Tag Archives: women writers

Number 94- there ain’t no door that can keep me out- number 2


Number 94 – There ain’t no door can keep me out – number 2.

Kyle tries to pull the tiny slivers of glass for his thumb. He can’t see them, but he can feel sharp grittiness under the skin.
He thought he’d been more careful when he smashed the glass, had wrapped a tea towel around his fist, but here he is, leaning against the kitchen units, his hand hurting. It doesn’t surprise him that the back door at 98 had crappy old fashioned glass, the non safety stuff, the stuff that leaves splinters that will, knowing his luck, get infected and hurt like buggery.

At least he doesn’t have to worry about finger prints cos it’s not like the police are going to break a sweat on another robbery at number 98 and he would laugh, but he’s just pulled a bit of glass out and now there’s blood all over his hand, so,he doesn’t feel much like laughing.
He has a good swear instead, Kyle loves swearing, loves combining words to make mega swears, even invents new words when the old ones just don’t seem angry enough.
Swearing was what got him kicked out of the last school, well swearing and throwing a chair at a teachers head.
Although in fairness, the chair missed, missed by a mile and Kyle reckons that this proves that he wasn’t really aiming, if he had wanted to hit the teacher, he wouldn’t have bothered with a chair, so, if all just proves what Kyle already knows.
People just pick on him for no reason.

His mum went mental, screaming and shouting, but he just stood there staring at her, fronting up to her until she stopped and then he went out.

Kyle doesn’t miss school, not the lessons anyway, except maybe the ones with the teachers who lose it, whose faces go red, who spit and shake and on a really good day, the ones who cry, the ones who turn away and you know that they are close to tears.
He misses that and the corridors and the noise and the possibility of chaos and mischief, but school, what’s to miss?

He’s been to three secondary schools now, new uniform for each one, new bus route, new need to suss out who’s who and who thinks they need to show him how hard they are and who’s weak and needs to learn how hard he is.

And each time, it’s just the same shit in a different coloured blazer and he doesn’t even bother to hide what he thinks and so now he’s at home, waiting for someone to find another school or something and his mum has stopped nagging him and just gets herself up and goes to work and doesn’t say much to him and he’s never said much to her.

Besides, he hasn’t got time for school, he’s got stuff going on and some of it is proper bad. Not like the wanna be gangsters at his second school, the ones who thought that grabbing a handful of sweets from the scruffy corner shop or boosting a phone from a kid in Year 7 made them dangerous to know.

That’s not robbing, what Kyle does,now that’s robbing and if number 98 wasn’t such a cheap git then he might have a bit more to show for it than sore hands and a tenner.
He’s vexed, proper vexed. He could have gone into his mums handbag if all he wanted was a bloody tenner and he wouldn’t be standing here now, trying to dig bits of glass out of his hand.

He thought there would be more, much more in number 98, he thought it would be worth rolling out from under his duvet, worth finding an old pair of trainers, worth leaving a half smoked spliff on a plate,ready for later.

But,there was nothing.
No TV
No games machine
No laptop
No phone

Nothing and for a minute, before anger kicked in, Kyle stood there in the middle of the sitting room and just stared, not sure of what to even think.

He felt cheated, after all this was the house that kept getting broken into, in Kyle’s head there had to be a reason, there had to be good stuff there, stuff worth nicking, stuff he could sell or trade or simply keep under his bed with other things, special things, but there was nothing.

He could feel the anger growing, it felt good, his stomach knotted, fists clenched, lips pulled back in a snarl.
At school, they said he had anger issues, said he needed to learn self control, said he made bad decisions and every time some stupid no mark stood too close to him and poked their finger towards his face and he managed not to punch them,he knew that they knew nothing because the control it took to not smash his fist into their fat satisfied faces exhausted him, left him pale and shaking.
They didn’t understand why he had to shout out a really good swear and walk away, pushing his fists into his pockets, his breath ragged,short, head pounding like it wanted to explode.

But standing in the middle of this joke of a room, he could feel the anger growing in him and he was just about to do something and then his phone pinged, a text and he couldn’t ignore it, had to just check it and he was glad he did
“ R U in – bunkd off Skol- fan c a smoke 😆”

So, he took the tenner, why not and legged it back over the fence and home.

