Monday, 4 February 2013


I’ve just placed a £2.36 bid on Ebay for Al Pacino's voice. It has been burned onto CD. The cover of the CD is a montage of iconic Al Pacino stills. The CD will be posted out to the lucky winner; first class. My bid is currently winning. I am being cautious. I am checking my bid repeatedly. I am adding an extra 2p to my bid. My bid is now £2.38. I am 8 minutes and 34 seconds away from owning Al Pacino's voice.

I am reading the description of Al Pacino's voice, again. I am closing my eyes and I am hearing the street wise syllables of this Italian-American. I am imagining him stood behind me; he is whispering sweet nothings into my ear. He is so cool. He is Al Pacino. He is better than you and me. He is an Academy Award winner. And he has the coolest, voice, ever.

My bid has been beaten. It has been beaten by someone who goes by the name of alpacinoslover1982. I imagine alpacinoslover1982 is probably a bit like me. She is from a town just like the one I grew up in. She brushes her teeth as aggressively as I do. She has bitten away all the skin around her nails, it is pink and sore, she is biting them particularly aggressively now, she is apprehensive that I will beat her bid. I am bidding £2.68. I have placed 10p more than her bid.

She has made her finger bleed.

I am picturing Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante. He is playing pool. I am stood by the jukebox in the corner of the room. He is throwing looks my way. He is calling me, "His girl".

I am making space for Al Pacino's voice on my bedside table. The space is next to a signed photo of Pacino. I have drawn a thought bubble on the photo. He is thinking about me.

I’m getting scared that alpacinoslover1982 is going to beat my bid so I increase my bid to £16.98. There are only 3 minutes 14 seconds left until I can call Pacino's voice mine.

I am thinking about lying in bed and listening to Al Pacino sending me to sleep. I am enjoying his intonations, his clarity, and his charisma. I am holding my picture of him tight to my chest. I am apologising for not realising how amazing he is sooner. I am vowing to make up for lost time.

There is only 1 minute and 23 seconds left to bid. I am winning. My palms are sweaty. I am gazing at the monitor with a look of longing. My screensaver is a still from Heat, it is a big close up of Al Pacino, and I have tiled it across my screen.

I am only 47 seconds away from owning Al Pacino's voice. I am carving Pacino into my flesh with a compass I have dug out from my high school maths set. I am wiping the blood away. I am satisfied with my handiwork. I am wondering what Pacino would say. Maybe he would be lost for words.

That bitch alpacinoslover1982 has just placed a bid of £67.62. I want to scratch her face and bite her nose. I want to kick her shins and jump on her toes. Instead, I place a bid of £112.18. I am feeling smug. I am proposing a toast to Pacino. I am writing an acceptance speech. I am 8 seconds away from being victorious.

I am watching the seconds pass by. I have stopped breathing. There are 3 seconds to go. 2 seconds. 1 second.

Alpacinoslover1982. She bids £459.87.

I am not breathing.


I am going blue in the face.


I am stabbing the compass in my eyes.


I am banging my head against my desk.


I am wrapping the telephone wire around my neck.


You are reading about me in the papers. You are reading about that Pacino fanatic. You are telling your friends the story. You are remembering the story each time you watch a film with Pacino in it. You have left a Pacino tribute at my grave.

You are alpacinoslover1982. You have never paid for Al Pacino's voice. You have been given a strike by Ebay. You. Are. A. Bitch.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Chapter Fifteen - The Underdressed Clown

In the world beyond Frank’s mum’s house a man walked down the road where she lived.
He had a balaclava on, the man.
It was cold and maybe this could be expected, but to Frank, Lorrie, and Frank’s mum, balaclavas always seemed unexpected.

In another unexpected turn, when the balaclava’d man reached the place where the gate should be at Frank’s mum’s house, he walked past the spot where the barrier should be, advancing onwards towards the house itself.

There he saw a bell and a brass knocker, but he used none.
Instead he tapped on the window pane, with drumming fingertips that were noticeable but discreet.

Frank approached the figure, remaining still on the safe side of the glass.
He knew this man.
It was his dad; a balaclava couldn’t disguise that close family tie.

His dad had chapped lips and a pair of headphones around his neck.
The balaclava was ribbed.

He didn’t say hello to Frank.
He looked at him through the cut outs where his eyes were, and in the cut out where his mouth was, he opened it to say the big words,

‘A clown is trying to kill me’

He said it three times, and as is often expected with the third time of saying something, it was definitely heard clearly by then.

