Friday, 1 April 2016

A few poems


With a practised tap the quarryman
splits asunder
half a billion years of nature’s work -
- atom thin layers
of superheated sedimentary dust
compressed in the cataclysm
layer after layer after layer until:

His grandfather’s generation
learned to write
on slate;
slate killed them, and
their grandfathers, too,
with its dust:
their slate headstones
row upon row, silhouetted
above the quarry like sentries.

He taps with a skill inborn,
absorbed from fathers and grandfathers;
and with an instinctive, measured thwack
cleaves the slate:
each thin sheet of Earth’s history
is snicked and nipped to shape and size
to tile the roofs
of colliery hovels;
council back-to-backs;
and Betjeman’s suburbia.

In civilized Health and Safety
land the dust is compacted
into patio slabs, and pungent
barbecue odours contaminate
hot carwashing summer Sundays.




has topography, contours,
crevices between
syllables to wriggle bum
and shoulders into snugly.
Benign electron                            
etching halo undisturbed
intrigued curious men.
Neutron blitzing enlightened
philistines: Hiroshima.  
Conker embryo
rocks in zephyr’s gentle breath;
spiky womb ripens;
drops at Fall, waxy eye gleams
from husk caesarean split.
Blink - shells compacting
to marble - new riveted
painted ships, trippers
waving, to-ing and fro-ing
and then rusting to hulks - blink.
aromas and sounds reside
in my memory;
crooner gate, latch key tinkle,           .
signalled your fragrant presence
Tick - Earth half illume-d
in pin-drop nightmare blackness
hurtles twenty miles
tugged by fatal attraction
voyaging round a star - tock.


Another blank document

with a need
to write.
To let escape agonies,
moments of insight
that will never
A need
to tap the sap
and bleed the white
heat of thought.

punctuation marks,
soldiers of law
and order, mutiny
when I cannot write.
I wobble ~
and baulk/
/at barriers
- the dash
distorts - attenuates
lucid architectural
concepts and the cunning
comma, curvy
tell tail-ed, is the beginning
of rapid
into the black
hole. The full
stop is the real
McCoy, sucking
in the creative
juice from the nib,
pencil point,
from the inky tube,
slowing the scribing
stroke to faltering




Moon yellow tennis ball bounces
around the empty
room randomly changing
its portion of occupied space.

Our ball spins as it soars
in  shafts of light
flickering movie-like
in the silver blades;
for a moment a half moon
then gibbous, now full, now crescent.

Random events will determine a kind of death,
a ripping apart of its molecular structure.
An amateur spin bowler or
a Nike footed Beckham dreamer
will change its form,
freeing the imprisoned atoms
to occupy their own portion
of the galaxy.  Every atom has imprisoned
electrons swirling, orbiting endlessly.

Our ball, like a small  planet
is spinning on its journey,
gravity dooming it to rest
on this bigger planet which is spinning
 in calamitous orbit
 like all its brothers and sisters
racing as if to escape mother sun
as electrons in the molecular configuration
that is our galaxy which whirls and swirls with all the others…
and others…and others…and others…

It bounces quicker now
and lower,
quicker lower quicker lower
the triumph of gravity deceptively
gradual  but rapid and final.
It sticks to the floor for a moment
waiting to be bashed
by boot or bat,
a miniature galaxy
in a random portion of the cosmos.

Published in One Word Anthology isbn9781490396828


The day the Oranges
came was drab. Drifting
snowflakes settled
like confetti
- as if to celebrate
the coming of oranges -
on caps and head scarves

Children shivered
in short trousers,
women in pinnies
muttered about butter
 -  “down half an ounce this week” -
and whispered fearfully of Diphtheria,
The Hun, and U- Boats.

When the oranges arrived
at Mr Wilson’s shop
a sigh rippled through
the patient queue.
He opened the boxes
on the snowy pavement
“One each,” he said,“Free!”

Coupons, tinned eggs,
blue bags of sugar,
cod liver oil.
Yesterday bread and dip and
half an egg for breakfast.
Today an orange !

Space had been found
among the tanks,
the bully beef, ammunition and
machine parts, for Oranges
- a treat for those at home who wait.
The oranges
Technicolor bright,
symbols of hope,
a safe Atlantic,
of war being won.



