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Creative

Story: A Deal with God

He quite clearly hadn’t lived the most comfortable of lives, which I’d observed from the lack of congeniality about his appearance; countless stains and makeshift patchwork were seething across his clothing, adding to his rattled demeanour. I’ve always told myself it’s wrong to be so judgemental of those around us, but it was near impossible to not make the assumption that whoever this being might be, he was most certainly damaged. Some would say beyond repair.

As the last of the September sun bore down upon my back, making the bitter winds slightly more manageable, I’d realised that I had spent a lonesome few hours back at the campsite in which we were residing for the weekend. As boredom began to creep in and I grew increasingly uneasy with my own company, Edgar lapped around the innumerable hills that faced our camp with Pacino, our mercilessly energetic border collie, no doubt wearing themselves out in the process. I envied them for being out there, wherever there was, and enjoying the natural amenities that our weekends abode in the Dales had to offer. However, this didn’t make me any less bitter about the untimely ankle injury I had sustained just a few days before when galavanting around one of the local nature reserves with the dog.

Despite being confined to the housewife role of the campsite, there wasn’t particularly anything bad about cooking, reading and taking in the fresh air – but that was all that there was here for me. It was mightily unfortunate that I couldn’t explore as I’d wished to, but the surroundings were far too glorious for me to mind all that much. To one side we had rolling hills of various heights and shapes, then the other featured the most gemstone-blue lake I had seen throughout all of my trips here. As if that hadn’t been enough to have me feeling tranquil in my own company, it was swarming with ducks, geese and swans. Unusually so compared to our previous visits, but all the more comforting in such a way. It was refreshing to be solitary for a little while with my book, the birds and even the curious man in the distance failed to unnerve me. Regardless, Edgar adored this place far too much for me to ever consider ruining it for him.

The oddity that was also staying at our campsite continued on, pacing from tree to bush to rock and back again, all whilst mumbling to himself utterances that I had no chance of deciphering from this distance. His unbalanced character made me cautious but a large part of me sensed that he would bring me no harm. I had mused upon how he could’ve got here with nothing but his battered tent considering we were in the middle of nowhere but I suppose that for a man of his nature, then wandering on foot is no real issue. I found myself observing the man for long periods of time, often forgetting what page I had even been reading in my book as I allowed it to close itself up in my lap whilst I stared on. I was so invested in his movements. He didn’t waltz about like he was in distress but almost as though he was meditating—there was an undeniable eloquence about his movements. No matter how deranged he may have been, the man had an enigmatic presence that was hard to ignore. In more ways than one, I began to find myself frustrated and increasingly desperate to know what thoughts must’ve been surging through his mind at that moment as he continued to gracefully pace in such an unusual way.

Failing to wake me up from my trance, Edgar and Pacino had seemed to of approached camp in such a way as though they didn’t want to disturb me or the remarkable company that we had if they had even noticed him down by the lake. I had been so engaged in my observations that I’d failed to even notice them walking towards me until they’d appeared directly besides me. Clumsily, I’d also forgotten to put any food on for the pair too. Edgar didn’t fail to express his dissatisfaction at the fact.

I continued to daydream for a moment, but this time whilst looking over Edgar’s shoulder and amongst the hills again, almost as though he still wasn’t there. It must’ve been around six or seven in the evening by this point as our yellow ball of fire had changed to hues of orange, almost tangerine, that were acceptable to stare at as it continued to sink down and almost seemingly meet the earth. The sky was emblazoned with shades of pink that were as radiant as ripe fruit and once moreover, I was somewhat in awe as I took all of this in – Edgar’s unruly expression disturbing the corner of this image in which I was admiring.

‘Did I disturb you?’ He uttered, almost in annoyance but reigning his displeasure back in.

‘Oh no, don’t be silly, I was just observing our company for the evening.’ I politely remarked, having nodded behind him.

To my relief, Edgar had turned and his back faced me thus allowing me to peer around him so I could continue staring too. Yet, within our momentary exchange, the creature’s demeanour had transformed into that of something completely foreign to what I had been observing prior to Edgar’s return.

His awkward yet innocuous manner before had become that of pure fury and rage. He swung for the branches of the trees violently – disturbing the still scene painted behind him of the sun setting amongst the pomegranate-pink sky – as if they were limbs which he chose to tear from their sockets; running back and forth from the water, kicking it in a frenzy and drowning whatever he’d manage to take. We stared for a while, unsure of how to deal with someone so strange looking and now, strange acting, as he began to curse at the sky and engage in seemingly nonsensical rants. Many could assume this was the product of mental illness or some sort of ritual and attempted to leave him to it, moving themselves as far away from the scene of his crime against nature as much as possible, but before I could even suggest so, Edgar succumbed to his own masculinity, choosing to call the man over and intervene.

It came as a shock to me that this maddened being had stopped in its tracks without hesitation when Edgar called, and what shocked me even more, or perhaps enlightened me, was his response to our query about his anger. The man’s behaviour subdued again as he approached and gentle as ever, petted our dear pup and smiled at us both, revealing the most perfect set of teeth. My facial expression was perhaps more disturbed than it had been throughout the entire trip at this – the care in which his teeth had been granted unnerved me when compared to the state that his clothes were currently in – and I think he caught on to my surprise as he began to explain himself.

‘It’s unexplainable. Perhaps… it could be a control thing. Nature leads us to think our surroundings are so poetic, swarming with beauty and mystery. We are misled into thinking nature offers us a distraction and serenity. Yet, all we do is find ourselves tangled within its knots.’ He stared at my ankle now, elevated on the camping chair in front of me, almost as though he knew of the unpleasant fall personally.

