Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Chapter 8 of Milligrams

This is it. This is all I'm giving away for free. Just finished the first draft of book. 209 pages of absolute codshite. Remember to buy a copy.


I take a few more Xanax before bed. It helps slow my thoughts down. I’m not really anxious but I don’t know how to process what Zed’s just told me. I look across at her and she’s already asleep. Zed’s in for the chemo. She can’t afford a private hospital so she has to spend some time in Wexford General every few months. Tests and stuff. My nan died of cancer when dad was in jail. She just kept getting weaker and weaker. Eventually she fell into a three day sleep and didn’t wake up.
            Ma came up to Dublin after the guards rang her. They had found me throwing arm-fulls of fag butts into the canal. They said technically I hadn’t really broken any laws. They also said that they hadn’t checked me for drugs. I think that was guard for “were letting him off with this one.” Whatever it was ma pretty much copped I had been out of my face the night before. The only thing she said was “thank God this didn’t happen in Wexford”. After that no one said anything. That kind of suited me. I could feel a coldness on my neck and every few minutes I’d get this little pang of anxiety. I wasn’t really in a talky mood. At one point I turned around and saw a tear sliding down the corner of her eye. She went into this story from when I was a kid. I came home from school one day crying. Apparently the teacher had been talking about how we were put together, biology wise. I came home balling and saying that we were only flesh and bone. Ma hugged me and said “what do you feel when you hug mammy?” I sniffed and said happy.
            “Can you see happy?”
            “No but I can feel it.”
            “Exactly.” She pointed at my stomach. “There’s lots of things in there you can’t see. It’s magic.”
            We reminisced about me and Jess being kids for about two hours. For the first time that day I felt something other than scared. I can’t imagine how Zed feels. To know that soon you’re going to find out if there really is any magic in you. Or if it’s all just flesh and bone.
            In the morning the doctor tells me I can go. It’s really early. Like seven or eight. No one else is awake yet. Within about two hours I’m packed up and ma’s outside to collect me. Zed’s still asleep. I walk over to her and shake her by the shoulder. She opens her eyes and looks at me. Angry glare that is. I can hear her tongue peel off the roof of her mouth.
            “Wha?!” It sounds like one of those zombies from Dawn of the Dead.
            “I’m going. Home like.”
            “Yeah. Bye.”
            Zed turns over and closes her eyes. That’s it. I thought it might be a bit more sentimental. Especially after what Zed told me last night. I mean if you were watching that part in Terminator 2, where Arnold Scwartzennegar goes into the lava with his thumb up, and John Connor had just gone “Yeah. Bye” that would have been a major anti-climax. I walk downstairs with my bags and stuff. I’m pretty pissed off. I thought we had a click or something. Like Thelma and Louise. No wait they were both girls. I don’t even know who Bonny and Clyde are so not them. Batman and Robin? No. I don’t know.
            I open the back door to ma’s Lexus and throw my stuff in. I get into the front seat and sit down. Me and ma blab for a bit, nothing too important. Just how my guinea pig is. Roger and C.A. are fast becoming friends apparently. She tells me dad won’t be home until tomorrow. He’s out on business somewhere. Yeah I know, you’d think tax evasion or whatever would pretty much guarantee a break from the business world. Not my dad, he’s cunning like a fox. People tend to forget fox’s eat all the hens when they use that phrase. We pull into the drive. I’m taking my bags out of the car and thinking about how blasé Zed was about me leaving. Then I remember I’m outside. At first I kind of go “oh yeah, I should be freaking out”. Nothing happens for a minute then I feel the fear creep in. I’m inside before it gets too intense. It makes me think I might be less broken or something.
            My room is exactly how it was before I left for college. There’s still a Batman poster on the wall and three cardboard boxes full of comics by my bed. Ma’s put the almost-stolen 32” HDTV on a rack on the wall. She’s even arranged some of my old toys around the laptop on my desk. I look around for C.A.’s cage. It’s not in my room. Downstairs ma is cutting up some grapefruit.
            “Do you still like sugar on yours Alex?”
            “Yeah. Thanks.”
