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Monday, 3 November 2008
Hailing Helene






‘Look at this way,’ said Carol. ‘How many among our circle can honestly say that a world-famous actor has seen our tits? You should feel proud.

            ‘It was embarrassing,’ said Helene.

            ‘You’ve told me that. But what you haven’t said is… what does he look like in the flesh. Face lift?’

            ‘He’s only thirty-seven!’

            ‘But a world-famous actor,’ Carol reminded her.

            Helene smiled. There was absolutely no point in declining to humour Carol. ‘I saw no evidence of a face lift,’ she said. ‘He smelt of tanning lotion. Can I have one of those?’

            ‘Help yourself.’

            Helene reached for the smokes on the coffee table. She lit it up.

            Carol was still pontificating on the coincidence. ‘Of all the tits on that beach… which was how many, do you think?’

            ‘Pairs or individuals?’ asked Helene.

            ‘A thousand? Two? He came to you, Helene. You had a draw.’

            ‘I had a watch,’ Helene corrected. ‘He wanted to know the time, remember? He didn’t want to be late to Communion.’

            ‘So that funny little quirk of yours paid off.’

            ‘It’s not a quirk. It was Mike’s watch. I never take it off.’

            ‘And that’s got nothing to do with wanting to show off your tan and your story when you get back from somewhere.’

            Mildly annoyed by the suggestion, Helene took her time exhaling a bridge of smoke up towards the expensive light fixtures. She noticed a tiny spider in the corner of the room. ‘If it was just a tan I was after I could have gone to the HeartLines Club. You know why I went.’


Tit-tock, tick-tot… Helene remembered his voice. It didn’t sound at all like the one he used on the screen, when he was that gigantic figure, looming. It was brittler, squeakier. On cinema walls he was a guttural guru that could brown-nut any female into bed.

            And as for being late to Communion… Communion with whom, she was bound to wonder. Or with what? Mike had always said that famous people didn’t exist at all except in the dreamed-of optima that their fans (as a force) brought into being with the strength of their admiration. Their fans created every bottom morsel of these beach-strutting beasts. Then again, Mike had always had too many words in his head. Often the wrong ones, too.

            A watch being a ‘quirk’, however, was not a settled issue.

            ‘Everyone wears watches,’ said Helene, as she watched the spider turn into a speck of shadow above the pelmet. ‘Why would he claim to use a watch as an excuse to get a closer look at my tits?’

             ‘It wasn’t just any watch, was it?’ said Carol. ‘It was Mike’s. The one he wore when he was killed. The one he was wearing when every damn bone in his body was broken. The one that’s still in one piece…’

            Helene couldn’t stand the memory. ‘You have the sensitivity of a baboon sometimes,’ she said.

            Carol shrugged. ‘So when are you seeing him again?’ she asked.

            Helene laughed. ‘You tell me. You’re the one thinks I’ve got a draw.’


The holiday in Greece had been over for four days; Helene’s apartment had welcomed her back with the mildly satisfied air of a pet left too long. When she’d punched in the security code and the computer had said, ‘Welcome back, Helene,’ she had thought that Charlie’s voice sounded surly. Well, so be it; she was entitled to carry on living her life. Wasn’t that what her friends had been telling her since the accident? You’ve got a life to lead…

The pampering had done Helene some good but in truth, not as much as she’d hoped; however, she’d known that staying in England on the anniversary of her husband’s car crash wasn’t an option. She had dreaded the phone calls. With the best will in the world her friends would have rung to make sure that she was okay. ‘How are you feeling?’ So she’d taken up the invitation of a cut-price deal, based on points earned on her credit card.

Meeting the actor Stuart Fox had been a bonus.

            The day after the encounter on the beach, Helene had returned to a spot as close as possible, with her towel, her small coolbox of sodas and cigarettes, her lotion, her paperbacks, her shades. The sea was noisier and more playful. She used a phone to send a ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcard to Carol, to Tina, to Beverley and Dot. She’d finished her paperback by mid-afternoon, and still there had been no sign of Stuart Fox.