‘Nature forces us to relish in our demons, to hate who we are. Yet, no matter how much we rage, nature rages stronger and stronger until… well… that’s it. But I refuse to let it.’ He paused to take a breath and continue pampering our spaniel for a moment.

Me and Edgar exchanged a concerned glance for what might come next as the entire interaction became more unnerving. Perhaps the first mutual feeling we’d had in months. I stifled a giggle at the thought and turned back to the situation at hand that was unfolding. There were no mumbles or fury like before, but well-spoken English and a strong southern accent, yet before we could really try to summon up a reaction to the man himself, he’d beat us to it.

‘We can all be a God if we try hard enough.’

And with that, he had sent dumbfounded looks across our faces as he descended on hurriedly packing up his tent and walking away almost as though we’d disturbed whatever he had been embarking on just moments before. The mood had changed for the evening and the colour of the sky transformed from admirable pink tones to a deep purple, then to a black speckled blanket above us as we continued to sit in silence and wonder what we’d bore witness to that evening. A part of me felt like I certainly could’ve had an encounter with God, with the abnormal sense of awe I had been feeling, but really it had appeared to me that this was nothing but a man with unfinished business.

Categories
Creative

Story: Laureate of an American Lowlife

A short story dedicated to the life of Charles Bukowski. Based on the following writing prompt: Strangers at a bus stop, trying to mind their business, are persistently engaged with by a chatty, seemingly homeless, man.

The ridicule that came alongside refusing to follow the values which society held was what demoralised him. He didn’t mind the fact that he was different to those who surrounded him, but he did mind the fact that there was little justice for the creative; there was no stability or safety for the ones who were deemed to be weaker.

He spent most of his lifetime expecting to be adored, with smiles in his direction and hats tipped towards him as he graced the streets, but little did he know that his only friendship would be with a bottle; occasionally, a decrepit typewriter. He didn’t see the problem with drinking. If something bad happens, you drink to forget; if something good happens, you drink to celebrate; and if nothing happens, you drink to make something happen. Whilst sobriety coats his mind for a little while longer, he wonders if that’s how he got here – finding his only solace at a cramped, communal waiting area. Things were bad and really, they were boring. As much as he tried to form an ordinary life and earn an unremarkable wage, there was no comfort to be sought out in the routine nine to five.

Many regulars were confused by his placement. He was never without a bottle and never in his life had he thought to groom his face or his hair. His shirt nipped at his armpits whilst revealing the underneath of his ample stomach – presumably from all the bottle-contents he happened to consume during his rounds of people watching. Many found his face hard to look at, bulbous and grotesque; some found him comparable to the Hunch Back of Notre Dame. He begged to differ. He thought that he was handsome, a treat to every lady that saw him. They all desired him, but this was only after he’d had his third bottle.

He never boarded the bus, but he still chose to stand around for hours on end making pathetic and occasionally resentful chatter when he had the chance. They all thought he was entirely demented, but little did they know that they were speaking with a genius. A respectable man; that’s what he thought.

“You all just blindly grab at whatever there is!”

This wasn’t uncommon. Something was brewing inside of him that wanted to escape. Whilst a few would hope he’d stop wandering and leave, many knew that this was the start of his usual ‘fuck you’ to the world. Particularly those who stared him down up until this point, wondering why this filth wasn’t eradicated already.

“Communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Buddha, Christ, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporates and falls apart. People must find things to do while waiting to die! I guess it was nice of me to have a choice!”

Nothing out of the ordinary. After his first bottle, bitterness consumed him once again. His art was his craft, and nobody appreciated him then – as a failing writer – and nobody had a care in the world for him now, as the maniacal preacher. He found this to be his fuel, the fire in his loins that graced him during these outbursts and the reactions he summoned motivated him. Fear was evoked in many of the women surrounding him, just wishing to make their way to work on time. The stares weren’t enough to make him leave but rather, enough to make him want more stimulation.

“Your eyes – they’re beautiful. They’re wild, crazy, like some animal peering out of a forest on fire.”

This was the first time he’d warmed up to a lady in a few days which seemed to be a surprise to those who where regular to the stop. He frequented the women with aimless flattery most mornings and many evenings, none of which was ever reciprocated. These compliments shrouded in fakery where the only times that he softened his voice. He hated women. He didn’t want to, but they didn’t like him, so he hated them. Just as much as he hated everything else.

Nobody knew that once upon a time, his antics and deliberate clownish performances had once made him the king of an underground scene where ladies worshipped his words and men wished to bow down to him. He was a loyal man and up until his presence had been forgotten and his art form failed. He was a cordial man.

Now, all that he did was act as litter to a public space and persist that those who dared look at him were subordinate. He found them to be fools for not having a literary appreciation and even more so for not wishing to hear his poems or lyricisms.

“Oh, what! You don’t like the word cunt?”

Perhaps his most vile outburst to the crowd that gathered, nobody quite understood the gritty, darkened truth behind his magic. Nor did he, anymore.

Little did they know that he resided in a shed with his few clothes, his empty wine bottles and typewriter. He had a bed, not habitable by a human but fit for a monster. As his career went down in flames, his passion for alcohol soared with it. Everything that came from his mind was in a disarray, cluttered with profanities and vexation – the commoners at the bus stop didn’t want to hear it and neither did L.A. anymore. The underground had no time for him and whilst he looked for his ammunition from a bottle at a local bus stop each day, he remained an outsider.

Who would want to be such an asshole?