Non-stop. A poem.

You regale me with tales
Until the night comes down
And I’m in need of a drink
But you’re still not done
Lucky I love you, son

The Sale. Part 9. A short series.

We made it to the floor access. The iPhone torch light reflected off the shiny ladder, floating dust motes and hanging cobwebs.

“We’re going down there?” said Aisha. Her face wrinkled in dismay. “I don’t know. It’s bad enough I’m in a dark passage with some stranger…”

I slapped my forehead. “Oh, sorry. I’m John. Forgot to introduce myself.”

“That’s because you were too busy screaming like a little old lady.”

“Yes, well we can’t all be heroes, can we?”

“You’re also a hog.” She snatched the cellphone away and shone its light down the ladder recess. “So we have to go down there?”

“It leads to the pantry and further down to the basement. There may be a cellar door we can get out.”

“And who made you the leader?”

I rolled my eyes. “I just want to get out of this house.” I sighed. “All I wanted to do was sell a vacuum to the lady.”

Aisha guffawed. “You’re a vacuum cleaner salesman? What, you couldn’t find a real job?”

“I’ll have you know I’m pretty good at my job. Now if you’ve finished humiliating me…”

She wiped tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m in sales, too. I sell make-up packages.”

It was my turn to laugh. She crossed her arms and frowned. “I make a good living, thank you very much.”

On cue, I stopped. “Well, I guess we’ve both been put in our places.” An uncomfortably pregnant pause followed while we assessed the state of our lives and our current predicament.

“This Vasilikov woman must be luring salespeople,” said Aisha.

“Maybe,” I said. “But something doesn’t feel right. I only away because Silas—the butler—led me here. Then he disappeared. Plus, the ladder is stainless steel, but the butler said the passages and the house were here since the Civil War, so the original ladder much have been replaced at some point. It doesn’t add up.”

“The butler helped you? I had to find my own way through this freak show house. If I hadn’t run upstairs and hid under the bed, I don’t know what would have happened. That butler was gone as soon as Vasilikov came at me with the knife.”

“Like I said, it’s suspicious.” I pointed to the top of the ladder. “Going down?” Aisha nodded.

“Ladies before gentleman,” I said.

“You’re no gentleman,” mumbled Aisha as she climbed down the ladder, iPhone in mouth.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

The Sale. Part 8. A short story.

I flung myself off the bed, seeking to extricate my lower leg from whatever was grabbing it. My effeminate scream echoed through the room.

“Oh, shut up,” cried a female voice from below. My leg was released and I huddled against the wall under the shuttered window. An attractive African-American woman in her mid-20’s pulled herself from under the bed and stood. She was dishevelled, dressed in what looked like a tie-dyed hippie dress.

“Who are you?” I said, eyes wide in disbelief.

“I’m Aisha,” said the woman, smiling. “Sorry I scared you. You scream like a girl, you know.”

I rose, looking suitably miffed. “What the hell were you doing under that bed?”

“Hiding from the crazy woman,” said Aisha. “I guess you’ve met her, otherwise you wouldn’t have reacted like you did.”

I relaxed somewhat. “How did you get here?”

“Long story,” she said. “But we need to move, because your girly screams have probably informed  her where we are.” She paused to look me up and down. “I don’t suppose you have a gun or a knife on you? All I’ve got is my cellphone. I can’t get a damn signal, though.”

I deadpanned. “Yeah, I’ve got a few knives tucked into my shoe and a machete down my underwear for just such an occasion.” She rolled her eyes.

“Can I see the phone?” I said. She hesitated, then handed it to me to inspect. It was an iPhone with about 50% charge left. No phone bars, no reception. Strangely, no internet either.

It was at this moment that I realised Silas the butler was nowhere to be seen. The secret door was still open, but he had disappeared. My brow furrowed and I raised an eyebrow, Spock-style.

“There’s a secret passage over there,” I said. “You can tell me your story as we go.” I walked to the opening.

“That’s my phone, you know.”

“There’s no light in the passageway. I need it to see where we’re going.”

