Sunday, 14 June 2015

Alex's Journal 13/06

Uh hello, check two, testing... this thing on?

Alexandre (yeah the Frenchie version) O'Rourke here. Penning down my thoughts with the same kind of lucidity you'd expect from a half-asleep sloth. Figured I'd try and help some guy sell some book about me or something. Seriously, people will write about any old trash these days. I just read an article about how women with big thighs are plenty hot. Those actual words plenty and hot featuring in the title. First off this picture, which pretty much sums up the whole article in a j-peg:
A young arcade goers first love; the inimitable Chun Li
And second of all I wasted, like ten minutes, reading it and let's be honest what difference is the attractiveness of thighs going to make to my life?!

It's all down to those damn internets!

I remember when a server used to be the guy that gave you your drink in a hotel and if you wanted to be entertained you actively had to seek stuff out. But now it's like a big, kinetic strobe frenzy every time you turn on a computer. Flashy, flashy, cat video, flashy, flashy, fail video, flashy, flashy 'How would you like some dick pills?' Big brother is almost definitely watching you and god damn it if he doesn't have a whole bunch of wares he's itching to sell.

I remember buying 411VM VHS cassette tapes for like €20 just to watch an hour of skateboarding back when I was single digit (the phase did not last, imagine...). Thing was you'd watch that thing a trillion times* and it wouldn't even grate on you. Now we have this limitless database of information and we tend to use it to watch 7 second videos, talking dogs and Russian drivers mouthing off at each other.

And don't get me wrong, this isn't some kind of call to arms so everybody starts reading medical journals online, I'm as hypnotised as the next guy. But it did get me to thinking about how we're all building up this useless trivia with no real knowledge behind it. Can't remember exactly where I heard it but some guy recently said on the radio, or a podcast or something, that everyone in the whole world has information at the press of a button but we're all incredibly ignorant. Like Homer Simpson levels.

Where am I going with this?

I don't really know but to be fair you just read a poorly thought out stream-of consciousness-type article written by a fictitious character so...

Anyway weathers nice right now so even if you're full of information and ignorant as all hell (a la moi) why not go outside and try grab some vitamin D. 'Sides you're going to be as wisdom-less as the next guy so you may as well have a better tan.

*rough estimate

Monday, 8 June 2015

Star Milligram

Just released my book Star Milligram on amazon. Head to for all the info you need

Monday, 5 May 2014

Melancholy dRruUunK

This is the place
Where I slip away
Chequered and choked
Fingers in throat
A sign of the cross
Just in case