GTA, spliff and Doritos and bit of a sleep.
When he woke up, he lay under the duvet on the sofa for a minute, his hand was still stinging and it took a while to remember what had happened and then he felt the anger growing again.

That stupid twat with his books and fucking radio and his arsey stupid bird feeders and his nothing worth nicking.

Kyle sat up, fired up the half smoked spliff and then he knew what he should do.

And this time he was going to do it properly, let number 98 know exactly how bad it all made him feel.

He walked up the path, 3 steps from the gate to the front door and nodded to himself. He was going to kick the front door in, he didn’t care if anyone saw him
“ fuck that” he said out loud and then he said it again,even louder and again until he was standing there screaming and then he leant on the door, ready to smash it in and it opened.

The stupid twat hadn’t even bothered to lock the door.
Just asking for it.

Kyle walked in, took a deep breath and prepared to show the sad little git who lived here exactly how angry he was feeling.


Horses are not the only signifiers of difference – part 2


 

All morning as she stares at the computer screen in front of her she is vaguely aware of the usual background chatter, like a radio playing In another room, she can, if she concentrates pick out individual words, even whole sentences, but, she can just let it drift over her, a comforting and familiar chorus of low level annoyance, hunger and a moment or two of anxiety.
The pony has, as usual, been pushed away for the better grazing by the bigger horses.
Alice is worried about something strange, unfamiliar in the hedge.
Oliver wants to know that she will be there soon to bring them back into their stables.

Talking to animal or having animals talk to you, is not, she muses, when she takes 5 minutes to walk away from her desk, all its cracked up to be.

The messages the horses send her range from the dull, at least if you’re human – The grass here is better than the grass over there, To the mysterious , odd almost impossible to translate thought pictures about some equine deity and clouds and the smell of earth and then sometimes the downright horrific, the pony she passed on the road, screaming out its pain and fear from a cancer that nobody had diagnosed.

Her own horses, she can generally cope with. She works hard to keep them safe, secure, spends some time every day sending them messages of reassurance and maintenance and mostly, they manage to keep their voices quiet, try not to bring on the headaches that leave her pale, shaking and unable to meet the eyes of her colleagues and neighbours.

Local pets, the ones she knows live nearby, the ones she passes on her way to the corner shop recognise her, see her as something useful to them, a translation service they utilise when other forms of communication with their own humans have failed them.
“ tell them I don’t like chicken cat food”
“ The collar they bought me is too tight”
“ I get lonely when you go out all day”

These massages are easy to deal with, there are simple ways to pass these on without drawing attention to herself, but there are others which cause more difficulty to her and which sometimes she decides that she can’t hear, doesn’t understand and then she feels disloyal, dishonest. She feels as though she has let them down, those eyes, of cats, dogs, rabbits, budgies and above all, horses, expecting her to sort it out, make it better.

“ Every bone in my body aches now…let me go “
“ when you are not here, your new boyfriend locks me in the garden for hours and forgets to feed me”
“ you love the baby more than me, I hate the baby, I scratch the baby whenever your back is turned “
“ I don’t like you, but you feed me, I prefer the lady in the next house but one “
“ I didn’t mean to kill the hamster, it was an accident”
“ when you ride me, you are too heavy, you hurt my back, please stop”

She has become adept at passing on information to the humans, the other humans in ways that keep her safe.
She is not mad, knows that all of this is not usual,not normal and not something that she should be drawing any attention to, any time soon.

So, instead, she offers up tentative suggestions, wonders out loud if an owner has ever considered a change of feed, if they could use a dog collar that doesn’t fit her dogs.
Some times she takes direct action, scooping up a cat used a football and stealing it away to rehome it far away away from the man who wants to punch his boss but instead kicks his cat across a room.

Her neighbours feel a distance in her and so keep their own distance. She leaves so early in the morning, arrives home after dark, clothes mud spattered and humming with the aroma of horse and dog, that almost nobody ever really notices her and if they do meet she is polite, pats their dog, asks after their cat. They do notice that she never remembers to ask after husbands, wives, children, but after all, they rationalise, if they think about her at all. She has no parter, no family, no life that they can see, poor soul and then their phones ring or a child calls out or the east Enders starts and they forget their train of thought and they only think about her again when they notice how well their tabby kitten looks since they took her advice and changed his brand of cat food.