            She puts half the grapefruit into a bowl and sprinkles some sugar over the top. I go to take it off her but she says we should eat in the conservatory. It’s not really sunny but for this time of year I suppose it’s a good day. C.A.’s cage is in the conservatory. The pig comes up to the cage bars. I open the clips on the side and take her out. C.A.’s dressed like a pirate. I’m not hallucinating or anything.
            “What’s the story with this?”
            “Oh it’s lovely isn’t it? Roger and I decided we’d make little Harry here a costume. Jessica showed him that film with Johnny Depp and now he’s going through a pirate phase.”
            “Well I didn’t know what his name was. Harry’s a nice name. What do you call him?”
            “Captain Anxious.”
            “Captain Anxious?” Ma laughs a bit.
            “Weird name eh.”
            “It’s not that. It’s just such an Alex name isn’t it.”
            “An Alex name? How’d you mean.”
            “Well you called the dog Ultimate Bear, the cat was the Clawed Avenger and remember your fish?”
            “My old goldfish, what did I call him again?”
            “Aqua Commando.”
            We both laugh. I’m twenty now and still naming animals like they’re superheros. I may as well make the most of it. If I ever have a kid I’ll have to name him something boring like John. I won’t though because that’s my dad’s name. Maybe I’ll call him something cool like Ezekial. He’ll either get bullied badly or turn out to be really popular. If he gets raised in Wexford it’ll probably be the first one.
            “Hey this isn’t funny man. I look like the most retarded pirate ever!” C.A. chirps.
            “Back to being a guy then are we?”
            “Sorry?” Mam says.
            Living by myself for the last few months has made me forget it’s a little short of normal to talk to a guinea pig.
            “Oh, nothing just thinking out loud.”
            “You’re all right aren’t you?”
            “Yeah I’m fine.”
            I blamed almost everything on the break up. Dropping college, moving home and all the general misery. Problem is mother’s are smart. Half the time they know what you’re thinking before you do. Ma knows that ever since I took drugs and got arrested I haven’t been the same. She was really bringing on the heat before I moved out. Saying she was going to ring a councillor, asking why I never went outside. Luckily, well depending on your definition, things between me and dad were strained as they always are. Meant I got to move out to my own place in Cromwell’s Fort. Ma says she paid the rent but dad pays for everything. That’s generally how he handles a problem: fires a shit load of money at it and pretends it’s not there. 
            “Are you busy on Friday?”
            “Friday? I don’t think so. Nothing planned anyway” I reply.
            “Why is that good ma?”
            “Mam. I’d like you to see a friend of mine. A psychologist or a psychiatrist. Some sort of councillor anyway.”
            Ma cuts in.
            “One session. That’s all Alex. See how you feel afterwards. Please.”
            Maybe Zed was right, if I’m going loony tunes there’s no point fighting it. At least with this I can go one way or the other. Poor ma, god only knows how she’ll explain it to the neighbours if it turns out I’m going mental. I imagine her telling everyone I’ve gone travelling for a few months. “Alex got a job in Australia” will be code for “Alex responded well to electroshock therapy”.
            “Okay. One session.”
            Ma takes the grapefruit off me and heads to the kitchen. C.A. looks up at me.
            “It’ll be fine Al. Even if you do go to the mental it’s not like they won’t let you back out.”
            “How do you know C.A.?”
            “Too many budget cuts this year.”
            The first rain drop hits the see through roof. The others follow. It’s like heating pop corn or something. I hear ma turn on the television. Some celebrity is plugging their new film. Some new superhero flick. Green Arrow. They bullshit on about how they’ve always been fans of the comic book. Then they forget that Green Arrow’s real name is ‘Ollie’ Queen and refer to him as ‘Larry’. The rain gets harder.
            I hear a key in the door. It shuffles around and eventually catches the lock. The footsteps give him away. Heavy and direct.
            “I didn’t think he was back until tomorrow?” C.A. chirps.
            “Me neither.”
            Dad walks into the conservatory. He looks at me. He has one of those cardboard take away coffee cups. He takes a sip from it and keeps his eyes on me. I remember some nature show about alpha male gorillas. If you break eye contact they’ll attack. He takes the cup from his lips.
            “How are you?”
            I’m not sure if ma even knows he’s here. He doesn’t go into her anyway. His feet come down heavy on the stairs. I wait for C.A. to chirp or something but he stays quiet. I drop another Xanax.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Chapter 7 of Milli

