REPORT A PROBLEM
He stood upon a cold moonlit stage, recounting lost hours, piecing together fragments of dreams. His mind transported him to sunlit times, careless laughter, and a thousand golden futures. The path he'd journeyed led here, and not to the destination he'd predicted all those years ago. So many bridges burnt. Voices past and dead whispered echoes and prophecies which he'd scorned and derided. He made his own way in the world, he controlled his life, so he thought. But then, perhaps, it wasn't so cold. And perhaps, if he looked from a different angle, the moon was really the sun.
I could sense it, feel it coming closer. Terrified, I huddled in my room like some kid hiding from the monster under the bed. Curled up, I shrank beneath my bedsheets, pathetic, alone, afraid. I'd tried running away, I'd tried to strike a deal, make it go away. But every night it would return, and the torture would begin again. Pain. Unrestrained, unrelenting pain. I drank to make it hurt less, but somehow that only ever made it worse. If only I could escape it, even for just one night. But then, there's no escaping your own conscience, is there?
And there it was; the hated emblem; the flag of oppression; the Stars and Stipes. Crouching down he grimaced and carefully took aim with his rifle. The man in his sights looked proud holding his flag, his fellow invaders, desecrators, around him moving forward, their weapons at the ready. An endless horde of invaders sweeping over the tortured land, destroying homes, declaring themselves liberators as they looted, pillaged and set about enforcing a subdued, frightened population with their laws, decrees and ideas of democratic freedom. He pulled the trigger and screamed the rebel yell as the man in blue dropped.
They're bringing in identity cards, everyone must carry one. I think that's great. I mean, think of all those illegal asylum seekers who'll get caught. And it's not just for them, the police can catch criminals easier too. My friends worry about'civil rights' but I tell them; if you've done nothing wrong you'll be fine. They're thinking about making everyone have CCTV cameras in every room of their home - I think that's great; the crime it'll prevent - no more domestic violence, no burglery. My friends worry about a 'police state' but I tell them; if you've done nothing wrong . . .
"Oh my God! Oh my sweet Jesus!" she cried, her voice tremulous with emotion. "I tried to stop him. I really did." I looked down, forced myself. Twenty-three storeys, his body small, mangled on the pavement. "Why? For God's sake why?" she stepped back from the edge. "It's what he wanted - to die I mean. He wanted to end it all. I could see it in his eyes just before . . ." "I don't believe it!" I held her by the shoulders, "I know but . . ." Her body was shaking. "What are you doing?" "I can see it in your eyes too . . ."
The cold salt air stung my nostrils and I could feel lumpy sand in my shoes. Not much light left. Such a stupid bloody game. I really wished I hadn't agreed to it, but John could be so persuasive,or rather, insistant. On and on he'd go until he got his way. Ridiculous. Still, he was good. I'd counted to a hundred and off he'd gone to hide. That was three days ago. Secretly, of course I knew where he was. He was hiding down by the craggy rocks, playing with seaweed and letting crabs crawl about inside his head.
"There! I felt it again! It's you isn't it?" "No, I didn't touch you. Go back to sleep, we've an early start tomorrow, and while you're at it give me more of the duvet, I'm freezing here." "Well, stop kicking me Clare!" "I didn't touch you! Now go back to sleep!" Ow! Jesus! It touched me again - on the foot. There's somehing in the bed! Turn the light on!" "Alright, alright! God it's like being in bed with a kid. There. Now pull the covers back." "Jesus Christ! It's a bloody elephant!" "It's going to charge! Run for it! Run!"
When I was younger, I was less old than I am today. Call me a philosopher, but I can read between lines that haven't even been written yet. Self made genius and demigod that I am, I am careful and considerate enough not to condescend towards you, mere reader of words. Great men like I are not borne often, and if you are not careful, you may find yourself looking inside an empty box to find that there is nothing there! Remember; forgetfulness is only a way of remembering to forget what you forgot to forget in the first place!