            Even now she was unsure of what her motives had been. Why had she wanted him to come back to her to ask the time? She had sought no male company in the year since her bereavement, although the offers had been hers to take up; so why now, on the anniversary? It wasn’t for physical reasons, she was certain of that; it wasn’t a pair of hands or a mouth she longed for. Nor was she aware, particularly, of an emptiness to be filled. She was happy; or what passed for happy when you’d become an amputee.

            With her favourite part of the day approaching (the late Greek afternoon, a cooling relaxation of the sun’s rays, the prospect of cocktails before her hotel meal) she had tied on her pink bikini top. She had packed up her belongings, leaving the book in the sand for another reader or the tide to claim. She stood up.

            ‘Hello again,’ said the voice she had been waiting for.

            The voice had grown deeper overnight. The timbre carried echoes, in keeping with a small art cinema’s sound system, if not yet that of a gigantic amphitheatre … or of a vast auditorium where some films were projected on to curved screens, particularly in the old days of cinema-going which Helen’s mother once told her about – where couples went for the stolen kisses, rather than a religious following of the plot on the wall.

Fox’s multiplex muscles – within the skin sculpture that his swimsuit revealed – enticed her into a physical longing she hadn’t encountered since Mike’s death. She had endured months of nightmares … seeing Mike’s body painstakingly amputated piecemeal by black-masked surgeons who apparently tried to save his life when it was obvious he was dead: carefully removing the still ticking watch for the victim’s nearest and dearest. Every bone was shattered into thousands of comb-teeth. And such dreams had prevented Helene’s recuperation towards a normal life.

‘Been to Communion?’ Helene blurted out, regretting it almost immediately. She recalled Charlie’s voice on the computer. At least, with that, everything was pre-programmed and any gaffes could be blamed on bad servicing. Human interaction was accident-prone. She wished she still had her breasts on show; she wanted to believe that the actor had returned to find them again. What else was he here for?

She shrugged as she recalled all this – later told in an expurgated version for Carol, amid the spidery smoke of a coffee morning … and even recited it for Charlie, who was a useful sounding-board even though Helene knew computers couldn’t really follow stories told to it. Charlie even made a mess of answering doors and often mistook her arms (and other parts of her body) for things they weren’t. It was all in the tickertape the printer spewed forth even when Charlie wasn’t switched on. Words she’d rather do without.

‘No, the priest has had an accident, and they couldn’t get a late replacement,’ answered Fox. He smiled the most gorgeous smile, as if he had waylaid the priest himself, simply to lengthen the time available that day for titwatch. ‘Would you care to dine with me?’ he asked.

Surprising herself, Helene said, ‘I would.’


Late into the night, she was awoken by a dream in which a squirrel berated her for displaying her assets too gladly; as he did so, he chewed patiently on a telephone cord. The squirrel strolled to the minibar with a disapproving frown on his face: they were in her hotel room. The lights were emitting the soft scents of cologne and orange peel.

            Naked, Fox was standing at the window. He had left her side to answer his mobile phone. Moonlight did even better things to his physique than the sun did. He was like a statue, impeccably worked upon.

            ‘Sure, baby,’ she heard him say. A black elevator toppled, cable-cut, down the ladder of her spine. ‘In the morning. Sure.’

            Helene listened. She strove to be rational. What else had she expected? Undying love? A proposal of marriage? It was dinner, Helene, she told herself, and then a lonely time of skin and breaths. It was exercise.

            ‘And by the way, Leon’s full of rain,’ said Fox.

            Pulling the bedclothes up to the birthmark on her clavicle, Helene tried to understand this; to replace the key words with homophones. It was like a card-trick, played over and over, with the conjuror unable to retrieve the expected card. Helene felt thwarted and sleepy. Perhaps she could close…

            ‘Cheers. Ciao. Sayonara.’

            Fox snapped his mobile shut. The statue made it over to the bed.

            ‘You awake?’ it asked.

            ‘Yes. Who was that?’ A small voice; a begging voice.

            ‘My girlfriend. Are you angry?’

            ‘Why isn’t she here with you?’ asked Helene.

            ‘You are angry.’


            Fox sighed. ‘She’s filming in Finland: a comedy. “The Kung Fu Kings of Helsinki.” She’s working with Adam West. He used to play Batman.’

            ‘I don’t give a fuck what he used to play,’ said Helene, rolling over.