Monday, 4 November 2013

Black Coffee

 I used to work in a bar, I'd see the same faces as the days went by. Flies to the counter. They all had stories and were eager to share. One was a successful businessman who had lost more than half of everything he owned when his wife divorced him. He had to pay for her lawyer during the court battle and wound up paying for a good one. His knuckles would turn white grasping his whiskey soda and some days I thought the glass would surely break. Another was a sixty year old who had been in and out of the red brick for most of his adult life. He believed that aliens had abducted and probed him in his youth and was prone to episodes. The psychiatrists assumed it had been some kind of abuse that his young brain had tried to protect itself from. The several rounds of electro-convulsive therapy did little but slur words. After his father died he talked less of aliens and the doctors, like the rest of us, tried to put the connection out of our minds. Then there was the lady who'd drink Chardonnay steadily, a bag of colours and sketch pads for her son. He went through the art supplies fast, she'd talk of the future he had ahead. Gallery openings or maybe a job in graphic design, as long as he was happy. That seemed normal enough until my manager told me the boy had been a vegetable going on twenty years. Most days I would finish my shift and feel as if a great animal was looming overhead, waiting to descend. I had to leave the bar after three months. People talk a lot of energies and auras, echoes of emotions felt. I'm not sure if any of that is true but I am sure that had I stayed in that pub I would have become one of its regulars.
The café Isabella asked me to meet her at is modelled after a library. The green and red of classic spines are painted against the wall. The room is pleasant, spacious. It does not have any of the melancholy residue of the bar I once worked at. I order a coffee and sit next to the window wondering what I might leave behind. Outside a mild rain falls alongside oranged leaves. A white and red bus pulls to a stop, passengers get off, passengers get on. I hold my right hand over my red eye and watch the bus pull away, the lashes brush my palm. It hurts my eyelid. Soon there will be no leaves on the skinny, roadside trees but the buses will come, the buses will go and someone will sit here and someone will watch them.
-Hello, I say keeping my hand over my eye as I turned to her.
-Bad again?
I remove my hand, she makes an E with her lips. The waiter put my coffee down and asked for Isabella's order. Grapefruit and pineapple tea.
-I was drinking a lot at the start, she said, I didn't know.
-You couldn't have, no point worrying.
We had used protection intermittently. She wasn't on the pill, or the implant. I can't remember the name of it. It looked like a hair tie and sent some hormones out. She would keep it inside until her period and then change it. It stopped her getting spots, it was not uncomfortable. It hadn't worked.
-But I am worrying. I'm very worried.
-What do you want to do?
She became sour for a moment.
-I don't want to do anything alone.
I shook my head.
-I didn't mean it like that. Do you still feel the same?
We had talked about this happening when we were together, if she got pregnant we would have the child. People often say it's the woman's choice and ultimately they are right but to imply that the man should not be heard is as sexist as anything else. A foetus is the potential for a human life, to me this seemed important. I liked the idea of something mystical, but I could not convince myself. Potential was real though, I could believe in potential. Sometimes I would argue internally about whether I valued a non-living life over my own. I suppose I did, willing for my life to take unexpected, possibly miserable, bends for the potential life.
-I don't know how I feel, now that it's happening.
She turned to me as if to apologize.
-Do you love me? I asked.
She took a sip of her tea.
-Not the way you love me.
I nodded and drank some coffee. I would leave something malignant in this café but I would not let Isabella know.
-You would let me see him wouldn't you?
-Of course.
She put her fingers around mine. I felt that great animal looming once again.
-You'd be a good father.
I slid my hand away and squeezed my forehead.
-This is fucked, I said.
-Worse things happen to people.
-In the Middle East they'd pelt rocks at you, I said and she laughed and then we were quite again.
-I just need some time to think it over.
I nodded and stirred the black water.
-Yeah, I said, maybe it'd be bad for him to have parents that weren't together.
-It mightn't be a him.
-I'd feel weird calling him 'it'.
-Like that horror movie, she said.
-Like that horror movie, I repeated.
-But we could be friends?
-We could be, I said, but that's hard for me right now. You understand?
-I do but you'll move on.
-I am, I said surprised at how definite it sounded, but there's teething still.
She nodded, finished her tea and stood up.
-I'm glad we could talk, I can call you again? I'll need things and I can't afford-
-I'm not working either, I cut her off, but as soon as I can get work I'll help you as best I can. I promise.
-I still don't know what I want.
-That's okay, I don't know either.
-Thank you James, she kissed my cheek and left. When I got to the counter she had forgotten to pay for her tea. I barely had the change. Outside there was young, hooded girl sitting beside an ATM with a small puppy in her arms. In front of her a crumpled coffee cup with less than two euros inside.
-Can you help me?
The puppy looked up, his tongue falling from one side of his jaw. He was black and brown and white. I smiled at the dog, he seemed to smile back, unaware of how broke myself and his master were.
-I really wish I could help you, and I looked at her as honestly as I could.
She smiled and said 'that's okay.'

 -I really do, I said again and started walking away.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Zoo Story

No title for this one just yet, all ideas welcome!

There was never a bridge out, pop you in a boat for pennies and a few slices of Pat the Baker, you’d spend the day handy. One Sunday after mass I went down by the lake and the bird house was closed. Lines of yellow tape blocking the row boats and guards shaking their heads, notebooks and pencils, some chap in handcuffs. Normal face, normal build, his ma could have lost him in a crowd. It wouldn’t shock you in this day and age, but this was the seventies in a little summer village like. Yer man swam out there the night before, knife between the teeth kind of a job and just started slashing. Feathers and blood. They found him shivering knee deep in the water.

And that was the end of the bird house on the lake in Tramore.

I was young at the time, pushing eight maybe, I’d made the communion so according to the Big Fella I knew the difference between right and wrong. I’d heard of murder and robbing and all the rest but here it was right beside the summer amusements. Nowadays there’s lads getting stabbed in cinemas, or scumbags using choke wire behind some poor chap on a bus. It's been three decades but the only thing that puts the heebie-jeebies up me worse then what happened out there in the bird house is when I get a sense of ‘yellow’ off someone. Same as I did from that 'normal' looking man in handcuffs. He was the pus behind a white head and I knew something was infecting him.

A few years later my Grandad died and the mother moved us down to his old house in Wexford. Rosslare to be exact, the same place they opened the wildlife sanctuary last year, on the water with a swell of salt in the air. It’s no joke either the boys have the big cats, giraffes, zebras, if you can find it in Africa they have it down in fucken Wexford. That’s where I wound up anyway, the only town in Ireland with a chip on its shoulder. Ran the pet shop down there off The Bull Ring, selling young lads Australian Redbacks and all sorts. One langered conversation down there in The Funeral Home (a Wexford pub which doubles up as an undertakers, do you a deal on the wake like) and I was the Big Man, Numero Uno, The Sheriff round them parts. Yer man in charge of the whole shindig went ahead and made me the Park Warden.

I’ve read a dose of books on it and they all agree for every one hundred people you’ll find a psychopath. Now they’re not all killers but if they sat beside you on a train you’d have a few palpitations and not be knowing exactly why. Gun to my head I’d bet animals are the same, for every tonne there’s a Bundy or Dahlmer or what have you. To be fair the regular ones are dangerous even if they're not psychos, but most of them will give you a good three minutes before starting with the teeth and claws. A bear clicking its jaw, a lion spreading its paws, palm down and gorilla eyes looking for your pupils. If you don’t cop on sure that’s that. Good luck. But then there was that one lioness, Mandy they called her, and you could tell by her look she wasn’t right. Even the pride kept an eye on her and they never, ever, let her near the cubs. But at some point the pride forgot and she got three cubs before we got her.