And there where the gate should be, at the house where Frank grew up, was a clown dressed as a normal person, with a sword held in their hands.

The clown wore high heels. Frank's mother noticed that, while Lorrie asked Frank,
'Is that sword real?'

It was hard to tell from inside, and so Frank went to the rescue of his dad, which incidentally was also the first time he'd seen his dad in a balaclava, and aside from that, the first time he'd seen his dad, in years.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Chapter Fourteen - Michael Keaton's Eyebrows

It took one afternoon for Frank’s mum to fall in love.
Frank knew himself that this was entirely possible. He had himself once experienced that phenomena of love at first sight.
When people asked him what this felt like, he said there were no great ways to describe it, maybe in books there were, but he hadn’t read the right books to quote these passages, and so all he could think of was that being in love was like having a really expressive face, like being Michael Keaton and all of a sudden having these dancing eyebrows that awake to convey the kind of emotions that the more well used parts of the body find hard to communicate.

‘He’s sleeping in my bed’ Irene said.

‘I almost found him on my doorstep, like the postman sent him to me, but it wasn’t quite that convenient, but not far from it. I met him on my way to buy some hand-cream. My hands are still dry - I think I like the reminder of it’

‘When will we meet him?’ Frank asked.

‘When he wakes up’ His mum replied.
‘I like letting him sleep in, when he can, sleep is a brilliant treat when you’ve sought to earn it. I like it better than I did. It helps to have someone with me. It’s nice to reach out in the night and feel the warm flesh of someone good next to me’

When Frank was younger, and when his mum was really struggling with ME, he would climb into bed next to her and hold her. She would never ask him to do this, but she always hoped that he would, and Frank understood this because he knew the importance of the things unsaid. The things unsaid are the ones that take hold of you without direction; they merge into the very fabric of our impulses, and find us doing things without a second thought.

‘I remember when you’d climb into bed and hold me’ Irene said to Frank.

‘Your nose would find a place on my neck like a nest it had made, and your warm breath would ever so slightly tickle me. Sometimes you held my hand and I would thank you for it, but you didn’t hear me because I said it so quietly, or maybe I didn’t even say it at all. My eyes would be wet and yours would be too, and I liked how we never got used to our tears; they always meant something, that something should change’

Frank’s mum had tears in her eyes as she looked at her son, who was what a vision in white could look like, there stood in white gym gear. Frank was her greatest achievement in life, and there was no sorrow in that accolade; her tears were all of pride.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Chapter Thirteen - Tipp-Ex

‘I made you a cake but I dropped it on the floor’ Irene told her son.

‘It’s alright mum! The sandwiches are fine’ Frank said.

‘I bit my nails down too much and now they sting like vinegar in wounds!’ said Irene.

‘I do that too!’ exclaimed Lorrie. ‘I do it and I hate it and yet I do it again and again’

Irene and Lorrie show each other their scrappy little nails. They compare them. There isn’t much in it.

‘Who’s are worse?’ Lorrie asks Frank.

Frank looks at the spread out digits ahead of him.
Lorrie’s have bits of Tipp-Ex on them.

‘Why do your’s have Tipp-Ex on them? Frank asks her.

‘Because I temped in an office where I got so bored that I decided to coat my nails in Tipp-Ex. I Tipp-Exed the phone too, and the letters that spelt out my name on the computer keyboard that I used, I Tipp-Exed out the letters and drew smiley faces with fangs protruding from them instead. I don’t know why. I find that when I’m bored I often do things that I don’t really understand why it is I do them, but I guess it has something to do with being in a situation that makes you feel bored in the first place, because really it should be hard to feel bored, y’know, when there’s so much to learn about’

‘I get bored of myself’ Irene said.

‘That’s the truest sort of boredom’ Lorrie replied.

‘I get bored of what my body can’t cope with’ said Irene.
‘And then I get bored of the things it can cope with’
‘I got so bored of eating once that I gave it up for a while, and after a few days I got bored with that too, and then I ate lots to stop being bored of not eating, but then I bored of solids and so I only ate soup, and then I bored of soup and only ate squirty cream, and then eventually I go so bored of how erratic my diet was that I came round full circle and started to eat normally again’

‘I was bored of your dad too’ Irene said to her son
‘When he left me, I was bored of him as the man for me to love, and as the man who should have stimulated my senses, but I wasn’t yet bored of him as the man I could call my husband - that, I was scared of losing, I was scared of not being in a boring marriage, because at least it was a marriage, regardless of its description, but then sometimes you understand why it’s good to feel so bored sometimes, because that feeling should make you find what it is that makes you feel less so, what rids you completely of it, and today I did just that, I expelled boredom from my life'

'How?' Frank asked his mum.

