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At The Hinge
The trumpet tops a high C and hearts stop. Drums roll in and the joint quakes. Rico taps the bar and prays for a bass solo soon so he can make time with the dish to his right.
The tenor cools back into the groove to let the bass in and Rico’s primed. Friday night, baby, and is it steaming. You’ve just saved your mind from a day job as time slides into nick with the jazz.
Step outside for a smoke between sets and let the sax scat around in your head… you never know what’s to come when a man pushes angular notes like that.
Venus bright lingers between rooftops and bends that tone because it digs so alive… so deep… but ultimately cool- it’s got to come out that way.
You’ll take it home, take it everywhere. Knock it back cat… It’s swing time at The Hinge.
To Get to the Other Side
There are two ways to open doors.
The first is the doorknob. Most people will go for this. When the judge said, "Which one would you like to live with?", she was asking me to reach for the doorknob.
But sometimes doors lock. Doorknobs jam. You can try to kick the door down, but that just makes a mess. That's when it's good to remember that doors open two ways.
The second way is the hinge. You can turn the doorknob to open a door. Or, you can take the door of the hinges.
When I said, "Neither", I was taking the door off the hinges.
There was a bit of a mess, and I got oil all over my fingers. But that door got out of the way. I got inside. So I always, say, now, when someone gives you a doorknob choice: remember, doors have hinges, too.
The Hanging Tree
I am closed.
Lips sealed. Knuckles wrapped-white around keys deep in my pocket. Feet keep walking, clicking on flagstones, clockwork and mechanical. Untethered from my senses, wrestling with the cliche that...
Everything hinges on...
As if there is only one threshold to cross.
I swing left down Church Street and hear a sign creaking in the wind. The sound of clinking glass and laughter swells and threatens to drown my sorrow.
Give me strength.
Plotting my trajectory, I skip over cobbles, and side-step huddles of care-free drinkers all drawn to the orbit of The Hanging Tree, the circle in the knuckle of the square. The pin. The post. The pivot.
I slingshot elliptically towards Abbey Street, past The Palace pub. I am free.
Cliche's always miss the point. I walk this way every night and had I found my way through only once, I would be lost.
I am open.
Before I met you, I kept my heart locked away in a fortress. I kept a lonely vigil ensuring that no one disturbed my solitude. All was peaceful, quiet, and terribly dull.
Then one day, you smiled at me, and though the gate protecting my fortress of solitude had grown rusty on its hinges, that small act opened the way in for you, despite my resistance. Like a thief, you snuck past all my defenses, and stole my heart away.
Now that you're gone, I fear I've already locked myself away again. The fortress is overgrown with thorny vines, the grounds have become choked with weeds, and the gates have rusted over again. No one else will be breaking in. Only the ravages of time will tear my fortress down.
The Crow Grows Dumb
The crow is growing dumb. The devolution can also be described ‘retrovolution’. The crow’s vocal communication is often supplemented with body language. The crow does not seem to have stereoscopic vision.
In the oriental countries the crow has been deified as the vehicle of the god Saturn. And it is believed that the dead ancestors’ spirits visit the earth through the crow. So the crow is fed daily and on ritualistic days.
The crow is celebrated as a symbol of unity, caring and sharing. The crow used to have the practice of cawing their kind to share food found anywhere. But today the crow never calls others to partake of its find. It quietly eats and flies away. This trend to remain mum, this selfishness will sooner or later make the corvine family dumb.
The door of evolution will turn back on its hinge. Unused faculties become atrophied.
I focus on the hinge-action of her jaw as she clamps her teeth around her Triple-Decker club. Eager. Oblivious. I've always loved to watch her eat; the overt satisfaction she derives from each mouthful. Today, it nauseates me.
Her propensity for seeking out pleasure enthralled me when we first met. She indulges herself at every conceivable opportunity and makes no apologies. But she has gone too far.
"Oh honey, don't over-react. You know you're my favourite but you just can't keep up anymore. I have needs."
She draws the sandwich to her mouth again and a sprig of lettuce tumbles to the table as though trying to escape her clutches.
"You'd like him. In fact, I don't think he'd be adverse to joining us sometime."
Bile rises to my throat as she swallows down the remnants of her meal.
She doesn't know it yet, but it will be her last.
It drove her mad.
The box was beautiful. Discovered at the flea market in Bordeaux.Its crazed gold corner just visible at the back of the stall. She had to have it. Seeing it had transported her to her grand-mere's musty bedroom with all its foreign treasures within. Snatch, grab and pay. '15 euros, merci.'
Now it sat on the Picasso-blue cafe table. It looked spectacular; gold glimpses caught in the Gallic sunshine; a trace of red meandered across the lid. Pocket-sized and perfect, was there more inside? Undo the catch, spring back the lid and reveal all.
She took a deep breath, anticipation fizzing, palms sweating. Perhaps a delicate gold chain or a solitary diamond ring; a crumpled love letter with the aroma of honeysuckle; some ancient coins. One simple action to discover one forgotten horde.
