Forum Activity for @whyt-pugh

Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 07:52:47PM
8 posts

Buried


West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition 2017

BURIED

I wish I could mourn you
With an anthracitic grief of my own
Futility, as I stare at the angry river
Beneath rusted blossoms
But my loss has been buried
In newspaper articles and flowers
Lain by strange hands, in national indignation
And the perfect plaits of the other mothers

Some of whom have children still
And many more who soon will
We don’t speak of it, don’t lay hands
Washed clean of the black sludge
Fed by an umbilical spring unseen
And ask, “Are you trying?”

But when your father mines my body
I grind my teeth to drown
Away the sound of the shovels
Thrust again and again into the slag
Unyielding

And as their bellies swell like the tip,
Those mothers more fit than I,
Who may yet wash small clothes
In the mouths of machines
Quickened by the coal that cost us our children
I know that I am unworthy
For maybe if I had dug faster
If I had resisted grancha
as he pulled me away
If I had stayed until I could see each bone
In my hand burnt bare by the acid that ate
The flesh I built in my womb

We were unmade in a moment
Not worn down by the slow and gaseous years
Fingering their way through porous stone

And I pray that the silken fibres of your neck
Snapped with a grace so fine time couldn’t
Register your existence

But though there is no mark of you
In this world, save the lines your loss
Branded on my brow and the carbon copy
Of your shadow on my sightless irides,
You are irreplaceable

The redemption your father seeks to excavate
Within me will not see a sunrise
For each month I take a bus to the city
Where they are illiterate to the language
That confesses my skin scarred as
One of the Mothers

And there at the clinic they smile
When I tell them I can’t keep up
With the ones I’ve already got
And I invent names and ages and bicycle accidents
And they swallow the unwritten lives as I
Take communion of the contaminant

It is the image of you dying alone
That wakes me in the night
Alone, not fused like a child of Llyr
To the brittle wings of the deputy headmaster,
Nor in my arms where you should have been
And with those faithless hands
I grasp at my wild and beating heart
Beneath the slag heap of my breast
Where milk will never flow again
And only black slurry remains

For the families dissolved by the 1966 Aberfan Disaster.


updated by @whyt-pugh: 11/24/19 06:16:51PM
Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 07:49:19PM
8 posts

Shedding


West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition 2017

SHEDDING

It was not rebirth written
Into the laboured breath
Of the sloughed skin,
But the seven doors
Of Ereshkigel’s realm con
tracting, teasing tensions into
Inanna’s nakedness
I too was being stripped
And as the dust of depleted DNA
Clung to my eyebrows it
Clogged each flustered follicle
Until pustules poured the pattern
Of who I might have been
Da Vinci would have drawn me
As a shade of humanlike
Kafka’s creatures courting inclusion

The physician forewarned
That my body would consume
Its own heart if I continued
This diet of penance and toxic fumes
But still I emptied
C3H8O by the hour onto
The face I was erasing

And as I scrubbed with cotton bud
The slurry of selves stretched
Over a frame of diverse lives
I counted the fading cadence
Of indiscernible endings replicated

The theory of an underactive
Preorbital cortex was tattooed on
The vellum of a wasted life
Rational observers questioned:
Can’t she see her own potential?
But Jocasta’s brooch was in a bottle
So I bought blindness for my [birth]day
In splitting the perverse caduceus
Tiresias was transformed, not eye
Washing away the final barrier
With the milk-white tears of the
Snake before it slips into the new

In releasing the imprint of each
Irreplicable scale I knew
I would not have a skin beneath
To conceal the knotted muscle
In its obstinate rhythm


updated by @whyt-pugh: 11/24/19 06:16:51PM
Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 07:46:17PM
8 posts

America


West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition 2017

AMERICA

Unrealized potentialities
Evaporate in the fluorine flicker
Of a synthetic sun
Whoreshipped by the shopper
As it drowns the fragile night
Of annihilated archetypes
Corporate priests preside
Over prophets predicting
The ebb and flow of the notional
Mark it
With the barcoded stigmata
Of progress
Replacing
Darkness and poetry and my
Lie nation

Inc.onstant indemnity shuns the
Other in this mass of shattered
Bone and muscle
            must sell
            must
                    cell                 (out)
Of a collective prison
Barred with chains of rewritten
RottenNationalistAmerica

Mutate the membrane
To prevent the coiling of
Constituents’ chromosomatic choice
                            Hypo
might, oh              Chondria feeding
On Machiavellian misogynistic
Masochism
In the schism
We subverted signs
To undermine the authority
But poetic plurality was dis
solved by pandemic meaning

Momentary and untraceable
Etymological ephemerality
Authored a single social narrative
Idolized on glossy prints mass
Produced to induce the diminishing
Of thought
Subsumed Instagra-
tifications of bite-sized
Preruminated cognitions
Capitulating concepts to the Glow
Downloading somatic suicide
As servants to the Screen
The radical exclusion of a center
We sought to underwrite

Built the walls of the capitol castle
With words we payed for
Preyed for
Multiplicity blind to the bind
Of unprecedented semiotic stability
Achieved through the erasure
Of all signifieds
In unparalleled poetic
Iron Ne
gating dreams of difference
In 50 [states] characters or less
Tweeting micro-meanihi
                                  listlessness


updated by @whyt-pugh: 11/24/19 06:16:51PM
Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 07:38:00PM
8 posts