On the blade of the scythe

-Tock. In that moment on the Sun
four million tons of hydrogen
Tick- in this moment Earth
half illume-d and moon-like
hurtles twenty miles
through pin-drop
black in calamitous
attraction round the violent star
while embryo plants burst
out of pods searching
for white heat light
and chicks tap-tapping break
out of prison shells
still in this same breath
in the beebuzzing shade
of willow’s weep
Jack-the-Lad spurts
and millions of seeds
spitspatter splash burgle
the would-be-woo-ed
maiden and in a millionth of this mo
single pixels of light glimmer
on specks of plundered
pollen from yellowblack bee’s back
- seeming motionless but -
c  a  s  c  a  d  i  n  g
with butterflies’ talcumy
dust and just perhaps
in a quillionthofamillionth
of this whit
if we could snatch Time
hold it aloft in our hands
and slow it slow it till
almost still
we might behold
the Electron that awesome
energy in ceaseless orbit
gracefully etching a halo - Tock

Another revised version
A different version published in Cumbria University magazine The Third Side of the Coin
Originally a ONE WORD CHALLENGE [time]



Whatever happened to…
Dogger Fisher…
no not German Bight,
the other one -
The mantra
was never the same after that.
The words they changed
were my bread trail home;
I need to remember
so I can visit the past,
to find it where I left it.
Tyne Dogger Fisher…Thingy.
Failing to remember makes it seem
so far away
and I’m cut adrift,
the coastline out of sight.
Even the moonwalkers
could see mother Earth,
waiting for them
where they had left it.
Forth Tyne Dogger Fisher.
No, not Hilversum.
Tyne Dogger Fisher.
The words were pictures in my mind
- flares over stormy seas -
but now those mysterious names
are faint echoes -
faraway tallow candles
I cannot grasp.
Forth Tyne Dogger.
On a  photograph
I would see,
under the crackled gloss,
who it was I couldn’t remember.
Dogger Fisher…
tippytonguey …
sounds, feels African but isn’t,
something about an aeroplane…
Tyne Dogger Fisher - damn!
and then Humber.
Oh, what was it?
The birds have feasted
on the crumbs of my memories.
Forth Tyne Dogger Fisher…
whatever happened to…




Fabian Beaumont-Fforbes
formerly known
as Sid Pratt
is a swine
of a swain
to his plain Jane
He cant pass
a looking-glass
without a preen,
carries a spare comb
and a spray of eau
de cologne
don’t you know.
Photos of fab
adorn his bedroom
wall, and
Elaine admires
his abs and lats,
but wonders if this
bane of dames
has a brain.




I hang on the wall
exposed and flagrant,
listening to the echo
of culture vultures’

Some stroll quickly
by but have a sneaky
art in an instant.

Others linger with
nervous coughs;
office girls giggle
and wiggle by
on precarious
shoes that clatter.

Monday to Friday lunchtime
lovers meet.
“…and that’s disgusting,”
she says,
“why cant we ever meet
 by the Pre-Raphaelites?”




All he did was
just desert;
a boy barely
out of school;
demented with fear
by wailing shells,
on barbed wire;
of friends
in rain filled
shell holes.

Six comrades
in firing squad,
six scared
exhausted boys
in soldier costume
each convinced
his rifle has the blank.

The shooters flinch:
their breath condenses
in the birdless
the boy too drunk
to know or care
tied to post
to keep him upright,
white target pinned
on rag doll chest.
The Army
say this
is his
just desert.


Dylan at…Nottinghill Gate…

In the deoderized
the first batch of
commercial fodder
in their measured rush
to the mouth
of the tube;                    
no-good nabobs,
burley bankers,
secretlover secretaries;
- once pinstriped now jeans and t-shirted -
city operators;
bugling buskers,
maudlin’ models,
salacious salesmen;
with their gun carrying cases,
a wiggleandgiggle of shop girls,
an office girl,
Nokia and breakfast toast
in one hand
- newspaper open at
‘accommodation’ -
in the other
in her bumhugging
ogle-me skirt.

All of them down
the deep dark treads,
down the gullet
of the station,
into to the rumblingsqueaking
start of another day.



She could be difficult and
cause me to miss appointments.
Then one morning she’d gone.
Reported her missing.

One never feels the tension of a bond
till broken - till the pain of the ripping
ragged edges - till that floating away feeling.

I had begun the forgetting,
but today, dog walking, I found her in the undergrowth
beneath the tall, holier-than-thou pines.

her reproachful look;
the gleaming geometry
of the mouth
kicked broken;
jagged shards
of glass where eyes had

Her awkward posture reminded
of how I’d adored her
Such a head-turner she was -
had been.

In the waspy heat
guileless convolvulus
embraced her;
the white flowers as passing bells.

Her arms hang awkwardly broken;
Thick yellowy foam
from pillowy plush.
Winding binding weed
races rampant
over red cancerous
wounds of rust,
shackling my broken
car to earth.



