I get to my patch nice and early. It’s barely gone eight and the sun is bruising across the sky still. From the crossroads at the top of town I can see the whole sorry mess splayed out below me, sparks of light flaring as people lose the game of chicken with the night. I strum a few chords as I wait, checking my phone impatiently every few minutes. The guitar’s not even in tune, but it doesn’t matter, that’ll come with time. When it’s my time.

It’s full dark now and I half-rise as a car crawls by, anonymous face peering out from the passenger window.  It’s a black Mercedes, which is what I picture him driving. But it carries on down the hill, trawling for something I’m not offering.

At ten past midnight I sling my guitar over my shoulder and start the slow walk back down through town. I pass the same familiar faces and we pass the same familiar conversation.

No luck, they ask.

Not tonight, I say. You?

Maybe tomorrow, they say.

Maybe tomorrow, I agree. And then we all stroll on home with our instruments and our souls.

They Grow Up So Fast


She found the baby in a wicker basket on the porch, no sign of who had rung the bell, no note to give a name. She raised it as her own, named it for her grandfather and kept its horns filed flat to its head. She gave it a strict bed time, read to it every night and hand sewed trousers to allow for its forked tail. She bought it mints for its brimstone breath and sent it to piano lessons on Sunday mornings. She gave it an alibi when the church burned down. She asked no questions when the deaths began, when the cloud of flies engulfed the house, when the sun failed to rise for the third consecutive day, simply reminded it that school would be open regardless. She never raised a hand to it, but then it never uttered a profanity. She wept for days when it announced it would be leaving. She packed it a week’s worth of its favourite sandwiches and waved it off from the porch. She closed the door and thought back to that fateful night before the screams, before the rivers ran red, before the mutilated animals. She thanked God the basket had been placed on her doorstep. She thought, Imagine if it had been next door, Mrs. Frampton’s boys are right tearaways.


red wine

I feel like I’m drowning, she’d said. Melodramatic bitch, he’d said.

It was not, by some margin, his first bottle of wine of the evening. The solitary glass stood forgotten on the side table as the bottle made its happy glug-glug-glug. This was a Malbec 2000, or at least he thought it had said 2000 on the label; he was finding it hard to read the labels now. This was one they’d been saving for a special occasion. Well he’d be damned if she’d take this bottle from him along with the car, the house and the kitchen sink.

Damned if she could have any of the other bottles either. One by one he’d sunk them. The Beaujolais from their anniversary in Paris, the Domaine du Grande Maine found at the back of a dusty old wine warehouse in Southwark, even that Rioja they’d picked up in Barcelona. One by one the empty bottles had been flung out of the window into the garden. Their garden. Soon to be her garden. Well let her clear up the broken glass then, he thought. He tipped the bottle up again. A thin red stream flowed from the corner of his mouth as he smiled at the glug-glug-glug.

He flung the bottle away, let out a cheer as it hit something solid in the garden and exploded into a million fragments. He reached for the next bottle. Cabernet Sauvignon. 2003. He’d always hated Cabernet Sauvignon. This was one of hers, one he’d bought to please her. Like the beige sofa. Like the taupe rug. Like the oatmeal lampshade. All to please her.

He grinned as the idea formed. He laughed as he staggered into the living room. He capered as he poured the Cabernet Sauvignon over the beige sofa, over the taupe rug, over the oatmeal lampshade. It wasn’t much revenge, not for what she’d done to him, but it felt good.

He grabbed another bottle, then another. A Merlot they had brought back from a vinyard trip to Bordeaux, a Shiraz her father had given them as a present. The red liquid sloshed out over the carpet, over the furniture, over the walls. Bottle by bottle the pools grew. Wine lapped at his shoes and still he poured. Wine lapped at his knees and still he poured. Wine lapped at his chest and still he poured. He reached for the last bottle, the 1995 Pinot Noir, the one bottle that predated even her. He uncorked and poured their relationship away.

She found him in the morning. The doctors said he’d drunk until he’d drowned.