3 AM Swansea


West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition 2017

3 AM SWANSEA

Townhill,
Tattooed tortoise heaving howls
Hallowed by fire and the hooves
Of now quiet horses
If anything once grew here
It has been masticated and mixed into
The frost-slick surface
Disparate lights become
The foci of forgotten fog
As the girl turns on Lug’s wheel
Alone with those few
Inextinguishable stars
And the music of moss that weeps
Tears of ice taller than Thomas’ shadow

Sanding fields
To a polished prism
Imprisoning the promise
Of that which can be
Conceived
Cradled in the cranium of the bay
Leaves laurelling
Lost knowledge of mercurial selves
Shed in the chaff clinging to
Pebbledash that inscribes her fingertips
As she is offered a tenner
In exchange for a blow job
Beneath the discrete blinking
Of St. Helen’s inconstant light

The legality of a partially
Illuminated Constitution
Lengthens her ligaments in
The litigation of gullies and
The lost liturgies of Bishop’s
Palace hedged by homophones
And sequoias standing sentinel
To the Last Supper
Served from the skip behind
Sketty Road’s Spar
Singleton signals safe passage

Through its capillaries seeking the sea
the Ninth Wave entices
Erasure
In the embrasure of a lingering darkness
Sanctoidd sterilising Sin City


updated by @whyt-pugh: 11/24/19 06:16:51PM
Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 07:24:45PM
8 posts

Walking the Continental Rift, 66 Degrees North


West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition 2017

WALKING THE CONTINENTAL RIFT, 66◦ NORTH

North American Plate

Concealed by five hundred

Generations of moss

An unspoken testament

To metamorphosis stilled

Is compressed by my specificity

Gravity is less severe this far north

A scent of citrus pervades

A wind to which it does not belong

Prevailing dreams of ignoble progress

From left and right converging

Continents devouring each other

In a Richter scaled ritual

Rent by breath to raise

A dialogue of at most fear

Said a menstrual stratum

Lying to mount and birth

And pull a part

ing of an inch each

Millennium in

The sabotage of separation

Undone on other borders

I walk awhile with what remains

Of a sheep bone white

In this trench not yet of tears

A flower for my living sister

And one for the other

As I bend to write the names of the dead

In the youngest rock on earth

The crowberries stain

My fingers a feast for corvids

As I carve a sand castle

From crumbled crystal cast

aways in this rift unscarred

By glacial prede lick

shun sun and stone

Feeding a sea that covers

All that time and tectonics

Cannot erase

Eurasian Plate

Two pale flowers,

One for my dead sister

And one for my live,

Broke the heather held

By moss generations’ deep

A smell of lemon borne on an Arctic wind

Caused me to pause as

Such singular citrine scent

Defies limits to roam,

A stark and invasive censer

A crow well-kept watched me

Death is larger and deeper here

Mirmir’s eyed unblinking as I lay

The effigies of children not yet born to sleep

Causing the insubstantial to stir amidst

Trails of contractions and trials of fault

Lines walked by the unseen

In mounting pressure to break beneath the wait of a

planet breathing bright blood

To baptize bone built

Of porous progressions

I found Aurore tied below

The centuries of twisted branches

Shunning sky to grow close to earth

Listening to the magma smoldering still

I knelt to the forgotten song reverberating

In hollow spaces held by basalt

To drink that discarded breath

For I will drown

In this trough of milk, the artery

That breeds all dark and dreaming spaces

And fertilize tectonic trenches traced to separate

Some ocean-filled and

Some containing the gaseous mist that

Quenches Scent and memory where

Drifts the dust of pollen and predation

That intermingle in the descendants

Of a monohued meteor


updated by @whyt-pugh: 11/24/19 06:16:51PM
Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 05:58:58PM
8 posts

The Big Send Off


West Coast Eisteddfod Online Short Story Competition 2017

My complete lack of a corpse was rather inconvenient. This was my immediate problem: nobody I loved was dead, or even imminently dying. My parents are both very much alive and I don’t have any siblings that could meet their demise under mysterious circumstances. I am completely lacking in terminally-ill grandparents; my mother’s parents are happily (and unfortunately very vitally) living in Spain where I’m convinced their wrinkled skin is actually turning into leather and although I do have one dead grandmother this occurred some two decades ago and is therefore of no use to me in my current situation. My father’s mother died when I was young enough not to remember and Bamps married a woman who truly believes she is ageing gracefully as Katharine Hepburn’s long-lost twin sister. Well, whatever chemicals Glam Granny Beryl is injecting herself with they appear to be working for she stubbornly lingers on, a bit like Dracula really. I do have a few cousins going spare (car crash maybe?), but there is no way I could convince her that I am their next of kin, besides they’re all kind of wankers so let them rot in their hypothetical ditch.

Okay, now don’t get the wrong impression, I’m not actually a psychopath who would orchestrate the death of a relative, however far removed. It would just be really, really handy to have a dead body right now. This leaves me with only one option: I am going to have to devise a deceased relation, create a carcass, craft a cadaver. Not literally, of course, I just need to convince her that I have a body that needs to be buried. This is the part I’m a bit nervous about because I’ve never taken an acting class in my life. In fact, the closest I’ve ever come to thespianism was a certain DVD that my mate Ash smuggled to me in year nine and the title kinda rhymed with that, but yeah, nevermind. My first thought was to go to the swimming pool and float facedown for ages without any goggles on and think of what I was going to say, but the council closed the leisure centre. Cutbacks see, they must think fitness is overrated, let the NHS deal with that – it will come out of their budget then. Deciding austerity measures must be a laugh when you can drive your BMW to work out on your private gym membership. Saltwater then, it is going to have to be saltwater.

