskly pushed away the thought, deciding that he should be grateful for such a thing. He’d started to write eagerly again and was enjoying all the attention from Clara.

When closing time came he waited for all the other customers to leave. Clara was washing up some mugs. He packed up his stuff and went towards the counter. A few steps away he paused abruptly and dropped his bag then ran straight to the bathroom. He splashed some water on his face and steadied his shaking hands on the edges of the sink. He looked up into the mirror and stared at his dripping face. His hair was straggly and his face unshaven. His shirt wasn’t even buttoned all the way to the top. “Could she say yes to me?” he said out loud to himself.

Then he heard the front door open. “Shit, she’s already leaving! You can do this, Joe, just ask her to dinner. It’s easy,” he said to himself. Then he ran out the bathroom, heading back towards the counter. He’d run through the flowers and broken glass. The vase had been thrown to the floor, leaving scattered petals everywhere.

Lewis had his hands round Clara’s neck. Joe ran at him. Joe hit him. Lewis let go. Lewis hit him back. Clara screamed. Clara cried. She ran out of the café.