A young red haired boy comes through the turnstile in a chequered shirt and blue shorts. The green runners puffy at the bottom of his skinny legs. The adult with him, his da I suppose, brings him over to Chimp Island. They stop against the moat surrounding the monkeys. The chimps ahead of them messing up in the trees. Doing a jig with thumbs in his ears, the young lad has the tongue on him stuck out. Normal old stuff, getting a rise off the monkeys, nothing unusual. And that's why most people would miss it. But I see it there alright in the eyes and the slant on the brow. You can almost smell it on the young lad, like fag butts in half empty cans.

Out here we let a few of the animals go around the park as they like. Most of the un-caged keep a bit of distance from the crowds. Not the geese though, they’d get in the car with a stranger for a few bits of pulled bread. You'd want to be a secret agent to get a drop on the rest of them but that said there’s a wallaby with the initials K.C. carved in behind his ear. That’s the stuff you’ve to be on the lookout for. If any of those animal rights types caught wind of it’d be hello RTE.

Burgers for a tenner and flat 7-Up but sure they pay it and the children screaming milk shake this and chicken nugget that. Jungle Jim’s is the name of the fast food place, across from the fruit bats, opposite the spider monkeys. Trina’s sweating bullets trying to take the orders so I jump in beside her and get on a till.

-Good man Noah, she says wiping her forehead.
-Have I earned a coffee? I ask when the crowds relax.
-G’wan you cur.

Trina used be a nurse up in Wexford general and took the early retirement. She does an odd day here and there for the cash in hand. Sound out she is, and sure we have a bit of the old back and forth.
-Any craic out there today Noah?
-Ah sure ya know yourself. Just keeping a look out for the old yellow fellas.
She frowns and tosses a bit of chicken gristle into the maw.
-Want to be careful with that now Noah, remember what the boss said.
-But he still bursts gaskets if one of the animals winds up taking a few slaps.
-I’m just sayin.

I pour out an Americano and wave to Trina. Families come from as far off as Mayo, on a bad day you’d do a thousand easily. That’s ten psychos, so the eyes have to be peeled. The da of the young red-head is sitting with his back to me, a cap pulled over his eyes. There’s a back pack beside his legs, a bottle inside of whatever has him asleep. The red head’s gone AWOL.

No sign of him down by Chateau du Cheetah, no hint of him by Meerkat Kave and Turtle Tenement is a no go. A few of us questioned the name of the last one, on account of this island's history but the boss shrugged and said c'est ca. Whatever that means.

After the ‘incident’ we’d a talk and he said I had to make sure an animal was in trouble before I started pelting lads out. 'Sure he’d a fist raised', I said and the boss goes 'Yeah but he hadn’t done anything yet.' How’s that for dull? Like the doctor telling you to fuck off with your cold and come back when you’ve a dose of pneumonia.

We can't track an individual animal. The boss said it's too expensive to put chips in the lot of them. There's a kind of a bracelet thing if one of them needs to be monitored. Other than that you've got your eyes and your feet, find them quick you're on the clock. Most of the mara are with the zebras and giraffes behind the fences. They're like a cross between a hare and a tiny deer, mad yokes altogether. As soon as they see you they're gone for dust, if the young lad can catch one of these he'll have a place with the Irish Rangers.

There's a buzzing now inside the chest, little waves of tension washing over me. I can't find the red-head anywhere. The orangutans start screaming, the ducks hold their heads under the water until the very last second, geese spit bran flakes back into open palms. The yellow is out there and the animals can feel it, roots of the jungle recoiling under the soil. I see it then, the work of powerful morons. The boss was showing some investor around the park earlier and all that's left is an open gate. It leads to one of several veterinary stations. This particular one being a maternity unit.

Grass grows high here, relaxing for the mothers-to-be they say. I'm crouched down, the head low behind long strands of grass. The first pen is covered over with thick plexiglass, a lioness' side rising with the breath. I put my hand against the glass and she looks at me with half closed eyes before looking away. I took up Tai Chi for the old head a few years ago. The doctor said that a bit of yoga or what-have-you on top of the medication and I wouldn't know myself at all. The old paranoia would settle. Brushing the grass away reminds me of those movements. I must go back one of these days. The second pen is empty. On the concrete floor someone's after leaving a mess, dry blood and straw. Rotten enough alright.

The grass parts left and then right and I feel as important as Moses.

