Fell asleep with a cigarette

THE WRITER’S LIFE

There are few people like me, who wander around the perimeter of mental health, sometimes just to test the water at the shore. Several thousand of us are barely noticed in a world of billions of contradictions.

We can walk for mental miles before we find a fellow human we can engage with, then when drinking at the pool of life, the same conversation ensues:

β€œCan I interfere in your crisis?”
β€œNo, mind your own business.”

Fall asleep with a cigarette, to the flicker of a TV set…

Cat in bed Green

This is me and thousands of others, and I have a friend who’s unlike me in all respects but for one commonality: We sometimes find life around us so confusing that the only person who might make sense of it is ourselves. And even then, we get confused and we don’t talk. We try, but in the end, it’s only to ourselves.

Friends try to talk to the person inside which doesn’t understand itself, so we push them away. We’d prefer reasoned debate to conflict but we punch walls because they can’t talk. Mirrors don’t fight back either.

Once we’ve punched all the barriers away, we’re left drinking alone, while kindred spirits live in another country on the other side of the water. Distant nomads, thinly-spread on the human landscape like Marmite on toast, neurotribes look away from their reflection in the drink.

SEVERAL THOUSAND MANIACS

Monkey Black heart Head up Kid

There’s an oasis we don’t see, because we’re too busy looking into the pool of our own lives, rarely daring to look up. But deep in that reflection is the admission that we’re only fighting with ourselves, punching water and making ripples: contradictions.

β€œIs that your personal crisis over there?”
β€œYeah.”
β€œShall we skim a pebble? It might look up.”
β€œShould we do that? We might hit it in the head and fuck it up.”
β€œFuck yeah. If we don’t, the neurotribes will have one less introspective maniac to reflect on. Personal crises have a habit of becoming self-consuming and aren’t so good at swimming.”

We are the mental health rejects, introverts, alone on opposite shores and other planets: our own, invaded by so many middle-class pretenders. But we’re several thousand maniacs together, and we can spot the interlopers from a mile away on a world where only the truly mad can survive.

Existential cat

β€œKeep your head up kid, I know you can swim. But ya gotta move your legs.” (Augustines)

We won’t all find meaning in life, but it’s nice to spend the one we have with people who provide glimpses into another world, wherever they’re from. The flicker of a TV set.

The journalist who ate himself

THE WRITER’S LIFE | FLASH FICTION

A self-consumed writer’s inner psychologist suggested writing just one page freestyle. I have one sheet of paper…

woman-finds-mysterious-typewriter-made-from-human-teethWoman finds mysterious typewriter made from human teeth (Sightings.info)

I’m lonely, but I like it that way. There are few actual people I like, and even fewer I actually enjoy spending time with beyond mime. If my life was a filmed social experiment, my behaviour would depend on the number of available rooms. If there was only one, I’d be there on my own. Like I am now, at the writing desk in my studio.

I write frantically most days, hoping something will sell so I can pay the bills. Most days it’s just freelance, writing copy for websites aimed at the enabled and entitled.

Some of the work is interesting: I recently wrote some articles for a US client about medicinal and recreational Cannabis. Most of it’s tedious though, an insult to the wordsmith who sells property on plantation land, and spread betting positions to speculators on the natural disasters market, for less than minimum wage. Often the brief is so vague as to give the client license for rejection of the copy, retraction by the author, and later plagiarism.

I feel better now there’s something at the top of the page. A blank sheet of paper in the typewriter is an empty universe. With something to look up at, I feel there’s a life of a writer above what I write next. If I had more paper, I could tell the whole story without having to chew on my fingernails. The freelance work I do is covered in non-disclosure clauses, but if I had freedom and a whistle, I’d be able to eat again.

The words I already wrote float like clouds of Alphabetti, which at very long odds have fallen into something legible. They only did that because I wrote them that way.

So apparently I can control the weather, at least with pasta steamed in its own container. My intestines know how I feel.

If I can play God, why do I just want to gather letters from my storm clouds and throw words at people? Because I’m lonely and want attention; I can’t just come out with it; or I’d like to share a meal?

In any case, I’m at the bottom of the page in the typewriter, I can’t afford more paper and I’m hungry.

An A4 sheet of Smythson White Wove contains few calories, but the seasoning of ink lends flavour. Tomorrow, maybe the sun will shine.