In the crispy leaves a conker husk,
caesarean split, reminds me
of your difficult birth.
I should have let you go.
Medical blunders and my addiction
made you just a shell
without that golden gleam of hope.

In denial I have pushed you
in your locked in inexistence
in parks and lanes but you
never heard the ice crackle
beneath the wheels
or the distant bark of a dog or
the church bells
in the cold white air.
Your pretty head never turns
at the squeak of playground swings
and you will never see
May blossom or
cow parsley or
smell meadowsweet
on a summer day or
the scent of gardens
on the night air,
nor smell garden fires or
fresh turned soil.
You only stare.
You will never feel a lover’s breath.

I will write a note
for those who care
and join you
in your void.


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Eaten By The Sea



He saw the lighthouse before he reached the top of the dunes and with that first flash he remembered the last time he had seen it. Forty odd years of time - years of joy and fear, tragedy, death, and birth - collapsed into an interval between blinks

He had gone to sea in his yearning youth and had been drawn back to the bay by an itch, which had become a longing, a compulsion to plant his feet on the beach where he had spent so many happy summers.

He had thought that the crescent of the bay would be deserted in the early morning, but he saw something blue - and a big hat - the figure of a woman in the distance. A stranger on his shore.

The woman saw the stranger on the dune top path. She lived in the big white house on the cliff overlooking this remote bay where she had spent all of her summers as a child. She loved the mystery and spirituality of the shore and walked it every day.


As a child he had counted and was thrilled when ...eleven, twelve, thirteen, always coincided with another blink from the lighthouse, thirteen intense seconds when time was the prisoner of the child. And summers were a lifetime.

He watched the woman in the distance strolling along the shore in his direction.

She meandered over the patches of dark and light on the washed smooth shore and areas where the to-ing fro-ing sea had made ridges - which she sometimes imagined as a map of mountains with valleys of dry sand.


Memories inhabited the air as if they had been waiting for him.

In his first summer in the bay a little ship had beached; a coaster, fresh painted and newly riveted - a pretty little ship, he remembered. Over the hot weeks, when rocks had been warm to the touch, he had watched in fascination as men came wearing bowler hats and suits and Wellingtons. Salvagers came and took things away. Then looters came and pulled and ripped and cut manageable pieces until the little ship had resembled a mortally wounded beast.

He remembered how the hulk had listed and settled comfortably into the soft beach and begin to rust.

When wading, the woman still got a thrill when she felt the soft tickly sand on her naked soles. The past became the present for a fleeting moment when she suddenly experienced the gritty taste of sand in egg sandwiches. Smiling at the memory she saw in her mind her picnicking parents watching, in past picture-postcard days..

She watched the stranger.

The high exposed planes of the dunes always made her think it was as if the land had broken off and fallen into the sea, and she had watched him descend them in a sliding lope, leaving elongated troughs down the pyramid of silvery sand. He was on the beach now, walking, stopping, walking, getting nearer to her


There had been a little girl, he remembered. It had become their ship, and It had made her very sad to see it disfigured. He watched the woman. He could see now that her big hat was made of straw and tied under her chin. She was wading at the sea
s edge and picking up shells - sometimes scampering when odd waves raced further up the beach.

In that first childhood summer a boy had rescued her when she was lying on the beach near to the sea. He had thought that she was dead, or ill, or had fallen asleep and in danger of drowning. She was just hugging the earth. They had laughed about it. He, too, spent summers here, and they spent blissfully happy days exploring together, summer after summer, and he talked of the ship, and how he would go to sea and...


...He remembered how that little girl had made him promise that one day, when they were grown up, they would live in the white house and have their precious bay to themselves every day; not just in the summer, but for ever. He tried to remember ... yes ... we would be about ten.

Waves pitched and toppled with a thump in the retreating foam of jostling recollections. Another memory came as if bidden ... they had left notes for each other in their favourite cave.

The silent open mouths of the caves were behind the woman, mute voyeurs of untellable tales.

She had held on to his hand in the caves because she had been scared. She remembered the briny smell inside the frightening caverns, and remembered, too, the flotsam left by the sea every day, like presents for them to find...


...He had taken her deep into a cave once and run away and now, above the sea, he heard her echoing scream and felt a pang of guilt.

She ambled along the beach, getting closer to him, this intruder visiting her shore. She stopped; stood still; listened to the sea and to the screeching terns, and watched a long unbroken roller prowling out to sea, the slate sea like taut skin on muscle as if it was alive.

She hadnt thought of her rescuer for ...oh... many years. They had spent every summer here until ...

Before the memory of that day could flood her mind she remembered that their first real date had been on the bus up the coast to the harbour...