Aisha seemed to be in two minds, but decided to follow. “I hope to God you’re not some serial killer.”

“Can’t be worse than Junifer Vasilikov,” I replied. I clicked on the phone’s torch app and climbed into the passageway.

“Is that her name? So she’s some Russian chick?” said Aisha, following. I slid the wood panel into place.

“I guess so. Hey, you didn’t notice the butler standing at the passageway entry a few minutes ago did you?”

“No, I only saw your legs.” Aisha noticed how dank and dirty the corridor was. “Hey, you better not be leading me into trouble. I’ve been hiding safely since last night.”

“You seem pretty okay for someone who’s been hiding out in a strange house for 24 hours.”

“I carry lots of snacks. I’m more annoyed about no internet. You know how dull it can get under a bed?”

To be continued…

Missed the earlier instalments? Click here.

Training Without Calves (or, Cows With Guns)

See what I did there? Okay, well it sounded funny at the time*.

I have been lying in bed recovering from my torn calf for the last week and a half (grrrrr…). Being the fitness-addicted idiot that I am, I decided that it was time to get back to exercising before I went stir crazy. Here is the routine I worked out to ease myself back into the big stuff:

  • 3 sets of sit ups (40 reps per set) – core/abs
  • 3 sets of push ups (15 reps per set) – chest/arms
  • 3 sets of bicep curls (10 reps per set) – upper arms
  • 3 sets of tricep extensions (10 reps per set) – triceps
  • 3 sets of dips (10 reps per set) – chest/triceps
  • 3 sets of bent over rows (10 reps per set) – back (make sure you are supported so there’s no weight on the offending leg)
  • 3 sets of pull ups (10 reps per set) – back

I do warm ups/stretching before starting. You will note this is all upper body (I’m a fitness idiot, but I’m not stupid). Avoid leg work for a few weeks (if you regularly work out you will know it is an in-joke that most gym heads avoid leg work like the plague, so it shouldn’t be too hard…). Remember: If you have a torn calf, do NOT stretch your calf unnecessarily while exercising – you risk tearing it again. If you feel any strain on said calf (it will ‘moo’ at you – just kidding), cease and desist immediately.

This work out is pretty easy considering what I did prior to my injury (you can check out some of my workouts here), but I’m taking it slow to start with.

Ahhhhhhh…I’m feeling better already (the calf’s not, but you know what I mean).

Health Warning: I’m not a doctor (despite past girlfriends assuming I was a gynecologist), so if you aren’t used to training, or if you have torn your calf, make sure you consult with a real doctor (no, not your workout buddy at the gym) before attempting any new training routine.

 

* Didn’t get the reference? Do yourself a favour and check out ‘Cows with Guns’ below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQMbXvn2RNI

Awards! Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em

I have been nominated for the Real Neat Blog award by Alma at Bookish Endeavours. Thank you, Alma; I most graciously accept your nomination in the most pretentious and snooty way possible (I bow, like that guy on Sleepy Hollow. It was cancelled. Oh, I’m sorry everyone, too soon?).

Being as unaccustomed to fame (and the lack of it) as I am, I have decided to post this award with my many (read: few) others, answer your delightful questions (in a pretentious and snooty way) and nominate several other worthy blogs.

The rules are simple: two go in, only one comes out. Or something like that.

Oh, sorry, that’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (showing my vintage, there). Back in the days before Mel Gibson imploded.

Actually, the rules are more like this:

  • Put the award logo on your blog
  • Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs
  • Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs
  • Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog, etc)
  • Ask your nominees 7 questions

I’m worn out already. You have to remember, I’m laid up in bed with a torn calf muscle. It’s not fun. And I’m feeling my age for the first time in my life.

So here are the questions I have to answer. If you have seen my previous answers to awards (here and here), you’ll know I tend to go on a bit.

My nominees and my questions are further below.

 ANSWERS!

One fictional character that you hate and why?

Alpha Girl. She is my arch nemesis-sis-sis. Say that five times fast. I dare you.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I was normal, I’d say flying or something like that. But as I’m not: an automatic umbrella that pops out of my head when it rains. Or when I see people I really don’t want to talk to.

