…to prevent a piece of the breach

POETRY

When I look around at ‘normal’ people, I see social conditioning, much of it grotesque. If that’s ‘normal’, it’s not something I wish to be. So I wrote a poem while I was camped out on Echo Beach

SEASIDE PAVEMENTS

climatechronicles_v423ClimateChangeChronicles

Keep being individual. Keep being different. However you are, be yourself.

#FridaysForFuture

Introverted writer syndrome

FICTION

One of my apparent trademarks (labels), is a writer who writes about writers writing. It’s the party in my head, my depression, and making it my friend, so that I can talk to it. It’s teaching the teacher to teach. It’s telling a mirror it’s not a true reflection.

Such an exclusive and excluded way of life can reverse things, or turn a way of life inside-out. So I wrote a story in a story, about a writer writing about a writer, writing about a writer, writing about a recursive introvert within an extrovert…

Ghost janitor2

THE GHOST JANITOR

I usually write at night, mostly ghost writing for other authors. This world was turned on its head recently, when I returned to my studio to find someone seated at my desk, writing on my typewriter.

I knew the man, Oskar. I’d met him at a writer’s retreat, and we had more in common than most, so we got talking. Oskar has what I don’t, and which I envy in him: a heart which knows nothing but love. He’s like a big, friendly dog.

What are you writing?” I asked.

Oh, sorry,” Oskar turned around, “I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I let myself in.”

Sometimes Oskar gets lost, so I gave him a key to use in emergencies (these things are subjective). He turned back and continued typing.

So what’s making the transit from human to machine?”

A stage play,” Oskar replied, “It’s about a stage writer, who’s also the cleaner at the theatre he writes for. The thing is, no-one knows about him. Nobody knows he’s a stage writer, or that he’s the cleaner. No-one even knows that he lives at the theatre.

If it wasn’t for a stage door being left open one night, Oskar would be homeless. He goes unnoticed because he lives under the stage, only venturing out at night, to clean up after the cleaner.

The cleaner employed by the theatre is an old lady, and she’s not very good. She spends most of her time smoking, drinking, and writing letters to her dead husband. Oskar knows this because he watches her from under the stage. Then when she goes home, he cleans the theatre so that it’s done nicely, and the cleaner keeps her job. It’s Oskar’s way of paying his keep.

There’s an old typewriter in the theatre director’s office, which looks out over the stage. That’s where Oskar writes most nights. In this story, he’s writing a stage play when the director walks in on him, not in her office, but she sees him through her window on the stage. She notices the main spotlight is on, then she sees Oskar, holding his hands aloft and taking a bow before an invisible audience.

She spots the paper in her typewriter, and puts it in an envelope. She goes down to the stage and asks Oskar what he’s doing, and he says he just switched the spotlight on to clean the stage. Then the director says, “I found this in my typewriter. I don’t remember writing it, so I wonder if I could leave it with you.” He asks her, why him. “Because I think you were looking for it,” the director replies, “and you’re the caretaker.”

So Oskar takes care of it. After the director leaves, he finishes his stage play. It’s the story of an understudy, someone who stands in for actors on stage. One night, the actor playing his role is ill, so Oskar is given the part. It’s not the starring role, he’s just in a group at for the final musical number. Oskar can’t dance or sing, because he’s funny, like me, and he’s called Oskar, like me. But at the end of the show, the whole audience stands up and claps. Oskar gestures towards the rest of the cast, then raises his hands and takes a bow.

No-one ever noticed Oskar, but he could write about people who could. He could create an audience. When he took that ovation, just for a moment, the whole world was Oskar’s.”

Oskar turned back to the screen. “So what do you think?”

I think Oskar gave the story a happy ending, for himself and his audience.”

And the theatre director,” Oskar said, typing again, “I’m just going to write an encore, for when Oskar comes back on stage.”

I left him to write while I got on with some cleaning. When I’d finished, Oskar was gone, back to wherever he lived whenever he wasn’t in my studio, which was every night but this one. He’d left an envelope on my desk. Inside was this story.

And Oskar had written his encore:

I wanted to call this story ‘Down, down,’ because it’s what’s inside me; a feeling that people duck when I’m talking to them, because I’m just a big, soft, pillow, stuffed with feathers, and they think I’m silly; and because in the end, the theatre audience liked him. I thought of calling it ‘Audience syndrome’. But I can’t play the lead role, because people will see me, which means the twist doesn’t work. But then if they just see me and not my syndrome, I’m the star. I can’t get the story out of the story. I’ll leave it up to you.

© Steve Laker, 2019

The personal politics of eugenics

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Tuesday (still yesterday as I write this) was Suicide Prevention Day, and I avoided becoming a statistic of male suicide by keeping myself out of harm’s way. It’s hard to escape yourself when you live alone though, when the only person you have to talk to is you.

Eugenics tree

I’m having a rough time lately: I recently lost my brother-in-law, and was unable to see him before he left; I don’t know if my dad will know me whenever I see him next (he has a degenerative Parkinson’s-related illness); after making some money for my adopted sister, she’s gone off the radar without paying me; and I’m only seeing my kids every six weeks or so.