The memory of her rushed in like the seventh wave racing up the beach and for a moment he felt the warm feel of her hand in his when he had pulled her away from the shrieking gulls clamouring in the harbour, some swooping to snatch hot battered fish from her newspaper and ...

... She remembered how she had squealed when she saw the silver glitter of twitching fish spilling from nets onto the quayside near to her feet


... He had been her hero that day. If only she had known how the unnerving beat of the gulls wings and their guiltless, uncomplicated savagery had upset him.

She watched him throwing stones - watched them arc-ing and kissing the sea, arc-ing and kissing and arc-ing...


... for him, watching the stone soar during each arc, time stretched, and in those moments he was at sea again - remembering the pleasure of solitude, remembering how anonymous ships would pass, full of anonymous people unaware that a mile to starboard other souls were skimming briefly into their existence ...

The long hot summers of her youth seemed to have lasted for ever, but when her ship, their ship, disappeared that last summer - that summer as a lipsticked teenager - she realised that they had gone in a flash...


On his visits to the land he had been happy in the knowledge that he would soon be back at sea. But this time he was marooned forever. The rhythm of the sea, the song he loved and had lived with, suddenly unsettled him, like unfinished musical phrases - as if part of a larger, cosmic, unknowable rhythm - wanting and waiting for that contentment of the home key...

... The roller that had transfixed her smashed itself onto the sand in front of her with a loud violent thump, and for a moment, remembering their pretty little ship, she shared the seas simmering anger.

Each year the hulk of their little ship was less and less visible and every summer in her childhood memory she remembered it being further up the beach. The sea had crept inches and then yards up the shore slowly devouring the ageing face of the earth, and their pretty ship had sunk into the soft bed; and then it was gone - as if in stop frame photography - frame by frame - images summer by summer - gone; eaten by the sea in a moment.


The flash reminded him that the lighthouse had marked its passing. Every thirteen seconds, unconcerned and passionless, when one of its beams faced the once fresh painted ship, there had been a blink, a matter of fact punctuation mark.

She remembered how they had looked every day for the hulk of their ship. It became a ritual that summer, as if they couldnt believe that it had gone, hoping that it would reappear. It had felt like the end of something ...


... his little girl of all the summers before was suddenly grown up in that summer when they had looked in vain for their ship.

He wandered along the shore toward the woman and they were very close now, these two strangers on the great expanse of this remote bay.

She caressed the bladders of the seaweed in her fingers and remembered the sandcastles the boy had built for her - and how sometimes she had stamped on them in a fit of pique ...


At his feet, a section of tree from an unknown forest had been deposited on the shining wet sand. Two branches had grown side by side like thighs and countless caresses of the sea had smoothed and shaped them...

...And the tang of seaweed always reminded her ... of sex ...


...A wave came and licked and lapped and swirled around the trunks erotic curves and he remembered the warmth and shape of her body - that first exhilarating experience of longing youth, the forbidden bulge, pubic hair, her warm, plump buttocks...

She strolled a small semi circle around the stranger, not too near nor too far, giving him space, thinking that if she caught his eye he might speak. Handsome, she thought, sneaking him a look as she walked by.

She lingered briefly, hitching up her long dress and wading into the rippling skirt of the sea .

...the reverie of his first love was still warm in his mind when he looked to where the woman was and met her enquiring gaze. He counted between the blinks from the lighthouse. One, two, three...mmm, trim - like the cut of her jib...eight, nine...good looking - for her age...ten...wonder if she will speak....twelve, thirteen.

They each turned away and walked.


Sometimes, rising and falling on a heaving sea , when he was the only one awake in the vast blackness of the ocean, he had thought of that girl of distant youth, about their last time together.

For a few years she had wondered if her seaman would ever return. The last time she saw him was that summer when their ship disappeared. The day before their last day they had gone to their cave, that echoing cavern of childhood awe, and now of lovers tryst. She had worn her mothers make-up. And he had looked suddenly so grown up. They had smoked cigarettes and drunk wine, and he had groped and fumbled. He showed her, proudly, his stiffness and mumbled breathless crudities and she had given in to his pleas. In his callow impatient lust he prodded and missed and stabbed and missed and then; and then it had hurt, it was uncomfortable, and she had been disappointed.


After that first sexual experience in their cave they had walked along this same light and dark beach, many waves ago. He had held her round the waist, keeping her close to him, as if they were one, and sometimes holding hands - pulling and parting, uncoordinated, when odd waves rushed in.

He felt glad that he had visited his Bay. His memories had come to him, some rushing, some lingering.