Penultimate chapter of book. Then I really don't know what I'm going to put on this thing anymore. Good times.


I know I complain about digital television but it beats the shit out of terrestrial. In the hospital there are only four channels. Rte 1, Network 2, Tv3 and T na G. Rte 1 is almost always crap. Occasionally you’ll get a good film or something but 80 per cent of the time it’s just boring. To be fair Network 2 is one of the better stations. Plenty of good shows and stuff. Tv3 is okay, kind of like a trashy magazine or something. I reckon I’d love T na G if I could speak Irish. Those Ross na Run ads look interesting. It’s been dark since about five o’clock. It’s probably a combination of this and bad entertainment that has everyone asleep.
            Me and Zed are in the toilet smoking fags out the window. There’s tension for sure. I want to know about her scars and I’ll bet she wants to know why I pulled a runner earlier. I don’t know what it is about people. We always want to know about everyone else but never want to tell about ourselves. It feels kind of like it’s just me and her in the ward. If you had to guess the odd one out you’d probably choose the African woman. Not racism or anything just because five out of six have the same skin colour. But I bet if you had some sort of nifty glasses that let you see the...I don’t know...inside someone, you’d put me and Zed in our own little corner.
            “What’s the deal with those totem poles man?”
            “I don’t know. I was looking at them the other day, couldn’t figure it out.” I reply.
            Zed hands me the fag.
            “You want to level?” She says.
            “Kind of. You might think I’m mental though.”
            “Can’t be more mental than my arms man.”
            “Okay so who goes first?”
            “Got a coin?”
            “Call it.”
            The coin spins in the air and Zed calls tails. It lands on my palm. I flick my right hand on top of my left and then lift it off. It’s tails.
            “Okay so you want to go first or me?”
            She inhales deep on the fag. The area around the window goes amber. Zed holds it in for a second then breathes the smoke out. She rolls up the sleeve on her dressing gown and points to a small white line on her elbow.
            “This was the first. There aren’t a lot nerves in your elbow skin.”
            “What age were you?”
            It’s not really the explanation I was looking for. She’s obviously cut herself. I want to know why.
            “I don’t know. It was just an impulse. I went with it.”
            “If it’s any consolation I burned myself pretty bad when I was around the same age.”
            I slide the left shoulder of the dressing gown down. Just under those two injection marks everyone has there’s a small, scarred blotch.
            “How’d you do that?”
            “I was trying to burn the Superman sign into my arm. Tried to do it with a poker. As soon as I felt the pain I stopped.”
            “Haha, you used to be a super nerd?!”
            “Used to be? One Christmas I asked Santa for Spider powers!”
            “For what?!
            “You know like Spiderman. I was about eight. I woke up Christmas morning and tried to jump off my bed and stick to the wall!”
            “Hahaha you freak!”
            “That’s not the worst part! My ma came down stairs after she heard the bang! She walks into my room and there I am lying on top of a broken bed with a fractured wrist!”
            We laugh for a long time. Zed wipes tears from her eyes and takes another smoke out of the pack. She remembers to hold the match towards the ground.
            “Your turn. Why’d you pull a homeward bound today?”
            “Honestly I don’t know. It just felt like I had to leave. Like if I didn’t get back inside I was going to die or go crazy or something.”
            “What like agoraphobia?”
            “I don’t know. It happens outside all the time but I freak out inside too.”
            “When did it start?”
            I pulled a 2.1 from my first year results. English and History. Not a particularly great 2.1 but it was a good enough mark. The first couple of weeks of second year were all drinking and smoking. Missing lectures, sleeping in and generally being irresponsible. Me and Ellen were pushing the three year mark, Roger had turned three and dad was back home. I hadn’t really talked to him. Scratch that, I still haven’t really talked to him.
            Me and Bobby (the ladder pusher) were living in a two bed house near enough to the Burlington hotel. Bobby had to work back home on the weekends so it was just me and Ellen. I was nineteen and so was she. It felt like we were pretending to be adults or something. Cooking dinner, drinking cheap bottles of wine and sleeping together for a couple of nights a week. I used to look forward to every weekend. Ellen was on campus. She was living with a family friend. Thing was this family friend was more of a family spy. If I stayed over or Ellen didn’t come home one night her folks would find out. Lucky for us she went home on the weekends. Friday and Saturday were ours. No Bobby and no spies.   