It sticks against his cheeks, the grass just underneath his red hair. He's looking down at something below him, something small. I could stand up now, give him the boot, send him back to the main park, wake up his drunk da. He's yellow, if I'm sure of anything this young lad's yellow. He doesn't move, just keeps there, eyes to the ground. There's a few licks of fur between the grass, breathing slowly. By the back of it she looks like a wallaby, one of the cageless. They do that sometimes, go the vetinary stations when it's time to give birth, a sense they have maybe. The young lad kneels down beside her and I loose him altogether. Small slits of colour between the grass. There's no noise, no hissing out of the animal.

I stay down and wait.

This chap must be yellow.

-The fuck are you doing here!?
The young lad darts up and I hear the wallaby make a noise. Not a hiss or cry but a sort of shudder. Like something in the air's after changing.
-Look da, it's after having little babies!
Strands of grass moving under the weight of the father. The da towards the boy like a langered cheetah.
-Babies da?
The child saying it like a question.

A blunt sound and then the young lad starts bawling. Another sound, sharper now. And another.
I stay put, the grass cutting into the air above me.


And he pulls him by the arm, drags the little fella through the down trodden grass. The da closes the gate behind him and I'm left there lying on the dirt. I push the grass away until I get to the Wallaby, a joey lying there at her teet. The mother starts hissing at me, teeth under the wet snout like those yokes on the rooves of caves. I see myself mirrored in her black eyes. The teeth waiting to snare, ready for the yellow in the darkness of my reflection.  

Friday, 9 August 2013

Last Call

Here be's a poem type thing, though it's really just re-formatted prose.

Last Call

The auld lad’s still sitting there, arms spread, broadsheet between and
Ma goes by screaming ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the iron’s still on!’
Horsed clothes, creased as da’s Irish Times, waiting to be pressed and folded
In just a year they’ve greyed, steps a fraction slower
Only a few words at dinner
Quietly loaded
Finally a decent pint of black and I almost forget the settle
Dark brown thunder rolling under white cloud
Old friendships, hard fought, fingers gripped around a neck
Stout stained lips shouting and balling ‘Any young ones?’
And sure you make something up for the tale of it
These two are having a baby
She’s off in England
Sure he went off the bridge
Then the light fades away and comes back
I haven’t been here in a year
The light fades away and comes back
A feeling as if I’d never left
The light fades away and comes back
One last chance
Fades away and comes back

Fades away and comes back

Monday, 29 July 2013


This is probably the longest short story I've ever done, I'm pretty happy with it, hopefully you guys will like it too!