He wished he had come earlier to see the sunrise.

I must come earlier tomorrow, she thought, remembering their last few hours. They had watched, speechless with awe, the huge red ball rising out of the sea and hovering, and it had bled - like wet watercolour paint - into the sinless white soul of the day. They thought it was the most incredible thing they had ever seen and they were so happy in that moment, before they had to say goodbye.

I hope he is happy. He got what he wanted, the sea.

He looked back as he walked to the dunes. The woman was writing in the wet sand near the seas edge; behind her the arc of the earth a single thick brush stroke of inky violet on the horizon.

She had remembered something else they used to do, she and that little boy.

She waited for that odd wave - the seventh, or tenth, she could never remember - that odd wave that rushes further up the beach than the others, and when it came it washed away the letters she had carved with her finger.

She saw the stranger on the dunes.

He waved.

He took one last look.

At the beach.

At the woman.

At the lighthouse.


© billhaddowallen

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Her right shoe caressed the calf of her left leg, up and down, snaking and teasing, as if in ritual courtship to the left. The look-at-me shoes were peacock blue leather, gold four inch heels, and gold straps.

There were still a few faint, but persistent, doubts in her mind about the wisdom of her adventure and she almost gave the taxi driver last minute instructions to take her somewhere else.

She was on her way to meet the Kensington crowd. She had made contact with friends of friends via her old hairdresser and discovered that her old social group still met up at least once a month.

When she had bought the shoes there had been no coo-ing chit chat with the assistant, no‘...what do you think?...’. She had wanted them as soon as she saw them, felt a remembered nausea of desire, of demon lust - a yearning for the time before stretch marks and stitches. She had forgotten how much she had enjoyed what had become a way of life. It had been a long time since she had bought shoes like these. Since before she married.

She had married ‘sensibly’, although she had been fond of him. Might love him if he was ever there. They met at breakfast when ever he was at home, or when he rushed in between flights. Sometimes they had conversations at the open door of his study, interrupting him with news of their son’s progress at university, or to read aloud holiday postcards from friends.

She had planned what she might do - or, perhaps the idea for her adventure had sneaked into her consciousness piece by piece while pushing peas and carrots down the sink, during her daily routine. Odd, isolated bits of her plan would interrupt her seek and find mode at Waitrose and she would think of her old contacts. Especially Tommy - ‘Talented Tommy’ as he was known, a sparkling party goer - and so much energy, she remembered.

She had put the shoes in her wardrobe, absentmindedly, pretending she hadn’t bought them, but they were there, ready. She was kidding herself. It wouldn’t happen by default, because she had decided.

When not being the dutiful and charming host to his friends and business associates, she continued with her not unpleasant life of hairdressers, frock fittings, expensive shopping, the pleasure of it evaporating because of its very predictability. She wore the shoes occasionally around the house to get used to them, to re-familiarise herself of the art of wearing dangerously high heels.

The taxi dropped her a hundred yards from the venue and she strode, feeling trampy on the precariously tall heels - higher than she remembered - but she soon regained that hip swaying S shape of the dangerous heel wearer. For a moment she felt self conscious - an unfamiliar discomfort, which prompted unsureness, guilt, doubts about visiting the past. Thoughts of Tommy spurred her on.

“Love the shoes,” said Tommy. He had a thing about shoes, and she had a thing about men who had a thing about shoes.

After thirty minutes of lovely to see you darling and potted biographies and graduation photographs the party died. The remembered sizzle had gone. But there was still Tommy.

It used to be dinner - club or casino - and ending up at someone’s house. Lots of laughter and high spirits, black Russian cigarettes and sex in the laundry room or the garden; and with Talented Tommy it had been exhilarating fun.

She had kept fit and was wearing a twenty year old dress that still fitted. They all looked old and talked of nothing but money, wild boar and avocado quiche, organic muffins, kitchen work tops - which just had to be of Brazilian slate. And pension funds. It was all so boring. But there was still Tommy.

She had yet another drink. She homed in on a young man who was grazing at the food table who listened open mouthed, unaware that he was being pulled. Before she went too far Tommy took her arm.

‘His mother,’ he said, nodding in the direction of a non stop gob talking loudly about house prices in Wimbledon. Tommy had drunk a little too much and was talking much too loudly, making her feel uncomfortable. '...You always were a bit of a tease - a sexy dresser. You know I never believed all that tosh about your job…’

‘Please. Tommy!’

‘Oh, don't mind him...he’s just...just…’

Him was another grazer at the food table, a quiet man who wasn’t contributing anything at all. She had tried a conversation, but so much food went into his mouth he never actually replied. He worked for a glossy magazine, had been captured by tribesmen in Afghanistan. That was his qualification for being at the party. A special guest. Invited and ignored.