            It was coming up to the midterm. Halloween and all that. I used to like getting comfortably scared watching all the horror films. Nowadays I freak out a little too much. I was planning a mad Halloween party: ‘The Hellowe’en Fest’. No points for festival names. So it’s the 31st of October and everything is set up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, starts arriving. There’s got to be about two hundred people in the house and garden. It’s one of dad’s properties in Dublin. He’s got a couple of flats and stuff. If he’s on business he stays out in Monkstown Avenue. Like I said, I didn’t see much of him. Ellen arrives dressed as Psylocke from the X-Men. She looks amazing, or amazing to a comic nerd. I joke with her and say she should have died her hair purple for the full effect. That’s when the night turns sour.
            Ellen is really pissed off. I tell her I’m only joking but it doesn’t seem to do anything. We go into my room to talk. She’s sauced and slightly slurring words. What happens next is like a levy breaking. Ellen says she doesn’t know anymore. She starts crying, I start crying. There’s someone else. I know before she tells me. She starts by saying three years is a long time, that we’re just kids, that she’s in a weird place right now. All the stuff you’ve heard from girls before. Right up until she tells me about the kiss. The kiss with Bobby. It blows my mind. He’s like my best friend. She tells me it ‘just happened’. She tells me she’s sorry. Says it didn’t mean anything, that she doesn’t care about him but it’s made her think differently. That maybe we’re not meant to be together. I get up and walk.
            Downstairs the party is roaring. I need to get outside, try to categorise what just happened. I can’t feel anything. No panic or sadness. I’m just numb. I open the front door. There are a few kids dressed for Halloween walking around outside. Optimus Prime, Dracula and a banshee. Prime and Dracula are boys but the banshee is a little girl. The three of them are laughing together and looking through their white plastic bags. One of the little boys hands the girl a fun size bar. Then the other little boy quickly offers her a bar of his own. She takes them both.
            A while later I’m sitting on a bench by the canal. The grass is covered in dying leaves. The water is still. I want to feel something. It’s like I’m sitting beside myself. Some guy comes over to me and tries to sell me some acid. I remember thinking who goes around selling LSD at night? Next thing I know I’m sitting there with a stamp. There’s a picture of the Mad Hatter on it. I guess this is like my elbow scar. I just wanted to feel something. I’d never taken any serious drugs. Smoked a bit of hash, that was about it. I put the stamp on my tongue.
            “I haven’t been the same since.”
            “What happened?”
            “I don’t really want to talk about it. It makes me kind of...I don’t know.”
            “Were you okay?”
            “Not really. I wound up in the Garda station.”
            “Shit buzz. Have you been to counselling or anything?”
            “No. I dropped college and moved out by myself.”
            “Why didn’t you talk to someone man?”
            “Has that worked for you?”  
            We’re both quiet for a second. Zed sparks a match, blows on it and throws it out the window.
            “My sister is on at me to go. I don’t know, maybe” I say.
            “Nothing to lose man.”
            “I get this fear, like what if they put me in a madhouse or something.”
            “If they put you in St. Senan’s then you’re probably better off.”
             I’m not sure what to say to that. Things aren’t getting better. To be honest they’re going south of worse. I’m about two steps short of recluse. It’s like every time I have a panic attack I think I’m closer to the last one. Not ‘last one’ as in then I’ll be better, ‘last one’ as in then I’ll be mental. First you get nervous, then you can’t go to school anymore, then you can’t go outside. At this point sanity is the only thing left to take.
            “Relax man I’m jesting. People like you don’t go to the mental.”
            “People like me?”
            “My dad was in there before I was around. He talked about it once. The people he met or whatever. Doesn’t sound as if people like you get sent there.”
            “Sorry I didn’t know.”
            “They could make a documentary on what you don’t know about me.”
            “Is he okay?”
            “He is now. He’s never really told me why he was sent there.”
            “And your mam?”
            “She died when I was younger.”
            “That’s rough Zed. I’m sorry.”
            “Relax you didn’t kill her.”
            Zed takes out another fag and lights it. I put my hand on her shoulder. Maybe I imagine the water in her eyes. It never drips off her lash. She scratches her eyebrow, smiles and passes me the fag. I take a drag on it and realise that I haven’t asked Zed why she’s in the hospital.
            “So what’s wrong with you? Why are you here?”
            She doesn’t say anything until I hand her back the fag. She takes a pull on it and breathes out. The words almost get lost in the smoke.
            “I’m dying.”