Actually, I’d like the power to light my own farts, but instead of a little flash, a huge firestorm would erupt. Okay, that’s a bit stupid. I’d be burning down everything in sight. Maybe it could work like a flame thrower? More selective with targets, that sort of thing.

Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead.

Marvel or DC?

When it comes to comics: DC all the way. Their Rebirth initiative had me at ‘Hello’.

When it comes to movies, DC and Marvel. They each have different styles – DC is a bit grittier, Marvel’s a bit funnier. Yes, it’s possible to love both, people!

Pretzels or bagels?

Bagels aren’t that big in Australia. Not in size, I  mean, but popularity (imagine if bagels were tiny little things – how would you butter them?). I love pretzels, but I’m talking about the little ones, not the big ones you guys in America have. We’re all topsy-turvy down here.

And do not say ‘down under’, or I will be forced to decapitate you. With a tiny, razor sharp bagel.

What is your go-to coffee order?

Long Black. Very unpretentious. I drink coffee for the taste of the coffee. Adding milk, chocolate, caramel, crème, egg, enchiladas, dog biscuits (or whatever they add now) is just spoiling it.

The problem with drinking long blacks is it’s easier to tell when the barista has screwed it up.

“I love the smell of coffee in the morning. Unless you’ve burnt it, damn you!”

How did you decide that you’d be starting a blog on WordPress?

I was a sad sack who wanted a public place where I could post sad stuff about my sad life. It was cathartic.

And sad, when you think about it.

One movie that you can re-watch?

I have so many…Alien, Blade Runner, Star Wars, The Accidental Tourist, Man of Steel, Memento, The Dark Knight, Unbreakable, Arrival. The list goes on…

I would hate to be in a movie. Maybe I am. Maybe my life is actually a movie, and I’m just the understudy (do they even have those in movies? No, that’s plays). That would explain a lot.

NOMINEES

https://lilpickmeup.com/

https://nicolesundays.wordpress.com/

https://dpadjoy.com/

https://littlefears.co.uk/

https://thelonelyreaderblog.wordpress.com/

https://bennettoblog.wordpress.com/

QUESTIONS (for nominees to answer)

  1. If you were a pizza, what type would you be? If you answer ‘plain cheese’ you should give up blogging altogether. Just saying.
  2. You have just won the gold medal for mawkish pretentiousness. What’s your speech? It has to be in the third person, just to make it more obnoxious.
  3. You have a choice to save the world, or save your pet. Which do you choose? If you don’t have a pet, you may save your favourite DVD. But not the DVD player. That’s going just a bit too far.
  4. If you were to make a movie about someone famous, who would it be and who would star in it? If they starred as themselves, would the production implode in some kind of freaky mirror-dimensional paradox? Or would they multiplex into multiple versions of themselves and play all the parts? I don’t know, you’re answering the question.
  5. Desert island: you can take one thing. Yes, it can be your girlfriend or boyfriend. But if you had a choice, would you take them? Maybe there’s only enough food for one. What happens then, huh? And if the two of you only had each other to talk with, how long would you last before it turned into The Hunger Games? Didn’t think that one through, did you?
  6. Have you heard of that old BBC show The Onedin Line? If you say yes, you’re lying. Yes, it’s an actual show. Google it. I’m not doing all the work, you know.
  7. What’s your favourite colour (that’s English spelling, not American). Why so boring a question? Because I haven’t finished. Now that you’ve told us your favourite colour, imagine the world in only that colour. Everything! Walls, floors, cars, people, dogs, cats, fields, countries, sky…how long until you absolutely hate that colour, eh? Burn!

Thanks for the nomination, Alma!

If you liked what you read (or even if you didn’t), please support my narcissism by following my blog. I don’t make any money out of it, but it keeps me from being sad(der). All it takes is a click – save a depressed person today!

Cheers

Steve 😊

The Sale. Part 7. A short story.

The musty corridor receded into the darkness. Silas, holding his lighter aloft, turned and beckoned me to follow. I trailed him as he crept forward, sweeping dusty cobwebs from the way as he went.

