The chalk beast lifted itself from the hillside, curious as to how ordinary people could have managed to create mighty Stonehenge. And why.
Published 'Black Mole' 1991
He went to the town because he’d heard they were shooting a horror film there and they would no doubt require several extras for the crowd scenes. He thought his bent nose would stand him in good stead.
The town lacked description. Although he knew that from all the guides, he was not ready for the churchless affair that presented itself. As he drove out of the November fogs into a crystal clear afternoon, what he noticed were the lines of identical red brick maisonettes forming a geometrical grid that even a mathematician would find boring. A social anthropologist might make an interesting study of what made the people tick who chose to live there but beyond that he with the bent nose could not hope to fathom.
The film crews were nowhere to be seen. No arc lights had been erected, no touchy lead actress putting on airs and graces, no fat man with cigar sitting in a deckchair and, above all, no crowds milling about ready to fire the castle where the horrors were lurking.
Bent Nose parked his car in what looked like the nearest to a town centre. There was a free car park (how could it be other than free?) but he decided to raw up close to a parade of shops under some penthouse flats. Dusk was drawing in as he sprung the seat-belt. He was about to open the car door where when he noticed, joy oh joy, there was indeed a pub and yes, despite the early hour appeared to be open, for tops of heads appeared to be milling about where the saloon bar windows lost their cross-hatching.
But this was peculiar. Pubs are not allowed to open for at least another hour, he said to himself.
A man evidently worse for wear at that point staggered from the western-style doors and slash-walked down the street with an incontinent pint of beer in his hand. Seeing Bent Nose’s car, the face drew closer to the window and squashed its features into a joke mask.
Damn, the car wouldn’t start! And the piss-artist was fumbling at the door-handle!
Good grief, the man was violently thumping his head along the length of the car, giving Bent Nose a feeling that if this was a horror film, he wanted to get out of it and fast!
He looked across to the pub and all the local tipplers must have been standing on tiptoes to see from the tops of the saloon-bar windows, their faces pressed hard against the glass. And they all had bent noses
Published 'Parasol Post' 1999
It was at the tail-end of Winter. The year's head snapped off in its prime. George knew they were filming today, despite the weather. He had long since watched them erect their pieces of equipment (fiendishly expensive by the look of all the electronic paraphernalia)—for weeks now. But most of the takes had proved pretty mundane.
The local town square, indeed, had been requisitioned by the film company and, at first, the grizzled folk hereabouts felt excited by the prospect—eventually, though, drifting away in twos and threes of disinterest ... and the snooty film wallahs were now left pretty much to their own devices (albeit expensive ones).
Yet George had inside information. Today the film's sex scene was to be enacted in full-frontal al fresco. How he knew this for a fact was a bit of a mystery; George was not privy to the arcane machinations of show business glitter but, somehow, whenever, wherever, he must have smelt the smoke-signals of potential smut from a spare gaffer or rogue lens-shifter (some of which crew haunted the town's bars at godawful hours of the day or night). George had subtly set himself up as a semi-insider because of his near constant attendance at film get-togethers, with his pretending, no doubt, that everybody else knew his wherewithals except the very gaffer or lens-shifter or best boy with whom he happened to be chin-wagging at the time—and a recent half-drunken natter with the clapperboard man had inadvertently served to let slip the imminence of the film's sole sex scene.
Whatever the case, George, looking, as ever, old for his age, was snooping low on the periphery of the Square one rain-threatened day towards the end of the shoot. Already the more undesirable members of the crew had soaked the paving-slabs with water which—should there be a sudden storm—would solve any subsequent continuity glitches. How a sex scene was to be enacted in the open air of a town square and how it fitted in with the rest of the film's no doubt dubious plot was neither here nor there. George shrugged. Sex was sex whatever the context. He'd get a vicarious thrill however far-fetched. In this religious neck of the woods, you see, salaciousness was not a thing to be snifffed at. A growing lad like George could do with an eye-opener or two to fit him out for the protracted philandering he'd long planned to spend doing the wide world over. He'd had enough of his mother's apron strings and the town's rather prissy females who cocked a snook rather than lift a skirt for such red-blooded studs as George saw himself fast growing up into.