‘Don’t be like that.’ Fox wriggled back into bed. Schmoozed closer to her backbone and backside. ‘We’ve got a lovely thing going here…’

‘Oh, please…’ said Helene.

She heard him smile. ‘Where were we?’ he wanted to know.

‘I was asleep and you were just leaving.’

‘I’ve just arrived,’ said Stuart Fox.


It was Thursday – the day on which the women got together. They called it the weekly hen party, and this time it was Dot who had booked the restaurant. It was called ‘The Angel Spike’ and it was busy to the point of discomfort. It was noisy and it smelt of fairy-tales. A great sea view, though.

            Helene wanted to talk about Fox. She wanted to confess, even though – rarely and unusually – only she and Carol and Dot had been able to make the appointment. Not that discussing a man was ever far from the agenda.

            In Helene’s experience, the hen parties were always about cock. The women laughed and shouted till the barstaff started flicking the lights on and off – a subtle way of informing them that it was time to leave. Then they’d repair to either Dot’s or Helene’s place. Dot’s two men, her husband, Frank, and her toddler son, Jimbo, were very understanding. Helene’s Charlie always kept a stern ear on the proceedings, and informed them softly if their decibelage was becoming a problem that the neighbours would notify her about in the morning. Only Carol’s other half, a lugubrious Swissman named Jack, was a party pooper. So they didn’t go there. They would talk into the early hours: this was the beauty of all being self-employed. A lie-in on Friday was acceptable. So they chatted until the broad dawn forsook its debt to night and waggled its central star – the sun – upon the unsteady horizon. They eventually tottered home, hoping they’d reach their beds to mask the sun’s promise of regret. Regret about the gallons of drink. Regret about the tawdry jokes. Regret, most of all, about the way their tongues had treated men. ‘Stuart Fox,’ Helene was saying, buoyed up by booze. ‘His best communion was not a pellet of bread amid the red wine… More a white tube.’

            The others screamed with laughter. Helene’s imagery was frightful, but quite acceptable amid the squawks and the phlegmish fizz they’d imbibed.

            ‘He was better than the best movie wall…’

            She’d meant moving wall. The ground had shifted beneath her. Sex had been a sonic boom, one that would have been no disgrace to the outset of a new war, a modern war, with weapons of sex and greed at its disposal.

            Then her words dried up. She was thinking of Mike. Not only had his watch survived the crash, but so, amazingly, had his car. His bone-shattered and bleeding body had been removed from the still perfect vehicle, all silver and chrome, with its unbent side mirrors, unbuckled wings, and unruptured tyres. Embedded in the central reservation, but more or less the same vehicle that had come off the production line.

            ‘Jackal find you,’ said Dot to Carol.

            A split second passed. Then Helene fielded the question. ‘What did you say, Dot?’

            ‘Jack’ll find her. If we don’t get our skates on, he’ll come looking.’

            ‘Oh, let him. I thought you said something about a jackal. And you’ve just reminded me of something else Fox said. Something about Leon being full of rain; I don’t think I imagined it.’

            ‘So?’ asked Carol.

            ‘Well, what’s it supposed to mean?’

            ‘Lyon is a town in France,’ said Dot.

            ‘I know. But why would he be saying that in the middle of the night to his girlfriend? And isn’t the phraseology a bit wonky? Why not “It’s raining in Leon”? How can a town be full of rain?’

            Carol shrugged. ‘You probably did a ‘jackal’ there. He said something else. You heard him wrong.’

            ‘I don’t think so.’

            ‘Dot’s right. It’s time for us to leave.’ They were at Helene’s apartment. When they’d gone, Helene looked out of the window. The sun was smeared all over the river and the refinery in the distance. Helene collapsed into a heap on the bed, recalling the things she’d said … and the things she’d thought to have said, and may well have said. The bedsprings creaked.

            The telephone rang.

            ‘Would you like me to get that for you?’ asked Charlie.

            ‘No, it’s okay. Hello?’

            ‘Hi. I hope it’s not too early for you,’ said the male voice.

            ‘No it’s fine. Stuart?


            ‘How did you…?’

            ‘Detective work, Helene. There aren’t too many people with the surname Incunabula.’