The shop had been vacant for months, but then I noticed a change, the whole village noticed. First, it was painted a sage green, very vintage, quite attractive really. Thinking back on it, I remember seeing her do it herself, but in those white and formless overalls over which pallet upon pallet had wept, I did not notice her. I am ashamed of that now, of how intrinsically society has written my idea of beauty. Then came the sign, each wooden letter carefully cut out in a curved and inviting feminine script:


The Big Send Off

Where people had been whispering before, now they started to talk. Most people thought it was a travel agent, some a party supplies store, but then, when the shutters went up, a collective gasp swept from one end of the High Street to the other: it was a funeral directors.

How irreverent they said, how tacky. The curtain twitchers and gossips said all sorts of things about her, but then two kids got killed on the new bypass and their parents took a chance on her and what she did changed what the town was talking about. It was beautiful they said – it wasn’t really a funeral, it was a celebration. One young woman had been brave enough to ignore the idle rumours and because of that she had begun to dismantle the shell of grief that confined a shattered family. Naturally, I was curious and so, as inconspicuously as possible, I ordered a portion of chips to eat-in at the cafe across the street. My reconnaissance mission, however, gleaned me little information and it forced me to draw up a plan of observation. To avoid becoming a stalker (and to prevent impending cardiac arrest) I knew that I couldn’t go to the cafe every day. I therefore had to calculate what days were likely to have the highest volume of deaths and, in the absence of statistics, decided on Tuesdays and Thursdays as my uncle once told me that more planes fly over the valley on a Thursday than any other day. I know, I know, more people die in donkey related accidents than plane crashes, but there are plenty of asses in Aberbranog.

By the time I was brave enough to enter the shop, I had eaten enough calories of starch to rename the cafe Stiffy’s Chippy. I watched her rub the arms of women who smiled through their tears and squeeze the hands of taut-lipped men as her fingers lingered on theirs’ in recognition of what they did not say. She never wore the polyester Victorian mockery issued to those in the mortician’s trade, just a felted green coat with asymmetrical buttons and brown boots over tight jeans. She was real and I was trying not to admit that I was mental.

I had pushed my time of watching over plausible limits and was forced to open my theatrical debut without any rehearsal. I rubbed the saltwater in my eyes before I came into view of the windows and, bloody hell, it hurt. Luckily, when I entered the shop she must’ve been in the back room and so I had a moment to breathe and let the weight of my fictitious grief anchor me to my resolve. The room was empty except for four large banners suspended on stands proportionally split in two. I walked to the advertisement on the far-left and began to decipher the message:


Going Green?
Make an IMPACT in the right way
with our eco-inhumation service!

Leave the weeping to the Willows
with a made-to-measure
BASKET CASKET,
included free
when you select this package.

Um, okay. So does that mean you can recycle your relatives now? Maybe the next one would make more sense --

Voyage to Valhalla
Let your fallen warrior
sail into the afterlife
with this unique funeral plan.
Following the cremation,
your loved one’s ashes
will grace the decks
of a scale model
wooden Viking ship.
Choose from a sea
or reservoir ceremony.
(Fire arrows and archer included)

I was actually quite intrigued by the idea and crossed the centre divide to the third poster:

Sleeping Beauty
Give your princess
the fairy-tale funeral
she deserves with our-

“Hello.”

I turned around swiftly, wide-eyed with shock and saline.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t hear you come in. I was just putting the kettle on, would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yes, please, that would be lovely.” Here I was, conversing with her quite normally. Her voice was measured, gentle. Of course it was – she daily navigated the newness of those robbed.

“Milk and sugar?”

“Just milk, thank you.”

“Please, have a seat in the consultation room.” She motioned to a doorway and I settled on a wicker two-seater with comfortable cushions. There was a canvas painting comprised of formless colours gazing down at me. It had no frame as though to accommodate its expansion as it swallowed my supposed sorrow. An emotion I could not name rose in me and was suppressed; my pulse had increased dramatically by the time she returned with the teas.

“My name is Sam Sutton and basically I’m here for whatever you need or want over the next few weeks.”

Damn, girl, I think that’s a bit too generous on your part, let’s get to know each other first…

“How are you feeling?”

“Numb. Afraid.” You lying bastard, playing the vulnerability card.

“Would you like to give me some details about the situation?”

“It’s my grandmother, she died two days ago of a severe stroke.” Well, that is kinda true.

“When it happens without warning, it can sometimes be the most difficult to process. What I would like you to do is to describe your grandmother for me – give me a picture of gran as a person.”

“Well, she was one of those happy hosts. Her Welsh Cakes were the best in South Wales, let me tell you. She was a constant maker of sandwiches and teas, nobody went hungry. My grandmother always wore her housecoat for any task, regardless of the likelihood of the potential contaminant actually marring her clothing, but that is just how she was – a thorough woman, a woman of details. When my grandmother hugged you, her whole body and character hugged you – she was comfort epitomised.” You idiot, you just described the most stereotypical Welsh grandmother ever, not at all suspicious. Why didn’t you add that she washed the front every Sunday and reminisced about blacking the grate, tin baths, and coal fires with astounding frequency?