He stood on tippy toes to see if anything was afoot. He could hardly see over the Director's head which was bobbing about atop a rather bulbous wobbly thing—more like a barrage balloon than a body, but never mind. The leading lady in sheer tights and shortie nightie (and next to nothing else, George hoped) was stood shivering by one of the tents. The so-called dishy hero (George couldn't help snarling as his muscly torso hove to) was later seen hovering by the chuck wagon, feasting off a local pork delicacy—wearing a silk dressing-gown more suitable for a sleek harem than a cold and wet town square in Albania. So, yes, based on this slenderest veneer of assumptive truth, George guessed that his carefully filtered inside information had not been far from the truth. Erstwhile scenes he'd spied—from this very vantage point that he'd ear-marked for his surreptitious snooping—had shown this preening leading pair done up all over with several layers of peasant wear, huge fur capes and muffly scarves and more. Something to do with the mechanics of the rather plodding plot of politics and putsch. Now, today, all was hair-trigger ready for the off, bareness being merely a few flicks of the wrist away ... and George relished catching his first tasty glimpses of uncluttered female flesh and running cream.
"Balkan's Broken-Headed Child, Day Seventeen, gratuitous Sex Scene, Take One..." shouted the clapperboard man from so close to George's head, nobody saw the punishment fit the crime. Collateral damage wasn't half of it. Sleight of left hand, not even in the running.
A scared running, followed by the ruin of rain.
Published 'Roadworks' 2003What Was It All About?
That’s what they used to ask, in the good old days. And re-reading some of my stories I can understand why they thought about asking the question. This is the answer.
The “Small Press” is a name that should sit proudly in any consciousness. And we all share the same one, said Jung. Maybe. We do not need any posh terms concocted to aggrandise the Small Press, I feel. Not because Small is Beautiful (though it is), but Small connotes unpretentiousness and art-for-art’s-sake, like writing something simply because you mean it.
A pretentious quest for unpretentiousness, then -- or vice versa?
Whatever the case, since 1986 (when I discovered the Small Press at the then age of 38 and managed to get my first story published), I have really enjoyed the ride, as I believe many others have done the same – reading, writing, being part of the publication world. And publication exists as a communal as well as corporate dissemination; we Small Pressers just concentrated on the former. After all (and this is perhaps the core point), only a microscopic percentage of the world’s population can become professional writers. A hard fact to bear?
Because of the Small Press, some of my stories managed to get into Professional outlets, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Indeed, because of technology, there is now less demarcation between the Small and the Big. As a result, I now try to edit and publish a print outlet myself. Still unpretentious, though!
The Rite of Passage of which this is intended to be a brief taste began with a story entitled ‘Padgett Weggs’ (named after a piece of music I once improvised with my kids a few years earlier); this was published in ‘Tales After Dark #2’ in 1986. And that magazine’s title gives you a definite taste of the many wild and fearless banners under which I enjoyed being published through the late eighties and all the nineties. Thousands upon thousands of them, it seems, in hindsight. A whole obsession.. (Please excuse the staccato memories – because truth comes in small doses). I am an obsessive person but I don’t try to analyse things that simply are (or were).
Invasion of the Sad Man-Eating Mushrooms was another magazine. Well, I could go on forever. ‘Roadworks’ brought my feet back to the ground, by asking me, here, today, to review these distant experiences – and this makes me realise that my head has always been in the clouds and it’s good sometimes to shrivel back the wild imaginings. Good to reconsolidate. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do in the last two years, I suppose. Retrench. Get back to Ground Zero. To Nemo.