Before long we came to a ladder marking the end of the passage. It led up into the dark and down through a square-cut hole in the floor to the depths below. “We have a choice, sir,” said Silas, glancing up and down. “Which way do you suggest?”

I eyed the ladder, touching the rungs gingerly; they were cold, metallic. “This ladder is made of metal. And it’s not rusted.”

Silas peered more closely. “So it is, sir.”

“Looks like stainless steel,” I said. “Not the sort of material available in Civil War days.”

“Curious. Perhaps it was added at some later date.”

Something wasn’t adding up here. “I don’t even want to think about what’s below this house. Let’s go up.”

“After you, sir.”

I  smiled. “No, I insist. After you.”

Silas climbed creakily up the ladder, awkwardly cradling his lit lighter as he did. He climbed more slowly than he walked, each rung a superhuman effort. I started up after him.

Eventually Silas reached the floor above: another dim, mouldy corridor receding left and right. More cobwebs. I pulled myself up and stood beside him (his prodigious height made me feel like a dwarf).

“So many choices, sir.” He smiled, showing whitened teeth.

“There must be a way out somewhere,” I said. “Let’s try left.”

The left corridor ended after twenty feet. “It’s the back of a secret door, sir.” Of course it was the back of a secret door. What else would I expect to find in this crazy house?

“I can’t hear anything, sir.”

“Then let’s get out of here.”

The door opened into a master bedroom, illuminated from above by a chandelier. It was lavishly appointed (if a bit old and worn) with a four-poster bed, antique cupboards and dresser, with floors of  polished wood. I slipped over and tried one of the windows. It slid open, but the shutters beyond wouldn’t budge. “The shutters are jammed.” I tried another. Same thing. “This one, too. What the hell is going on here?”

Silas looked suitably vacant. “I’m not sure, sir.”

I sat on the edge of the bed. “How am I going to get out of here?”

Cold fingers grabbed my lower leg. I screamed.

To be continued…

The Sale. Part 6. A short story.

I pushed off the door and bolted to the pantry, glimpsing back briefly to see the flame-haired mistress of the blade standing in the frame as the door swung open and hit the wall.

The pantry was bigger than I expected, a central corridor lined with shelves of food products—more like a mini-market than a larder. The old butler was beckoning from a shadowy open space at the end. I ran and dived in. He slammed the door shut behind me. It was black as pitch for a moment, until I heard the click of a zippo and a small flame illuminated his ghoulish features.

“We’re safe for the moment, sir,” he said. “I’ve locked it.”

As if on cue, the sound of knife striking woodwork. The butler jumped. “Just to be safe, perhaps we’d better move on.”

I got up, dusted myself off and looked around. The flame from the lighter didn’t provide much illumination. The corridor was the width of a small closet, and extended away into the darkness. Dust coated every surface, and cobwebs hung low from the ceiling. The smell of mould and wood rot assaulted my nostrils.

The sound of battering from the door ceased.

“She’s stopped,” I whispered.

“If I know the mistress, she’s thinking of another way,” he replied. “She’s always been quite dogmatic in her pursuits.”

“She does this often?” I said, looking up at him (still an imposing figure, even at his age). “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. I’m John.”

He shook my hand warmly, a strong and faintly sweaty grip. “Pleasure to meet you, sir. I am Silas. I have been the butler of this residence for over fifty years. Mistress Junifer Vasilikov is the latest in the long line of tenants to occupy it.” A pause for effect. “And possibly the maddest.”

Silas smiled, and pointed down the murky corridor. “Now, I think we had better get a move on. I’m sure Mistress Junifer will be back soon.”

As he languidly hobbled away, I glimpsed back at the sealed secret door. Stuck in a dim, dank corridor with an old guy and a lighter. I guessed I wouldn’t be making a sale tonight…

To be continued…

The Sale. Part 5. A short story.

I ran.

The old butler had a head start into the corridor, but he was shuffling at such an antiquated pace I easily overtook him.

I glanced back at the mad woman approaching from the living room, knife flashing in time to each stride. “Where?” I yelled, manically.

