Yes, I am fully aware there are bigger problems in the world, but this is exasperating. I do the laundry, bring it up from the basement to my second-floor bedroom to sort it and put it away, and find an odd number of socks.
The first time it happened, OK. No big deal. I assumed the missing sock had been left behind when I last emptied either the washer or the dryer. Surely it would show up in the next batch.
So before starting the next laundry, I carefully inspected the insides of both the washer and the dryer. The missing sock wasn’t there. I got down on my hands and knees and surveyed the cold, hard, concrete floor areas around both machines. No luck.
This was annoying. No more annoying, I realize, than the daily frustrations anyone else has to put up with, but aggravating nonetheless. I buy expensive socks, and losing one means losing a pair. I also don’t have that many pairs of socks without holes, and sock-shopping is the last thing I have either the time or the inclination to do.
I started my new batch of laundry. When I eventually got around to hauling it upstairs to my bedroom and sorting it, I was surprised – and frustrated – to discover an odd number of socks yet again. I was getting agitated. What the fuck is going on?
I took my first breath in the year of 1942, during the final song of a performance by the Stables Family Band at the Bijou Theatre in Cumber, Wisconsin. It was August as hell and my mother was playing fiddle.
The birth occurred without the aid of a doctor. Rather, I slid out of my mother’s well-practiced womb and splashed upon the wooden stage between her shoeless feet. In anticipation of this, Mother had worn her wedding dress that night. She’d been wearing it for seven straight days.
The dress had first belonged to my grandmother, who had sewn it for her own wedding. Grandmother had bedecked the dress with hideous, cascading folds and frills and fluffy things in order to hide the shameful bulge of her belly, a bulge that would eventually turn into my mother.
These many years later, the dress’s white cotton had aged into the color of sunstained newsprint, and it was perforated with moth bites. After an unlaundered week as stagewear, the cotton had acquired several additional hues, the perforations had expanded into holes, and it was as pungent as a pond of panther piss.
In spite of this, the dress looked great on Mother. Everything always looked great on Mother. Even in her mid-thirties, she had remained a dish, thanks to her lifelong loves of performance, moonshine, amphetamines, and rigorous fucking.
My first memory, planted that firefly and frogsong evening, is of my babyhead colliding with the Bijou’s age-warped stage. The impact jiggered my soft body all the way to the bottoms of my convex feet.
My phlegmy nostrils, desperate for oxygen, drew in a teaspoon of air dank with the funk of Mother’s unwashed, bare feet. One of these feet rose and then stomped the floor adjacent to my head. Birth liquid splashed upon my brand-new skin.
My universe consisted of a cotton sky, a hardwood floor, and two stocky legs. From the murky and mysterious Other Side of the Dress came the whoops and hollers of an audience. Vibratories of hundreds of boots stomping in merciless unison shook the wavered floorboards below me. My untouched fingers spasmed into involuntary fists.
In the dim light afforded by my birthtent, my untrained eyes followed my mother’s bare foot as it lifted its blood-speckled toes and dropped them floorward, and then did so twice more. My abode fell into complete darkness. The stage curtains had closed.
Of some concern was my inability to inhale. My nostrils had by now become clogged with a quantity of phlegm far beyond the pneumatic power of my tiny lungs. I redirected my respiration to my mouth, a procedure that required me to shift the tip of my tongue to rear of my throat. This endeavor should have liberated my breath, but it did not. My convulsions had by now settled into the lackluster mouth-stretching flops of a fish tossed to the bottom of a rowboat. I found myself becoming disillusioned.
The audience wanted an encore. Their slap-claps and stomp-bomps walloped the pink folds of my wet ears.
Mother’s toes massaged my chest with apologetic squeezes, working my ribs and lungs. Mucus oozed from my nostrils. My teeny diaphragm jerked up and down noncommittally. My fingers groped for my throat. There they encountered a tightly coiled rope of flesh. To be murdered by the very umbilicus that had sustained me heretofore. My first brush with irony.