The airhostess brought me four party cans, one after another before I dropped two sleeping tablets. Twenty minutes later Beano taps me on the shoulder “Come on down and see Greenland, some dose of ice”. He asks me why I’m stumbling and I give him two sleepers. The nine hour flight to Canada breezes by, us with our heads dog-like at the windows and half closed eyes. Beano starts talking to some contractor who tells us he can set us up with a tree planting company if we ever go to Alberta. He’s slurring his words though, the sleepers coming on strong and him going on about how he’s republican out and out. I interject, try and keep the old boy onside should we ever decide on Alberta. I don’t remember the rest of the journey. Beano and me head to the luggage bay after the landing and he goes:
                “Jaysus boy you were slurring your words some bad back there.”
                The lad on the desk at the hostel asks if we want some dried mushrooms. Mexican he says and scratches his stubble, dandruff in his hair. Just the room I say and Beano says fuck it, takes two stalks worth, heads on them like UFOs. There’s no elevator to the rooms, I manage lugging a two year visa worth up the stairs, arms cramped up and raw. Each room has a flag painted on the door, I’m staying in Argentina with a Swede called Leonard. He’s a fifty odd chap, smell of money off him, flicking through pages on a tablet. Hello I say, realising how long it’s been since I used that particular word to greet anyone. Yup, story, craic, newly useless. He smiles and puts his head back to the screen, half eaten apple there like a medal. I take another sleeper out of my bag, wash it back with a sup of water and my antidepressant. I fire everything into my locker and lie on my bunk the springs moaning with pressure.
                In the morning there’s still no sign of Beano. I head down to the restaurant for a free breakfast, rashers me hole, bacon like a bag of tayto. Fucking brown oranges and something called wonder bread. The waiter comes over to me and starts going on about bagels with jelly and cream cheese. “Cheers” and he stands there eyeing me like the conversations not done. Okay then he says and fucks off. It’s playoff season and the Canucks are doing well, a pride parade is due next week and its ten years since they caught Robert Pickton. They nabbed him before he had a chance to do his fiftieth prostitute, bits of the rest of them out with the pigs. I walk out onto Granville St, and there’s two hoores boxing the chops off each other by a greyhound bus. I watch from a safe distance, they both look crack hungry, one of them muscled and toned. Square jaw tensed as she’s throwing another dig and then I see it, all because her skirts riding up her leg. The little mickey head-banging between her thighs. The cops pull in and break it up, stick the made up fella in the back seat the other one crying out loose teeth.
                Van-fucking-couver son.
                May as well be Times Square for a Wexford boy. Streets gridded across each other and buildings so tall you go ant like. But god love them, these poor lads don’t know how to name places at all. Future Shop one of them was called and Chronic Tacos was another. There’s a dose of punky looking one’s begging for money with a cardboard sign that reads: Too honest to steal, to ugly to whore. The tranny goes by sitting in the back seat of the squad car and I throw a quarter, or a dime, or a nickel down. No idea. The tiredness of the world is heavy and I duck into Bulldog Coffee ordering an Americano. The coffee’s two dollars but I get charged twenty cents more. I’m about to start something but then I remember the tax. I sit down by the window and open a book about enlightenment. I’m trying to understand it but it’s tough going. Full of these stories that don’t make sense and how you’re already enlightened and if you strive to be enlightened you won’t be enlightened. If you meet the Buddha kill him. But I keep at it and if I’m truthful I don’t understand a word. That’s the point the book says.
                When I get back to the hostel Beano’s after leaving a message in with the dudey-man that sold him the mushies. It doesn’t say much:
                Couldn’t hack it man, went home. Good luck.
                So that’s that, half way around the world by myself with three full packs of Lexapro and two grand.
                You’ve never seen Guinness poured as quick and those country boys aren’t lying it doesn’t fucking travel. Nearly eight quid for the pint before tax and yer one has the gob open for tips all afternoon. And don’t even start about the pub, a ‘sports bar’ with some eejit on the telly spinning the handle bars of his BMX. Beano’s probably waiting on a plane now, heart sunk on his ma’s dinners. Might even be right what?
                It’s six when I get back to the hostel, eyes jet lagging, wankered on four pints. Leonard’s gone and it’s just me in the room. Nicer jails out there I’d say. Four green bunks, four lockers and a dirty, tiled floor. Walls are stacked bricks like the dorms back at DCU. I drop two sleeping tablets, an antidepressant and wait to fall asleep. My heart starts hurting like it sometimes does, those sour pints of Guinness turning bad in me. Sadness looming, the heart tighter, sure what have you to be moaning about? Half way around the world and a small fortune. I’m reminded of my own weakness born of nothing in particular. I fall asleep gasping and fart some stout.
                 Three days later I’m landscaping, tearing around with wheelbarrows full of dirt. No lies now, but I feel like going down in a heap. Never a day of hard graft in my life, teaching children creative writing before I left, bit more than a stone’s throw. It’s like fucking Screwball Scramble. The lads are after setting up these metal ramps. About five feet off the ground you go up and then you’ve to come down. If you go against the barrow you’re on your arse so I run down the ramps praying the USIT insurance will cover poor employment choices. You’d want to see the rest of them, arms like legs, swinging picks like madmen.
                “You alright there Irish?”
                Oh God no.
                “Yeah grand.”
                There’re two lads working with me. A Canadian called Birdman and a South African named Andore. There’s no macho bullshit just a few lads shite talking while they dig up worms. Turns out Birdman’s in his forties, doesn’t look it at all, tanned, brown hair and a body like one of the fellas in the WWF. “If I wasn’t wasted the day was” he says and goes on to tell me about living on East Hastings. You’d get done for cycling through there without a helmet but free bass or shoot up and no one misses a beat. Cops leave that street alone, a kind of unwritten agreement with all the junkies, long as they stay put sky’s the limit. Birdman relapsed a few years back, wrapped a contractor’s van around a tree and lost his job, he’s been landscaping since and nearly four years sober. Andore’s an illegal, he’s an incredibly polite white boy with cheek length, sundried blonde hair. The only time I’ve seen him break his veneer of geniality is when he starts talking about the ‘fucking caffers’ back home. We three do the hard work while our foreman Lucas circles for mistakes like sharks do blubber. He’s built like a panzer tank, mid fifties and I’d wager suffers from some kind of mood disorder. Intimidating’s not the word at all. Brought up somewhere on the soviet block well before it all fell apart, manly as you’d expect, but every now and then he laughs and holds these slab-hands over his mouth like a school girl.
                Few weeks go by, I get stronger, lads come and go. One poor German fella thought we’d be planting flowers all day and arrived in a new pair of runners. Rubbished all together they were, he walked off the site three hours after he started, breathing heavy and shoulders limp. I wind up getting a place in Burnaby, a little room in a basement but a welcome break from the hostel. That weekend me and the rest of the lads from work go out and get absolutely transmogrified, chap who owns the company is an English bloke called Trevor, he’s mid fifties and buys us drinks on the card. He calls me a ‘mick prick’ and I accuse him of wearing the ‘butcher’s apron’, two of us are the last to fall, walking to a taxi rank arm in arm apologising for what our countries did to one another. Hungover I read more of the Zen books, now and then I feel a blast of cool air passing between my eyes. All through school teachers taught me to think and now here I am trying to unlearn, accept and observe.
                Work starts at seven a.m. Monday. Lucas picks everyone up outside Commercial and Broadway in his truck. It’s a large white cabinet, with a rusted, metal grill below. A galvanised trailer attached houses all the equipment. Mostly axes, wheelbarrows, shovels and ramps, the bigger machinery like the Stripper is hidden underneath a blue tarp. Painted on the side of the trailer are the words ‘Trev-Lawns: A New Garden Quick!” The three of us fit comfortably inside but today there’s someone else waiting at the stop. He’s wearing a torn up pair of shorts, high top boots and a white vest. His skin is dark, head shaven, eyes sunk. We introduce ourselves in the cab and small talk. The new guy is from Montreal, his name is Remy. Etched in black ink on his right forearm are the words ‘til human voices wake us, and we drown.’ I ask him what it means and before he can answer back Lucas swings around, fist thrashing the air.
                “You will all shut up!”
                The cab goes quiet, I look at Birdman, question marks in my face. He shakes his head like mother to a cranky baby. We pull up next to a forest entrance, birds causing a ruckus up above. We take some pick axes from the truck and walk into the trees. Eventually the wood opens into a grassy park, there’s a scratched, blue car door on the ground.
                “Fuck happened here?” Birdman says.
                “Nothing” Lucas turns to him red faced “that will make a difference to your day Birdy!”