At night,when she lies in bed, the weight of sleeping dogs a comfortable pressure against her knees, she can, is she chooses to reach out and touch the minds of all the local pets.

The spaniel next door but one, Lord of the sofa now his family have gone upstairs to bed, he stretches full length, yawns, farts and falls asleep.

The grey cat who has discovered a nest of mice and is lying in the flower bed, belly flat against the damp earth, waiting patiently for the first one to poke its nose into the night air before he pounces.

The chickens at number 7, roosting in an unruly bundle of feathers, mad, blank chicken eyes closed as they doze and plot where to hide tomorrow’s newly laid eggs.

She lies quietly, almost asleep herself, closing her mind to the other stories, the ones she does not want to hear, not tonight , not any night.

She lies quietly, so close to sleep herself and tries to forget the face of the man at work, the man who sits two cubicles away from her , the man who explained today, how he is training his pitt bull to hate black people, and as he talked she could hear, a roaring bark of dismay and incomprehension from his dog who wants to love everyone and be loved.

She lies quietly and just before she drifts into sleep, decided that she will change jobs soon, move on to somewhere else, somewhere new.

At 4.45 the alarm jolts her awake again.


Number 90- Downsizing.


Number 90- downsizing.

The first time she saw the house, it was, all too appropriately, lashing down with rain. The sort of rain that soaks you immediately, leaves you wet to the bone, hair plastered to your skull and not able to shake off a feeling of your own impending death.

The estate agent leapt from his car, tried to usher her quickly into the house before she noticed the street drinkers congregated on the corner, the bags of rubbish piled close to but not actually in the bins and the baby screaming in a pushchair parked outside the corner shop.
He smiles nervously, runs a hand carefully through his complicated hairdo and shrugs,
“ it’s not the best end of the street” and he points down the way to the leafy end, the end with the neatly parked cars, the planters outside every front door,
“But” and he shrugs again, “well, it all costs and if you’re on a tight budget….”
The sentence trails off and they both stare in silence at number 90.
It’s neat enough, basic UPVC double glazing, a solid wooden door and a small paved front garden, she smiles, tries to concentrate on not crying in front of this shiny, happy 20 something.
The front door opens straight into the house proper, the house has been modernised by a jobbing builder, so the walls are painted magnolia, the two rooms have been knocked together and she can just see into the kitchen, a basic modernisation, clean, adequate, good enough for the first time buyer this house is marketed at.
She tries very hard not to think about the other kitchen, her kitchen, the kitchen at what is still, very soon not to be, her home.
That kitchen is huge, the furniture lovingly discovered, restored and nurtured over the, every item with a back story, a chapter of their lives, a little anecdote to laugh over .
The Welsh dresser they bought in Wales on a holiday when it rained every day and they were reduced to attending strange and sad farmhouse sales,the dresser cost next to nothing, the specialist removal team were more expensive than the whole holiday, but,but, they agreed, worth every penny,when later, sensitively restored it stood, strong, plump, with grooves worn into the wood from generations of Welsh housewives scrubbing at the White wood.
The green glasses they found in a Parisian street market, stupidly overpriced, but perfect on the glass shelves in the master bathroom.

This house is too small for almost everything they own, she owns, he owns and anyway, she is not clear about what she will be allowed to take with her, what he will argue must stay, must continue to live in the family home, must give security for the girls, limit the amount of upheaval she is forcing upon them all.
Some days now, as they rattle around the family home,she feels his eyes on her, his face blank, neutral, looking at her as if he has never seen her before and then she cannot make eye contact and retreats to another room.
The girls have gone back to university, not making eye contact with her, turning away when she tries to speak to them. They have not allowed her to take them back at the beginning of this term, instead, boys, boys who are friends, not boy friends have packed cars with duvets and boxes and house plants and not the carefully packed containers of homemade cakes and biscuits and stupid flavoured vodka and bags of fizzy sweets, these have been left, placed carefully on the centre of the shaker kitchen table, not even opened.
Rejected.
Ignored.
Pushed away.
This house reminds her of the student houses that she and he have so often moved the girls to over the last 2 years.
This, the house that she will probably buy is exactly like a student house on the first day that students move in.
Minimum spend, neutral, just enough space, nothing extra, no luxury.