Monday, 15 August 2011

Milli chapter 6

Okay here we are again. Chapter 6 and all. I'm only putting up two more chapters then I'm going to go around Rowe Street Church with a collection basket.


I walk around for a while but wind up getting bored fairly quickly. This place should have a little arcade or something. Like an airport. I walk into the men’s toilets. I don’t need to go or anything I just can’t think of anything else to do. I’m half expecting some sort of nastiness but the toilets are extremely clean. I’m almost disappointed. I start walking back to my ward. Why was Zed acting like such a bitch this morning? Maybe she’s not a morning person. I never actually asked her why she’s in the hospital. Wonder what makes your skin go pale? Loads of things I’d say. My grandmother’s skin was mad pale. Thyroid or something. What’s a thyroid anyway?
            When I get to the ward the oldies are being old and the African woman is talking on her phone. Home sweet home. Zed’s still in bed except now she’s looking at the ceiling instead of the wall. I’m not sure if I should go over to her. She sees me and signals with her head.
            “You in better form?”
            “Not really. Sorry about earlier.”
            “You want to talk or anything?”
            “No. Your family bring you anything cool?”
            “Thought you were asleep?”
            “You were snoring though.”
            “That’s just how I get back at mobile woman.”
            “You serious?”
            “I woke up when they were coming in you spa.”
            Zed smiles when she says it. That makes it not bitchy. She scratches her nose and that’s when I see them. Little scars on her forearm. They’re white and horizontal. It’s the vertical ones you bleed to death from. I think that’s how it works anyway. Zed must notice because she pulls the covers up over her arms.
            “Besides ladies don’t snore!” she smiles again. It’s not a real smile though. The corners of her mouth give it away.
            “You’re right ladies don’t snore.”
            I think about adding “But you do!” In the end I don’t. I know Zed would laugh but it doesn’t feel right or something. There’s silence for a few seconds. I don’t know if it’s comfortable or awkward.
            “My sister brought me some Father Ted episodes if you want to watch them?”
            “Which ones?”
            “Dunno. I’ve watched about three. There’s the one where Dougal has to drive the milk float. The one where everyone thinks Ted is a racist. What’s the other one again...oh yeah the one with Father Stone. There’s two more on the disk I think.”
            “Yeah I’m up for it.”
            “We have to share ear phones though.”
            Zed grabs my head and turns it to one side. She looks at the side of my face and brushes my hair behind my ear.
            “Yeah okay. You’re not too waxy. You should trim your hair man, it’s super long.”
            I haven’t been to a hairdresser in a while. I’m afraid the Xanex will wear off while the barber has a scissors to my head. Zed immediately launches into a new sentence.
            “Sorry. I don’t mean that you ‘should’ get a haircut just it would suit you better.”
            “It’s grand. You’re right.”
            “Stop being sorry. It’s fine.”
            “No I don’t mean you’re bad looking or anything just a haircut would look better. And less bruises but you can’t really help that.”
            I start laughing. Zed starts laughing as well. I walk over to my bed and grab the DVD player. When I get back I put the left ear phone in my ear and Zed puts the right in hers.  We have to sit close together or the ear phones will come out. Zed moves her head to the left a few times and pulls the phone out of my ear. She thinks it’s funny. I guess I haven’t really noticed how Zed looks before. Her hair is jet black. There are little parts that have been braided or dread locked. Her lips seem thin but it just the paleness. With some colour they’d be pretty full. Her lashes are very long and very black. It’d be interesting to see what she looks like outside a hospital. She pulls the phone out of my ear one last time and then promises she won’t do it again. Her eyes seem like they’re completely black sometimes. When the light hits them you can see a dark brown-red ring. It’s kind of like a bottle of Coke or a pint of Smithwick’s or something.
            The next episode of Father Ted is the one where Tommy Tiernan plays a suicidal priest. I’m laughing for a while before I notice Zed isn’t. I don’t want to say anything about the scars. We’ve only known each other for a day. That’s too early to get all personal right? Zed takes out my ear phone.
            “You want to go outside for a bit? I’m getting bored man.”
            “Yeah alright.”
            It’s grey outside. It looks like it’s going to rain but Zed keeps walking further from the hospital. Eventually we stop near the morgue and sit against a fence. Zed puts a fag between her lips and strikes a match. It goes out as she brings it up. She half smiles.
            “Hold it down right?”
            “You’re learning.”
            She hands me the fag. I take a couple of drags and pass it back. Zed’s hair looks like it’s underwater. The wind is forcing it to go in every direction. I feel a bit uncomfortable but don’t know why. The sky looks like one giant cloud. The world is trapped in one massive bleak cloud. I feel tingles travel up my neck. My right hand twitches. The Xanax is wearing off.
            “I’m going to go back inside Zed.”
            “What’s up?”
            “I’m just cold.”
            “Okay man. Stall here until I finish the fag.”
            “No I gotta go now Zed.”
            She turns and looks at me. I don’t know how I look. Zed’s expression says “not very good”. I’m starting to breath heavy. It’s all coming at me now. I turn around and start walking towards the hospital. How am I going to get to the hospital? It’s ages away. It feels like there’s a cube swirling around in my stomach. My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth. I think I’m going to be sick.
            It starts raining as I reach the sliding door. The toilets are near enough to the entrance. The door opens and I head into a cubicle. I don’t know if it’s sweat or rain on my forehead. I rest my back against the cistern. Someone has written “I’m dying, how are you?” on the back of the door. My breathing is starting to slow down but my hands are still shaking. I cough and feel something catch in the back of my throat. I manage to turn around and lift the lid before I get sick. Then I’m lying on the floor. One of my slippers is outside the cubicle.
            When I get back upstairs the red haired doctor is doing the rounds. He asks me where I was. I fob him off with a lame excuse. He looks at my charts, listens to my heart beat and puts his hand on my forehead.
            “We’ll keep you in tonight again Alex. Your heart’s a bit fast. Nothing irregular just precaution.”
            He moves onto one of the oldies. I think about taking another couple of Xanax but I’m afraid the doctor will see me. The African woman is laughing loudly into her phone. The oldies all look miserable. Defeated or something. It doesn’t look right. This big African woman laughing around all these miserably wrinkled people. I close my eyes. I can’t look at this. I have no idea why. I keep thinking of Zed’s arms. Lined like a copy page. I want to cry or something. I want to get out of this ward. I feel the same as I did outside. As soon as the doctor leaves I drop some Xanax.
            Zed walks through the door. Rain water is dripping from her hair and jacket. She walks over to her bed, takes off her jacket and picks up the DVD player. She brings it over to my bed, puts one of the phones in my ear and one in her own. She sits beside me and presses the power button. The smell of wet hair glides past my nose. The red haired doctor leaves the ward and Zed rolls up her sleeve. Our forearms touch. I get a better look at her scars. She moves one of the dread locked pieces of hair behind her ear, looks at the screen and smiles.
            “This is where things get funny.”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Prose Poems

Trying something a bit different here; not quite stories not quite poems. Hmm...


I’ve seen hospitals before today. They were different. I was too: The shower head pissed on me. Red life spiralled. You pulled the curtain and saved me from the drain. Wrapped wrist bleeding, they took me away.

The itch of a healing stitch; took months to feel normal again. Patience for the patient, you saw me every day. Saw serotonin save my soul.

Dad’s depression. Ma’s anxiety. Apples grown from within the tree. Crimson branching unity.

Eight months. Your stomach still trying to kick my hand away.

Wolves at the gate
We know the smell. A stifled air stain, a strain of lust . Swift swipe dance, violent romance.
They taped my mandibles, a growling throat for rabbits and kittens. Easy to scare these creatures but harmless until they cut the duct. Red raw bliss; crunch and hiss.
Easier to entertain than we are to train. More saliva in their mouths than ours. We are different sides in the same divide. You have your corner and I mine.
Don’t worry, I’ll take my time with you. And you me. Sacrifice an ear or eye, rupture blood vessels, tear cartilage. Do whatever it takes to stay in this cage. Away from the howling animals. 