Slamming it down on the table, she was thwarted by a damaged, rusty hinge.
Dear Book Clubbers
Before we meet tomorrow I thought I’d throw out a suggestion for consideration.
I’m aware it will be controversial so let me background it for you.
We all know the effect Lucy’s arrival has had on our small community. Gym membership and attendance is up. Men’s grooming products have never been so popular and wine consumption for our little group is definitely on the rise. Those cheekbones and lips. That flawless skin and perfect figure. That voice like honey.
And I am reliably informed a laugh like a rusty hinge.
Which brings me to my choice. It may not be as intellectually challenging as our usual picks but we have to use whatever weapons we have. And so I ask that you give serious consideration to “The World’s One Hundred Funniest Jokes” as our next text.
I look forward to your responses.
Cause and Effect
Trim tabs are the small flaps hinged to the edge of a larger surface like the wing of an airplane or the rudder on a boat. The slightest adjustment of these tabs controls the larger piece and thus changes the course. It is the trim tab that the pilot or captain manipulates when he takes the steering control of his craft; he sets the direction by merely moving his hand. As the tv blares baseball spliced with commercials of giddy friends living the high life, I sit with my trim tab held between my thumb and my index finger. My temples throb and my throat feels as if it’s being clenched and twisted. Broken thoughts begin and before they can make any sense they shatter and spin away. My two fingers squeeze the shot glass as I bring it to my mouth.
Our project neared its final phase, so it all started to hinge on Richard's input, which took us close to the edge.
To be honest, he did good work, yet he lacked focus. While all of his notes contained flashes of brilliance, he lacked consistency. Luckily, Richard's shenanigans never made us worry about our jobs until this business.
That task evolved into our ticket for better things, we really wanted it to succeed, although we could not be sure thanks to Richard. He had to check our papers, correct them and spell out anything that did not add up. We hoped he wouldn't mess it up.
Before our nervousness reached its fever pitch, we received a mail from our client. My colleagues asked me to check it, which I did. Quickly, I ordered them to look for Richard.
He wasn't there.
We'd gone to buy yellow haddock, Mam and me,when Dad came up behind and grabbed her arm. I grabbed her back, but he was stronger. Then my aunty Ruth put her smooth hand over my mouth and dragged me back, so i couldn't hook on with my teeth, though i'm strong for seven. When i knew he was taking her, i fought , like when i had gas, to have six teeth out. Mam smiled at me through the back window of his black car, even though one of her legs was hanging out of the door as he drove off. Aunty Ruth called me a drama queen, as people carried on buying fish. When the shadows came, Mam came home, with a patturn of Dad's hand on her neck, and Aunty Ruth said, 'well we told you he's unhinged'.
From the kitchen, his wife. ’Jenny’s found her mother’s Penny Black.’
Russell paused, moistened hinge in hand. Touchy-feely Jenny. The dinner party flirt. Except with him.
He placed the hinge on the back of a stamp and mounted it. A limited edition 4d 1966 'England Winners.' Almost worthless, but for Russell it held a perverse pleasure. The issue was bought up by collectors, ensuring against a future rarity value.
‘Where was it?’
‘It slipped out of a cookery book. When they were packing stuff for the dump.’
So, likely in poor condition. Sixty-eight million were issued from 1840. They weren’t rare and rarely were they valuable.
‘Tell her, I’ll give her a hundred for it. Offer ends today.’
Of course Jenny would see a dealer, who might offer sixty. She’d come back to accept his kind offer. And he’d have to say, ‘Sorry, Jenny, that offer’s now closed.’
Resolute Opposition by Hinges
Each pace of the emaciated figure’s tottering form emitted solitary protests from the rutted wooden boards atop the stage. The man’s nostrils embraced the pungent smoke of the deputy who whisked away the black sack hiding his face. Scratchy threads stuck at his neck when the noose was laid upon him like a necklace. Resignation chased apathy across the faces of a dozen shapes of men aimed at him. Stale breaths escaped from and retreated to his lungs. The sheriff placidly took to the lever and pulled. Nothing happened. The trapdoor’s rusted hinges resolutely opposed the sentence momentarily. It was in that furtive instant that the sun’s light tipped over the neighboring buildings, revealing the sudden consuming despair amongst the crowd, deforming their faces with guilt. The hinges broke. The man and the crowd were mollified. The first by the latter’s recognition. The latter by a return to habit.
So much hinges on this last leap of the performance. These legs have transported her, lifted her to beatific heights. Will they betray her tonight?
At rehearsal this week, something in her mighty hip popped. A hamstring or the joint...she doesn't really want to know.
These legs are turning away from her. She has been unkind in what she has demanded of them. Taken for granted.
"Enough!" they protest. "Haven't we done enough for you these past decades? Made you what you are?"