Tommy blundered on, ‘...I always had an idea of what you were really up to - all those business clients... but, look, that’s okay by me. I never said anything.’ He was magnanimous.

‘Oh! Thanks a bunch, Tommy!’

She remembered Tommy as debonair - energetic - well connected - man-about-town. But he had wasted his expensive education - his money - his life. Now he was a silhouette of a Dandy relying on tenuous connections for opportunities, cosy jobs involving nothing more strenuous than having his name on the list of directors.

‘Why don’t you take me home, Tommy?’

‘One for the road?’ he asked, looking at her shoes.

He gave the taxi driver directions.

‘Peckham!? Peckham!? Are things that bad, Tommy?’

‘Just temporary, old girl.’

She negotiated the shabbily carpeted stairs in her gorgeous shoes. Tommy fixed drinks, and she went to the bathroom.

She remembered the excitement of old times, and her power to WOW. She went back to where Tommy was and leaned on the door frame, wearing nothing but lipstick and her fuckme shoes, the straps straining against the unholy restricted flesh.

Tommy was asleep.

Fast asleep and snoring.

She let herself out onto the street, feeling silly, disillusioned, and, at two a.m. in Peckham, a little bit afraid. A pirate cab prowled near to her. She waved it away, and was thankful when a black cab responded to her frantic waving.

She left the shoes under a lamp post on Peckham High Street and the taxi sped off with her back to Surrey. Her right bare foot caressed the calf of her left leg, up and down, snaking and teasing, as if in ritual courtship.



© billhaddowallen

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

and the postman just whistles

and the postman just whistles.


She opened the letter.

As soon as she felt that pleasurable ripping of the envelope giving way to the blade Kathy realised what she would have known before had she not been blinded by suspicion; that she might be making a mistake. She felt the stab of guilt, had split their trust with a dagger, severed bonds, felt a kind of disjoining.

She sat at the polished table with the slit envelope in her fingers, at arms length - disowning it. She drummed on the table lightly with the corner of the envelope, worrying about the consequences. I will have to throw the letter away - I will know something he can never know I know.

An hour ago she and Tom had breakfasted here. They had touched hands across the toast rack, had flirted with the freshness and excitement of strangers; a game he loved to play.

Oh come on, Kathy! Get hold of yourself, its probably something ordinary and innocent. But he might be expecting it - ask about it - missing letters sometimes complicate things.

She read the envelope again, the strong, confident immediacy of the handwriting - a fountain pen, she guessed - seeing Toms name written by some one else as if they owned it - had stolen him - knew things about him which she herself did not.

Kathy reminded herself why she was doing this; those odd phone calls - silence when she answered, but if Tom answered hed say, Ill call you back. And he always went out afterwards to pop to the shop or get something from the car.

Shed reached down to pick up the letter from the new doormat. The simple, ordinary doormat, like so many objects for Kathy, had memories locked within its stillness, its matter of fact inanimateness. She and Tom had bought the doormat together, holding hands in the household section of the supermarket. Afterwards theyd had lunch at their favourite pub on the river. On that summer Sunday a man in an overcoat had rowed a small boat resolutely against the traffic of cruisers and tourist vessels. Tom had stood on the bank with a pint in his hand and shouted rude things. An hour later the boatman rowed back down river creating a hazard for club eights and motor boats. The crowd thought it was amusing but the rower in a black overcoat haunted Kathy for the rest of that day - it had unsettled her. Theyd spent the rest of that day drinking and dozing in the waspy heat of the garden listening to cricket on Toms old portable, occasionally discussing the curious incident of the boatman. At Toms insistence theyd suddenly taken a break for sex in the cool kitchen and he had satisfied himself selfishly and vigorously while shed thought about the boatman.

She had reached down, extended her arm to grasp the letter already speculating who it was from and about the news in it; but stopped; did not touch it; saw that it was addressed to Tom. Suspicions she never knew she had teemed into her mind.
In that moment, bent and hand outstretched, so many things became clear, incidents which had entered her consciousness in the innocent, disarming state of natural trust and filed as routine, of no consequence, things forgiven and forgotten. It was all so obvious now. All those times when hed behaved out of character - weekends away - more late nights than usual - those instances of unusual reticence and moodiness - tell tale signs which had not registered as warnings.

How dare she write to him here!

Opening letters had always been such a pleasure for Kathy, a ritual she savoured, a rejoining with much missed friends. She loved slitting the envelope and reading - listening to - the voice from the pages, magically transported from far away as if the writer were here in the flower scented stillness.