“She sounds like a wonderful, caring woman. What’s her name?”

Shit, I should have known this was coming. “Um, Beryl.” Guess glam gran was good for something after all.

“Was she religious?”

“No, not at all.”

“Good.”

“Good?”

“It is just that the absence of religion will ease my plan. It is just preliminary at this point and feel free to jump in if you have any ideas. I think we should celebrate Beryl the way she celebrated those she loved – with food and lots of it. A tea party, in fact, with little sandwiches. I will source a most delightful array of cups, saucers, and tea-pots. Leave all the decorations to me and the baking, all I need you to do is see how many of those infamous housecoats you can round up. How does this sound so far?”

“Uh, good. Is this for after the service?”

“This is the service. I believe in commemorating the life of the person, not focusing on the death. I want to encapsulate your grandmother as a person in a fun and unique way to honour her, not an archetypal construct of mortality. I am a funeral planner, like a wedding planner, not a funeral director.”

“Well, yeah, that sounds tidy.”

“But, you are right – there should be a ceremony aspect. I was thinking that at the tea party we can make candles out of our cups and then we will gather around the grave at sunset for a tea light ceremony. But, not to end on a sombre note we will return to the venue for a Welsh Cake baking and housecoat decorating competition. Will she be buried or cremated?”

“Buried.” I didn’t have any corpses to burn, or bury for that matter.

“Okay, has the doctor released the body yet?”

“No, they want to do a post-mortem.” Nice one butt, buying some time to procure a deceased volunteer to impersonate your wonderful, albeit non-existent, grandmother.

“That is very unusual as they know the cause of death.”

“She was down the pit so it is compulsory.” Stupid, stupid. Now, you’ve got a progressive pastry-making, pick-axe wielding granny undermining the institution from below ground.

“Well, well your grandmother is getting more and more interesting. Would you like to incorporate mining into the ceremony?”

“Oh no, she didn’t like to talk about what went on down there.”

“Not to worry, I have no intention of disclosing her gynaecological records at the party.” She smiled.

Don’t talk about female anatomy, you beautiful girl, I can’t concentrate.

“If you don’t mind, Ms. Sutton, I would rather that I be personally responsible for all the arrangements pertaining to the, um, body like. I will let you know when she is buried.” I am a master of deception, now all I needed to do was borrow a fresh, unmarked grave for about an hour. It is not like the occupant is going to mind, is it?

“If you are sure. You can always ask me for casket providers and things of that nature. Have you purchased a plot at the cem?”

“No, not yet.”

“I have a chart of all the available ones. Should we go there now and you can select the one that your grandmother would have loved?”

“Yes, that would be lovely, thank you.”

“Great. I will drive. Let me just go get my bag.”

When she had left, I began to think that I actually might be able to pull this off. I tried to ignore the fact that I had gotten in way over my head and a niggling feeling of that something I refused to name. I didn’t want to consider that she would eventually find out and then who would want to date a psycho who hallucinates super-grannies?

She popped her head back in and my philosophical contemplation was cut short.

“Shall we go?”

“Yes.” I followed her to the road and got into the passenger side of the lime Clio that she indicated.

I was a quiet journey to the cemetery. I remember watching her with the husbands, brothers, and fathers and recalled that this was her man approach: emotion is not masculine, men do not grieve.

“I forgot to ask, how much do you charge for your service?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Then how do you live?”

“Well, if a family has a large insurance pay-out then I accept some money from them and many families give me donations that add up. But, for the typical family, I feel that it would be morally bereft of me to add the stress of finding money at such a delicate time. Death is to be treated with compassion, not capitalised upon. As long as I take enough money in to pay the rent on the shop, then I can continue business.”

“That’s good of you.”

“It is not about me. If I can show people how to begin to chip away at the immensity of the boulder weighing upon them that is grief, shock, guilt, and regret, then maybe someday they will be able to turn that stone to sculpture.”

This all made sense, but something struck me as a bit odd. We parked the car and began ascending the hill of proclamation where so many hands of stone rose tentatively into the air saying: I was here. I have always thought the grass in graveyards was a more vibrant shade of green than anywhere else, as though the roots suckled and transformed all the intentions cut short by fire and locked casket lid. Maybe it is just the contrast created by the innumerable blades that persist despite frost and flood to the unmaking of bodies concealed beneath their vital cells. The late afternoon sun fell high on the quarry above, honey and slate from which all these people could have been carved. Even the heather stood starkly above us and cast a shadow too long for it to have possessed. As we climbed toward the vacancies at the back, Sam paused for a moment and asked if I would wait.

She made her way down the row of graves, carefully picking her way around each rise and fall as though her footsteps might disturb those beneath. Sam stopped at a small and indistinct marker, one that I would have overlooked had not the object of my infatuation turned her gaze upon it. From her pocket she extracted what looked like a glass pebble and placed it in a pot in front of the grave. She did not rise from her crouched position, but let her fingers taste each grain of stone. There was something so inexplicable, beyond tenderness or grief or love, in the mineral caress of her fingertips that I didn’t realise until I was nearly there how I had been physically drawn toward the image of the stone woman.

I startled her with the clumsiness of the body that was too big for me and she shook the sediment of whatever I had witnessed from her as she rose quickly.

“I’m sorry,” she said walking away from the grave, “let’s move on.”

She didn’t want me to see the inscription torn from the rock that had survived glaciers, but I read as I followed her: Seren Sutton.