She watched the last rays of the golden sunset to the accompanying music of the rustling trees and evening birdsong. One day he would return and this is where he'd find her, under their tree. His presence was still there, surrounding her, keeping her company, touching her with warm memories conceived where she now sat, waiting. She wished time would pass more quickly, speed him to her, the moment to finally be realised, and once more he would cradle her in his arms, kiss her, love her; relive the past and make the future. One day. One day. One day.
To survive. That was the all. Nothing else mattered but to be alive at the end. Victory was to watch the sunset. Victory was to feel the cold night air chill your bones and hunger stab at you in the night. To be able to look back on this moment and say "That was yesterday, that was in the past." He licked his lips in the dead silence. Then the shrill whistle, the deep "Hurrah" of a thousand men clambering forward, over the top. To survive, he thought, that was the all. He never felt the bullet that killed him.
As I watched, the old man took another swastika and swallowed it. He reached behind in the darkness and when I saw his withered fist again, it was clenching the Hammer and Sicle, the Union Jack, numerous tricolours of different nations, a Red Hand of Ulster, the Stars and Stripes,the Star of David and many, many more. One by one he put each to his mouth. His eyes were filled with pain and unspeakable agony. "What are doing?" I asked. His eyes blazed. "I am devouring hate, and when I am finished there will peace in this world."
I watched through broken mirror shards, a world that was constructed of pieces that didn't fit. A world of failed peaces. A conflagration of conflicts that paved streets with gravestones, filled the air with the ashes of children, and soaked houses with tears and blood. Such fear, rage and hate, I had never dreamed possible. The sick, the dying, the dead, were all around, their faces drawn with accusation and blame - more kindling for holocaust embracing humanity. And as the cities filled with rancid corpses, I thought: such beauty, such wonderful, heavenly sights. How can anyone say there is no God?
I believe it's bad luck to be superstitious. All that stuff about walking under ladders bringing you seven years bad luck, and always looking both ways when you cross a road - such rubbish! I for one never cross roads, I always go ungerneath them by digging a tunnel. I'll never get run over by a car that's for sure (though I was nearly crushed by one once, when my tunnel collapsed). I was thirteen on friday thirteenth and apart from being hit by that lightning bolt during the freak storm that morning, nothing bad happened to me all day long.
My clearest memory back then, is of my father as he chased his shadow around the house trying to kill it with blows from an axe. He'd shout obsenities as the axe crashed into the walls, making holes everywhere. My mother was there screaming encouragement and threatening her own shadow if it didn't behave. My younger brother had lost interest and was playing with his new friends; some dead cockroaches he'd found in the insect soup mum had cooked for us. My fiance stood watching, open-mouthed. I had told her my family were different - not crazy like her lot!
I can still hear her; pounding, pounding, pounding. Each blow like some curse nailed into my heart. The callous bitch! I cover my ears, shouting words, meaningless words to drown out the pounding, pounding, pounding, but to no avail - the reverberations continue. I long for quiet, a serene silence, or even another sound, something different faster, slower, I don't care! But there it is, the pounding, pounding, pounding - a slow measured, regulated tattoo, designed to drive me over the edge, a chinese water torture of the mind. I'm beginning to wish I hadn't buried her alive - all those years ago.
Staring into the cold, bleak night, he tried to push away the fear that knawed at his nerves. He flexed his fingers and tried to move his aching cramped muscles, no easy task in the claustrophobic turret. Around him and through him, the vibrations of the Lancaster dulled his senses, tendrils of drowsiness strangling alertness. He blinked and forced his exhausted eyes to sweep the endless night clouds that might conceal a Messerschmitt 110, a harbringer of death. A pale moon slipped from behind a silver-lined cloudbank, and his frightened, tired eyes kept staring into the cold, bleak night . . .