            ‘I suppose not. What do you want?’

            ‘To see you.’

            Helene snorted. ‘What would Missy say?’

            ‘We have an understanding.’

            ‘Well I don’t. I’m just about to go to bed, Stuart.’

            ‘Can I join you?’ he asked. ‘Just for cuddles.’

            When it came to cuddles, for Helene the word ‘just’ was inappropriate; they were easily as erotic as oral sex or dirty mumbles in her ear. But this wasn’t what struck Helene about Fox’s sentence. ‘Where are you?’ she asked.

            ‘Downstairs. Tail between my legs.’

             ‘They wouldn’t give you that information over the phone. How did you find me?’ She didn’t know if she felt frightened or cheap.

            ‘I took a look at your business card while you were sleeping. Sorry.’

            ‘You went through my bag?’ Helene sounded incredulous.

            ‘Guilty. Again,’ said Fox. ‘Can I?’


She’d never been the other woman before, or at least not to her knowledge, but Helene quickly learned that it wasn’t a bad state of affairs. Charlie admitted Stuart Fox and informed him that Helene could be found in the bedroom. She was: asleep. After a few hours, when she’d woken up and showered, she apologised for her bad manners.

            ‘It’s the greatest compliment you could have paid me,’ said Fox.

            ‘What was? Falling asleep?’

            ‘Shows you’re relaxed in my company.’

            Helene shrugged. ‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. You got undressed to join me in bed, I noticed.’

            ‘I was wearing Armani. They don’t make pyjamas.’

            ‘And you undressed me.’

            ‘Of course. You’d have been too hot. It’s like a sauna in here.’

            ‘I don’t like being cold.’

            ‘Were you cold?’ asked Fox.

            ‘No. It’s the presumption I don’t care for, Stuart.’ She was holding onto a sensation of having been wronged, but for the life of her she couldn’t locate the source of her discomfort. If anything, she felt flattered; not that she enjoyed admitting this to herself, however.

            ‘No. You didn’t feel cold to me either.’

            ‘Stuart, please…’ Helene couldn’t help but reflect her new boyfriend’s smile; it was contagious. ‘What do you want for breakfast?’ she asked.

            ‘Soft boiled eggs,’ Stuart replied.


That day Stuart made Helene feel like an adolescent, and gloriously so: clumsy in love, nervous. He took her somewhere she hadn’t been to in thirteen years: the zoo. They fell in love with the wolves. They chattered to the cockatiels; they petted the baa-lambs. They had coffee outside, in the rain.

            Towards the end of the afternoon, they shared a pizza in front of the fire. Watched the news. Had cigarettes. Made love in the Weather Room, Helene having chosen a Greek climate and scene from Charlie’s vast repertoire. She held him in her palm as he detumesced. She toyed with the crop circle of semen on her left hip with the forefinger of her free hand.

            ‘I have to make a phone call,’ Stuart announced suddenly.

            ‘To who?’ Helene couldn’t fight back the intonation of jealousy.

            ‘To Missy.’

            ‘I see. I thought you had an understanding.’

            ‘She worries.’

            ‘With good reason! How many other women are you climbing into bed with, Stuart. She worries? I worry!’

            ‘I love you, Helene; you don’t need to worry.’ With which Stuart stood up and returned to the bedroom. Helene felt cold.


            ‘Yes, Helene.’

            ‘More heat, please. And listen in on the call, would you?’

            ‘Certainly, Helene.’


Stuart had to fly back to Greece: he was filming tomorrow. As soon as he’d walked out of the door, Helene said, ‘The phone call, Charlie.’

            Static bloomed and bristled. Missy’s voice was all but indistinguishable, regardless of how high Helene turned up the volume. But Stuart’s voice was clearer, even if his meanings were lost.

            ‘It’s snowing in Elise,’ he had said. ‘Conditions are favourable in Patricia and Simone. Transmission ends.’

            ‘Charlie, did you see where he went?’ asked Helene.

            ‘He got into a taxi.’


            ‘It would seem so, Helene.’

            She paused. She already knew what she was going to say; she was thinking about a subtle way of putting it. She said, ‘Charlie? Charlie, if it ever came out that I asked you to do this I’d have to deny it. You understand that.’