Unseen by me in the midst of this unseen struggle, the curtains spread open. As was the tradition, the band approached the lip of the stage to perform one final song. This intimate moment was the conclusion of any Stables Family performance, barring those that were cut short by a slow-motion drunken slugfest between members of the band and/or the audience.
With Mother following the rest of the group to the front of the stage, I was dragged along rivuleted planks by my own umbilical cord. The tugging spun my body once, twice, until the cord unwound from my throat like the last inches of thread spinning off the spool.
The band had by now assembled in a line, their eyebrows dripping sweat and their limbs poised begin the encoric tune.
My first contribution to the Stables Family band was a single squawk in the midst of that brief moment of silence.
Squawk, I did, and there proceeded a longer-than-brief moment while band and audience alike attempted to reconcile what they’d just heard with the fact that there were no geese in the auditorium.
Mother, being as she was both a natural ham and unnaturally stoic, flapped her bow-arm up and down and replicated upon her fiddle, as best she could, the squawk of my first exhalation.
The noise thus explained, the recently-pregnant silence was replaced with hooting and hollering and general glee.
On that August evening of 1942, as I took my first unencumbered gulps of air, as I lay dripping upon a wooden floor under my grandmother’s hoop dress, the Stables Family Band performed what is considered one of their finer versions of one of their lesser songs, A Light in Yonder Glade.
As captured by an art-deco microphone operated by a Purple Hearted, certified Radio Technician Third Class, the show was being broadcast across thirty-eight states from the mighty needle of WOZI’s 50,000 watt AM transmitter just up the hill. It is said that the slender, two-hundred-foot iron tower lured fireflies with its weird, crackling noises. The fireflies would spiral around this electromagnetic god until they became so saturated with ionic madness and that they would splatter in small static explosions. It is further said that the accumulation of guts had rendered the tower practically luminescent.
Anybody who listened to the broadcast that night–huddled around their vacuum tube radios or driving in their large iron cars–will claim they heard something special.
I’m not so sure about that. If something special did happen that night, it had nothing to do with me.
Like many well-meaning people, Felicity and Roy Williams thought moving to a new town would signify a fresh start. But they were to discover, as everyone eventually does, that troubles are rarely left behind. Felicity, a well-respected heart surgeon and Roy, a mediocre dentist, had just celebrated their pearl anniversary when Felicity detected the scent of cheap perfume on one of her husband’s shirts. This wasn’t the first of Roy’s indiscretions and it wouldn’t be the last. Her mother had warned her about marrying a man of such character but ironic as it is for someone in her profession, Dr Williams was naïve in matters of the proverbial heart.
They had paid little heed to the realtor’s warnings and local gossip that said their new home was apparently haunted.
‘It can have one hundred ghosts at that price,’ Roy had laughed handing over a cheque.
There had been reports of a woman in red, objects levitating, things that had been reported missing had turned up mysteriously in the town lake. The previous owners had packed up and moved out after a month.
‘Their loss is our gain,’ they toasted over champagne on their first night in the house. The hope that things would be different hung in the air.
It took one month for the ghost to show itself. A plump, corseted woman with drop pearl earrings in a blood red dress appeared in the doorway when Felicity was doing the laundry.
‘You’ll want to check those shirts for lipstick stains,’ the ghost said with a smirk. Then she disappeared into the thin air, not showing herself again for quite some time.
The strange thing was that far from being scared, Felicity felt oddly comforted by the ghost. The woman in red proved to be helpful, even. When Felicity misplaced something, it would randomly appear when she mentioned it. One day when running late, the ghost located her car keys and in so doing saved the life of Tony Parsons, a local barber who had gone into cardiac arrest. When Roy fell asleep with the TV on whilst nursing a bottle of whisky the ghost would turn it off. A ghost could have her uses.
‘You know this used to be a whore house, right?’ her friend Sally informed Felicity one evening over their monthly game of bridge.
‘They say the mistress of the house killed a man in cold blooded rage.’
‘Don’t believe everything you hear,’ said Felicity. ‘I’ve had no trouble.’