                Parts of the grass have been dug up by whatever tires the door belonged to. Some drunk kid, entitled as fuck I’d say, drink, drive and donuts. Either way the Van City government are charging him for the repair work. We start at picking the tread marks, Andore asks if we’d be better off using the Stripper. Lucas doesn’t respond. Politely he asks again. No reply. I smile at the new guy and throw eyes to the skies.
                “The community asked us to do this slow, charge by the hour” Lucas says “teach the little piglet lesson.”
                He stands by the car door and lights a fag. He doesn’t lift a pick. Sweat beads and rolls over my brows, stinging my eyes. I drop the pick and walk to the truck to get some water, I screw the top off and down some.
                “Who said you could have a break?!” Lucas shouts.
                “Thought you wanted to do it slow?” I yell back.
                Birdman stops picking and looks at me, bottom lip bit to stop the laughter. Andore looks to Lucas, Remy keeps at the job. Lucas walks his bulk over to me, clenched fists to the sides. He stops a foot from me and grabs the water bottle. He unscrews the top slowly and begins drinking, water streaming down his heavy jowls. His eyes keep on me, head slanted until every drop is gone. He screws the top back on, hands me the bottle.
                “Back to work” he says.
                I go back to work.           
                My arms start burning, heat rising off my biceps. Everything starts to hurt. Whenever I try to stop for a breath Lucas eyes me. Cumbersome isn’t the word at all. Lucky to get through ten inches in ten minutes. I start to see shapes in the ruffled dirt, people wrapped around one another, faces. Sweat dripping into tiny puddles beneath me, my breath heavy. I start to think about my childhood, ice cream lining my knuckles, da giving me maths grinds. He used to put me on his back in the pool before I could swim, holding on in the deep end.
                A cool breeze shushes somewhere behind my eyes. I feel the pick axe in my hand, my fingers calloused on the wood. An extension. I breathe in the leaves, the trees, the mark of the treads. Something is about to happen, I’m about to lift off the ground or be sucked into it and then Lucas shouts break and I snap out of it. Lucas walks to his truck, he never eats with us.
                “You doing okay Irish?” Birdman asks.
                “What’s the deal with Lucas?”
                “Gotta be fucking bi-polar, don’t take it personally man.”
                “You should have seen him before he kicked the drink.” Andore says.
                “He was a fucking demon.”
                Someone asks Remy what he did back in Montreal and to be fair the chap gives us the best answer ever.
                “I was a pedobaiter.”
                “What the fuck is that?” I ask.
                “I would set up fake facebooks” his French Canadian accent is weak now, hushed “be a fifteen year old boy or whatever. Get them to say some weird shit and then tell them to put a grand in my account or I’d send all the links to their families.”
                No one says a thing.
                “Snagged a cop by mistake, had to get out of Montreal.”
                The door on the truck opens, fifteen minutes isn’t a lot. He walks towards us. His torn dungarees caught in a mild breeze. We head for the pick axes, horizontal beside the treads. Lucas hands me a water bottle as I walk and nods. There is something terribly desperate in the way he looks at me like a dog that shit the bed. Thanks I say and drink. He walks away before I can hand him the bottle.
                It’s mine now.  
                I try to recapture the feeling I had before. Concentrate on the soil, on the feeling in my muscles, focus on the sweat soaking through my cotton shirt. I spend the rest of the day observing everything around me, moment to moment, trying to recreate whatever happened. The more I try to recreate it the further away it seems. We work into the dark, a twelve hour day at least. We fill the tread marks in with fresh sod and repack the truck. Remy looks broken, it’s the same look we all had after the first day. Trevor has a rule about everyone being driven to their door if they do a twelve hour day. I live furthest away, luck of the Irish yeah? It’s fifteen minutes with me and Lucas in the truck. I can almost feel the heat off him, red mist rising. I take out my book and leaf through the pages. Lucas sits beside me, his weight anvil like against fake leather seats. He looks at the book, lips curling into what looks like a frown.
                “This is not the best one.” He’s lived in Vancouver for thirty years but for some reason his accent sounds almost Mexican.
                “You read books like these?” I ask.
                “For many years before I came here.”
                No one says anything for a few seconds.
                “How long have you been miserable?” Lucas asks me.
                “I’m not” I pause “how...”
                “Religion is for the people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is for the people that have already been there. This is your hungry ghost.” He says.
                He takes a left off Willingdon Avenue and pulls up outside my flat.
                “In eastern teachings the hungry ghost is a terrible ghoul with a mouth like a straw but a huge round belly. He cannot feed fast enough and is forever hungry for sadness, for anxiety.”
                Lucas pauses.
                “For regret.”
                “The more you fight the ghost the hungrier he gets.”
                “So what do you do?” I ask.
                “You do the one thing the ghost cannot feed on. You accept him.”
                Lucas takes a fag out of a tin pouch, rolls the filter in his fingers and lights it.
                “When I accepted that I could never live without alcohol I finally managed to stop drinking it.”   
                He draws hard on the cigarette then writes something on a piece of paper. The End of Your World. I can’t pronounce the writer’s name. He hands it to me.
                “You are a good worker.”
                He drives away leaving me with a torn, gridded copy page.
                The end of my world.
                The next few days Lucas regularly stops me from work and talks to me about spirituality. I tell him what happened to me on the tire tread job. He says it’s like a Buddhist garden, dragging the rake over the sand, lining the grains. The mind becomes so still that it begins to challenge its limitations. It’s the same reason monks meditate for weeks on end, coaxing the mind into a state of what mystics call ‘enlightenment’. The rest of the lads look at me jealous, I’ve found some kid of loop hole. Birdman’s been on the crew longer than anyone else and he tells me he’s never seen Lucas shoot the breeze with someone like this. It’s not light hearted talk though, it’s the kind of stuff that rattles your head, forces pressure on your temples. The art of un-thinking. I tell Lucas that I’ve started the book he told me about, that the meditations described inside it cause me to be angry, sad, joyous and anxious. He says that my mind is separating the chaff from the wheat, that for a time everything will be messy.
                We pull up to the job Friday morning, the yard is yellow, the soil cracked, a house at the end of a steep drive, a beautiful harbour view in the distance. Lucas holds onto the handles of the Stripper to cut lines in the yellow, fried grass. He uses a large pair of ear muffs to drown out the dull roar of the machine. We use snow shovels to scoop out large, square chunks and toss them into yellow wheelbarrows. The incline of the hill makes it hard to wheel the dry soil around. The Loser birds are out making noise in the trees somewhere. I’ve never seen one but they make a kind of two syllable noise that sounds like ‘looo-seeeer’. Birdman says that when he was renting non-windowed motel rooms on East Hastings he’d wake up with a crack hangover and hear the birds calling him. “Damn nearly lost my mind” he says and lights a smoke. 
                We’re about half way finished when I start to pick up a particularly dry square of dirt. It falls apart around the snow shovel so I try to haul it up with my arms. I can hear the Stripper cropping through the grass near me. The soil begins to fall apart in my arms and I throw it into the wheel barrow. A cloud of dirt bursts from the soil as it connects with the yellow plastic. It mushroom clouds into the dry air and right in the centre of it there is the dark silhouette of a man.
                It is Lucas.
                He lets out a roar and grabs the ear muffs from his head. He starts shouting and spitting into the grass.
                “For fuck sake, you got it all into my eyes!”
                He charges through the dirt like a dragon through smoke and sees it’s me.
                “Every day I’m living in constant fear of you making another fucking mistake!”
                Strings of saliva hang from his mouth, bubbles bursting through the spaces between his teeth. His eyes are blood red in the corners, he blinks uncontrollably.
                “Go home” he shouts “get the fuck away from me.”
                “C’mon Lucas, it was an accident.” Birdman says.
                “You want to go with him, you fucking crack head?!”
                Birdman looks at me apologetically.
                “Ring Trevor about work on Monday, you’re not on my crew anymore.”
                “You fake piece of shit!” I sneer “You think you’re going to transcend yourself?! You can’t even control your own fucking temper!”
                I grab my bag and walk away. It’s a long trek to the bus, I feel like crying and don’t know why. I get off the bus and buy a bottle of Paddy from the off license. It’s ridiculously over priced but at least there’s a taste of home off it. I get to my basement flat, take a piss and drink some of the whiskey. I don’t stop for a long time.