            ‘Yes, Helene. You want to know where he went.’

            ‘Yes. Can you trace the route?’

            ‘Of course. It will take a few minutes.’ At which Charlie fell silent. The room yawned open to receive Helene’s breaths. Of a sudden, the apartment that she’d specifically chosen for its spaciousness and variety seemed cavernous; Helene wondered if she’d developed agoraphobia. Sure enough, her mind was in a muddle. With Stuart gone, Helene wondered who had actually come. With the ease of Charlie’s catch-all retention of the small matters in life, even ones he hadn’t witnessed for his electronic self, she thought she heard the computer say:

            <<Carol shrugged. ‘So when are you seeing him again?’ she asked.>>

            Not just the words Carol had spoken but the surrounding omniscience of someone who was still in charge of her life.

She shook her head. She needed some more sleep.

‘Helene?’ This was Charlie, but Charlie in realtime.

‘What have you got? Which terminal?’

‘He didn’t go to the airport, Helene…’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Quite sure,’ said Charlie. ‘I tapped into the HandyCabs banks. A driver called HD987 picked up a Mr Smith outside this building. The rearview cam logged his profile, Helene; it was Stuart Fox.’

‘And where did he go?’ Helene asked, not sure that she wanted to know. She was hugging her knees to her chest; she was sweating.


To chapel? thought Helene again and again on the journey. At this hour?

            Her thoughts turned unexpectedly to Mike. She recalled the mechanic who had inspected the crashed car with the wisdom of those who had knowledge in their hands and could mend anything, except here there had been nothing to mend. ‘It’s a miracle,’ he’d concluded.

            Helene had glanced into the vehicle. At the sight of her husband’s body, lacerated and torn – with pieces of bone now sprouting through the skin, and with one eye displaced and hanging by a spermy thread – she had begged to differ. I want his watch, she could remember thinking.

            And now? Was Stuart Fox playing Mike’s role… or vice versa? Tears came to Helene’s eyes as she watched a giant man-shape move on the inside wall of her head, like a distantly projected silhouette that wavered between a spider and smoke. Helene pulled her cigarettes from her bag.

            ‘No smoking, please,’ said the robot. Helene ignored the command. She wanted to go further still, she realised: she wanted to remove her top.

Sighing gently, she lit her cigarette and relished the taste.

            At the Church of St Nathaniel the Decisive, she disembarked. For his trouble and his ongoing silence, the driver was paid and handsomely overtipped. Clutching her bag into her armpit, Helene entered the church.

            Stuart’s first lie was immediately obvious. He was no more a punter, a parishioner, a worshipper, than she herself was. White-smocked, like a portrait artist of tourists, he was standing on the stage with a microphone in his hand. His face was fiery with passion and raised blood.

            ‘And ask yourselves, people, how much can your Jesus do for you!

            The congregation was about twenty-strong. Most of them had their heads bowed, and Helene – at the back – was reminded of sheep in line for a branding, or a slaughter. She could smell the fear. Unless it was adulation…

            ‘So open yourselves up!’ Stuart shouted. ‘Receive the visitors into your hearts! Come on, people! Show me your souls! Show me!

            What the hell is going on? thought Helene, stepping forward.

            Making a show of it, Stuart now pinched his temples with both hands. He was shaking his head. ‘I can still see bad weather inside some of you,’ he said. ‘And they won’t come down if they don’t see blue skies! Incorporate our friends. Let them in! Let ‘em in, people! The sooner, the better…’

            Helene felt sick.

            Stuart noticed her in the aisle. With a leer that had been born as a grin, he pointed. That long, slender finger had touched her skin; parted her lips and tasted her tongue. That long slender finger had unfolded her leaves and played inside her body. Helene felt worse.

            ‘And you, Helene!’ Fox roared. ‘There is hail inside you! Calm your skies. Join the welcoming committee! Rejoice!’

            The scene was cast like a sunset inside Mike.

            Had he welcomed someone into his broken china pieces? Had they spooned him from the undented car, full of hope for a new beginning?

            ‘Join us!’

            Several of the congregation had looked up. Some were nodding their heads, as if fearful of speaking out of turn but keen to impart the wisdom of full compliance. Join who? Helene wondered.

