Category Archives: Flash Fiction/Snap Shot Prose

My Little Bulldozer

There’s a bulldozer that follows me around. The eras of my life in pieces at his feet. The smash and crash and vibrations through the earth as memories fall, crumble, disintegrate. Are trodden down into the soil ready for new foundations. For someone else’s memories to smother the land and chase through freshly made corridors.

The long corridors of my youth stretch out before me with bleached histories fading with the echo of laughter. The rooms where I made friends are all gone. Good friends and bad friends. Those I still exchange birthday cards with and gossip over coffee once in a while. We know each other like two backwards hands that can nonetheless find each other in the dark. But our memories have been smashed into the soil. The benches we sat on in the schoolyard, sharing music through earphones on old walkmans. The tuck shop snacks of iced buns and chip cobs. The places where we witnessed fights and fires, young energy and destruction in minute forms. Spreading through the concrete yard and squeaky classrooms with a furious futility that would soon dissipate to nothing. Another identikit housing estate and my memories bulldozed.

My 6th form college. More concrete yards and playing fields with hidden smokers’ corners. Stone age teens talk of blazing and we laugh afterwards, mimicking demented enthusiasm. More classrooms with new friends made. Bonding over hatred of Tony Fennec. Watching horror films at 9am for Media Studies. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre burned onto my early morning retinas, while other memories fade. Trampled down by the bulldozers which eventually demolished it all. Another identikit housing estate and my memories bulldozed.

My university campus out in the leafy suburbs. Light passing dreamlike through foliage and Victorian houses with curved glass windows. And the building which housed us a Brutalist shadow against blue-grey skies. More long corridors and endless stairwells splattered with paint, the legacy of careless art students. Climbing to better views and brighter rooms, cold with single glazing and the pinch of morning frost. More friendships formed and funny stories exchanged. Bonding over hatred of pretentious classmates who would no doubt succeed in the art word while we were still shopkeeping and bartending. The echo of those high, bright rooms towering above a northern city remind me of a special time. Maybe the best of times in my rose-tinted nostalgia. An age where the possibilities were endless and friendships would last beyond the final bell. Before the endless possibilities became mounds of impossibilities. Before the hills became too steep and slippery in the pinch of the morning frost. Before the bulldozers came and knocked down my Brutalist dreamscape. Another memory smudged into the soil ready for someone else’s foundations. No identikit housing estate to replace my bulldozed memories, just luxury apartments adding insult to injury. The paint splattered stairwells with ascending views fall away. It’s someone else’s view now. Smug above the city in fancy boxes.

And there’s a bulldozer that follows me around.

© Kirsty Fox 2017

 

Note: This particular prose poem is memoirish. The true weird fact about me is that my comprehensive school, my 6th form college and the university campus where I studied art have all been knocked down. I may be jinxed.

January

January came in from the cold and parked herself on the sofa. Somedays she was grey and full of gloom. Letting the winter in. Icy teardrops suspended above fog. Other days she was sunny and crisp and full of an impassioned energy that kept moving, kept seeking, reinventing existence with a frosty glaze that made dark tarmac and dull concrete sparkle like a solar system. Hypnotizing eyes and imaginations. Infinite and magical and crunchy underfoot.

But she struggled. She struggled with the blue mists that came in off the sea and settled on the hills. Settled around her shoulders. Heavy and damp. The weight of it sank inside her. Into the small muscles and crevices. So that even when it didn’t sit visibly on her shoulders, it was still there. Waiting. When the sky was heavy with cloud and icy rain lashed the world, she could only look down at her feet and shuffle on through. Biding her time.

But even on the gloomy days, January had hope. She had to. Only a strong will and swarthy heart can survive the bleak long winters that so tormented. The days when darkness seemed to close in almost just after it left. The days when a kind word from a stranger made all the difference to the morning light inside her eyeballs. She would stare at the sky, letting the light fill her pupils until they were full and warm. Letting the surface of each iris feel the chill wind and the glance of sleet. The brighter days were always better, always happier. They made her look up more and she would see the trees and tops of buildings. Stark pleasing shapes and the many colours of the winter light as dusk drew close.