                When I wake up the bottle’s empty and there’s dry vomit. I fall as I try to stand up, outside my window I hear it coming through.
                “Looo-seeeer! Looo-seeeer!”
                I retch and spit out something bubbled and white. There are cigarette burns in my t-shirt, a smell of old armpits. The sun burns my eyes when I open the door, my muscles tired and heavy from the week. The off licence isn’t far away and they open at nine a.m.
                I wait.
                I grab cans, spirits and fags. The clerk tells me there’s a soup kitchen down the road. Cheers I mutter. I start into the cans on the walk back, my head firing off rounds between my ears.
                “Looo-seeeeer! Looo-seeeeer!”
                There’s a chap sleeping on a mattress in the alley behind my house, he nods at me, I hand him a fag and a can. He shakes his head.
                “Trying to quit brother.” He says.
                “Just accept it.” I leave them beside him, chuckling to myself.
                I start to black out half way through the whiskey.
                “Looo-seeeeer! Looo-seeeeer!”


                It’s Sunday morning when I come to. I can’t remember being awake but there’s barely any whiskey left. I open the last can, take a sup and light a fag. Something rises up inside me, something terrible, formidable.
                I fucked up with a bottle of pills once, had to get pumped or whatever, two weeks in a psych ward. Melancholia the doctor called it, an old chap with a great white beard. He wrote me a prescription for anti’s and told me to look into eastern philosophy, made sure to warn me that every other doctor would tell me my condition was purely chemical. “Nothing but a shower of gobshites” he said smiling. Ma found me in time, otherwise I would have checked out permanently. She told me to promise I’d never do it again and I love the old one so I did. We never told my father. She’d ask me how I was on a scale of one to ten. I started to hate seeing her, knowing the only reason I was still alive was her. Sometimes I’d tell her I was worse than I was. If I hadn’t left for Canada I might have killed the both of us. I promised myself I’d make a decent shot at life in Vancouver but if push came to shove at least ma wouldn’t be the one to find me.
                Push was shoving.
                Puny, useless man. Loser. Loser. Ungrateful wretch. Loser. Loser.
                Get it done.
                A knife with mozzarella hangs edge forward over the sink and I pick it up. I feel the air in my nose, burning the nostrils, turning the stomach, bubbling back up through my mouth. The dirty stainless silver cold on my forearm. Everything empty as webbed skeletons, no colour, no lights no music. But I don’t slice, my arm won’t let me.
The air goes in and the air goes out. I feel it inside, grinding against my lungs but I continue breathing, keep living.
                I close my eyes and focus on the air, the knife in my hand, the cold tiles on my feet. That cool wind blows between my eyes and when I open them I am the knife, I am the air, the fag burned couch, the unmade sheets, the snow capped mountains over the glacial water.
                I accept the emptiness and the emptiness accepts me.
                I spend the rest of the day staring at the half hanging light fixture above my bed. The wires, green and woven peeking from the plastic mould. There are no words, no future, no past. My phone begins to ring. It’s Trevor.
                “How’s the mick?” He asks.
                “I’ll be honest with you Trevor, I’ve never been better.”
                He laughs.
                “You’re back in the usual pick up spot with Lucas at seven yeah?”
                “I’m on his crew again?”
                “Bit of a barney was there?”
                “He kicked me off his crew.” I reply.
                “Don’t worry about it mate, he’s an angry Polish bloke, you wouldn’t be the first. He did say to tell you something though.”
                I don’t say anything,
                “You there mate?”
                “Yeah, yeah sorry, bit spaced.”
                “You were right.”
                “No idea what he meant either mate. Fucking nutter. Good luck.”
                The phone flatlines. I stare back at the light fixture. Trevor is gone, work doesn’t exist yet. The air comes into my lungs. The air leaves.