They walk upstairs, the middle aged woman and the very young estate agent, she silent,not responding to his patter, not hearing his edgy jangling of the enormous bunch of keys in his right hand, his attempt to fill the gaps, where she should be talking, asking questions , taking part.
There are two bedrooms,not three, no chance of giving the girls their own bedrooms, no possibility of even playing at making another home where they might come.
One day, maybe, when they have forgiven her.
The big bedroom is big enough for a double bed, but there is no room for her chaise langue, no room for her Victorian screen, no room for her Edwardian nursing chair.
No room for any of her history, their history.
Walking downstairs again, she calculates that she can find room for a small dining room table, enough space for three, maybe four chairs. She wonders if she still has enough friends to even need four chairs, wonders if in the train wreck which is what is left of the marriage she has destroyed,she has enough of a circle of friends to ever have another dinner party, even the scaled down, bonsiad social life that this house would dictate.
The estate agent is speaking, looking at her, has clearly been sPeaking for some time, but she has missed almost all of it
“…..small garden” and he opens the back door and ushers her outside and it is not what she expects, not what she expects at all.
For some reason, apathy, funds or time running out, the builder has done nothing to the tiny garden,no decking, no neat paving slabs, the garden has been left untouched.
Yes, it’s overgrown, plants left unchecked, weeds choking more delicate flowers,but, someone has made a garden here.
There are beds, curved beds, each one carefully edged with those blue industrial bricks that cost a fortune in reclamation yard. There are trellises, a space which must once been just right for a tiny garden table and chairs and old fashioned roses, gone overboard now, but not totally lost, still saveable.
She stands and looks around carefully, sees clematis, wisteria and climbing hydrangea struggling out from beneath the Russian vine and the couch grass.
The estate agent has gone into some mad marketing overdrive, is telling her about the bus services and how close the nearest supermarket is, she puts up a hand, stops him in mid flow
“ it’s fine, I’ll take it, I’m offering the asking price “ and then she turns away from him, bends down to inspect the clematis more carefully. There is a space beside it, or rather there could be a space, with a little digging, a little clearing, perfect for hostas and maybe even a bushy salvia.
She smiles for the first time since her fall from grace.


Number 17- The horder.


Number 17 – The hoarder.
That’s not of course what he calls himself, nobody ever called themselves a hoarder, not even after the C list celebrity has picked her way around the mountain of bin liners in unsuitable shoes, not even when the tabloid cameras have photographed children eating breakfast in the small cleared pathway between the kitchen and the front door, not even when the council dig out team hire and skip and fill it, two, three, four times.
Nobody is ever a horder.
A collector.
Frugal.
Keen on recycling.
Buying and selling on the black, shady cash market.
Definitely going to do some car boot sales, honest.

And Danny, he’s not a horder either, he just has a lot of stuff.

It wasn’t so bad when Mary still lived there,mind you, she liked a bargain too,enjoyed a good root around a charity shop,often came home with a China dog or a vase or a pair of nearly new shoes only 2 sizes too big.
But, she kept a lid on it, didn’t allow the motor bikes and the push bikes and the almost working lawn mowers actually into the house.
She kept the kitchen and bathroom functioning, insisted that they slept in the bedroom, in the bed, made meals and remembered to put out the bin, pay the milkman, wash the dishes and even run the ancient Hoover ( rescued from a skip on one of his regular late rambles through the city centre.) around the sitting room every now and then.
He was quite surprised when one day wandering back indoors after a satisfying 3 hours spent in the big shed taking a 1970s knitting machine apart, he found her gone.
It took him a while to notice that she was actually gone and not simply out. In fact, it was only when he wandered into the kitchen to make a cup of tea that he saw the note, propped up against the packet of tea bags.
Writing wasn’t her strong suit but the note was clear enough, even to an infrequent reader like himself.
“ I’ve met another man, he’s got a car. I will take the dog with me”