One-day Felicity found a receipt from a jewellery shop for a gold heart shaped necklace in Roy’s trouser pocket. Her birthday came and went and her neck remained unadorned. Christmas yielded nothing but new gloves and bath salts. She could feel that sickening but all too familiar feeling returning to the pit of her stomach. A lingering glance was observed between Roy and Debbie, his dental nurse when Felicity surprised him at this work with lunch on her day off. Debbie who wore too much make up and had one of those Chinese symbol tattoos on her wrist. Felicity noticed a gold heart necklace lie between her ample cleavage. She was reminded of that Bible verse about casting pearls before swine.
As with Vanessa, Susan and Julia before her, Debbie and Roy’s fling was short lived. Dr and Mr Williams played the usual routine of confrontation, frostiness and eventual forgiveness, a dance well-rehearsed at this stage. One night when Roy was out, the ghost, whom Felicity had come to regard as a celestial housekeeper, placed Roy’s laptop on the kitchen table. His emails were open.
Felicity read the screen. It was an email sent from Roy to Debbie.
It’s no mean feat, borderline miraculous, successfully discerning misleading characteristics from non-stop fake news, pumped 24/7 from schneid media outlets, 99% of which are owned & orchestrated by the 1% (on top of fulfilling commitments to loved ones, employers, or multiple legal obligations to antagonists persistently compromising social liberties). Striving to remain strong, stable, calm & rational, during today’s turbulent, impulsive, neo-mythopoeic times, people of moral fibre resist temptations to dutifully follow Tory subterfuge mugging informers into shopping neighbours to paramilitary government forces. In a spirit of good-fellowship some prefer cultivating beneficial, egalitarian, green shoots of communal recovery: forming sound cooperative friendships, based on common understanding. A few doughty citizens organise disintermdiated media funds, providing unlicensed public services (deciphering alarming, divisive, neoliberal spin); if unavailable in English Braille, certainly legible online for fully, or partially sighted, un-benighted same language readers (unofficial ideological deprogramming therapy). Independent, critical thinking, offers insights into various factors spawning growing concern over a global cluster-fuck that’s Anglo-American exceptionalism. Well-worn, spatchcocked fairytales, deeply rooted in jackanory Judaeo-Christian patriarchal hierarchies, evidenced by trumpeted, patriotic herd mentalities, observable in agitprop; crudely encouraged via disinformation channels controlled by entrenched plutocratic élites: poisonous, forlorn, easy-to-follow, perfidious tribal mantras, promoting angry xenophobia, washed down by happy-clapping, bleach drinking, self-harmers.
Jarred by hazardous climate change, pandemics, trade wars, isolationism, a dilution of faith in our worlds reserve fiat currency- Albion, clinging onto the Gulf Stream for dear life, outsources its credence, & bejewelled sceptre, to opportunistic handling by a blonde mopped conman (whose calloused mitts are more accustomed to fingering piglets, while slowly releasing his own, gross, irresponsible, un-husbanded, stinking life fluids, seeping through crooked, fidgety fingers, into blocked, figurative gutters). Barked on by a farrago of cross-market rentiers, index-lined, pensionable Boomers; voted for in culpable silence by a greatest, blue-rinsed racist, generation- subjects of falsehood, consuming tropical luxuries as if necessary birthrights. Little England, indulging in comforting rewards from leisure & retail industries; guilty of complicity in systems of international exploitation of the less privileged, hell-bent on ignoring that complicity, & unwilling to change its inherently exploitative lifestyle, or to vacate shady positions of relative privilege- rather, figure-headed by an Old Etonian Bullingdon Clubber, that electoral majority blames anyone & everyone else as part of a cathartic, trademark moral crusade, ofcrassself-forgiveness. Boris, their pussy grabbing leader, lurching from one policy cock-up to another with adolescent gusto, refusing to grow-up, or assume responsibility, instead punishing others by criminally neglecting basic needs: all guilt & retribution is instead poured down upon infidels. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is truly on an anarchic mission to fuck the planet in its ass, without exhibiting the goddamned common courtesy to give it a reach-around.