Β© Steve Laker, 2020

Stay home and do subtraction

THE WRITER’S LIFE

“It’s a subjective term, an elective one; something in your shoes, or on them. Do you want to walk it into your house?”

blood film strip

There’s nothing especially wrong with talking to your reflection in the mirror, but when you begin by addressing it, β€œLook…” then perhaps you know you’re talking to yourself because there’s no-one else around. Sometimes the man in the mirror finds poetry the best reflection when alone on a very cold planet.

Down here below the mirror, in the blind spot where a kid gets crushed against the railings by a council dustcart, I write prose for the anxious souls who have to venture out and engage with society, because authority requires them to do so, even the surrealists.

I write poetry for those who’d rather not invite community into what society conditions civilised humanity to consider convention; verses for those who have to get up and dress themselves before they go anywhere; and pages torn from the book of entrapment.

Letters from personal imprisonment, where visitors are discouraged; notes discovered in a pocket. A message from a lonley planet to whomever might be listening, some horror writers find poetry to be their best outlet for that which spans their real and fictional worlds. With its minimal words, the medium of the verse paints portraits and landscapes with bridges in the background. As if anyone hadn’t worked out that the world isn’t safe in human custody…

TEPID HANDS

Hands_of_hell

Life on earth attending a friend’s funeral then escaping before the wake, wondering if as many people will turn up at theirs and who’ll provide the sandwiches; or leaving a party when you’re less conspicuous by your absence; the art of subtraction and division is fucking off and talking to yourself about the mess you made.

It’s impossible to invite people home when you have no home to speak of, so you write about what it was once like when your world was cooler.

“Look, there’s no-one else around. Let me see you in the mirror. It means I’m not looking at you directly. The underfloor heating will keep us warm.”

Staedtler Noris 122

And all the surrealist can do is support his fiction on crutches, and hope there’ll be elephants in the room, knowing they’ll be floating in the air so lightly that they don’t crush the eggshells on the floor while the clocks melt.

Something a confused writer questioning reality with poetry can do, is keep a personal diary. The only way to make sense of it is to leave it open on the last page. Then I’m something.Β 

Curse of the horror writer

MICRO FICTION

blood-lamps bright

A HORRORIST PARADOX

I killed you a long time ago, but I had to be sure. I had to go back and check.

I looked at you again.

The sweet stench of a rotting soul, a taste of why I killed you long ago.

A reminder, never truly gone unless forgotten.

I held you once more, an incurable addiction, back in my hands.

Syringe pen red

Β© Steve Laker, 2020

A parable perhaps of many things; toxic relationships, if you like. Minimalism is the art of the lazy writer leaving the heavy lifting to the reader.

The paradox of being a horror writer. If you can’t stop thinking, you can’t cease to be one. You can never escape the nightmares, so long as the cursed red ink flows through you.

 

 

Au milieu de notre rue

POETRY

Who owns whom? Who has freedom and who has shelter? Who’s happy to be led, and who is really in control? These are some of the things I discuss with my fictional intellectual debating society, when we’re all home at the same time. I’m not sure which of my ‘assistance’ friends is best…

CHEZ NOUS

Frenchie

I don’t have a dog, so I have to borrow an imaginary one to go walking in the park, the woods, to a restaurant, or around London. The problem is, my social tenancy bans ‘pets’, no friends allowed. And the outside world is slow to catch on to dogs for mental well-being, the kind which would allow their companion to go for a walk.

Echoes of a stranger population

THE WRITER’S LIFE | POETRY

Stranger people walk odd and indirect paths, which sometimes cross. They don’t follow signposts or conventions, happier inside to stop and talk things through with the people they connect with in nature, rather than a forced social paradigm; to complete the jigsaw from the inside out. The puzzle of life takes longer to conclude for them. While I have to balance breathing and swallowing, for some it’s a walk in the park…

These are the people I like to meet. Mostly they’re from a younger generation (like my own children), with an opinion on most things about the world which my era brought them into, an enabling age of permission.

These missionaries are the paradox of human nature, with no wish to conform and no reason to say thanks. They’re part of a people which transcends generations. They are the neurotribes…

THE ABDUCTION OF TRUTH

Alien abduction poemSyracuse Newtimes

This goes out to my dad too, looking down at an unfamiliar carpet, in a nursing home where he can’t afford to live, watching the ghosts in white uniforms walk by.

The people most confused about life are often the most interesting to talk to life about, because confusion denies condition and defies convention. They walk a bit funny, as though concentrating on their legs. Because they don’t always feel comfortable on Earth. These are the starseeds, wandering the universe in their minds. They’re connected to us by biology, but free to question what we didn’t, if we allow them to.