But that doesn’t help me give you a taster. It doesn’t help me give *myself* a taster … because I’ve forgotten what it was like. All those submissions – by Royal Mail! – with countless International Reply Coupons. Combing Scavenger’s Newsletter, Light’s List, Zene etc for clues as to my stories’ destiny. A whole panoply of crazy paper chases. Contributor’s copies and Rejection Letters literally littering my doormat on a daily basis. What *was* all that about? Some manic craving for fame? Or simply a need to get my bursting creativity out there somewhere? After all, some of the magazines were probably read by only two or three people, at the most!
I meticulously recorded by hand all those submissions, then highlighted subsequent acceptances in pink, and crossed out the titles that were rejected. Some that were ‘accepted’ sadly never saw the publication (as far as I know!). But, imagine my joy when a story that I had given up hope on unexpectedly saw the light of day on my doormat in a magazine or, even better, discovered in a shop -- for sale! But, even sadder, perhaps, those stories that I celebrated being accepted never subsequently seeing publication – unless, of course, they are still in the never-ending pipeline? Have you got a story of mine that you promised to publish ten years ago? No wonder simultaneity was a forgiveable sin.
I still have sheaves and sheaves of these dog-eared lists of submission history. I also carefully typed out and maintained a DFL Bibliography of actual publications, as far as I could discover. Too long or too short, it was something I prided myself about, of course. And files upon files of weird and wonderful rejection letters from all over the world, some humorous, some, I recall, being heartbreaking. Yes, it *does* hurt sometimes. Don’t let anyone tell you different. But when I started getting various DF Lewis Specials being published (the ‘Roadworks’ one being the last of these) and ‘Best Of …’ appearances etc, it all seemed to make it worthwhile, giving the whole Rite of Passage a spurious purpose. But, really, what was it all about?
Well, it was about what it is still about. Enjoying company, going to conventions, sharing stories, supporting great magazines like ‘Roadworks’. But I did go to the edge, it has to be said. The edge of madness.
I forgot last time to mention that all the chapters now have titles. Chapter 1 was 'Awakening'. Please ask for word attachments of any chapters so that you can enjoy them.
Chapter 2 - Love
I'm not directly comparing each chapter with the old 'Of Bondlings & Blesh' chapters, but I am convinced that the new Odalisque ones are more fulsome, simply more meaty and even silkier clear.
This description I can't remember before:
At Wilfred Addal’s left hand was Captain Major Jonathan Flight, a popinjay with waxed mustachios and whose armour was embellished with ribbon and lace. He considered himself to be a ladies’ man and had often annoyed me with inappropriate attentions.
And now the famous Lord Bustain stands out from the crowd! Two separate passages:
Lord Bustain merely smiled pleasantly – a fatuous expression balanced atop his multiplicity of chins.
There were strawberries for dessert – an especial favourite of mine. On previous birthdays, I had reflected on my good fortune in being born during the strawberry season, but this year that didn’t occur to me. After dessert, Lord Bustain was inclined to linger at the table – he refilled his glass with parsnip wine and belched loudly. Without further remark to the churl, Jenna and I took the stairs leading to the family apartments.
Some important footnotes in this chapter, one about the Blood Victoria and these two:
Surrenity: a term for women pleasuring one another, sometimes – although not always – used abusively. The word stems from Surrey – the practice then being more widespread and respectable in Surrey than elsewhere. Although not considered a felony – as it had been for several decades during the Fourth Condominium of Lundin – it was generally regarded with strong disapproval in the Sixth Condominium of Lundin.
Boobly: a transgression, especially of a sexual nature.
FAVOURITE SNIPPETS IN CHAPTER
Neither did they seem to take an interest in the blood-spattered corpses of four guardsmen lying at their feet. There could be little doubt that the living guards were drunk.
There was an inevitability about this, as though the whipping had taken place centuries ago and we were ghosts doomed to re-enact it until the end of the world.