On these days January was not sad. Was not blue. Was not grey. She was just January.

© Kirsty Fox 2017

 

It’s too early for it to not be dystopian

I was born in the back end of paradise at the foot of a wall. Now I’m old enough and ugly enough to fend for myself. But I don’t. This morning I’m attending a conference on survival. Not survival in the wild, but survival in the arts. It’s much the same. It’s the end of the world as we know it right in this moment here and also the one you’re in now. So in the post-apocalyptic landscape, all forms of survivalism are valid. Dystopia is handed to you in the pages of the morning Metro as you hurry for your first coffee of the day. A man in a woolly hat stands still amid the human traffic of morning commuters. He studies the ground in a hazed oblivion searching for stray cigarette butts. He looks pleased and surprised when he spots one. As though just realising the answer to a puzzle. Automated voices announce train times and reality fades to a veil of early morning hysteria. Crisp packets rustle and work acquaintances make polite conversation. Struggling with weak smiles that seem heavy and irrelevant given the state of things. We have become like coral or a yeast. A living thing en masse teeming with anxiety unable to separate our consciousness from one another. The survivalists try to predict which apocalyptic scenario will get us first. Stocking their bunkers with tinned food but also learning to hunt and forage. But the apocalypse is here. It is this slow death. A slow death of knowing that it is all so subtly wrong but being powerless to change a thing. In the distance, a boat with a broken sail floats idly on flood lake in the midst of chaos. The scene fades out.

Books versus Vignettes

I wonder how long I drag out the self-referential fox jokes for. Until they’re as frayed and meatless as scraps of dried up kebab dragged from a 6am takeaway by hungry urban vermin. I light a fire which consumes discarded snot rags and street wood. My housemate pours me a glug of Laphroaig whisky and puts a Tom Waits record on. It is raining outside but also not raining. Water cascades off the roof and dries mid-air as though it had never been. Never reaching the ground which is dry cold and aches with a sadness belonging to more troubled souls than you and I. The lights inside flicker but don’t quite go out. The bulbs uncertain as to whether their time is up and they should take a long walk into the darkness. I read a book because it seems like the right thing to do with the music and the fire and the whisky. There was a TV scene I watched the night before in which a teenager explores his estranged father’s house for the first time. The first few rooms are typical Californian beach bum novelty, but when he enters the final room there is an entire floor to ceiling wall of vinyl records and on the opposite wall facing it a floor to ceiling wall of beautiful books. Life goals, I think. We gradually build up a pattern, one healthy glug of whisky per side of a record. Chapters of books fall out of sync with this, however. Disappearing into a broth of eloquent prose and non-existent plot. Time passes and pages turn. Tom Waits becomes Neil Young and books become cigarettes rolled up and smoked beneath the spotlight of a winter moon. Wild flames turn to hot coals emitting white heat and heavy thoughts. Cigarettes become books once more. Unraveled, unsmoked. Words return faithfully  to the page, climbing inside eyes which transmit them into language for a wet warm brain of pink. The fire and the vinyl crackle briefly and fade as one. We fall seamlessly into the sleep of winter, born away on soft dreams with the promise of spring.

© Kirsty Fox 2016

Love & the Sea

It’s a funny thing. Nature, the sea, makes other things seem small. Diminutive. The waves smashing on a windy day, stealth creeping up the beach and catching you out. Water over the rims of wellies. And then rushing back out leaving behind just the dusk light. The beach shines and gleams, vivid pink & orange & blue & indigo in mackerel patterns on the dowdy sand.

If you look down and walk forward through the shallows as they rush in and then back out you feel drunk and disorientated. Like the world is travelling in a different direction to you. It is.

There’s a certain enjoyment in this anxiety. In this chaos of being. In this turbulent crisscrossing of moving things. Because you can stop any time. You can look up at a stable horizon which moves only imperceptibly. The handrail in a Fun House which steadies you when the fun gets too much.