“At least you will get quite fit when you visit your grandmother, as all the available spaces are right at the top.” She was flustered, trying to draw the attention away from whatever had died inside her.

“Are you saying I am not fit already?”

“No comment.” She stopped. I stopped. “How about one of these spaces?”

“This could work. I would like to get a feel for the position, see if Gran would have approved. Do you mind if we sit on this bench for a bit?”

“Of course not, I need to sit down after that walk anyway.”

The bench was cold and my already tense muscles contracted against it. It was also a rather small bench and I was very aware of how near my hand was to hers. The light had climbed higher into the crags and the grey of evening was moving over those mounds unmaking the molecules of the forgotten. I was drained of all I had ever been as I watched the coming darkness. Completely empty, I sat ashamed in the presence of someone who had spoken to death and turned back to life, volunteering to suture the irreconcilable. She was so much more of a person than I had thought possible, her pain was so perfectly polished. I didn’t have those spaces within me to absorb any of her burden. All those things I couldn’t see as I watched her from across the street I could see in the way her fingertips wrote her devotion in secret stone.

“What are the pebbles for?”

“Every time I help family, I put one in the pot.”

“What will happen when the pot is full?”

“I will get a new pot.”

The light was slipping further away.

“Sam, I don’t have grandmother.”

“I know, but I still put a pebble in for you.”

“Would you like to go get some coffee?”

From the grey she turned her head and smiled softly at me.

“Yes, I’d like that.”

Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 05:49:44PM
8 posts

My Plaice


West Coast Eisteddfod Online Short Story Competition 2017

I once told my first wife that if I could walk the sea front every morning for the rest of my life I would die a contented man. I told her this and then she went to the sea on holiday and fucked another man in a caravan park in Rhyl the Heroin Den of the North. I mean, how can anyone possibly enjoy being rogered in Rhyl?

Apparently, my wife did.

I always imagine that it was a pale blue caravan with pussy pastel décor that had not been updated since 1965. Stale air reigns within and the radiator packed it in six winters ago. So, to be honest, the only way to keep warm is to have sex.

I imagine this, and then I imagine making him bite the curb and using my boot to open his jaw as wide as he spread my wife’s legs. I think I would feel better when the gutter ran red.

I didn’t make it to the sea for some time after the divorce. The divorce was shit; her solicitor put a hold on the house. That was an interesting letter off HM Land Registry: “Dear Mr. So and So you cannot sell the house that you bought because your ex-wife is a manipulative bitch” Well, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what it said. She got the house. She got everything. I received a letter off her solicitor and enclosed was a list of items and bank account details she wanted delivered to her office. I went into the office to deliver my thoughts to the solicitor instead. The receptionist asked which solicitor I wished to see and then queried as to what the matter was in reference to.

I said: “My wife is divorcing me.”

She said in an instantaneously flustered release of breath, “Oh, we don’t do that sort of thing like this. You can’t just come in here and talk to her solicitor-”

“Well, she can’t just decide she doesn’t love me anymore, but she has. So, you can tell her that she can curl up and die in a hole from the syphilis she caught off that Northern cunt. And, you can tell her solicitor to take this consent shit they want me to sign and to stick it up her slack ass.”

The clients sitting solemn faced in the waiting room went jowl jawed at the realisation that I had blatantly broken the silence that enshrouded such social taboos, the fragile façade that such things were to remain whispered without the fullness of breath. What they didn’t realise is that the whispering voices of an entire village mesh into a scream. A scream that howls through people’s lives, until no quilt can be stitched from the remnants. I turned and walked from that chamber of judgement with more justification in my posture than Maggie Thatcher could contrive to explain her Falklands Massacre.

I received a letter sometime the following week: “Thank you for calling into the office with your comments in regard to the Consent documentation.” Sit and spin Ms. Self-Righteous Solicitor Lady, you’re defending a slag.

I packed it all in after I had signed the final dead tree. I had always been a fisherman – I’d held a fishing license since I was seven and a rod license since I was twelve (a lovely trick of the English to tax us on yet another arbitrary matter). Hooking the feisty creatures was what got me through it, to be honest. I had planned to go fishing the afternoon I found the letter. It was lying where she had once slept in our bed and her wedding ring was sat there on the envelope all tidy like. That was it. That seemingly innocent envelope, the clean white paper against which the gold shone starkly, was the final death knell for our relationship. Fifteen years of smouldering passion had been reduced to a flat, white 6x4 envelope. I was angry, and yet still, I was somewhat scared at the same time. I didn’t let my hands shake though, I was too stubborn for that. For some reason, I tore the envelope open as gently as I could to preserve its original shape. I wanted this to be clean. I wanted it to be as clean as the white paper I held in my numb hands, as untarnishable as her dress that day I married my teenage bride. But, what I wanted had never really mattered as I was about to read:

“I’ve tried to tell you how I feel, but I’m just not getting nowhere, mun. So if I write it down in black and white like you might, just might, sit up and take some notice. When I told you that I didn’t love you anymore I wasn’t messing about – I was serious. I may as well tell you now that I have made an appointment with a solicitor for next Monday to see about how to get divorced. I just don’t think it’s fair in making all our lives a misery by carrying on like this, ‘cos it’s just gettin’ worse. Carrying on like this is just gonna make me hate you and I don’t want to end up like that. We are both young enough to carry on with our lives. It’s nothing you have done, it is just all my fault and I am sorry.”