Yesterday these legs finally defied her. She couldn't even hold fifth position. So fundamental for a dancer. The tectonic plates of her world are shifting beneath her. She must fight back. Everything is at risk. Younger ballerinas with pliable joints stand in the wings, wishing for her failure.
But these legs make amends for now. She leaps into the air, and for the last time, she soars.
In the shed. Strapped tight. The trunk sits waiting.
Edward creeps in. Bending over it he unbuckles two thick leather straps and turns the key in the padlock. The shank releases with a loud clunk.
‘You keep away from that dummy.’
Hearing a faint chuckle Edward turns an ear towards the trunk and wishes he’d listened to his father.
‘You’re not scared of old Reggie are you?’
Edward pulls back, gasps and tightens his grip around the padlock. A dread curls in his stomach. Time seems to slow down. Swallowing hard, he still holds tight.
Another chuckle. ‘You are! I can smell your fear.’
A heartbeat. Silence. Edward struggles to breathe and for a terrible moment nothing happens. Suddenly a terrifying thumping sound comes from inside the trunk. Edward whimpers and fumbles the shank back into the padlock.
There is a loud crack.
The hinge snaps.
A Rejected Mum
I felt a strong gust of wind rush past as the door slammed shut in front of my face, barely scraping my toes, giving my heart a minor jolt.
And it was not the first time.
Toil of nurturing my daughter seemed to vaporise into thin air just as the rejection shook my whole being.
"Mum, go away!" she added, every word slicing into my heart.
Earlier, I had wanted to show concern to my fifteen year old. She shooed me away like I was a pesky mosquito.
I was still awaiting the moment when the hinge of the door would creak.
I waited and waited.
Finally, it did but she gingerly walked past me and headed for the kitchen.
"Do you want me to cook you some noodles?"
"No need. I just want a drink."
She opened up the refrigerator, peering inside.
How I wished I was the refrigerator.
On Lighting Devotional Candles
I started late but still long before I became unhinged.
I´d collect words of regret that came to my letterbox pre-printed - they must have fluttered to so many others to have made a pre-printing worthwhile, and the cost….
And the stamps: Australian, British, US and Canadian; even one from New Zealand.
Some of the pre-printed words had inked additions of thanks, maybe next time. Others had suggestions, if only what if? Each little note had its own flavour.
I also printed out early emails, but soon stopped. They were so templated.
I pierced holes in them all and filed them away for a rainy day.
It´s raining today, so I´ve taken the folder and papered my walls with the words proving some of mine had been read. I´ve left loose corners curled up on each note and with a taper I now light my devotional snippets.
They had called him unhinged. Disturbed. Peculiar. The lights are on but no-one’s home. But to me, he was just dad.
My mother didn’t like to talk about him. She said that the man she had married was no longer there anymore. Apparently, his father (my grandfather) had experienced the same condition when he turned 65; the ‘condition’ my dad had was hereditary. At the age of eight, I didn’t know what this big word meant.
It meant that the dementia my dad had suffered from would also be my companion in old age. I’d forget my daughter’s name; what day it was; if I had anywhere to go. But I didn’t know that then, of course. I was ignorant of the truth. But when I did learn of the fate that awaited me, I decided to turn off the lights myself.
He reaches for me and folds me into his arms, burying his head in my hair, taking deep breaths, smelling me.
I stare over his shoulder, numb, making a mental note to clear the cobwebs from the coving.
I wanted this, I wanted him, but now he’s here it feels all wrong. He’s stooping because he’s so tall but in doing so he bends me awkwardly, like forcing a hinge the wrong way. His tight embrace hurts my back in the same way that this tight deceit hurts my marriage.
I push him away.
“I know.” he says, thinking I’m fighting desire. But I find that I am actually fighting the urge to push him away. This is wrong, it was always wrong and will never be right. The brief moments of pleasure are not worth the pain.
I tell him to leave and my heart folds in on itself.
The exclamation was followed by the landing of Mr Hibbert’s ruler on Phillips’ desk. Ink jumped out of the inkwell and a droplet began running down the desk’s edge.
‘Boy!’ Spitting the word out like an insult, Mr Hibbert leaned in closely. Through wide, silent eyes, Phillips observed Mr Hibbert’s fillings winking out at him from his cavernous mouth. It was as if the Latin master might swallow him whole.
‘Cardinalis is a what?’
‘A word, Sir’
‘What kind of word?’ Mr Hibbert hissed.
‘Pertaining to a door hinge or that upon which something rests’
‘From which we get?’
‘The word cardinal, as in greatest importance, as in Catholic clergy.’
‘And what declension is it?’
‘…first, Sir?’ Phillips ventured.
‘WRONG!’ The whole class crowed, gleefully.
The Latin master was almost pleased.
With a withering look, he told Phillips ‘Stultus es, puer.’
You are stupid, boy.
Floating in the Most Peculiar Way
Some will say I went round the bend, lost my trolley, popped my top at the vastness of it all. I left the airlock and wept at the sight of my little world - for so long my whole universe - spinning before me, a marble circling the drain.