Inspired by financial instruments (exerted penetratingly into lives of those too dim to recognise, or resist reversible morality) & tactical extracts from the ancient Levantine ‘Book of Boris’ – that’s the fourth synoptic gospel, the only one in which the character of Jesus of Nazarethfails to make an appearance. He wouldn’t have felt comfortable there. It loyally tells of the life & ministry of Mr. Boris, a questionable messiah, whose frank enjoyment of divine privilege is exceeded only by persistent attempts to evade all responsibility for said enjoyment (its consequences, & anything else for that matter). Like Jesus, whose life Mr Boris’ parallels & parodies, He was born in a Bethlehem stable, issue of a mystical union between the Holy Spirit & a St Bernard. Half-man, half-god, half-dog, half-biscuit, His childhood is conveniently unrecorded, His teaching beginning only after a gruelling 40-day drinking session, at the end of which Beelzebub came forth to him in the form of a horned ham-beigal, whichMrBorispromptly ate. Thus fortified, He took up the career of travelling preacher, gathering around himself a coterie of disciples lured by promises of ‘everything all the time’, a goal he attempted to attain by (a) masturbating until a nearness to God was observed, & (b) spinning around as quickly as possible. In the first instance his apostles experienced nothing more than sore willies, while in the second only sensations of dizziness, nausea, & acute futility. Thereupon His communion questioned Him regarding his credentials, & requested the return of monies advanced. Repeatedly throughout the text, Mr Boris’s appetite for violence & treachery is chronicled, reaching ever higher pinnacles of madness & insight. Yet there were those amongst His flock who followed in His footsteps whatever banal/painful fate awaited them. When Mr Boris changed water into methyl alcohol, there were those who held out their bowls for more: blind faith indeed. Unlike Jesus,Mr Boris’s story ends not in His crucifixion, but rather the crucifixion of the last of his entourage, too crazed or stupid to see what was coming down. Mr Boris, it seems, saw no need to die for the ugly sins of the world; quite the reverse. In contemporary posh British ‘thought’, Mr Boris presents a provocative & deeply ambiguous figure. To Melvyn Bragg He “stands at a crucial junction in Western history, the point at which the inchoate ‘I’ becomes the complex ‘me’’’ but then Melvyn Bragg’s asmug tedious git, who’ll be one of the first chivvied up the scaffold with electric cattle goads come the day of retribution. The ‘Boris’s’ don’t simply seek to judge: their primary concern’s not with truth, but propaganda, the massing of sound, the therapeutic use of paranoia. Mr Boris is, for his fey flock, nothing more than the ferocious beat of pastoral nihilism drumming through a culture of sedated panic, in which the atomising of individuals, in the name of The Individual, proceeds apace. Reflecting upon a friable Book of Boris teaches us that contemporary Conservative principles are inveterately cannibalistic; its body politic usurped by Cummings- marshalling unruly supportive throngs of bloated venomous egos, basically crowned by tiny, slippery, reptilian minds.
E F Hay exists in Britain, & rather than follow spurious leaders- over the years, has intermittently found it therapeutic to write out various thoughts, feelings & ideas as short stories, so as to be examined, considered, & interpreted by clinical practitioners, who may offer professional psychological assistance.
But the lees sounds so mucher the betterer, the best dregs
All hints of chocolate and rounded fruits
And, and Dionysius’s fashionable mask
Goldenly E.U. stars on blue smudge
Reassurance of highest quality
National Geographicca typico, besto in all the bloody mess
Vine bile, or grape tar, or agro syrup,
Or portable, potable, pissable heartburn
Unfastens the thinking and lays a body low
Two scoops of, no, Medicine to forget
Yeah, yeah, Medicine to forget
Read, in a mag, root o’ culture, bulwark of civilization
Like getting down on all fours to sip the waters of that, that
Mystical river, the one, you know
Medicine to forget
How it works, forget
But always remember who makes the stuff
Where and why for, and what they charging?
That’s a good Primitive.