Social exclusion is partly anxiety on my part, but it’s exaggerated by government, denying me the means to deal with everything by starving me of funding. Much to their annoyance, I’m still here, as evidenced by me writing this.

My battle with the social cleansing machine (DWP) is now a year old, and despite the intervention of my MP, the waiting list for appeals is still over a year long. It hasn’t killed me yet, but the fascist regime’s project eugenics has worn me down. I’m at war with myself inside, while the rest of the world is against me outside my own. It’s paranoia, but that bedfellow of depression and anxiety makes itself very much at home on the fold-out futon I use for a bed.

My depressive sufferposting seems endemic among my social circles online, away from the people I once considered friends, who use the remoteness of social platforms to tell me to buck up, get a job, and earn the right to a life. It’s easy for them to say from afar, when they’ve not spoken to me in person for several years, and none of them were stabbed in the throat during a robbery like I was, leading to the first of my many diagnoses of PTSD. It’s all on this blog, which they don’t read. Instead, they’re narrow-minded, blinkered, reactionary, short-sighted and dismissive on my Facebook author page and personal timeline. But I don’t mind being a billboard for their ignorance.

Of course, I let my drinking take over, became an alcoholist, and I ended up homeless, but that’s all they see: always an alcoholic (because all alcoholics are, by medical definition), and just taking money from the state (one which does at least recognise me as being sufficiently mentally disabled to be placed in the ‘Support’ group for my ESA (Earnings and Support Allowance), rather than the ‘Working’ group, which expects one (me) to work).

These are the people who don’t have time to talk, read, listen and educate themselves; people I shouldn’t waste time on, but they trouble me (deliberately), like they don’t trouble themselves with this blog, or their own lives. Frankly, I don’t care about them, even though they’re just a small step from personal disaster if they lose their jobs, then their homes, if ever their protective bubble should burst, like mine did. I was like them once, and I’d tell them they’re only a few steps removed from me, if they took the time to listen.

But then, even though I’m waiting for the return of my main ‘benefit’ (the human right of personal independence), I have a more fulfilling life than most in a job which just pays the bills. I’m free to explore for myself, which is what social cleansing would deny me if it could. I just have to keep telling myself that.

The UK and the world will soon need more people like me, when my fascist ex-friends are either out of a job, made redundant by technology, or simply working so hard they don’t have time to look up and see what’s going on. Human eugenics doesn’t just focus on the poor, but on the free. As one who’s free from corporate employment, I can at least see that, and think about how we can deal with it. The game of life favours the long-term thinker, which is why they’re so determined to march over us and stamp us out, like those friends of mine.

My kindred spirits are the people with time to think, who aren’t in a regular job, who don’t have great prospects in convention, but who wear their hearts on their sleeves. They have time to confront the world now around them. One such posted on Facebook yesterday:

I feel myself changing. I don’t laugh the same any more, I don’t smile the same or talk the same. I’m just so tired of everything, mentally.

Like so many of us, conditioned by the world we live in, which at the moment is Hell on Earth. I’m afraid what this describes is ‘The Human Condition,’ (which a book reviewer said I have a deep understanding of) and it begs the question: What have we become, as a species?

The counter to that, is you’re not alone. This condition is a common foe which we can unite against. We have to, because we’re all the same. We are humanity, and we need saving from ourselves.

I have my personal issues, but I’d find them easier to deal with if it didn’t feel like the whole world was at war with me. The biggest paradox is the guilt I live with daily as a sober, penitent person, and the people I damaged being the same ones who keep me alive, not directly, but it wouldn’t be fair on them if I chalked up a statistic.

In these divisive times, it’s worth considering that we’ve never before had such an historic era in politics, both domestic and international. If this means that more young people take an interest in politics, we may be living in the eve of a generation who can make a difference. I believe our children can change the world, and as the consumer generation which brought them to this (and our parents before us), we owe them our support.

This whole inescapable nightmare starts again tomorrow, but only if I let it. If I kill myself, I won’t give it the pleasure, but if I keep surviving, I’ve kept battling on my own. I’ve been conditioned by what humanity has become, but I can see what unconditioned humanity is capable of.

It’s hard to escape yourself when you live alone, when the only person you have to talk to is you. That’s why I write, because I have you. It’s easier to talk like this. Thank you for listening to me. Even if this is a solitary read, it’s a human connection.

Eugenics Burden

Success in the game of life is surviving. If we’re alive, we’re still winning.

Baby Fistbump

 

Munchausen’s jury syndrome

HAIKU

Monkey Black heart Haiku Sapien3

Inflatable chairs and plastic tables

POETRY

If we hold our breath, we float…

SEAFARERS

Drink to death

If we stop breathing, we sink.

A drop of the Indian Rope Trick

FICTION

Indian Rope TrickFactFiend

THE INCOMPETENT CONJUROR

When I stage a magic show, I’ll usually challenge my audience to work out how I do the tricks. When they do, I know I’m not doing them well enough. Sometimes I’ll ask someone in the audience to make a wish, then try to make it come true with magic. Once, I made a wish myself. I wished I was better at performing convincing magic.