“The kitchen, sir,” he replied, pointing a gnarled digit to the door opposite.

I rushed inside and waited for him to catch up, which he did just as the crazy lady exited the lounge room. “My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner,” she cried, stabbing the knife into the outside of the door as it slammed shut.

The butler and I had our backs to the door. We could hear the mistress of the house wantonly assaulting the woodwork. The kitchen was spacious, with old fashioned appliances, a solid oak island and a large open pantry off to the right. No other exits. “Suggestions?” I said.

“If you hold the door, sir, I will do some investigation.” As he removed his considerable weight to toddle off to the pantry, the mad woman got some purchase and started pushing harder. The narrow gap between door and frame was a combat zone in miniature.

“Why did you invite me in if you knew she had such an issue with vacuums?” I yelled after him. “My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner!” came a muffled reminder from beyond the door.

The butler’s wizened head poked out of the pantry. “I’m so sorry, sir. My memory’s not what it used to be.”

I rolled my eyes and put my shoulder into the door, reducing some of her progress. The butler stuck his head out again. “I have found a solution to our quandary, sir. There is a secret door in the pantry.”

I looked at him, dumbfounded. “A secret door? What is this place, a gothic castle? Who has secret doors in their pantries?”

“I believe it was left over from the days of the Civil War, sir.”

“So how do I get to this secret door?”

“You’ll have to run.”

“But she’ll get in!”

“I hope you’re a fast runner, then.”

To be continued…

The Sale. Part 4. A short story.

The crazy lady was right up in my face, spittle flicking onto my cheek as she voiced her objection. I backed up, hands raised. “Look, I’m really sorry,” I said. “I really didn’t know you had a tragedy related to…cleaning products.”

As if from nowhere, she extracted a huge butcher’s knife from its hiding place behind her back. It glinted malevolently in her hand, matching the glint in her eye. The yelp that escaped my lips was more feminine than I would have liked. My eyes widened to the size of saucers, adrenaline surged and my voice trembled. “I can see you’re probably planning dinner, so maybe I should take my leave.” I continued backing away.

The redhead stared at me through eyes that were a thin line of vehemence. The knife blade shimmered in the firelight. “My mother was killed…by a vacuum cleaner.”

“Sir?” From behind me, the butler’s shaking voice.

I didn’t dare turn around. “Yes?” I said, my voice breaking involuntarily.

“Run.”

To be continued…

The Sale. Part 3. A short story.

The living room was immense, I almost needed binoculars to identify the furniture. This consisted of a few ornate and dusty lounges, chairs and a worn coffee table, all encircling a huge twenty-foot wide hearth, a fire burning briskly within. Exotic, cobweb-covered chandeliers shone dimly from the ceiling far above—the light they cast had very little impact on the dancing shadows cast by the flames. My previous confidence in a quick sale was evaporating, unlike the sweat forming on my brow from the heat in the room. The butler lurched to a stop by the door, out of breath.

Standing before the crackling fire was a short woman: young and thin, attractive, with shoulder length red hair, dressed in a twenties-style shimmering knee high cocktail dress that had seen better days. “So, you’re a cleaner?” Her voice was accented, something European, but not easily definable.

I smiled and held out my hand. “I’m John,” I said. “I’m here to clean one sofa or floor, obligation free. And all you have to do is watch a demonstration of the amazing Dirby Vacuum Cleaner.”

She shrank back in horror. Guess my pitch needed some work. Her face screwed up in a look of angry intensity, verging on rage. I was taken aback—it wasn’t like I was a Jehovah’s Witness or anything. As she spoke, she ground out each syllable through clenched teeth. “My-mother-was-killed-by-a-vacuum-cleaner.”

Well, that was unexpected.

To be continued…

(And my apologies to any Jehovah’s Witnesses reading this. I have nothing against you, it just sounded funny in context.)

Perspective.

So, what are the rules of life?