You Know It

You know it’s bad when Jim is laughing. Guy can’t spell his own name or the abridged. Like I have all day for this shit. Don’t have to be nice to the one’s can’t think right. Boss don’t mind.
Maggie’s known: village celeb. Homeless fly in a monocular web. Like I got time to think fruity, I’m off in five minutes. She points at the scones, Indian ink crucifix; Lord sticks. Act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Jim keeps laughing, Maggie keeps pointing. I’m into overtime. There but for the grace of God:
Cock off.
I kick them out. Friday night lights and all. Boss almost surprises me when he goes:
“Money’s money” 

Importance of paper

My dreams make the kind of sense howling ants make to barking cows. Giggling and gesturing with Chinese-fan fingers, Jack Nicholson walks into a bar. It’s my house, my grandmother’s, the first school and a few trees fitted together. In the kitchen I’m pouring stout. He’s got that cuckoo grin; sideways, crook tooth slant:
“Got Satzen?”
“Harp, Guinness.”
“Blackest one.”
He smiles while drinking, doesn’t even wipe his teeth and leans into my ear:
“The truth we write like badly signed checks.”

Sharp, sequenced noises help red, broken numbers say 6.45 in the only voice they’ve got.
My mind wretches up last night’s memory of a nurse, whose liquor-loose tongue told me everything:
He asked for her number. His kid went for the last operation. His wife dried eyes in the ladies. This nurse, she found some office paper, cross weaved in crease, and a twist top ball point.
Her mascara meandering downwards she spills some more before I bore.

The warm water won’t drip. In cold shave I cut myself and roll some tissue paper into white sphere soak. It doesn’t stop. This tiny wound might bleed me dry.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Chapter 5 of Milligrams

Having a really bad writing day today! Thought I had written well over seven hundred words but I'd barely scratched four. In an attempt to make myself feel better I'm putting this up. It reminds me of when I could write for extended periods of time...