Let me tell you a story. This is the most amazing, wonderous, captivating story you'll ever hear. It's a story to move you to tears, make you feel the depths of your soul and take your imagination and dreams to uncharted heights. This story will change the way you see the world, other people and especially yourself. After reading this nothing in your life will ever be quite the same again. You'll recount this to your friends, family, even strangers - in fact anyone who'll listen - and believe me they will. It begins like this: Let me tell you a story . . .
‘I'm gonna commit suicide,' she said, her voice full of resolution. ‘Why? For God's sake, why?' I said. ‘ Because,' she hissed, ‘of the way you treats me, always correcting me when I say stuff wrong!' ‘I'm not that bad.' I protested. ‘Oh yes you is! Well, you've been too far this time! I'll show you!' ‘But suicide? Isn't that going a bit over the top?' She grabbed a knife. ‘No!' ‘Please don't do it!' The knife swung through the air – and stabbed me! ‘What . . .?' I gasped. ‘Told you'd I'd commit suicide.' ‘But this is murder!' ‘Oh. Sorry, I meaned murder.'
‘My God! You should really see this.' ‘Come away from the window, you're blocking my light.' ‘The army have arrived now, they're helping the fire brigade evacuate people.' ‘For God's sake, I'm trying to work!' ‘They're trying to get that poor man down.' ‘I don't care! I'm trying to think here!' ‘They've moved the fire engine closer. My God it's caught fire!' ‘Pete please! I'm not interested!' ‘Oh no! He's jumped – he's on fire too!' ‘Right that is it! I don't care about what's bloody happening outside! I've got writer's block! Do you know what that is like? Do you?'
‘What's your opinion on what's happening in Palestine, sir?' ‘Where?' ‘You know, the Gaza Strip.' ‘I don't like erotic dances.' ‘It's not an erotic dance, sir, it's a region of bitter dispute between . . .' ‘I don't care!' ‘Well, what about the political developments in Iraq?' ‘What about them?' ‘What's your view? Is the timing right for UN intervention? What about the Islamic fundamentalists? Do you think their views can be accommodated?' ‘I don't know and I don't care! Why are you asking me these stupid questions?' ‘Because, sir, you have a press meeting in ten minutes and you're the President, sir.'
‘Ten items, love, that's what it says. You've got eleven.' ‘What?' I roared. ‘ How dare you not serve me! I shop in here every fucking day.' ‘There's no need to over-react, love,' she said. ‘Over-react? You fucking bitch!' I yelled. And with that I threw my filled shopping basket at her. Then I picked up the cash register and threw that. Customers and staff were all shouting at me and I was screaming curses and threats. Then the police arrived. Then I stubbed my big toe on the cash register. It was about then I lost my temper.
‘He wasn't!' ‘He was too!' ‘He wasn't! The Scarlet Pimpernel was not in Gone with the Wind!' ‘He was! The butler keeps saying "Scarlet this and Scarlet that!" ‘No, no, no! That's Red Butler – he's this hero type And it's not the Scarlet Pimpernel it's Scarlet O'Hara, she's this femme fatale!' ‘Oh, so now Scarlet's a woman! God, you're thick!' ‘Hang on you two, as I recall Scarlet was a hero in this kid's programme; Captain Scarlet it was called. Maybe his full name was Captain Scarlet Pimpernel.' ‘Maybe there's three different Scarlets.' ‘That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!'
So then this geezer says; ‘You're exaggerating, you're always exaggerating!' So then I says; ‘Exaggerating am I? You calling me a liar then?' ‘an he says; ‘Yes mate, that I am.' So then I pushes him, an' he pushes me back. Then I punched him one an' he punched me back. Then I really lost it. I got so mad I tore me own head off and whacked him with it, then used my teeth to bite him into itsy-bitsy pieces, what I then fed to his goldfish. That's the last time he says I exaggerate, bloody lying git!