I’ve been shot and that hurt less than what that deceptive little envelope held. I know it’s cliché and everybody says it, but I felt like all the air had been kicked out of my lungs. I was stunned like, even though I had known what was coming. I didn’t have a single ounce of energy to even move. That’s really what it felt like, mun.

I didn’t feel like going fishing, I didn’t feel like doing anything. I just lay there in the empty bed empty of anger and drive and life. Time had ceased to exist; it was dripping down the walls in a motion outside of chartable reality like one of those Dali clocks. So, I can’t tell you how long I lay there for. It could have been seven minutes, it might have been four hours – I don’t know, mun, I honestly don’t. I just know that I was slowly being smothered. I was being buried beneath those seeping liquid remains of life and time, when I thought: Fuck it, I’m going fishing.

When I got up to the res, I cast my lines and settled on the shore to wait. It was bleak up by there, peopled only with sheep and touched by only wind. But it was mine. All mine, and no sorry excuse for a Welshman, sounding too much like a Scouser, could take it from me. With water I could find belonging. How like the water I am: sometimes short tempered and choppy, sometimes as blissful and inviting as the waters that precede birth.

I watched a tight spring of coiled energy bound in the form of a bird, in the blank sky on the far side of the water, shoot up and out and carry on, and carry on… Carrion crow. Kill it, I thought. Kill this life and fly, find some water somewhere and just be yourself, mun.

That was my fishing epiphany.

I knew I wanted the most all-encompassing water I could find, the most aqueous oblivion attainable. To me, that meant the sea.

I stayed until the divorce was settled. I sold the house (like I said, I’m stubborn) and I calculated that with the money from my share I could buy a boat and put a down payment on a small place for just me.

I ran into my ex-mother-in-law the day before I left:

“I heard you’re moving. Where you to then now?”

“North Gower.”

“Whatcha gonna do there, boy?”

“I’m going to be a fishmonger.”

“A fishmonger?”

“Yeah. A fishmonger.”

Not everything went tidy like, it was a bit rough leaving the Valleys. I felt a bit like I was abandoning my family, but I figured I would always be close enough to make it back if mam got ill, or something. I had a quiet drink with the boys in what used to be the old Miner’s Institute as way of saying goodbye.

Gareth proposed the final toast:

“To our wayward fishmonger mun, cos there are always more fish in the sea…”

“Oh ay, mun. Oh ay…”

The lads broke into a raucous, and singularly blokish laughter, and with the echo of that I left the Valleys.

I bought my boat eleven days after I had settled into what was to be my new village. Oh, she was a beautiful and clever craft, she was. She had a sleek, sexy hull that brought her up lovely on plane like when she threw her prow up to the winds and rode the water steady and fast, just like any confident woman. My perfect little vessel came with a functioning Fishfinder and ship-to-shore radio installed in the cabin. I also gave her a GPS, because mun, I like to spoil my girls.

Few were the nights I slept in my bed alone, although lonely I was through every one of them. When, as I lay in my single bed beneath a deceivingly fluffy duvet and a threadbare patchwork quilt, that too familiar net of anger caught my abdomen and hauled my innards up toward my throat in a very tangible reaction to my recent rejection, I knew that I would not catch a lick of sleep in that uncomfortable coffin.

On these nights, I would kit up and make my way past pissheads to the place she held anchor. There, I would enter the safe and consistent clutches of my beautiful boat. Sometimes I would be too knackered to even consider taking her out to sea and I would fall asleep encased in a sleeping bag cocoon-like on her deck.

Still other nights, when the salt-breeze had swept away such crippling emotion and cleared a space for the man I knew myself to be, I would take the helm and guide my baby boat out to sea. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even fish. I would absorb and burn the freedom for fuel to ride above and through the waves. Can you picture it, mun? I had the bay to myself…

On these nights, I was king.

Whyt Pugh
@whyt-pugh
11/30/17 05:48:36PM
8 posts

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West Coast Eisteddfod Online Short Story Competition 2017

In its most exquisite form, adultery must be planned with meticulous attention to detail. When I cheat on my wife it must be in an unparalleled act of precision. It’s gotta be carnal shaggin’ lubricated by sweat and flatulence, fuelled by promises nobody intends to keep. It’s gotta be as real as you can get, because I ‘ave to get caught.