            Hospitals are one of those places you don’t sleep for long. Like airports or something. There’s always some kind of weird noise waking you up. Trolleys wheeling by, machinery beeping pulses, that kind of thing. A couple of people are snoring loudly. I guess when you get used to the sounds it’s not a problem. The sun hasn’t been up long but a hospital, like an airport, doesn’t function with time. Means the sounds are always there.
            Zed’s snoring loudly. It’s not annoying but it is pretty funny. Girls are always funny when they snore. With guys you kind of expect them to snore. It’s the same way you expect them to have hair on their legs. Girls can’t fart, belly laugh or belch and they have to get rid of all the hair that grows on them. Guys can pretty much do what they want and no one cares. It’s kind of cool when a girl does do something un-girly.
            I wonder what else ma and Jess brought. I rummage through the dresser to see if there’s anything good. Socks, jocks, blah, yawn, boring. Underneath the under wear there’s something silver. It’s a portable DVD player. I take it out and rest it on my legs. I don’t open it. Either Jess brought this or ma did. If it’s ma the DVD will probably be awful. Okay...prayer time. I put my hands together under the sheets and whisper.
            “Please Great Spirit...if you are there, let whatever DVD is in this player be cool.”
            I visualise the DVD I want. I read somewhere that if you ask for something and visualise it the universe will make it happen. It might be complete bollocks but it’s not like I have anything else to do. I visualise myself watching a Die Hard film. 1, 3 or 4. I like Die Hard 2 but only at Christmas. I’m trying to visualise Bruce Willis saying “Yippie-ki-yay motherfucker”. I open the lid and there’s a blank DVD inside. The universe is being coy. I press the power button and the disk starts loading. It takes a long time, for a few seconds I think the disk might be scratched but eventually an image comes up. It’s about five episodes of Father Ted. Well played universe. This has got to be Jess’ work. If Father Ted doesn’t make you laugh you’re probably dead inside. Or a priest. By the time I’m into Speed 3 everyone in the ward is starting to wake up. Zed’s still snoring.
            Ma and Jess walk through the ward doors. Whatever way the sun catches Jess’ face, it looks like she’s wearing her old nose ring. Just a trick of the light though, Jess hasn’t worn it in years. Her and ma used to bicker about that thing constantly. I’m not sure what it is about mothers and daughters but it’s like they’re in a constant power struggle. Years ago Jess admitted to me that she only got the ring to piss ma off. Problem was: with dad in the open jail the only person for ma to bitch to was me. Everyday I’d be there in my uniform eating cereal and ma would be all “It makes her look so...common”. I’d sit down to dinner and get the “She’s a pretty girl but that ring is ruining her face”. At one point ma even said “She’s going to get pregnant Alex, I just know it”. Ma isn’t a snob, not a mean one anyway, but she hates it if me or Jess show symptoms of ‘common-ness’. Tattoos, piercings, torn up clothes, crazy hair. Anything kind of punky. Funnily enough she was right about the pregnant thing. Ever since Jess had Roger she’s become a lot less ‘alternative’. They pull in chairs and ma starts closing the curtains.
            “What are you doing ma?” Jess starts.
            “I don’t want everyone looking at us.”
            “Who’s looking?”
            “All the people.”
            Jess tuts and shakes her head. She moved back in with ma after she had Roger. Dad still had a bit of time left in jail and I was starting sixth year. I think they probably both needed each other more than they’d admit.
            “How are you Alex?” Ma puts her hand on my arm as she says it.
            “Yeah okay. Bit sore but I don’t think anything is seriously damaged.”
            “Do you want to transfer to Ely? You’re still on the card.”
            “Nah, I’m grand here. Shouldn’t be in too much longer.”
            “But the private hospital would have much better staff, better food. This place isn’t great.”
            She kind of frowns and shakes her head when she says the last bit. I see Jess turn to her. Here we go.
            “They all have doctorates!”
            “Ely is better Jess. Why have the card if we’re not going to use it?”
            “Really ma, thanks but I’m fine here.”
            “Don’t call me ‘ma’ Alex. ‘Laura’ or ‘mam’.” 
            This is probably why ma pulled the curtains. She hates if anyone sees the family in anything but a photo-shopped kind of way. See I figured out early how to handle ma. Just make it seem like she’s right or at least that you agree.
            “Mam I’m nearly better. I’d say they’ll be sending me home soon anyway. It’d be nice in Ely but probably more bother than it’s worth you know?”
            “If you think so Alex.”
            “So did you like the DVD. I put on the funniest episodes. They’re all funny though.” Jess says.
            “Yeah it’s deadly. The racism one is hilarious!”
            “Alex keep your voice down. There’s a coloured woman over there.”
            Jess starts doing bits from the episode.
            “Should we all be racists now father? The farm takes up most of me day and at night I just like a cup of tea.”
            “Good for you Father. As long as I get a go at the Greek’s. Sure they invented gayness!” I add.
            Me and Jess are pissing ourselves laughing now. I can see ma getting wound up but it’s just making things funnier. She gets up and says she’s going to get some tea. Jess waits until we hear ma’s steps down the corridor and takes some Xanax out of her bag.
            “Here I got some off Hooper. Don’t take any if they give you any meds in here okay.”
            “Yeah, no worries. I’m actually doing better than I thought in here. Not getting too bad you know.”
            “That’s good.”
            We’ve broken the mood. I ask Jess about Roger and we go over the usual trivialities but the laughter’s gone. Just regular brother-sister talk now. The curtain pulls back. Ma is standing there. She doesn’t notice me sliding the Xanex behind the pillow.
            “Jess could you give your brother and myself a moment?”
            “I just want to talk to Alex alone for a second. There’s a coffee machine near the entrance.” Ma hands Jess some coins.
            “I have money ma!”
            “Mam. Go on give your brother and I a minute.”
            Jess walks through the green curtains. She doesn’t have a whole lot of money. She’s not working now but it’s not like ma and dad make her pay rent. Ma doesn’t mean to undermine her or anything. It’s actually ma’s way of being nice. When we were kids ma would always play with us. She was really caring and huggy and stuff. When we got older and didn’t want hugs it was like she didn’t know how to treat us anymore. Jess and ma argue a lot but it’s over bullshit. When the chips are down our mother’s always the one that bails us out.
            “I haven’t seen much of you recently Alex.”
            “No, I’ve been busy doing stuff I guess.”
            “I want you to move back home for awhile.”
            I can almost hear that flat line sound. Like my heart has just stopped or something. I go to say something but ma cuts me off.
            “I’m not going to pay your rent anymore. Move home until you’re ready to go back to college. That’s it.”
            “Laura. I can’t go back home. All my stuff is...”