I guess, when it comes down to brass tacks (that’s an old-fashioned saying, youngsters, cause, I’m, like, a bit old and stuff), there aren’t really any. Or are there? I’m sounding suspiciously ambiguous and much less wise than I originally thought I would, but bear with me…  

Now I know there are moral and ethical guidelines that we should (but often don’t) apply, and, for those of us who are religious, there are rules for that, too. There are rules established by our upbringing, familial environment, school (don’t run in the halls!), our friends (NOT your Facebook friends, the actual, real ones who don’t talk to you, and never seem to ”like” your Fb posts), our workplaces, the government (you will pay tax and then die, but not necessarily in that order), the local gym we may or may not attend (it feels good to be a member of a gym, even if you don’t use it: “Hey, I just joined the gym.” “You look fantastic.” “I haven’t gone yet.” “Well, it’s obviously working for you.”), the shopping mall (must…buy…more…DVDs of series I won’t have time to watch, but which will look good on my DVD shelf), the label on that opened jar of pickled gherkins you were planning to eat that have been in the fridge for at least three years—the list goes on. All overlayed on each other and forming some sort of reasonable and realistic basis for us to live by (or unreasonable and unrealistic basis, depending on which side of the fence you sit).

Maybe that’s a bit simplistic (but don’t call me simple!). But, then, I’m a simple guy (I said don’t call me simple! What are use-by dates, anyway? They’re suggestive, not obligatory. I wonder why I keep running to the toilet all the time? Can’t have been those gherkins, they were in the fridge…) 

Are there really rules for life, though? I mean, it’s easy to say there are lots of rules that we have to adhere to (paying tax, for instance, for those of us unfortunate enough to. There was a time when I did, but now that I’m a student layabout, I cruise through tax time. Much like I cruise through every other time). But who’s to say that everyone does (for instance, the guy who is arrested for tax evasion at the airport, after the airport fuzz see through his poor attempts to explain the great wads of cash in his overnight bag and his failure to pay tax for the last ten years). 

Those are just rules for playing the game of life (remember the Game of Life? I used to play it with my family as a kid. You almost always ended up as a millionaire. How does that work, exactly? How come I’m not a millionaire in real life? The Game of Life said it would be so….Damn you, Hasbro!!!!!). What are the rules for being alive, for living as good a life as you possibly can? For being counted as a good and valued human being, when all is said and done (rather than being counted as a census statistic, which is usually what we are. Unless you’re homeless–then you’re an estimate).

I suppose only you can know that. Only you can really know if you have done the right thing, led the right life and done right by yourself and others. Everyone has their own moral compass, established by a lifetime of learning and challenges. So, when you get to the end, and you’re knocking on that big white door, hopefully you’ll know if you’ve satisfied life’s rules, or not. And if not, the Big Guy might give you the thumbs down (if he’s feeling so inclined). Or not (that’s what Grace is all about, after all).

It’s all just a matter of perspective.

Letter to a Facebook Friend

This is a uni piece I wrote some time ago. It was meant to be a letter to a friend about something I was very serious or concerned about, using real referenced materials. I went with satire and irony. I’ve removed the referencing from this version.

 

Dear Matt,

I’m writing to express my concerns regarding your increasing addiction to Facebook. According to your news feed you hardly ever leave your room anymore, don’t respond to texts or phone calls and were recently fired from work – all over your constant need to stay in touch via Fb.

Each of my Facebook friends (all 1524 of them) are concerned about your circumstances. I read on your mother’s feed the other day that you are now refusing meals and that you have barricaded your bedroom door (and blocked your mother on Fb).

In 2014 Facebook had well over 1.2 billion users, making 41,000 posts per second –  I assume that you were responsible for a good portion of those. Although Facebook remains a wonderful place for social connections, news and advertising profits, it is also a source of increasing cyberbullying, social reclusion and distraction. For example, British companies are impacted by billions of dollars of productivity loss each year because their employees spend so much time on Facebook.

Matt, my Facebook Friend, your other Fb friends only want the best for you. We’re not saying you should give up the ‘book, just detach yourself occasionally to eat and drink. And perhaps work for a living.

Looking forward to your next post!

Regards

Steve

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