You are the steady thing I crave in my life. An even constant that will tell the same self-deprecating jokes. And hold things up. And make things function – a wood-burner, a roasting chicken, or the part of me that can change from grumpy to cheerful at the drop of a hat.

The sand sinks beneath my feet as the waters rush in. The gulls spill across the air above the shallows, twirling and intertwining their flights with one another. Calling out stories of good fish and hidden roosts. The north-east wind is cold on my legs, defeating damp jeans or woollen tights. Large raindrops splish unexpectedly in my face despite sparse clouds. Moments later they are gone.

The sea has its own rain. Its own pace of life that is peaceful and enraged all at once. It has the raw passion of brush on canvas, of teeth on bones, of a lover calling late at night in desperation to just hear that voice before they resign themselves to sleep. I want love to make me feel how nature does.

The sound of flames licking the roof of a wood burner merge with the coastal wind outside and the occasional rumble of passing traffic on a narrow street. Everything inside is driftwood and leather and old suitcases with rusted clasps. Nautical stripes draw cotton fabrics and wool. Minimal sketches of warm clothes and layers of bedding that surround us. Swallowing us as we sink and disappear into afternoon sleeps induced by the sea air. Soggy socks and gloves dry near the fire, despondent. Every source of heat is special and loved in a climate of icy winds and persistent wet.

Here we are beyond the clouds. We have left all things behind and run entirely on adrenaline. Our bones aching from ageless woes. The cold. The storm. The storm is internal.

Love & loneliness wreak havoc on the people we forgot we were trying to be. We lose ourselves in books and movies because they say things we’re unable to articulate. If we stare at enough of them we will learn to string a sentence together. To really speak to one another. To communicate emotions and feelings that lie dormant or latent in our beings.

The truth is a dribble of cold tea on the side of a mug as it’s placed back on the coffee table. It’s a small reality that nonetheless matters for a little while to someone. But the moment passes. The pot must be stirred and the potatoes tossed in hot fat. The practical busies our hands so that they don’t idle in existential doubts indefinitely.

© Kirsty Fox 2016

Eyes Open to the Elements

Snatches of conversation as we fade in and out of conciousness, echoes of San Soleil. The cinematic touches the everyday. Fiction and fact are just library tags, they don’t separate the fake from the real. The sleepy heat draws slumber compared to the wide awake cold outside. Eyes open to the elements – the sleet, the fog, the sheet rain quivering like flying arrows in the light of a solitary street lamp. We are and we aren’t there now. A whisper in the shadows, slipping effortlessly away from outstretched fingers tips. The footfall of a fox at dawn. The intangible belongs to the dreamer snoozing against a black window pane. The pages of a book are audibly turned and we know from the pause a new chapter has begun. A new era is about to write itself. If we pause too long to dwell on what we leave behind, we’ll lose confidence to make the leap into the unknown. Every story starts with transition, an equilibrium unbalanced, scrambling off the cliff into chaos. The train pauses at the station. Someone steps off and checks the sky. We wait. The engine rumbles back into action and we set off again. Onward.

© Kirsty Fox 2015

All we never wanted

In the spiral of chaos there is nothing but tears and love and absolutes. Tenderness and doom enraptured in a dance. You know when you’re really crying because your throat hurts. It aches with cries you’ve never sobbed and screams you’ve never howled. It aches with every word you were never brave enough to say. There is nothing beyond the great spiral and nothing before it. It tunnels in on itself while growing ever greater. An all-consuming force that is at turns reassuring and terrifying. The spiral of chaos has no fate, no ultimate destination. It doesn’t promise that the right thing will happen at the right time. It promises that something will happen. You will happen to someone and they will happen to you. That bones will crack and splinter and spray. That lessons will be learned and unlearned at the bottom of a wet mountainside. We will be cowed by the spiral for she is all. All we ever wanted and all we never wanted. A phonecall. A conversation. A thoroughly well-time hug.

© Kirsty Fox 2015