            ‘I’m only the first,’ Stuart said. ‘The missionary, the pioneer!

            ‘I’m going home,’ said Helene.

            ‘No you’re not!’ Stuart Fox promised. ‘Your temperature’s rising.’

            The air inside the chapel was confused. Eddies of electricity were now crackling, visible only as heat haze, as distortion. A multi-coloured Jesus in a sari, window-bound, was writhing in the haze like a limbo dancer, warming up. Prayer books were flapping in the gale that was picking up from the direction of the stage. Stuart was still grinning.

            ‘Your hail is melting! You are learning to accept!’

            ‘It’s not true,’ said Helene, childlike, birdlike… Murmurs and rumbles,  not of the congregation’s making, could now be heard; all around the building, the walls were alive with images of flames. Rabbits looking peaceful bounded joyfully, although their ears were ablaze. Squirrels chatted to acorns that resembled cartoon bombs: the black ball, the fizzling string.

            ‘Admire me, love me,’ said Stuart, leaning backwards.

            The breaking of eye contact was all that Helene needed. Turning on her back foot, she made a break for the door. She hoped that she’d asked the taxi driver to remain where he was. She couldn’t remember. Her internal organs felt feverish; at first she assumed that she badly needed the bathroom.

            ‘You’ll be back!’ Stuart shouted. ‘People, they always come back…’

            Helene flung open the door.

            ‘Let us pray,’ said Stuart. Helene imagined him bowing his head. Outside, the driver had gone and the sun was now packing a wallop. She didn’t know what felt worse: having escaped and now being ignored, or the thought that being loved was a true and fresh mystery each time.

            She consulted her watch. As if that had anything to say.

Posted by wordonymous at 6:25 AM EST
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Unread Story


Posted by wordonymous at 6:22 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 21 April 2012 3:31 AM EDT
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Three Suns For Yesterday



DF Lewis & Jeff Holland

<P>EVENTUALLY TO BE PUBLISHED IN A COLLECTION OF DFL COLLABORATIONS: <A href="http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/long-term-project-to-find-an-independent-publisher-for-a-selection-of-my-collaborations-from-yesteryear/" data-mce-href="http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/long-term-project-to-find-an-independent-publisher-for-a-selection-of-my-collaborations-from-yesteryear/">http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/long-term-project-to-find-an-independent-publisher-for-a-selection-of-my-collaborations-from-yesteryear/</A> (26 Sep 12)</P></FONT></o:p></SPAN>

Posted by wordonymous at 5:46 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2012 6:00 PM EDT
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Sunday, 2 November 2008
'Odalisque' by PF Jeffery (DFL's commnts)

Chapter 17 - Whorlets


Some interesting explanation regarding the menorhythmic properties of red swill as a foodstuff, with time itself speeding up then slowing again after this passage:


After – I think – my fourth period at the Laughing Phallus, Madame Scurf made another trip to market, returning with a fresh batch of whores.  A heat wave was rendering our work stickier and more uncomfortable than ever.  The passage of weeks and months had dissolved into a blur, but to judge from the weather, it must have been after my twenty-fifth birthday, perhaps the end of Glarehaze or the beginning of Thunderhead. 


Tuerqui continues to learn that nothing lasts forever - and we are cleverly and subtly given the sense of human enjoyments and pains being part and parcel of some underlying rhythm beyond their control. Tuerqui has now dual poignant pining between the generations, too:


Tuerquelle, my mother and I were – in all probability – now three generations in Surrey slavery.  My daughter had never entirely left my thoughts, but concern for any member of my family inevitably led me to focus more strongly upon her.  The dull ache of separation was, at its lowest ebb, a numbness.  Now, the pain was sharper.


The artful 'Popper Jasper' footnote gives telling perspective (from a more distant future) to Tuerqui’s character: just another way of conveying the rhythms of time.


Another choice snippet:


A succession of the youthful vets – or trainee vets – continued to examine me every day, except while I was bleeding.  Presumably, had I contracted an infection, they would have noticed.  As Chillflurry progressed, my breasts became less uncomfortable.  This – following my period – came as a further relief, although the idea of pregnancy had been alluring as well as alarming.