All the while I felt reassuringly still. Ground Control's voice irritated my ear, and I wondered why they weren't getting dizzy. The thought made me chuckle. How endearing we must be to the cosmos. How quaint.
It was some time after they lost contact before I realized they hadn't been the ones spinning.
Now I look the other way, toward the brilliant, shining black. The stars look different today. Distant, separate from the very idea of troubles. Peaceful. Welcoming.
Some will say I became unhinged. I don't think so. My hinge just opened wider than expected.
Life does not get any easier, the more you focus on something becoming a reality, the more likely it will come off the hinges. As I glanced from across the room at his pale blue eyes, all I saw was emptiness. How was I suppose to make him realise what he had left in this crazy world? I could not imagine the sheer anger he must have been feeling. The sun beamed in through the tinted glass and highlighted the single tear that left his broken soul. He would sit for hours just staring at her picture in total despair. I took him by the hand and walked over to the window to watch the world go by. Do not let anything break you son, I told him. I promise one day everything will become crystal clear and you will have this saddening time behind you.
A New Story
‘Can you read me a story?’ The boy is standing there, a book in his outstretched hand. I want to say no, but just as the words are about to leave my mouth I notice Nurse Parker glaring at me, hands on hips. She’s done plenty of that recently.‘Look,’ he says. ‘I’ve found the first page.’A month ago they opened a nursery here. I had petitioned against it, citing that we’ve come here to die peacefully, not to be surrounded by screaming children. I failed, obviously.‘Come on, then.’ I retrieve my reading glasses from my breast pocket.He climbs up onto my lap. I start reading and realise it’s one I know, one I read to my own son many years ago. The boy leans back, nestling into the crook of my arm and the hinges creak as my heart opens a crack, quite without my consent.
Orange Man Anxiety
In their recent annual convention, country’s leading psychiatrists announced that they had identified a previously unrecognized mental health disturbance. After countless deliberations, they decided on the term “Orange Man Anxiety”, OMA in short. There was scattered report of its existence during the electoral process past year, but it became full-blown right after the strongman took over the power. In one end of OMA-spectrum, the sufferers have been pacing like zombies with blank stare, while muttering “What did we do wrong to deserve this?” In other end, sufferers are agitated, while losing their tempers quickly and cursing every word of obscenity, known and invented ones. Unfortunately, any additional research stopped due to lack of funding in “Fake Science”, as coined by the Orange Man himself.
All hope now hinges on the purported appearance of the Superman during the darkness of coming full solar eclipse to save the nation from its self-destruction.
A History Lesson
The professor strode across the stage, stepped up to the lectern, tapped the microphone and waited. When three hundred engineering students had stopped downing coffee, shuffling papers and chatting, he began.
‘Can anyone tell me what the most important invention enabling man’s evolution was?’
‘The wheel, Sir.’ Came a voice from the front-row.
‘Predictable but there was something else too. Young lady?’ The academic pointed to a girl in the second row.
‘Was it the hinge, Sir?’
‘Yes. The earliest form was discovered in Hattusa, Turkey, now a World Heritage Site. That was believed to be about 1600 B.C
Knights of Old made hinges to haul up the drawbridge to keep the enemy out. Likewise, today we have hinges on doors to keep our own castle safe at night.
Consider the collapsible chair you are sitting on, the door to this hall, how different life would be without the hinge.’
Despite the fading light and the onset of evening chill the old woman continued to work diligently at her sewing cabinet, squinting at the machine, cutting thread and adjusting tension, passing the material along and across and around, giving it shape and life and reason. Her shoulders ached, the strain of her waning eyesight brought a dull pain to her forehead but she would not let herself stop, would not tip the machine over on its hinge until her promise had been fulfilled and the dress was perfected. The whirring and clicking, the pump and rattle of the foot pedal, the spin of the reel, the motion of the needle all compelled her onwards.
As she watched her granddaughter glide down the aisle in the beautifully altered dress she herself wore on her wedding day she dried the tears of days past and shone with the promise of the future.
NYPD Temporal Division: Solving tomorrow’s crimes today!
The door hung on a solitary hinge, the imprint of the battering ram a rough circle of splintered wood. Detective Inspector Harry Davis crossed the threshold, walking past the pre-occupied white-clad members of the forensic team and towards the bedroom, where the iron stink of blood hung heavy in the air.
The corpse of an adult male lay face down in a pool of blood. The body was being photographed by a young man whose complexion matched the whiteness of his forensic overalls.
Harry watched as an officer knelt down and turned the corpse over onto its back. Harry saw his own face looking back up at him, the eyes glazed, the features slack.
“Well Harry” Constable Sanchez grinned, “I expect this case will be a priority for the head of the Temporal Crimes Division!”
Harry nodded in silent agreement. When it came to police-work, some days really were murder.