                My alarm doesn’t go off in the morning, I wake up at six twenty five. I’m out the door with no breakfast and running for a Sky train. Lucas might have let me back into his crew but he’ll chew me up if I’m late. I pay for a ticket and sit down, last night’s feeling of peace has left me. I try to focus my breath, stay in the moment but nothing happens. I start to think about what Lucas will say when I tell him about my flash of enlightenment. We’ll forget what was said on Friday, it’s in the past. It not real.
                I make it to the stop with a minute to spare. Birdman and Andore are leaning against a lamp post smoking fags. We joke about what happened on Friday. Birdman says he’s never seen Lucas that angry before.
                “He didn’t say a word afterwards man, dude was pale as fuck!”
                “Pale?” I say.
                “Like he saw a ghost.”
                Lucas is never late to the pickup spot but we’re five minutes over. Then  fifteen, then thirty. Birdman takes out his phone. “Fuck it, I’ll ring Trevor.”
                I stare out at the road, waiting to see the rusted silver grill, the off white cab.
                “Hey Trevor, we’re still waiting on...”
                Birdman’s voice cuts off.
                “What?” He says, he voice trembling.
                I wait to feel the air, but I’m shallow breathing, barely anything going to my lungs.
                Andore looks at Birdman his brows arced inwards.
                I’m waiting to see the rusted grill.
                Waiting for the off white cab.
                “Fuck!” Birdman coughs, a tear rolling down his cheek.
                “Oh no...” Andore whispers.
                I’m waiting to see the rusted grill.
                Waiting for the off white cab.
                Just waiting.