On the whole, I prefer the ‘whorelets’ spelling to ‘whorlets’.  I was taken aback when I saw the Chapter heading, but I must admit I grew more accustomed with the repetition of ‘whorlets’ throughout the chapter.


I much prefer ‘loveable’ to ‘lovable’.


The eyes of the customers – and my fellow whores – upon me as I acted was a prospect that made my stomach churn.

Should that be ‘were’ not ‘was’?




Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.


 On this site, if you want to leave comments all you need do is type 'nospam' in confirm box and your name.


The links to all Chapter comments by me are here: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/06/odalisque.html




Posted by: newdfl on 8/6/2008 11:27:42 AM , 1 comments

Submitted by Pet at 8/7/2008 5:33:33 AM

It's good, once more, to see quoted material new to the final stage of revision. It helps reassure me that late work on the novel was worthwhile.

On your queries, I've compromised on "whorlets" and "loveable". I've retained "whorlets" thus, but changed "lovable" to "loveable".

"Was" agrees in number with its object ("prospect"). It does not agree in number with its apparent subject -- "eyes". I suppose the beginning of the sentence actually means "The (prospect of the) eyes..." with the bracketted words understood, rather than stated. Indeed, without those words (or similar) understood, the sentence makes little sense. An eye is not a prospect! So -- "was" agrees in number with what the subject actually means. Whether I should have left the missing words understood, but not stated, is an open question.

Posted by wordonymous at 7:48 AM EDT
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Monday, 6 October 2008
Cerne Zoo
The chalk beast lifted itself from the hillside, curious as to how ordinary people could have managed to create mighty Stonehenge. And why.

Posted by wordonymous at 8:00 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 October 2008 8:03 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 2 September 2008
The Extra

                   THE EXTRA      

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








Posted by wordonymous at 8:44 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 20 August 2008
Fit Of Punishment

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.





Posted by wordonymous at 8:50 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2008 8:55 AM EDT
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Thursday, 7 August 2008
What Was It All About?

Published 'Roadworks' 2003

What 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.

Posted by wordonymous at 5:27 AM EDT
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Saturday, 12 July 2008
Headless Hall
 (published 'Barddoni' 1991)
Headless Hall was the large house on the hill,during your childhood.You would look up at it from the school playground, never questioning its presence and as time went on, none of you hardly noticed it at all. It’s like all places where you’re brought up: you take many of the landmarks for granted, however peculiar they might appear to a stranger; all the quirks and nooks, winding alleys, architectural peculiarities, long walls without entrances, squares with fountains amid the statuary, and the line of terraced houses where you yourself had been chosen to live.with stylish, out-jutting windows and carved ornamentation mare akin to gargoyles than one would think typical of the Utility Years…

But you never really noticed anything.You played being a steam-train along the lines in the pavements, as you wended the familiar course to school; or decided that the blue-mottled paving-slabs meant death if you trod upon them, so you had to hop over those for fear of your very existence ... Until you reached Temperance Street where, if you but realised it, the school itseld was a peculiarity, with its squat bell-tower, endless redbrick walls, and tvo playgrounds, one for the boys and the other for those who were at that time a mystery to you (they called them “girls”, but that’s all you knew, other than they seemed to dress slightly different), and teachers with pea-brain whistles and an unaccountable desire for filing in two by two, looking older than they really were (whether that was the strain of the job or comparison with your insultingly young age, you still wonder), and playtime where you had to pinch your nose for fear of the ripe stench in the Boys, followed by games such as Denno and Slavechase amid chants of “fight fight fight!”, whereupon a teacher would arrive breathless from the frays you later learnt took place even within the sanctuary of the staff-room, to tear apart, limb from limb, those ruffians partaking in a catspit scrap, and other games, yes, like flicking cigarette cards so they flew off as bodiless helicopters into corners of the playground where, on different occasions.you would sometimes sit with a crony or two debating the nature of existence and whether “girls” have willies.

Those were the best days of your life,you think, but the horror is you cannot really remember them with any degree of clarity.

Let me remind you ...