Tom the (fat) cat
Have you ever had your life hinge on the current relationship between you and your cat? No, probably not. It's a pretty stupid situation to get yourself into, but nonetheless it is the situation I'm in.
If I had known that I would rely on Tom to save my life then I probably would have thought twice about calling him fat last night. He wasn't too impressed and left me to watch Eastenders on my own.
The sash window from my bedroom led out to the roof of my kitchen which I had transformed into a beer garden fully equipped with sun lounger. The glass of the window was thin and the wood was old and even Tom was able to open it with his large hairy paws. But will he do it for me now? Will he hell. It's starting to rain and I have a cold coming on.
The Ghost Tour
Our tour guide looked a right pillock; a two-bit actor with patchy white makeup and a dirty cravat. I couldn't wait to get off. The more time we spent listening to this West-End-wannabe babble on about Jack the Ripper, meant less time drinking at the company's expense."And what became of poor Miss Piper?" asked 'Mr. Hinge'. Indifferent silence."A lady of ill repute no doubt." His sidekick - an unconvincing London Bobby with a plastic hat - flailed his arms around, trying to drum up interest."She died of thirst," shouted someone from the back. A few people laughed.
The bus slowed to a crawl in the central London traffic.I'd had enough of Mr. Cringe. My colleagues weren't much better either. I made my way to the back door and hopped off onto the pavement, leaving a bus full of bemused ghosts staring at me through the window.
On the Highway to Redemption
A Lamborghini, at 140mph stirred up frightened honks as it sliced through the traffic. The driver hissed, plucked a bottle from beside him, guzzled its content and tossed it out the window.
The rushing wind bombarded him with memories best left unremembered. His eyes closed in painful recollection; the hinge-point; the decision that changed everything. His bones longed for her, to feel her warmth, to tell her he was back and no longer drunk from the greenness of the pastures he had left her for.
He never saw the approaching lorry, only heard it. He steered sharply, lunching the vehicle off course. It somersaulted and landed in an apocalyptic crash.
Days later, he would wake up in a hospital and curse the damned Samaritans who robbed him of the chance to be with her, and to atone for his sins.
I admit to being a little apprehensive.
The case before me is that of Mr. Peter Gilbey accused of theft. Over two days the Prosecution produced what appeared to be a strong case but ultimately that would be for the jury to decide. Their verdict could hinge on one thing.
Some years ago a fellow judge had a similar case. On the third day the Defence produced an identical twin to the then accused throwing the jury into complete confusion unable to reach a verdict and the case was dismissed.
Now I fear a repetition as the Defence announces they will introduce only one witness, Mr. Gilbey’s twin who will throw doubt on everything heard so far.
Courtroom silent, jury seated I invite the Defence to proceed.
Counsel stands with hands clasping his robe lapels and makes his confident statement.
“Very well Your Honour. The Defence calls Miss Angela Gilbey.”
Wheels of Fate
A pair of pupils, blue as sapphire gaze out the tiny upstairs window. They almost do not match the whites of her eyes and her box-like face. Soon, a hand nervously reaches out, hinged upon the banister. She's fate's child dreaming dreams on a chilly December morning. She wishes to be a doctor someday. Not like Mr. A, the tinker who rides a rickety bicycle into town every fortnight with a basketful of foul broth in small green bottles all labeled “three times daily.” She’d work in the Royal Palace hospital as their best surgeon.
The eyes retreat back into the dingy room with its red walls and broken floors and rat piss. There’s been no power for days since the transformer retired. She chooses a dry spot and sits, legs propped against her chest. “Mama will come back for me” she whispers to her mind.
Strawberries Always Remind Me Of Giving Birth
Huge, red strawberries glistening in the half-light — that was the first thing I saw. I panicked. Where was my baby? I rubbed my belly, only to discover him asleep in his hospital-issue crib at the foot of the bed. I cried with relief.
A warm July night, the windows had been thrown back on their hinges — not something they would allow nowadays, I’m sure! Anyway, in my exhausted state the flurry of cool air was welcome, as was the sound of the city going about business as usual.
Labour was long. Very long. And I was ravenous. Not caring who had left the punnet on the cabinet, or even if the strawberries were mine, I took a bite — so sweet, so satisfying. Juice squirted everywhere. Before my son awoke, I polished off the lot.
It was the last time I ate in peace for many a year.
I’ve spent my entire life being spoken at. The opportunity to interject and rebut against false claims on what I was feeling had never been presented to me.
“Surely he’s hungry” he said – the man who would so often present me like a trophy to a room full of unfamiliar giants. The other one just standing there, tapping her foot, terrified. She was always terrified.
“He’s fine Tom, just put him down!” – Why did she get to argue and not me?
They put me on the floor and stared at me. Here it was, finally my turn. I was sure that this primordial relationship would hinge on what happened in this moment.
I propped myself upright. I opened my mouth and readied the sounds. My audience held it’s breath.
But alas, I just wept.