Looking around, he saw that she had,so, he put the kettle on anyway and went back to the sofa to have a bit of a think and when it came to bedtime, well, there he was all warm and comfy in front of the gas fire and why bother getting undressed just to go to sleep.
He curled up on the sofa and slept well, waking up just once, unsure for a moment of where he was, but the faint glow from the still warm fire reassured him and he fell straight back to sleep.
He missed her, well of course he did, he missed her solid sturdy body curved against his at night, he missed grabbing a handful of stomach or arse when he walked past her. He missed his breakfast mug of tea, the slice of fried bread, he missed her bustling returns from walking the dog, he missed her chat over east Enders, an endless soothing flow,counterpoint to the action on the screen.
They had been together a fair while, met when he was still roaring with the drink, hearing the voices in his head, banging his fists against brick walls. She, a girl from home, had seen enough of men and drink and waited him out, patient like, until one day, he knew he couldn’t do it anymore and took to tea, 6 and 7 pints of tea every day, 3 sugars and dash of milk.
He became as well known for the not drinking as he had been known for the drinking and their life together got a bit quieter,a bit more money and him signed on the sick and taking the pills every day.
He wouldn’t have said her loved her, couldn’t have said that, but if pushed, he might mumble something, say that they rubbed along together alright and he liked a woman with a bit of flesh on her, something to get hold of.

So, although he’d never really given it much, any though, he just assumed she’d be there, getting a bit fatter, heating up fray bentos steak and kidney pies for a Friday treat, for ever and ever.
And then there it was, just him and no woman and no dog and having to make his own mugs of tea and he missed her.
He even missed the dog, a bit and then a bit more.
But Danny was at heart pragmatic, a survivor, skilled in making the best of a situation, so, he took stock and made a few changes.

It was February, bone chillingly cold and one afternoon, 3 weeks after she had left, as he bent over the engine of a micro motor bike, his hands so cold he could hardly hold the screwdriver, he simply picked up the machine and carried it indoors, finishing the repair in front of the fire, a bacon sandwich resting on the fuel tank as he worked.

He stopped sleeping in the bedroom, couldn’t see the point and besides it freed up the room for storage. He moved a lot of things from the sheds into the bedroom and then into the back room.
It was winter,he rationalised, cold out there and damp, stuff would keep better indoors, be safer, easier to get at if anybody needed anything and it was definitely easier to work indoors, less effort to put his hands on what he needed.
And he did sell things, occasionally, a bit regretfully, the gap any item sold left always seemed too big.
Needed to be filled quickly and finding things was easy.
People threw out so much good stuff, objects just missing a few screws, a bit of taking apart and putting back together, a clean up and then as good as new.
The stuff built up, took up the whole of the back sitting room, most of the kitchen, his cooking talents were meagre, he only really needed a frying pan and the kettle, was a dab hand with a rasher, a spluttering egg frying and then thick slices of white bread and the constant mugs of tea, so the loss of most of the kitchen wasn’t a problem.
He made a careful path from the sofa to the cooker and the back door, left a narrow gap up the stairs and along the landing, just enough room to make it to the bathroom.
Pretty much everything he needed and nobody ever came into the house, so there was no need to make the passage ways any wider, accommodate anybody else.
As the house became fuller,he started to spend more time in the tiny front garden, became friendly with the street drinkers who congregated at this end, the bad end of the street.
They would lean on his garden gate, perch against the brick wall,cans of super strong lager and cheap knock off fags and he with the mug of tea and the prison thin roll up which went out more than it was lit.
He helped out with cars bought for less than 500 quid, mended bikes and mopeds that the local bad lads rode too fast along the pavement.
Neighbours from the better end of the street borrowed tools from him,paid him small amounts of money to make not very effective repairs and all the time, he collected more stuff, allowed the objects to range around him, took comfort from their presence.
Sometimes he wondered how Mary was, wondered if she was happy with the man with the car, wondered if she would ever return and hoped that she wouldn’t.
His life was too full to fit her in, his house was certainly too full to fit her in and besides sometime soon, he would get his own car, have a car and a boot and then he would definitely do a car boot sale or two.
But today,today was a big day, he had finally got his hands on a pinball machine , liberated from a skip, well close to a skip, definitely being thrown out by the builders refitting the pub round the corner.
He hadn’t paid much for it and he knew for sure that he could get it mended and there was definitely room for it somewhere,although he might have to move a few things around first.