When Boyo text me, I knew the opportunity had arrived. It read: “Fuckn fredm. InDpendince day party 2night. Woods by rez. B ther fucka.” In a way, I was glad I didn’t have much time to think about it, for I was already hearing her voice in my head. I abandoned my search for Gortex trousers to match my jacket and justified my impending infidelity by reminding myself how difficult it was to be married to someone who is perfect.

~~~

The weight of the cider cans in my rucksack and the distance I had walked from the road were making me wish I had chosen a more comfortable subversion, when Boyo stepped out of the trees waving the stars and stripes and leaning heavily on his brother.

“Happy Independence Day!” His speech slid already slurred between his teeth.

“What’s with the American flag?”

“Well, I went on Pinterest, innit, and I typed in ‘Independence Day Party’ an’ all the photos had Yankee flags like”

“You went on Pinterest for decorating tips? Tha’s gay as fuck, butt.” Looking directly at Boyo’s brother I asked, “Wha’re you doing ‘ear?”

“Nice to see you, too,” Alun replied as I glanced at the military surplus shirt he had painstakingly and symmetrically adorned with badges to express his weather resistant and flame retardant views on the world.

“I jus’ mean it’s not really yer crowd like.”

“My mam said she wouldin do my washing fer a year if I didn’t bring my brother home alive in the mornin’.”

“That sounds like a pretty good bargain to get shot of this bastard, but if yer stuck ‘ear you could lose the face like a slapped ass an’ try in enjoy yerself.”

“I suppose enjoyin’ yerself is all you can do when the world is falling apart. This morning I slept in, jacked off, and went to work late,” he proceeded to inform me with dire seriousness.

“He did in all,” Boyo confirmed with equal solemnity, “This wanka made his hoighty-toighty job wait fer ‘im while he polished the ol’ Glamorgan sausage.”

He tried to lean into to confide further particulars of the matter, but stumbled on the mocking root of a conifer. Alun left him where he was.

Boyo looked up as he pulled the rusted needles of the pine from his palms, “This bastard is ‘avin a massive strop ‘cause of the results.”

“Yer a twat.” His brother’s knee sent Boyo sprawling again. Alun stepped over the nearly incomprehensible carcass and put his arm around me grinning like a serial killer and said as he slowly swept his free hand to indicate the dark spaces between the mute trees, “Sticky Davies, welcome to the funeral for the nation. Step this way to sample our finest celebratory cannabis mixed with the most crystalline shards of glass. Or perhaps Sir would like to try our renowned cocaine cut with only the finest of rat poison?”

“Now yer talkin’. The missus is workin’ in Bristol and when the cat’s away the mouse will – ”

“Vote to forfeit billions in EU subsidies annually?”

As he led me into the woods away from the moans of his vomiting brother, I returned his smile, “At least my mam doesn’t make me go to parties.”

~~~

The music was deafening, but it worked its way into my veins. As I headed to the fire that served as the main heat source, I was accosted by a girl wearing a tattered shirt upon which she had written, “I FUCKED ENGLAND,” in thick Sharpie letters. Thigh-high leather encased her legs and a pretend penis protruded from beneath her tartan skirt.

She spread her arms saying, “Quick, cwtch for Cymru, mun,” with a type of sincerity. I obliged, but mentally checked her off my list of candidates. She laughed when her inflatable prick got tangled in the straps from my rucksack.

“Sorry, I’m not used to having two dicks between my legs,” I explained as I dislodged her blow-up balls.

“You seem able to handle a pair and a spare. Perhaps I could return the favour later?”

“Oh, I’m married.”

“Where’s she to now?”

“Bristol. But have fun, yeah?”

As I pressed deeper into the dancing, drugs, and debauchery, I began to wonder how to start acquiring some mind altering substances. I was gonna need all the help I could get.

“Anymore tabs about?” I asked a man with neon pink hair and dilated pupils.

Reaching under his appropriately pink Alice band, he pressed something into my hand. “I was saving this for later, but you look like you need it more than I do.”

“Thanks, butt.” I jerked my chin at him as I swallowed his offering, “Cheers.”

“To whatever comes,” he replied raising an imaginary glass as he walked away with an unplaceable smile.

“Aye, to whatever comes,” I echoed.

I shook my head as I watched Alun trying to chat-up Knob Bird across the field. I sat in the already wet grass to crack open a cider chaser for my mystery drug. Having chugged that, I lay back in the grass and stared at the moon. I wondered what would happen if the moon decided to sever its thraldom to the sovereign earth. Then there’d be fuckin’ a fuss.

Back on earth, my gaze fell on the only girl still dancing near me. I was surprised at the muscles on her; every bit of her was at once both smooth and hard. She had surprisingly broad shoulders, round breasts covered only by two daffodils, and the type of womanly hips that made me think that I could fit my palm nicely beneath that curve of bone.

I sat back up, transfixed by the subliminal swirl of the girl. She danced the way I unconsciously wished I could dance – the way I told myself I could. We dance the same, I thought, and nobody in the world dances like us – certainly not my uptight wife, not anymore. The girl told entire stories as she danced, and I listened intently to them all.

I moved to her, against her, and she moved into me. It bothered me that, even pressed against her, I couldn’t figure out how the flowers stayed on her nipples. I could feel the rhythm of the pounding music in the heart beating against my chest.

“Yer intoxicating,” I spoke into her ear, “you’ve entrapped me here.”

I released her to spin her web away and follow its spiral back to my arms. I stayed there with her, kneading trails and tales of creation into the earth.

“How are you feeling, lovely dancing girl?”

“Feeling? It seems as though I’m making love during an Air Raid siren. It’s alright, very life affirming.”

The drum and bass permeated every organ. I went to relieve my pounding bladder in the trees, but when I got back she was gone.

~~~~

The aluminium footprints of fizzy pop and cider cans led me down the track to the shore of the rez. Despite the drugs, I was tense and angry at everything. Angry at my wife for being herself, angry at Boyo for not havin’ any problems, angry at Alun for being a pretentious knob, angry at myself for being such a dick that I couldn’t even have a tidy affair. Loads of people do it; it’s like part of the vows – I promise to love and cherish you and not tell you about anybody else I shag.

I was so worked up that I didn’t see her at first, but when I did there wasn’t any room for the turmoil.

“I thought you was another drowned sheep.”

“Charmin’.” Only her face was visible above the moonlit water. She moved, but then fell back with a slight splash. “Ouch. I cut me blood-dy fum,” she mumbled around the digit in her mouth.

She rose from the water then, still sucking her thumb. Her pale hair was heavy with water. Darkened and dripping, it hung like slick and saturated kelp, clinging to her skin in indecipherable runes.

Her feet had no need to be guided by her eyes as she moved wraithlike over the stones between us. She looked into me as her thumb parted her mouth and wrote a sign of longing on her lip in a language I couldn’t read. I fell inside myself as her flesh entered my own mouth.

“I want you,” she whispered over the taste of iron on my tongue. And I wanted her. And isn’t that the worst part, worse than actually doing it?