Sign of the Times
Most regulars knew The Grenadier as The Corner House, being where it was, but some still had it as Nobby’s, after the wartime landlord who stayed calm and carried on even when a Jerry bomb scored a direct hit on the Jug and bottle.
It was where they had their thrift, bought raffle tickets for the Friday night (hat factory pay night) meat draw and played darts. Soldiers from the barracks called it HQ and their visiting Royal Navy rivals ‘a run ashore’, it being the only boozer in the area.
But the new marina yaughtsmen won’t climb the hill like the matelots did, the Regiment long disbanded, people don’t want trilbies these days and there’s a new supermarket.
The stern Grenadier still stands guard and stares fixedly and defiantly down from his high overhead sign with its rusty hinge squeaking in the wind - but the pub’s boarded up now.
The heat was relentless and the Monks Pool was drying up. I could see the corpses of beer cans and the bones of a shopping trolley lurking in the sludge - the foetid smell made me wrinkle my nose.
In vain, I called the dog away from the delicious mud, but barking with delight he bounced in, sending up foul gobbets of rotting weed and duck guano as he headed for a half-sunk football in the depths.
Mentally vowing the garden hose, I retreated out of splatter range and walked on, listening to his happy tug-of-war behind me. Galloping feet approached, and I braced myself for the inevitable deluge of shaken gunk. With an air of triumph, he dropped his trophy at my feet.
The sockets stared up emptily, and the chirpy grin was only hinged at one side.
The chill of the pool lurched through my veins.
I was alone. The chain was thick and heavy in my hands as I pulled yards and yards of it out of the murky sea beneath me. My arms ached. Eventually the miles of chain that I had pooled into the stern of my little boat were accompanied by a rather large treasure chest. The lock on the front came off and vanished in the sea with a small splash as I was bringing it onto the boat.
The wood was swollen and soft. The gilt edging was faded. The hinges had rusted the lid shut tight, breaking my nails and teeth in my attempts to open it.
The promise of what it held. The unknown potential of wealth.
I wrapped myself in the chains I had used and hugged the chest tightly. With one sideways dive, I cast us both into the sea.
It was their anniversary, a hot and humid,
15th of July.
'Five years of marriage.' thought Ethan as he stood at the foot of the bed, watching Lucy slip on her summer dress, delicately.
His Blood Boiled, today he'd tell her.
She knew, that he knew.
But she was too cowardly and unsympathetic,
to admit she had ruined the marriage.
"Ready." Said Lucy smiling at Ethan.
Ethan nodded condescendingly,
heading out to the car.
With a loose brake hinge, a trail of fluid,
spoiled the driveway, as they set off towards
"Lucy.... Who's it gonna be, Him Or Me.! 'Decide' "
Shouted Ethan, slamming his foot down hard on the Gas towards the cliff edge.
"It's you Ethan, please STOP !….."
Ethan hit the tampered brakes.
It was too late.
Dillon the toy-boy mechanic, had planned a different outcome, for Ethan, when Lucy brought the car for service.
The Asinine Reflex
The crowed brayed, Capo raised his hand,
‘I present, the Human Hinge! See how he bends, fixed at the arms and legs to these panels, he is a tireless squeezebox. Attach this nozzle, the vacuum he creates will keep your crooks and nannies dust free. His utilities are manifold - prop ‘im against your wall he’s a folding table, stand ‘im on end, a wind break. He’ll turn his flexor majors to any task. Come me dainties, give ‘im a squeeze. You sir, you have a question?’
‘What cost his upkeep?’
‘Moderate feeding, a little lubrication is all.’
‘Where did you find him?’
‘Where he had no right to be.’
‘He looks like my brother.’
‘An easy mistake with aesthetically pleasin’ bipeds.’
‘He never tries to escape?’
‘Whither would he go?’
‘And when he dies?’
‘Remove his bonds, like so,’
A flex, a kick, Capo is down.
‘Run my friend!’
He makes a tall folding screen with many emerald green stained glass panels; something for my partial concealment. To see and not be seen, as if standing, or crouching - yes crouching, or even supine, like in a Delacroix painting, in a forest, behind large-leafed abundantly entwined undergrowths. Secreted. Pale flesh against the dark. But without the parrot.
“It needs a piano hinge. Here, here, and here.” he says, “It will make it more stable.”
I look at him then and understand. I understand why he does these things for me. To me. Why he needs me hidden, but not feeling hidden. Why I am his secret. Why he is mine.
And why brass piano hinges will give us stability.
“Hinge forward from the hips....”
Legs stretched out in front of me, I can’t even sit up straight. Leaning back on my hands, I stifle a snort of laughter. My daughter glares at me from the next mat, her cheek resting on her tie-dye leggings.
When I said I wanted us to do more things together, I didn’t mean yoga. I thought we might enjoy a mother-daughter shopping trip, maybe take a spa day. Instead, Katie signed me up for yoga classes and a 5K fun run.
“What’s fun about running?” I'd asked, but she'd rolled her eyes.