'I fell in love' She smiled.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Chapter Twelve - Jigsaw

Kyle lost the knees of his jeans to paving driveways. He wore knee protectors and boots with steel toe-caps. He had sound-proof ear-muffs, but he didn't call them ear-muffs. He wore high-vis too, when it took his fancy, which should have been always, but instead, was sometimes, like the sight of a rainbow.

He was sleeping in Frank's mum's bed, in the after-thought of sex. His shoulders were large and avoided the quilt. He wasn't a staple of the bedroom, but he fitted in just fine.

Kyle had met Frank's mum Irene whilst finding her looking for a long time at his company's sign, positioned at the bottom of her neighbour's driveway, where it was Kyle was undertaking some work on elaborate cornerstones.
Irene had two curly bits of blonde hair resting on the apples of her cheeks as she looked at the sign which advertised all a man called Kyle Hicks could do - in a professional capacity, and in her counselling sessions Irene had been set a challenge by her counsellor, Marta, to approach someone new before their next session, to meet a man and ask him out for a drink.
Marta set these challenges with the expectation that they'd be dodged.
Marta was a pessimistic counsellor; a trait that meant her clients often stayed with her, for years.

Kyle looked at Irene, and Irene looked at his sign, aware that he was watching her. Irene tried to look as though she was looking right through the sign, but that didn't work, as she was hunched over and undoubtedly only looking at a sign which detailed the various types of paving a man called Kyle Hicks could do.

'It really isn't all that interesting' Kyle said to Irene.

'I seem to find it interesting though, don't I' Irene replied.

'You do. I don't know why, but you do' Kyle said.

Irene had stopped looking at the sign and instead put her gaze on Kyle.

'I was headed to the shop to buy some handcream' Irene said to Kyle.

'And you're not now?' He asked her.

'No, I'm not now' Irene smiled, and with Marta's voice in her head she asked Kyle over for tea.

'Do you like jigsaws?' Irene asked Kyle, as they drank tea together in her living room,
'Only with what you do for a living, it seems like you might'

'I don't know if I do' Kyle replied.

'That's a shame' Irene replied.

'Why?' Kyle asked.

'Because you'd be really good at them'

Kyle's knees protruded from the denim around them. Irene's hair lay in her eyes. Mugs of tea gave their hands something to hold, and they needed them - things to be held.

Behind the netted window, the afternoon diminished. Mugs were substituted with the like of a knee.
And it was all very delicate, as they moved into place; like a jigsaw creating a bigger picture, they made sense together - Irene and Kyle.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Chapter Eleven - Madonna Smile

A red brick semi was home to Frank and his mum. All the curtains had netting on them. Some of the panes were broke. And the gate to the front garden was gone. Lorrie imagined Frank’s mum upstairs in bed like the sickly boy from The Secret Garden, scared of the light and of the outside world, but the front door was open and so she couldn’t be that scared Lorrie thought, and as she looked down at her feet, in the house where Frank grew up, she saw the word ‘Welcome’ covered in mud.

‘Will your mum mind me being here?’ Lorrie asked Frank.

‘She’ll be happy you’ve come’ Frank replied.

‘You make it sound like she already knows me’ Lorrie said.

‘She’ll know you’re a friend of mine and that’ll mean that she’ll like you’ said Frank.

Frank’s mum was in the kitchen, leaning against the worktop. She wore a knit top of canary yellow and had two lots of earrings in each year. She looked young Lorrie thought, and pretty. Her hair was dark blonde and she didn’t so much say hello to Lorrie as catch her by the shoulders and push her down into a chair by the dinner table.

‘Frank!’ His mum exclaimed, embracing him after pushing Lorrie down into a chair.

Frank hadn’t been home for more than two weeks. That wasn’t unusual. You could travel around in a car and camp and stay in b&b’s and hostels and still spend less than you would by staying put and looking forward only to the weekends, and sometimes Frank decided to do exactly that. He escaped.

‘You look good Frank!’ His mum beamed. ‘You look fit and healthy!’

‘I am mum. I’m good. I’m running still’ Frank told his mum.

‘And you look well for it! And you’re doing well out of it!’ Said his mother looking across at Lorrie as she did, with a wide smile on her face that paid great attention to the gap between her front teeth, something which looked good on an attractive woman, and Lorrie thought Frank’s mother was very much that, and not at all how she expected her to be.