She tap-tapped the table with the corner of the blue envelope. There was still time to throw it away. No. No, it is too late. I must read it. Either way nothing will ever be the same.

Get a grip, girl. She remembered how her mother had said that to her so often. Kathy often invoked her mother to give her courage when she was dithering or wilting, or to shift the responsibility for anything she was about to do.

She took the single sheet out of the envelope. Theres something else, she remembered. Toms friend, Christopher.

Chris used to come to the house often - used to pick Tom up in the morning in his genuine Yellow Cab imported from New York at great cost. They were always fixing it and driving off looking for parts. Sometimes theyd be away all day. They seem to have such fun together and Kathy was happy for Tom. In the evenings Kathy would cook a meal for the three of them, theyd have wine, lots of laughs - but now she remembered havent seen him lately. Hes been behaving rather oddly, too. Covering for Tom, I bet! Typical! And he was evasive, almost unfriendly. She had phoned the office to speak to Tom. Christopher answered. Tom was out and Christopher seemed unwilling to think about where Tom might be and not interested in Kathys chit chat. Later that same day Kathy had seen Chris in the shopping centre, had smiled in anticipation of their greeting. Hed darted into a shop and they didnt meet. She had thought then that Chris had not seen her. Typical, just like men. Hes covering for Tom and couldnt face me.

Kathy wished she had not opened the letter, had not remembered the suppressed memories that had ambushed her stable straightforward existence. I used to like Chris. Opening this damned letter has contaminated everything!

Kathy remembered nights when Tom would be late from work - remembering as if it were a past relationship - how she would be asleep and she would wake when he came to bed, smell alcohol and fresh air on him, feel the brief draught of coldness when he slipped under the duvet. He would cuddle up to her and after a few fidgety adjustments settle into the mould that they were and she would absorb his coldness until they were one evenly warm togetherness.

She remembered, too, those nights when he would lie close, so very close, but not touching. She would lie awake because he was awake, alert as if he was concentrating on not making contact, as if - in case- she might want something, as if touching might awaken desire for affection or sex. It was all so clear now.

I wonder what she is like. Dark haired I suppose. Like me. I wonder if he ever asks her to oh, god! A series of brief vivid images of Tom doing their special intimate things with another - with HER - made Kathy physically ill as if she had been kicked in the stomach. Does he do things with her not with me what has he told her DAMN HER!

Holding the single pastel coloured sheet, she looked around the room, at the familiar friendly things which now felt unfriendly, even hostile, that had absorbed the sounds and thoughts of the room into their screaming muteness; the carefully chosen furniture theyd shopped for, ethnic carvings, bits of tack and tat, her mothers elegant vases, wedding photos, happy snaps of them on holiday in Mombassa, Algiers, New York, memories glossed over as if never serious. So this is what its like - the day your life changes - the day, the moment, it happens? Just an envelope through the letterbox. And the cheery postie whistles on his way.

She could hear her mothers voice telling her that there are some things it is better not to know.

Darling Tom,

I am writing in the hope that you will read what you wont listen to, what you wont let me say. My anger has gone. I cant be angry with you.

I know that you know that I love you. I cannot believe that you were never serious about our plans - about our life together. Why should I believe that I was a fool to believe you? Youre just dishonest, Tom, my love.

You have broken my life and thrown it aside, but you cant rob me of my memories.

I miss your hugs and security, and cant live without them.

All my love

Please dont scrap our buttercuppy car. If we cant go to New York, then send her.