The teacher directs us into corpse pose. A little morbid, but at least it’s restful. Eyes closed, I visualize my doughy body stuffed into tight running trousers, wheezing as my daughter disappears into the distance. What have I let myself in for?
The old man, looked ancient as he sat in the rocking chair, swaying front and back like a pendulum. His eyes were gently closed as he listened to the peace of nature, that sung and buzzed in his eardrums.
“Granddad, Granddad!”- squeaked a child’s voice, momentarily scaring and disrupting the surrounding beauty. The man looked down at the little five-year-old boy, wearing a stripy cap and a blue shirt: which was already covered in mud. Looking at the little kid, hinged feelings of nostalgia forcing the memories of his childhood to flood. The boy climbed up onto the old man’s lap, panting with effort and wrapped his arms around the neck of his grandfather.
“What my dear?” – scratched the man’s voice. The little boy hastily took out a crumbled photo out of his pocket and handed it to the man.
“Mama, said you can tell a story.”
Our wedding present from my parents was the house. Each house on the street was red-brick, boasting a small driveway, a stamp-sized garden- a suburban housewife's dream. You wouldn't know which was yours unless you looked out for the black number plates above every bright white door. I used to imagine each house containing a similar pair of newly-weds, perfect and polished. As shiny and squeaky-clean as the doors.
I walk down that street now, the first time since we were a married couple all those years ago. I take in the red-brick rubble, the houses fallen into disrepair. The stamp-sized gardens are now nothing more than a tangle of brambles. I stop outside one of the houses- it could have been ours, it could have been our neighbour's. A rusting door swings on one of its hinges, the white paint covered in dust. I turn away and walk home.
This Old House
Paint peels from my skin, stripped by time, by weather and wear and neglect. The layers curl at the edges like scorched parchment, telling stories. You show up with a brush and a drop cloth, sure that a coat of paint can fix rotting wood.
Critters crawl inside my walls, under my floors, nibbling on my weaknesses. They surface in darkness, when all is still and quiet, when I should sleep but continue to creak. I squirm and itch. You spray some Raid, set a few traps, wait with a broom for them all to drop dead.
You are so earnest. Plastic cups placed under my leaking roof. Saran Wrap pulled over broken windows. Aluminum foil connecting wires long stripped and sold.
Invisible tape sealing a long-empty medicine cabinet.
You fight to hold the door in place, a single, sagging hinge. Pull all you can, but gravity will win.
It was all about the coffee.
It's amazing how much you can find to argue about when you really have nothing else, even remotely important, left to fight about.
Henry couldn't even remember what it was like to ever enjoy this place. At some point in the not too distant past it wasn't this poky, or claustrophobic, or noisy.
"He never really liked it," contemplated Henry, "He never should have agreed to it. Argument after argument about nothing: an unopened window, a leaky tap, a crooked and creaky hinge."
It didn't matter how many times Henry looked at it, things just didn't look favourable and he sensed the approaching climax of another squabble on the horizon.
"Would you like a coffee?"
Henry whined, rolled over, curling his tail around him and burying his ears beneath his paws, knowing that whatever his human answered, it would be wrong.
The front door creaks. It's mother taking a last peek outside, scanning the yard, checking the road up and down, before closing the door with another creak and locking it for the night.
When she's upstairs brushing her teeth, I sneak to the door and squeeze some oil on the hinge. Doubly a hinge, tonight everything will depend on it — mother is such a light sleeper.
Then I lie in bed waiting to hear her soft snores, and I'm thinking about him, waiting for me. He said I wouldn't do it, said I wasn't that kind a girl. Am I?
In the morning mother opens the door to retrieve the paper — and pauses. She swings the door back and forth, leans to examine the hinge. Now she knows what kind of a girl I am. He knows too.
The way she ate an apple
We met on the bridge in horizontal rain, shoulders hunched in our jackets. We kissed. She tasted of mint. Her skin was damp, her breath warm, hungry. She gripped my arms, pressed her fingers into my flesh.
'You're here,' she said.
I released myself from her grasp, and circled her in my arms, lifting her momentarily from the shining pavement. 'I'm here.'
'What made you decide, finally?'
I laughed into her hair. 'I was always going to be here.'
'Not true,' she said. 'You were dithering. Something happened.'
'It was the way she ate an apple.'
'Lips drawn back, nostrils flared. Nibbling. And the noise. I finally realised how disgusted I was.'
She stiffened, pulled away. 'And did it really all hinge on that?'
Laughter died. 'Well, you asked.'
'Sorry, then. What would it be about me, I wonder?'
And she turned and walked away through the horizontal rain.
Beside the fountain in the square, a young man knelt before a beautiful girl. From his pocket he pulled a small, turquoise box. Slowly, he pushed back the lid. A large stone, the same brilliant colour as its nest, rested inside.
'A gem to match your alluring eyes. Will you honour me and become my wife?'
The watching people waited with collective, bated breath. Everything hinged on her reply.