Not important, but I'd prefer a semi-colon in these rather than a comma:
perhaps twenty of them, they were difficult to count.
but it was useless, the slave was a good deal stronger than me
Lord Higate defended, Sir Garrafad attacked.
I think that
and to the right of the sewer, stinking in the summer sunshine, which flowed down the middle of the street.
might be better as:
and to the right of the sewer which, stinking in the summer sunshine, flowed down the middle of the street.
then seemed change his mind
CHAPTER COMMENT LINKS: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/06/odalisque.html
Published by Colchester Library in 'Dead-Ends' by DFL
The girl was seventeen, but she looked younger.
She was working in a bread and cake shop until her first University term began in October. I had been staring meaningfully at her for days, ever since first spotting her behind the crusty loaves and jam doughnuts. However, she had failed to meet my eyes fully: that is, until the day I attempted small talk with her.
The amount of traffic in the High Street was my chosen topic, since I always avoided broaching the subject of weather. In fact, anybody who hangs an encounter between two separate human beings upon whether the sun shines is cheating both parties. That’s because the sun is always either shining or not shining. Come to think of it, the sun does always shine, whther it’s behind clouds or not (or even when it’s night time) .
She merely smiled half-heartedly as she plopped the toasted macaroons one by one into the crinkly bag, finally crunching up the saw-edged opening into a fuse of paper. I must have purchased more bread and its accessories during that holiday than I would eat for the rest of the year. Eventually, she responded to my prattle with a willingness
I had never previously dared to expect. The voice was as pretty as the face. In many ways, the bakery overall made her body strangely sexless, yet this was an intrinsic part of her charm, having no pretensions to flaunt, keeping her goodies, as it were, done up like a surprise parcel for Christmas.
She had no choice, really, since all the girls in the shop had to wear such overalls. But the others seemed somehow more careless with their top button or had bigger busts or both. I could not see any legs behind the high counter, so comparison was impossible that far down.
The fundamental mystery centred around the fact that, whatever time of day I arrived to buy bread, however long the queue and however quick its demands could be fulfilled, I was always served by my favourite. She always seemed to be the one who had just finished serving another customer when it was my turn. Not intentional on her part, nor mine for that matter (how could it have been?), but this always happened - without exception.
And I visited the bread shop twice a day for a whole fortnight.
When my stay in the area was fast approaching its end (a particularly sunny one as it turned out, spending most of my time feeding the pigeons in the park), 11 decided to pluck up sufficient courage to ask her out.
I had debated whether to wait until the bread shop closed in the evening, and follow her home. Then, at least, I would be afforded a glimpse of her without an overall, thus, perhaps, releasing me from any desire to ask her out in the first place. However, I did not want to tarnish her innocence with any such surrepitious behaviour. That was the last thing I wanted. Still is.
So I asked her out, whilst she was still in her overall, at the optimum moment when all the other girls’ attention was elsewhere, either wielding cake-tongs or haggling with an ugly customer over cheap offers of stale bloomers.
She said yes, without vacillation, filling me with wordless excitement and, yes, surprise. During out little chats over the bread, we had never reached anything more personal than that she was due to go to University in October (so she must have been at least seventeen) and that I was on holiday, whiling away a fortnight until work started again. She probably failed to guess how old I was.
Of course, she never turned up for our date. And on the Saturday, the last shopping day for me in the area, she was nowhere to be seen behind the counter. I asked after her, but one of the brazen hussies simply shrugged her padded shoulders and said my favourite was “off sick”.
I was off sick, too, for the first few days after my holiday. The doctor said it was constipation resulting from too much starch and carbohydrates, next to no green things and lack of exercise.
As far as my emotions were concerned, they were left relatively unscarred, since, if I am honest with myself, I had been relieved she did not turn up for the assignation. Her innocence remained unsullied.
I know she exists somewhere on the face of the Earth, somewhere under sun and sky, even if I never see her again. And, because of our relative ages, this will surely be true for at least as long as I shall live. That thought unaccountably gives me enormous pleasure.