            “I’ll move it while you’re here. Alex I know there’s plenty you’re not telling me. Fine. But I’m not going to sit back and watch you throw the rest of your life away.”
            “I’m not throwing, I’m just...”
            “Remember Jess after the baby?”
            “Yeah but it’s not the same I’m...”
            “Please Alex. The worry between you, Jess and your father is killing me.”
            Shield breach. Ma never ever lets on that she’s worrying. The last thing I want to do is move home but I know she’s not joking about the rent. Whatever about the money, I don’t want to be another problem for her. Besides she’s got a point. I can’t keep going the way I am. I take a breath in and hold it for a second.
            “Okay. Yeah. But you have to let me call you ma.”
            Ma doesn’t realise I’m joking for a few seconds. She smiles and ruffles my hair. I feel like I’m a kid again. Jess comes back in and we shoot the breeze for a while longer. Back to the trivialities. By about eleven they decide to leave and ma draws the curtains back. I don’t feel it until they’re both gone. I can’t move home. They won’t understand when I can’t leave the house. Ma will call the mental or something. They’ll put me in a straight jacket and everyone will forget about me. I reach under the pillow to pop out a couple of Xanax. I throw them into my mouth but can’t find any water. I dry swallow. My throat feels everything.
            By the time Zed stops snoring I’m starting to chill out. The calm off a sedative is strange. The fear is there, you can feel it behind your eyes but you don’t care. Knowing that it’s there but can’t get you is reassuring. The first time I ever took a Xanax I thought “That’s it I’m cured.” I went to the doctor. Not the family one, a guy who didn’t know me. I told him I couldn’t calm down and he just handed me a prescription. It was way too easy. He didn’t even suggest therapy. He just gave me a piece of paper with Xanax written on it and said “Might need to take more than one.” So I head to the pharmacy, hand over the paper and that’s it. Just over a fiver for thirty pills. I threw two into my mouth and walked down town. Twenty minutes later I had nothing to worry about. I thought that was it. Everything was back to normal. I was in a music shop looking at the back of a Mogwai album when I started to feel nervous. I walked outside and there was this black dog lying by the door. He looked straight at me and stopped. Right in to my eyes. I don’t really know what happened I just know I had to get away from that dog. It didn’t make sense, I didn’t understand why a dog had freaked me out.
            I stood looking at the taxi’s outside Dunne’s Stores. I didn’t know if I should get one. Could I talk to a driver? I felt like if I tried to speak everything would just whimper out of my mouth. Like this whisper that couldn’t turn into words. So I’m standing there trying to figure out if I can get into a taxi when the same dog comes running around the corner. Then it’s all a blur. I just remember being inside a taxi with this Dubliner who kept saying “It’s the way things are gone” until he dropped me home. As soon as I got through the door I started crying. I didn’t even know why. I put another Xanax on my tongue and pretty much haven’t stopped.
            I get out of bed and walk over to Zed. She’s awake but still lying on her side. She’s staring into the wall. I put my hand on her shoulder and shake gently.
            “Just checking on you buddy.”
            “Leave me alone Alex.”
            “What’s up with you?”
            “Just fuck off a while would you!”
            I’m back in my own bed before I realise how confused I am. Did I do anything out of line? I should probably be nervous but the Xanax has me.
            The slippers fit well. I slide my feet into them and throw on my gown. I’m going to walk around for a while. Hospitals have that great government white and green combination. If there are two colours that accentuate boredom more than white and green I don’t know about them. It’s like a cheap ice lolly but colder looking. The hospital’s not like TV. There’s nothing happening. Just bored looking nurses walking around. They aren’t as good looking as the ones are in ER or Grey’s Anatomy or even Scrubs.
            There’s more life in the 1st floor. A few people are shooting the breeze and drinking coffee. There’s a single digit kid sitting at one of the tables crying. He keeps saying ‘shit head’. If you’re over twenty and talking to a kid who isn’t related to you I always feel like people might think you’re a perv or something. The Xanax doesn’t let me worry about it too much.
            “What’s up?”
            Hey looks up and wipes the tears from his eyes. He talks as if I should know exactly what he’s going on about.
            “I can’t beat Bowser! He’s not fair!”
            I look at his hands. He’s holding a Nintendo DS. At twenty years of age I’m probably too old to know who Bowser is. But I do. He’s the big dragon looking thing that always kidnaps Princess Peach in Mario Bros. I don’t understand why Mario doesn’t reinforce his house or something.
            “Where’s your mammy?”
            “In the ground.”
            Uh oh. Now I don’t know what to say.
            “Um, do you want me to show you how to beat Bowser?”
            I sit beside the kid and show him the pattern. All bosses have a pattern. They can be tricky to learn but once you do a game is easy. Generally the pattern is so fast that it takes a while to figure out. Especially if you’re an eight year old kid. Times like this make me think that I might like to have a kid someday. I can see us sitting down with two giant bowls of cereal watching Sunday morning cartoons. The kid would probably outgrow me by about eleven. Or I’d wind up having a girl. I wouldn’t know how to raise a girl. Whatever about being little but I’d be really stuck when she hit her teens. Boyfriend’s and night clubs and stuff. Thank god Jess was older than me.
            “So what happened to your mam?”
            “She went into the ground.”
            “Don’t worry I’m sure she’s happy wherever she is.”
            The kid shrugs and has another go at beating Bowser.
            “Okay jump here...good...now duck...wait a second. Okay now!”
            “Cool I got him! Shithead! Thanks mister...what’s your name?”
            “No way.”
            “Yeah, why?”
            “I’m Alex as well!”
            The kid seems extremely excited. I don’t know if I’m capable of getting that excited over anything. A tired looking woman of about thirty walks towards us. She brushes her fringe back with her hand and walks up to little Alex.
            “Ma his name is Alex too and he told me how to beat Bowser!”
            I stand up and shake her hand.
            “Hey I was taking a walk around and I saw your son shouting at his DS.”
            “Oh, right. Alex loves all that shite.”
            “Yeah, it was deadly ma, now I can beat Bowser!”
            “Good for you. Come on now and we go.”
            “Wait a second ma. Alex we can’t both be Alex so we have to share the name.”
            “How do you mean?”
            “We have to split it into ‘Al’ or ‘Ex’. You’re bigger so you can choose first.”
            “Between ‘Al’ or ‘Ex’ hmm... I think I’ll be ‘Ex’.
            The little guy seems happy with my decision. I smile to his mam and they both start walking away. I can just about catch the last of their conversation as they walk through the sliding doors.
            “What was it like in the ground ma?”
            “It’s a basement Alex.”
            “My name is Al now ma!”