‘I've written twenty-three suicide notes.' ‘Twenty-three? Get depressed a lot do you?' ‘No, I just like writing suicide notes. They're all dramatic like.' ‘Dramatic?' ‘Yeah, sometimes I say I'm gonna jump off a tall building, or overdose on sleeping pills – that's what Marilyn Monroe did. Or drink myself to death like the Queen Mother. Or jump onto a live railway line just like Bob Marley did.' ‘Bob Marley never did that!' ‘Or gas meself inside a car like Freddie Mercury!' ‘But why?' ‘Because of my miserable childhood.' ‘What do you do with these notes?' ‘I post them to me mum.'
It wasn't really my fault the fire started, I mean I know what the police are saying, what the Fire Service are saying, what the newspapers are saying. But it wasn't my fault! Don't blame me for all that damage, for all the lives lost – it was the toaster –the toaster is to blame! I mean; I know it probably wasn't the wisest thing top do; having the toaster in my bed, under the sheets. But hey, who likes to get out of bed to have breakfast? Besides, it was lovely watching the toaster's red glow under the bed covers.
‘I don't understand, what did I do wrong? It's what she wanted. I've even recorded us on audio tape, in case the likes of you don't believe me. I've got the tape here. Put it in the machine . . . you'll see. . . Listen, you can here me asking . . . wait . . . there! She said it – plain as day: "I want to be cremated." You see, she was afraid of being buried – the thought of being alone down there in a cold, dark box- she couldn't bear the thought of that. Now what's the problem?' ‘The problem is; she meant after she had died!' ‘Ah.'
Edith walked home, the cat she'd just bought secure inside its box. Inside her overcrowded, cluttered house she let the cat out, the strong smell of cat pee hardly registering. The cat joined the others. She closed the door and made her way to another pet shop. When she'd got what she wanted Edith walked home, the cat she'd just bought secure inside its box. Inside her overcrowded, cluttered house she let the cat out, the strong smell of cat pee hardly registering. The cat joined the others. She closed the door and made her way to another pet shop . . .
You asked me do I want to be? Well, that's a pretty complex thing. I suppose our existence isn't something we've any option about. I mean we are therefore we are, aren't we. Me, I believe God's an atheist – I don't think He believes we exist or else he'd care – not just leave us all to it eh? I reckon He created the world and everything, then buggered off somewhere nicer. I bet Earth wasn't his final creation, just an experiment along the way, like a pottery maker. Then there's the other . . . what? You asked me do I want tea?
‘Iceberg dead ahead!' ‘What the hell do you mean "iceberg dead ahead"? We're flying at thirty thousand feet!' ‘Stop all engines! Man the life rafts!' ‘We're in a bloody airplane!' ‘We're taking on water! All hands to the bilge pumps!' ‘ There aren't any bilge pumps. Are you sure you passed your pilot fitness test this year?' ‘What's that you say? I can smell mutiny! Mutiny!' ‘You need to lie down, think of the passengers for God's sake!' ‘I'll hang every mutinous sea dog on this ship from the yard arm!' ‘Wait a second – your right! There is an iceberg!'
I could hardly believe my eyes when I first saw my blind date. Clumps of hair were missing, her clothes were dirty and torn and smelt of cat's piss. The slogan on her ragged T-shirt read: ‘Cock-sucking bitch!' Instead of a skirt, what appeared to be a yellow-stained towel clung loosely around her waist and hips. On her size ten feet she wore a high-heel shoe and a thick-soled leather boot. Her eye make-up was splotched and running. When she smiled she revealed crooked blackened teeth. She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever dated.
He had reached the end now. His whole life lay shattered and broken before him. Everything he'd worked for, ruined. All his hopes, his plans, destroyed forever, it had all been for nothing. It was their fault! He had given them everything they could have ever dreamed of, and how was he re-paid? With betrayal, plots, lies and deceit! Such ingratitude! But the real pain was in the realisation that he'd come so incredibly close to achieving his dream, his destiny. With tears of immense sadness, Adolph Hitler placed the gun barrel to his right temple, and pulled the trigger.
The Tip Jar