~~~~

I woke alone in the depression between the standing stones. Admiring the silhouette of the two stones still erect through somewhat hazy vision, for a moment, I tried to smell the blood of my ancestors but could only breathe the damp moss mocking my sacrificial questions.

My contemplation was cut short by fumbled footsteps.

“You can’t piss on the ogham stone.”

“Wha’ the fuck is an ogham stone?” Boyo inquired slowly and incredulously.

“Piss off the pair of you,” I warned, “I’ve got a crackin’ headache.”

The morning fog that day was what I call milk mist because it fills the bowl of our valley so thick and sticky like. It erases us from the world we never belonged to. What little light there was when I woke was coyly teasing of a sunrise. Sitting on a stone, shadow-faced waves moved toward me, inconsequential in the ashen light and burdened by their indigo task. My pulse matched the inconsistency of the water and my thoughts the incongruous play of dark and light.

I scratched some lichen with an index finger as the nails of my other hand pressed into the flesh of my forearm. I could hear the sediment grinding as I disturbed the surface. A frightened ewe bleated and ran from the sharp breaking of dried sticks in the forestry behind me. Turning, I quickly dismounted the rock and began to hope that whatever drug I had taken in the night had an unimaginably long half-life thus rendering me still under its influence for there, being led by a castrated Knob Bird, was my wife.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” she demanded.

“Oh, hiya babes. Wha’ a pleasant surprise. Hope the journey was fine. I’m alright, thanks for asking.”

“I come home to an empty house with no note. I have rung you repeatedly and it goes straight to answer phone.”

“Oh, well I’m sorry, yer supposed to be in Bristol like.”

“Lucky Mrs. Jones called in when she seen the light on goin’ home from her shift and said she thought you might be up ‘ear with her boys,” she paused, “What is goin’ on, Stephen? What happened last night?”

“I come ‘ear to a party, tha’s all.”

“You went to a party did you?”

“Tha’s wha’ I said.”

“The thing is, Stephen, almost nobody remembers seeing you at the party.”

My wife’s indignant posture was mirrored by her dickless and dishevelled counterpart.

“Were you fucked by this man?”

She was looking directly at Knobless Bird who reached between her legs and quizzically smelled her fingers, “I was definitely fucked.”

“Wait, hang on a minute! I’m allowed to go to a party any damn time I want and you arrive home unannounced and come up ‘ear and accuse me of cheatin’ on you.”

“Then tell me wha’ you were doing last night…”

“I don’t really remember much, I took a pill see. But I think I was ‘ear by the rez for most of the night.”

“Were you alone?”

“Um, I don’t think so. I was with a girl I was.”

“It was him!” Knob Bird cried in epiphany.

“No, love, look…”

“No, not you,” she was pointing behind us, “him!”

“I see you found him,” said Alun Jones. I was gobsmacked but managed to ask him if he knew where I girl I was with had gone.

“Nah, mate. I didn’t see you with nobody. You was alone last night, unlike me,” he almost growled at Knob Bird, “Come on then, sexy, where was we?”

She giggled and started back to the forestry and Alun turned to us as he followed, “We may have divergent political opinions, but they say opposites attract, eh? Tarrah.”

“See ya, Al.”

“So, were you with someone or not?”

Apparently, even if our marriage was over, this conversation wasn’t.

I sat down, “I thought so, but then… She looked a lot like you and she was wild like you used to be. I wanted to cheat on you. Well, I dinna want to, but I came here intending on it. I couldn’t do it when it came down to it, but that was my plan.”

She sat beside me with greater gravity than the standing stones. “But why? If you didn’t want to…”

“To set you free. You’re too good for me, I’ve always known that. I hold you back,” the thought sunk down through my stomach and rooted my body to the grass. All my other senses drifted from me to wash with the fishes away, and concealed, from her. “Yer the most talented person I know and there is a whole world out there that I am keepin’ you from. I knew tha’ havin’ an affair would be the only way to get you to leave me.”

Her voice was low and mathematically precise, “You wanted me to leave you?”

“Yeah, because I could never leave you.”

“But you will insult my judgment by sayin’ that the person I chose to love is not worthy of that love?”

“I’m thirty-two years old and I’m gettin’ high in a forest. What if we had a sprog? What could I do for either of you?”

“I have never asked you to be anything other than yerself, and I never would.”

“I just don’t want you to be eighty and think that you could’ve done more”

“I am pissed with you, but I tell you what, when I’m eighty, I’m gonna remind our grandkids about the time you tried to ‘ave an affair, but couldn’t.” She paused, “I am glad about one thing though…”

“Wha’?”

She smiled with one side of her mouth, “I’m relieved it wasn’t tha’ girl in the skirt.”

I started to relax, “Would you ‘ave left me if it ‘ad been?”

“I dunno, should we have a referendum about it?”

~~~~