They are the beacons of humanity who light the night sky.

Β 

Free-range chicken in Oregon

THE WRITER’S LIFE | FICTION

“As I was walking down Stanton Street early one Sunday morning, I saw a chicken a few yards ahead of me. I was walking faster than the chicken, so I gradually caught up. By the time we approached Eighteenth Avenue, I was close behind. The chicken turned south on Eighteenth. At the fourth house along, it turned in at the walk, hopped up the front steps, and rapped sharply on the metal storm door with its beak. After a moment, the door opened and the chicken went in.”

My literary mentor – Paul Auster – was once accused of using the convenience of coincidence in his writing. He pointed out that real life is often stranger – or more coincidental – than much which a fiction author could imagine. Then he compiled stories of American life in I thought my father was God and other true tales. The collection includes The Chicken, (above) from Linda Elegant of Portland, Oregon.

Auster and me both subscribe to the theory of fictional reality, which posits that in an almost infinite universe, somewhere – possibly a long time ago in a galaxy far away – everything which has ever been written in fiction has really happened.

I was already acquainted with a chicken which hatched from a Campbell’s soup tin, and who believed she was God. She hung around for a while, then disappeared into the obscurity of omnipotence, where you don’t want people to know where you are.

Clangers ChickenThe Clangers

THE CHICKEN BEHIND THE DOOR

I’ve found it difficult to write, talk, and even think lately, with the weight of many lives on my mind. I used to write so that I didn’t have to explain myself to people, instead referring them here. It’s because there’s so much in my head, and that I find it hard to speak to others, that I talk to myself. Far easier – and more entertaining for the reader – if I place myself in my own fiction.

There was a knock at the door, or rather a rap, a rat-a-tat-tat. Curious, I opened the door. There was no-one there.

β€œDown here.”

I looked down, and there was a chicken. I invited her in.

β€œSo,” she said, β€œwhat’s up with you?”

β€œTo be honest,” I replied, β€œI don’t know. I mean, I can’t put a finger on an individual irritant, because there are so many.”

β€œHave you got fleas?”

β€œIf I have, then they’ve given up jumping for a living. They’ve taken up residence. I feel permanently trapped. There are many places I’d like to be but I lack the means to get there.”

β€œWell, fleas don’t eat wood.”

β€œWhat’s that got to do with anything?”

β€œI think you have worms.”

β€œEh?”

β€œYou’ve buried yourself,” the chicken said. β€œYou’ve stuffed yourself full of problems which you don’t talk about. Let me give you some sage advice.” Coming from a chicken, that was ironic.

β€œYou’re right,” I said, β€œbut I’ve not eaten for days.”

β€œWhy not?”

β€œThe oven blew up.”

β€œSeriously?”

β€œLiterally. No, actually. The main element blew.”

β€œMind if I take a look?”

β€œBe my guest.”

β€œI already am,” the chicken said, walking to the kitchen. β€œI can’t believe you’ve finally let God into your life.”

β€œI haven’t.”

β€œWell, I’m here. Could you open this door for me please?” She pointed to the oven. β€œThanks.” Then she walked in. β€œClose the door. Please.” I did. β€œNow,” she said, more quietly, β€œturn the oven on.”

β€œAre you sure?”

β€œI want to test your faith,” the chicken said from behind the oven door.

So I put the oven on 190Β°C and forgot about it. I came back to the typewriter to write this diary entry for my blog. Everything this far is what I’ve written since the chicken who claims to be God got into the oven.

β€œYou’re right,” she said, clanging the door closed behind her, β€œit’s fucked.”

β€œLike I said,” I said.

β€œAnd yet you doubted me.”

β€œYou what?”

β€œI am God. I cannot be cooked and eaten. Placing myself in the oven proves this.”

β€œBut I already told you it was busted.”

β€œAnd yet you shut me in there and turned on the heat.”

β€œBecause I knew you’d be fine.”

β€œSo you believe in me.”

β€œWell, you’re here.”

β€œSo you believe in God.”

β€œIf God is a chicken which invites itself into my studio, then gets into the oven, asks me to cook it, then gets out unharmed, that just tells me my oven is broken.”

β€œBut has it not occurred to you,” the chicken said, β€œthat you would not put a live chicken in your oven, and that I have no feathers? There’s no fleas or flies on me. See? Here I am, naked.”

She had a point.

So I put her in the freezer to keep her quiet. Once I’ve got a new oven, I’ll be having God for dinner.

Β© Steve Laker, 2020