Billion Euro Cheeseburger
Billion Euro Cheeseburger, its coming soon,
whether through hyperinflation, hypergourmandation, avant-
garde arty stunting, or tax hole ‘sploitation, it is coming,
Billion Euro Cheeseburger,
laugh, don’t laugh, eyebrow arch, eyeball roll, same diff.:
a Billion Euro Cheeseburger’ll be served up, just the same,
‘But will you swallow it?’ will be the question claimed via
MEdia to be on everybody’s oft-spoken-for, static lips.
Billion Euro Cheeseburger, grab her by the buns and list off
every currency name securely deposited in your head, past
present, real and made up, blink and think of their symbols,
cos I can’t be bothered to do it for you anymore for I fear,
Billion Euro Cheeseburger, Happiness Hand Grenades and things
that make as much out of little sense as Grexit, stage left.
In my Eu-topia,
Bureaucrats would be promoted solely on the grounds,
Of honesty, personal honour and due diligence,
An army of friends and an armoury of credentials,
Following after school chums, death-gripping their coattails
Would be grounds for immediate dismissal,
Also, the highest pensions should go to those,
Who don’t make real money,
In their prime,
All right fine,
I’ll eat my Brussels sprouts and go to bed without dessert,
To have night terrors about nativist campaigners,
Because that’s really worked out so well in Europe’s past,
At midnight, I hold tight to my stuffed plush bear, Utopia,
A harmless fantasy, like Santa Claus when I was younger,
It helps keep me sane.
The Adversity of Diversity
“I’ve got nothing against that sort of people. Not in general. Just the criminals who steal our jobs. You agree with me, sure enough.”
“Give us another beer, mate.”
“Right! Exactly. There you go. The facts are there if you open your eyes, listen to the radio. In the papers though, read carefully . . . But you know it’s about our way of life.”
“Fuck yeah, so who you putting your money on this Sunday?”
“That’s not betting. Rigged, all of it, a fix. This entire season money’s talked. That, that pretty boy can be brilliant to watch. I’ll grant you he’s in fine form, but I don’t like the dodgy look of him. Wouldn’t let my daughter near the likes of him. Made the boy take his poster down. Not a proper role model.”
“Too right. So, nice weather we’re having. Heard it won’t last past Monday, but the fuckers are wrong half the time.”
“My boss at work is one of them. But he’s alright. Most the time. Except when he pals up with his own, but the exception proves the rule, as they say, and they’re right. My dad said so, rest his bones. Never get that supervisor job. You watch. They don’t play fair, always a united front they put up. Take that stuck-up bitch next door. Like her ugly kids shit don’t smell.”
“You’re a laugh minute, sure enough, and you got a lot to say and that’s the truth. But leave the children out of it, eh? They can’t help it.”
“I do what’s best by my people and I tell it like it is. Said that to the magistrate too. Out of character, out of character, right, sorry. Bollocks! Damn sure they weren’t going have it their way with me. Not when they’re the ones that are out of character. No backbone, no values. Ah, but what can you do these days? You have to laugh.”
“Cheers, I’ll drink to that.”
“You’ll drink to anything, Pat, you crazy Irish bastard.”
“Give us a ciggie.”
“Fuck’s sake. Here.”
“Ta very much. You’re a prince of a man.”
“Oi! You over there. The fuck you looking at, cunts? That’s right. On yer way. Don’t eyeball me. Lived here my whole life.”
“Steady, man. Mind the heart condition. Boys probably didn’t mean anything by it. Leave it alone.”
“Everybody knows me as a decent bloke.”
“Uh-huh, that’s right.”
“I know how I’m voting, and you should do the same.”
“Can’t be arsed, things are the way they are, and I can’t change a thing.”
“Fuck off then.”
“Joking, joking. You have to have a laugh. Every day above ground is a good day.”
“Oh, well, alright then. But jokes apart, these goddamned asylum-seekers are colonizing this street. Christ, and what they make their women wear! It’s barbaric. I remember this neighborhood when it was the way it should be.”
“Say, where’s the bog, mate?”
“Through there and to the left. Just don’t piss all over the seat. The missus would fucking murder me. Crazy foreign bitch. You know that lot. They’re hot-blooded.”