My portrayal of an incompetent conjurer, a parody of myself, is popular at children’s parties, but I aspire to a higher level, where I can look adults in the eye and perform close-up magic, rather than an audience at waist level. The granting of my wish came at some sort of performing half-way house, a teenage birthday party in a village hall.

This rung on the short stepladder of my magician’s career was provided by a friend of mine, whose son’s 14th birthday it was. I’d never been too keen on Alexander. He had a habit of pushing smaller kids around in the playground, knowing everything, and eating chips. Much as I tried, I couldn’t find a single redeeming feature in this scruffy, fat, blonde kid who seemingly fed on himself. But I was friends with his dad.

Jeff had hired the hall for about 20 of Alexander’s friends. He’d laid on a disco, with all the fit-inducing flashing lights attached, and a smoke machine, which was key to my act at the end of the evening.

The night itself was a social observation experiment, as I sat at the edge of the room watching the kids. There were about a dozen girls and the same number of boys, with others coming and going. They danced, they talked, and they’d disappear outside from time to time.

I didn’t talk to many of the young people, even though they kept pestering to see a trick. But I noted a wide spectrum of personalities, from a sweet girl called Siân, who simply thought to introduce herself, to the odious Alexander, who was as repellent on the dance floor as in the school playground, popping over every now and then to tell me he knew how all my tricks worked.

With the slow dances over, it was time for the magic act. This was where the audience were free to ask if I did a trick in a certain way, and I’d tell them if they were right. There was no jeopardy if they were wrong, and if they did see through my act, they might be future magicians themselves. The Magic Circle forbids members from divulging the magician’s code directly, but it encourages enquiring and speculative minds.

I started with card tricks: coin through a deck, turning every card in the pack into a queen, that sort of thing. For the most part, I drew the kind of gasps you’d expect from a young audience who’d never seen such misdirection and tricks of the trade before. Apart from Alexander, who shouted, “I know how you do that,” after every trick. When invited to take the stage and demonstrate, he told me I was the magician and not him. “Do some proper magic,” he spurted between chips, “make someone disappear.” I wondered if such a large target might register on radar.

Have you heard of the Indian Rope Trick?” Most of them just nodded. Except Alexander, who knew how it was done, of course.

Magic which is more a spectacle than an act is illusion, and the Indian Rope Trick is probably the most famous. Surrounded by myth and legend, its origins are disputed, but the performance is the same: A rope is laid on the ground, or in a wicker basket, then the conjurer levitates the rope. In the classic version, the rope will ascend into a cloud. In the village hall, we had the smoke machine, obscuring a loft door in the ceiling, with the end of the rope attached to fishing line. Jeff was in the attic and he’d pull the rope up, then tie it around a roof beam.

Back on the ground in the classic version, a small child would climb up the rope and disappear into the cloud. In some traditional accounts, the child would then be judged in the heavens. If they were found to be pure, they’d descend back down the rope. If not, they’d be cut into pieces and thrown back to Earth. In our version, Jeff had some prime Waitrose 28-day aged steak chopped up in the loft of the village hall.

Who will climb the rope?” I asked as it rose into the roof.

Two hands went up, from opposite ends of the spectrum: Siân’s fingers held barely at shoulder level, and Alexander’s fat sausages in a Nazi salute. I wasn’t sure the roof would support his weight, so Siân went up the rope. She disappeared into the smoke descending into the room, and everyone looked around at each other. Except Alexander, who ran over to the rope, squinting to look up Siân’s skirt for as long as possible. I knew she’d be fine.

Jeff would tie the rope to the roof beam, and tell her “Shhhh” as she climbed into the attic. Then he’d whisper, “Scream, like you’ve never screamed before,” and that’s when he’d drop the chopped steak down through the trapdoor.

Siân returned downstairs to smiles, gasps, silence, and a small applause.

I know how it’s done,” Alexander drooled into her ear, “tell me if I’m right.”

You tell me how you think it’s done,” Siân replied, “and I’ll tell you if you’re right.”

Tell you what,” I said, “I’ll take you upstairs, into the magic circle. I’ll show you behind the scenes, then you can see if you’re right about how the Indian Rope Trick works.”

Jeff paid me well for that gig, the going rate for an adult close-up show. The steak was fantastic, more like veal, with some British broad beans and a nice Pino Noir.

© Steve Laker, 2019

Best delivered by Brian Blessed

POETRY

Sometimes people play a greater part in another life than they ever realise. And we regret never telling them. I needed to write. I needed to get out what I was thinking, about my own mortality, and how I might express myself when I say farewell to a departed friend. Poetry seemed the best medium for a return to nature, and in my head it’s recited by Brian Blessed…

Moth Effect Poem2

Safe journey mate. For every push-up we didn’t do, there’s a daisy to do one on in the afterlife. Gordon’s alive, in the world of missing persons x