‘This is Lorrie mum’ Said Frank

Lorrie and Frank’s mum said hello to each other in that late way people do when it’s clear they’ve already eyed each other up and decided they’ve already been acquainted. They had that kind of chemistry that comes about when there’s a great mutual appreciation laboured between two people, and in their instance, this was Frank.

‘She’s beautiful Frank’ His mum said, referring to Lorrie.

‘She’s beautiful Frank’ Thought Lorrie, referring to Frank’s mum, but never saying a word, not until they’d gone. 'She has a smile like Madonna'

There was a loaf in the bread bin and some ham in the fridge. Sandwiches were made and ate, tea was drank. There were walking aids dotted about the house, and handles for lifting out of the bath. There were photos of Frank on the wall by the stairs. There were letters unopened. Ten pounds stuck to the fridge with a magnet. A drawer filled only with plastic bags.

There was also a man asleep in a floral quilted double bed.
He smelt of construction. He breathed out dust.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Chapter Ten - PAM

‘I remember Auntie Pam as a dalmatian’ Frank told Lorrie
'A definite dog' He continued.

‘She always had this dalmatian look fur coat on and she’d bring round Feast lollies for me and my dad to eat, but not for me mum, because the first time Auntie Pam brought Feast lollies round my mum didn’t want one, and that was that, the assumption was made that she'd never want one, and so my dad got two Feasts that day, he was beaming, and he went on about the day he got two Feast lollies for years after it, ridiculing my mum for not liking them, even though she did like them, it’s just that she didn’t want one that day - but my dad didn’t listen, and looking back, I think you could mark the Feast lolly incident as the day my parents' marriage fell apart’

‘I stopped eating Feast lollies when my dad left. I didn’t even like using the word feast because of him. I stopped having non ice-lolly feasts too, but I don’t think I ever really had those sorts of feasts anyway, and I’d hide the selection of the ice-cream man from my mum if we were ever out, she didn’t need to see the image of a Feast with a bite taken out of it, it would’ve reminded her of dad too much - he had a memorable bite - so we’d get Zoom lollies instead, always, that was our usual’

‘It was harder to hide dalmatians from my mum. Sometimes when she thought she saw one, and when she did see one, I’d tell her it was a skunk instead, or a piece of interior design caught on the wind. She liked Pepe Le Pew and Changing Rooms, so at least I thought, these were good false thoughts I was filling her head with. I’d check the TV Guide to make sure we weren’t gonna find ourselves in front of the box with 101 Dalmatians about to come on, and I’d keep up to date with fashion trends, looking at the latest copy of Bella, and what the 3am Girls had to say, all so I could protect my mum from any dalmatian trends set to be unleashed on us’

‘It was hard looking after mum, but I never resented it, I wanted to do it. I’d still go to school and I’d do alright, I was your slightly above average student if that’s how you mark intelligence. I don’t see it that way, most of my education at that age wasn’t examined and awarded upon'
'I’d brush my mum’s hair for her and watch films with her that I’d rented from the library. She liked sad movies best. This Sporting Life was one of her favourites, I think she found comfort in the loneliness of others, not that it made her feel good, but just that it made her feel less of a victim and more a part of something that was sad, but still, it was a part of something’

‘I wanted to protect my mum from everything, but one day when I was in the kitchen making tea with her, as she sat in her wheelchair by the oven folding freshly washed tea-towels, I saw her face drop, and the neatly folded tea-towels flew into the air like unruly fireworks bought from one of those dodgy pop-up shops that only sell fireworks'
'My mum was pointing at me, frantically, but turning her head away from me as she did. She couldn’t look at me, that was clear, and she was shouting at me to, ‘GET RID OF HER’ I stood there, filled with sadness. I tried to approach her, but when I did she kicked me and told me to ‘FUCK OFF’ I turned around, confused, looking I don’t know what for, when I caught my reflection in the glass of the cabinet where it was the fancy glasses were kept, and there in my reflection was the name PAM spelt out, clear as day; a yellow font of PAM spelt out in harsh capital letters that begged to be seen'
'I hadn’t been careful enough, I held in my hand a can of SPAM that I’d been planning to make fritters with for tea, I was holding it in my right hand, covering the S with the width of my fingers, and there I was to blame for bringing PAM back into our home again. Big meaty PAM. A feast of PAM. The kind of PAM that wouldn’t go away, not even when we had fish fingers for tea’