copyright billhaddowallen

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Max glimpsed his own reflection in a shop window. He felt in his raincoat pocket for his train ticket.
Hey! That guy in the window wasn‘t wearing a raincoat!
And, his reflection had a flower on his lapel. Max checked his own lapel to confirm what he already knew - he wasn’t wearing one. He looked back along the street. It was deserted.
The face of his doppelganger stared into his through the window of the train as it moved away from the platform. Max had always been confident, optimistic, on a continuous burn of achievement, but this frightened him.
When Max left the station at his destination Doppelganger was across the road looking directly at him with a superior, detached stare. He saw his double a number of times over the next few days; in the supermarket - on the golf course - across the street - and each time close enough for Max to see that look, that questioning gaze.
Getting on a bus he looked back as it moved away and there he was, his other self, looking into Max’s eyes. Max had got into the habit of looking around, checking for his stalker, but he hadn’t noticed him; it was as if he’d been standing right behind him all the while.
Max got nervous and phoned in sick. Unable to relax, he paced and kept looking out of the window. His wife Laura nagged him in a concerned way. He was reluctant to confide in her, so after a few days he went back to work.
On the first day back to work doppelganger was there on the station platform. Max watched him. Doppelganger played with the hair behind his right ear, curling his hair around his finger - just as he, Max himself, was in the habit of doing.
On the way home he saw him through the window of the connecting door, sitting in the next carriage. He gave Max a grin this time.
Max took another few days off. He kept in touch with the office by phone and e-mail but he’d lost his zest - all his experience and knowledge deserted him. His colleagues worried, but they rang Laura, instead of Max.
When indoors he peered out of the window and worried about unfamiliar parked cars.
He decided to break out and walked to the station to get a train into town. He stopped occasionally to check up and down the quiet cherry blossomed avenues. He scanned around him at the station - peered onto the platform before he reached the top step.
Waiting for the train he thought about Laura - remembered her quizzical look as if she feared something - how she had hugged him tighter.
He heard the rumble and clatter of the approaching train and moved forward. He heard his own voice behind him, felt a hand on his back and was propelled forward. Twisting as he fell, he saw his own face giving him a disdainful look.
published online at Col Bury's Thrillers Chillers n killers and in Daily Flash Anthology [Pill Hill]


Kate is on the edge of the platform. One quick push and it would be done. Easy! Suicide of hard working civil servant. Rafferty would create a suitable background - pressure of work, family problems, a hitherto unknown history of scarcely believable perversions - to make sure that the stench of it would expunge the truth.

Kate King looked ordinary, but she was employed by the department because she was extraordinary, her delicate demeanour concealing a tough single mindedness.
Rafferty was the department’s man who ‘dealt’ with problem people. This was a rush job. He had tried to refuse, but was briefed that Kate had been cooperating and assisting terrorists for years and had to go. Today.

Rafferty was the one in the dept. working against the system, and this was a perfect way out. He could take early retirement.

For this reason he accepted a job he would normally have refused. Rush jobs were sloppy, unprofessional. Rafferty’s jobs went unnoticed, as mysterious disappearances, suicides, DIY accidents, a grotesque disease, or the result of some bizarre sexual practice that went wrong.

He had no compunction about executing a woman. Anyhow, this nasty business is no place for a bloody woman.

The train rattles and rumbles in and everyone moves forward expectantly. A woman slides a huge suitcase in front of him and he misses the opportunity to give Kate that push. He swears.

He drives to Kate’s home. It’s already getting messy. Kate would have to change trains at least twice. He knew the layout of the house. He made it his business to familiarise himself with the homes his colleagues lived in; he knew their habits, their hobbies, and their routines, all their private, conscience piercing, indulgences.

There is an unused alcove covered by a curtain behind the high backed chair. Rafferty waits. In addition to a variety of innocent everyday things he could use as a lethal weapon, he has pistols, carefully chosen. One of them is a Rafferty designed special of limited power. He would shoot Kate through the back of the chair. The bullet would come to rest inside her skull. There would be no messy wallpaper. No messing about with knives, or struggling with cords. She wasn’t very big, but he knew from experience that the condemned struggle violently.

A grating, squeaking noise. Kate’s key in the door. Normally sure footed he’s uneasy - troubled with a feeling of worry. It was this rush-hurry - rush-hurry. It should have been planned and perfected.

Kate behaves as predicted. The kettle boils. The spoon kisses the cup with a tinkle as she swirls the sugar in the cup.

She enters her study and settles in her chair. He could smell her now, like a beast of prey at the moment of a kill.

He levels his weapon at the calculated point on the back of the chair. The chair swivels round. Rafferty drops to the floor. There is a small, neat hole in his forehead.

published on Col Bury's THRILLERS KILLERS n CHILLERS and Daily Flash Anthology [PillHill]


The fog is close today. It used to be real fog - the morning sun would burn it away and you could watch the valleys steaming. This fog is different; a friendly lilac colour and has filled the valleys and creeps higher and higher. Something is wrong, but they didn’t tell us. The screens they installed are white and silent and the speaking people gone. Before we moved further up the hills travellers through the village spoke of catastrophe. We cannot go any higher. Some brave souls took their families and ventured down the valley to investigate. That was long ago

The children have never seen the sun. Or a cloud. The sky is a vague whiteness. Sounds of animal life have disappeared. The cicadas were the last to go - as if the Earth’s clock had stopped. And the lilac euthanasia creeps closer each day. There is a strange contentment, and nobody talks about it. Even the children are silent - I used to worry about what to tell them.

The enchantingly hued vapour is around our feet as we gather in the church. The English Father says everything will be ok. We let him think we believe him