The woman brushed a hand across her face, seeming to wipe a tear from her eyes. She knelt down and took her suitor's hands in hers.
'Thank you. You are handsome and I have always adored you. But I do not love you in that way.'
The crowd gasped. A crestfallen look on his face, he stood abruptly.
Suddenly, a knife glinted. The would be lover lunged toward the kneeling woman.
'Cut. It's in the can.'
'So your decision hinges on whether she can bake cupcakes that taste as good as Mum's?'
'No, that's going a bit far. But it is important.'
My younger brother has some funny ideas about an ideal fiancé. She'll be here soon and he is putting out the ingredients for chocolate cupcakes. He takes two brown eggs out of the fridge and puts them in a bowl on the work surface.
'Now then, do you know where Mum keeps the recipe?' I ask.
He picks up the iPad and in no time a picture of mouthwatering cupcakes pops up. He hands the iPad to me.
'We've got flour, butter, sugar, eggs but we're out of chocolate.' I look out the window at driving rain. 'Do you want to...'
My brother disappears into the hallway and comes back wearing his frog-faced Wellies. His gappy, six-year-old smile melts my heart.
Ancient emotional instincts
He is face down in a puddle of melting ice when the hikers find him. Sorrowful. He must have become lost on the mountain three thousand years ago. Helpless.
After we dig him out of the rubble-strewn glacier, I want to touch his hand. I want to tell him I know what it’s like to be lost. I want to connect to something far away from my own fractured life, something that doesn’t hinge on a father with dementia, a best friend with cancer, an acrimonious divorce.
He is rolled into the sterilised refrigerated truck like an accident victim into an ambulance, and I know the next time I see him a handful of excited scientists will be touching his naked body. Voyeurism belittling his stature.
As he is driven away to the lab, I wish I could bury myself in the glacial moraine and go back three thousand years.
The shoe bag
Abdelaziz watched. From the lorry men were delivering the hotel’s supplies. Giant olive oil bottles for the kitchen. Pallets of cleaning products and insect killers to the stores.
The noise of the planes and the heat stored up on the runway. He only came to watch one thing. The delivery of the hotel shoes. Huge transparent bags, a hundred pairs in each slung over the shoulders of the delivery men. So many feet. Where would they go?
There was nothing as strange as the shape of a human foot. A walking hinge. The migrant’s essential.
The black holes like doorways to the shoes’ interior drew his eye as much as the leather. Black circles of darkness into which feet would be placed each day. The sight comforted him. There was a destiny in it. All feet had a resting place allotted to them, inside a shoe. Even his own.
The corridor looms before me as I creep on, strange shadows dancing around the corners. I know that if he hears me now, it’ll be over. I’ll never get away. So, I step carefully over the broken floorboards and begin my steady progress down the stairs, hardly daring to breathe.
The second stair lets out a deafening creak. I turn, staring hard at the bedroom door, but the house is silent. I breathe again, creeping down to the hallway below. There, I straighten and begin to fiddle with the lock on the door, but it’s stiff.
Another noise makes me freeze. Was that the sound of a hinge as it was pried open? I ignore it; this house is always making strange noises.
I finally manage to force the lock across the door, but before I can open it, I feel a cold, gnarled hand pressing down on my shoulder.
There was a rhythm to the ebbing and flowing of metal on rusty metal, punctuated patternless by violent irregular slaps of poorly fastened wood panels on an ill-secured post. She could have moved her bed away from the wall directly above the gate; she could have put on a coat and scarf and boots and wedged the gate shut; she had bought a tiny sealed pack of bright orange earplugs but never used them. She waited for the next impact, both shocked and comforted by the noise. One day the gate would be grabbed by a gust of wind and forced off its hinges. Only then would her life become quiet.
With thanks to all the writers who have made this issue possible.Ana Gardner, Bill Cox, Carol Leggatt, Chad Munger, Christine Nedahl, Clara Mok, CR Smith, Crilly O'Neil, Daniel Beaumont, Dave Murray, Debra Fertig, Eleanor Jones, Emily Weatherburn, Emma De Vito, Fatima Saeed, Fran Egan, Gregory Kane, Hannah Whiteoak, Hilary Taylor, Jack Redmond, Jackie Shylan, Jeremy Hinchliff, John Dapolito, Justin Rulton, Kelsey Josephson, Laura Besley, Laura Morgan, Laura Tidswell, Louise Mangos, M. M. Bygrove, M.D. Jayabalan, Maria Fedorova, Mary Davies, Michael Rumsey, Mitja Lovše, Nicola Kean, Nicola Wallace, Paul Curtis, Philip Charter, Rj.Saxon, Rosanna Wood, Roz Levens, S..B. Borgersen, Sam Baggott, Sankar Chatterjee, Seanen Deatach, Steve Ward, Steven Stucko, Susan Carey, Sylvia Petter, Tega Majemite, Thomas Malloch, Vanessa Richards
19th July 2017