One day, on emerging from the Boys, deeply inhaling the compatively fresh air of the playground, you looked up for once at the large house,with a tower,that stood on the hill. Headless Hall, they called it. A teacher, during PE that day, whilst the brawnier lads dragged the thick bristly exercise mats from the bicycle sheds and the weaker morsels toted the bean bags from the Boys, told you (as he said, you were the only one he could trust), that the house was haunted. You stared back quizzically, not speaking, for you hardly ever opened your mouth and, thinking about it, that’s probably why he trusted you so much.You can still see him now, standing there, staring at your three-quarter length trousers, which demurely hid your knobbly knees. His eyes were blue - funny what sticks in your mind - and he looked younger than the other masters. His horn-rimmed spectacles reflected your own face twice over ...

For several months after that, you were intrigued with Headless Hall. You began to notice it more and more. You went to the library to read up about it, searching archives of local history, questioning the spinster who sat at the front of the reading-room.staring into space most of the time.

She told you more than any of the books, which seemed more concerned with personalities that had passed through the annals of the Town Hall (which, you supposed, if you had the time, would prove to be quite an interesting building in itself to study, with its gothic clock-tower and yet unrepaired war damage). It was perhaps because you remembered more about facts given to you by word of mouth, as if you literally ate up the sounds, recompensing in due course, you hoped, for your own silence. She knew what you needed to know, without really being asked. She must have read it in your face like an open book.

• Apparently, she said, parts of the school were older than Headless Hall. The bell-tower was in itself the oldest pert of the whole town.

From the boy’s playground had emerged some of the world’s leaders, such as Disraeli, Cromwell, Churchill, Thatcher and so on.You ate it all up.

But.when you heard about Headless Hall, your mouth gaped open and stayed like that throughout. It had ghosts, true, many had seen them. Some even said, she told you, that it had been built actually to house the ghosts that already populated the bare hill.

“What sort of ghosts, I hear you ask me,”she continued (and you can now actually recall what she said precisely with that strange Welsh underlilt), “They came from all walks of reality. Wilde’s Canterville, Lewis’ Bleeding Nun, Hodgson’s Hog, Harvey’s Hand ... Benson stays locked up in the room in the tower, scribbling social comedy novels. James even today sits in its bookroom, illuminating clues upon all the fly-leaves, sometimes confiding with Carnacki who has taken to roosting up the library chimney. Lovecraft has left to go to a better place, but he has abandoned many of his more striking creations in the shuttered attic, where lesser monsters do not dare to go. Sitting in the kitchen, is one with a remarkable resemblance to Poe, polishing the silverware as he dreams…”

• None of the names then, as now, meant anything to you, but it was all so perfectly mysterious, each word fell into place like a massive jigsaw that would keep you busy for at least a decade of Christmases.

You cannot remember ever noticing Headless Hall again. The teacher who had drawn your attention to it was never seen again. There was a rumour doing the rounds in the Boys that he had been sacked for venturing into the “girls” playground.

You never even again noticed perhaps the hill upon which it once sat. Life took on a new urgency; things were happening to your body that you feared you would never understand; events leapfrogged; exams seemed all-important, for you wanted to follow in the footsteps of the famous Old Boys of the school ...

Now you’re older and, you hope, wiser. You thought you’d left that town far behind you, both in mind and body. The image of Headless Hall has not crossed your thoughts for all these years of helping your own children sort out the giant jigsaws…

Until now ... I’ve come to haunt you with memories, memories which you perhaps hoped had slipped away beyond recall. I’m a ghost from the irretrievable past, bringing it all back with me like the black lace train of a funeral dress: I’ve come to teach you that the past is all-important, should not be filed away in a forgotten drawer, you should rifle through the old yellowing photographs that your eyes once snapped; like the reflections in a pair of glasses; I shall renew the mysteries of the Opposite sex, which, at the best of times, you never really plumbed; I shall show how you can now tread fearlessly on the blue-mottled slabs; and, whatever you do, I shall continue to live (sometimes shy, sometimes voluble) in the shuttered attic of your brain, never fear.

Posted by wordonymous at 10:37 AM EDT
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Sunday, 22 June 2008
ODALISQUE by PF Jeffery (Chapter 2)

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.


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 


Posted by wordonymous at 8:14 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 22 June 2008 9:39 AM EDT
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