Sunday, 6 February 2011

70. New Trousers

On a cold, damp grey early morning Crag made his way to the stern of the battered and bruised ship deciding to light a fire. A funeral pyre of his past. He found the old oil drum where he'd previously, so carelessly thrown the remnants and articles of his life with such carefree abandon. Inside were the old faded letters, books and memos. Love letters received, some others never sent, parcels never opened, CDs never listened to. There was an eloquent pictorial photo album which had come to an abrupt finish at the time he boarded the Star of the Sea XIII . He pulled it out of the drum to safety, striking a "memo to self" to finish the story.
He stuffed the ridiculous Man-on-Safari suits, together with the paisley cravats and the well thumbed and stained copies of Men Only Wives and Big Northern Birds deep into the oil-drum and went back to his container to search for more irrelevant stuff to burn. He felt strangely liberated as he wandered back down the rusty decks and walkways..

Saturday, 23 October 2010

69. Gloomy?

Crag pulled nervously at the sub-standard creases of his Man-on-Safari pale blue trousers.
The evening party had gone well and now most of the group had left Sis's party and returned to their own lives. The Old Bent Crone had been the first to leave (the Griffon had been playing up) - followed by Sven, who had been mightily relieved his face hadn't frightened anyone.
The mood in the container was mellow; Sis was sitting close next to Paul, stroking his hair, as he played a gentle Spanish lullaby. Esmee was snuggled up to Omah, both of them giggling as he showed her some new card tricks.
Crag busied himself loading his pipe with extreme concentration, anxious to show he hadn't noticed the intimate atmosphere. He clenched the pipe tightly between his teeth, thrusting his lantern-jaw towards the direction of Paul's guitar, trying to loose himself in the Spanish rhythms and pretending not to notice the intimate signs of affection being shown by the two couples.
Eventually Omah was the first to speak. 'I say old man, ever feel like a spare part?'
Crag blustered, ' Err oh yes must be going soon, have some ironing to take care of eh?'
'Don't let us stop you then,' drawled Omah,' goodnight old boy.'
Crag stood up and mumbled a goodnight to everyone and left. As he walked away from the container he heard the sound of laughing behind him and felt wretched. The two women that had become his mainstay were enjoying themselves and didn't need him around. He opened the door to his container and looked around at the familiar objects, placed exactly where he'd last left them. The clothes draped untidily over chairs. The Mr Suave manicure wallet still sat next to the make-up mirror. The bottle of hair-dye had spilt and was staining the sink and the pile of dirty dishes had settled deep into their own ooze.
He rinsed off a dirty cup and poured himself three fingers of 25yr old Cahtspiece malt, chased by an astringent Bulgarian Cava and pondered his next move. Maybe he should quit the ship at the next port of call, there was nothing for him here...BUT..tomorrow is another day !

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

68. Soiree

That night, Big Sis invited everyone round to her container to an "Eats Shoots & Leaves" party and to bring everybody up to date on recent developments. She had spent the day picking only the most tender and succulent foliage from her micro-jungle, delicately infusing them with only the finest herbs and spices. She gently simmered the food, wrapped in elephant bark, on the top of a small clay oven.
She'd had the oven installed while they were in Tangier by a local artisan. A small, wiry, Moorish gentleman had brought it to the ship on her instructions, his back, bent double with the weight. When she'd shown him her tattoos, he'd laughed out loud, revealing a solitary, tobacco stained tooth.
Inside the oven she had some previously prepared, freshly caught fish, couched in whaarno leaves with a nagaali and cruppers garnish which was gently awaiting her guest's greedy mouths.
First to arrive was ex-rock star Paul. Sis had asked him to bring his acoustic guitar - she loved to hear him play - and he sat on an old pouffe, gently picking out the refrain from a traditional Andalusian love-song. The more she found out about this man, the more intrigued she became.
Slowly the rest of the group arrived and were welcomed with glasses of juice from berries of the cack-cack bush. Esmee arrived looking radiant in an off the shoulder number made of lace and taffeta, her fair beauty shining with an inner luminescence. Crag followed meekly behind, his blue safari suit crumpled and stained without the Stewards attentions. He'd attempted to revive his ginger streaked hair ensemble with the popular gelled look. Unfortunately the absence of gel on the ship had forced him to improvise with ship's grease, the pervasive aroma of animal by-products resulting in a two metre Crag exclusion zone. Next to arrive was Omah, looking cool and svelt in a white tuxedo with red cummerbund. His moustache was outstanding - truly magnificent. Crag could only gasp in admiration.
Sis had briefed the others about the new bandage-less Sven but it was still a shock when he arrived, which they all did their best to disguise. It was shocking, but not in a horrific or grotesqe way, but because it was like seeing a new strange person they'd never encountered before. They'd been used to seeing Sven's head completely wrapped and covered and here it was ...well fairly ordinary. The men all shook his hand, with Esmee and Sis kissing him lightly on his cheek, which made him shy and embarrassed. He turned away and looked for something to concentrate on.
Last to arrive was the Old Bent Crone, complete with the Griffon perched on her arm, it's fierce unblinking eyes looking for prey...

Monday, 11 October 2010

67. Saved

As Sven prepared to meet his maker, a strange thing happened. Instead of being pitched forward into the sea, he found himself propelled backwards where he landed on something soft, something human - the Steward. Standing over them both was Big Sis.
'OK start talking ,' she declared, speaking to the Steward, one of her feet holding him down,' I saw it all, what's your game eh?'
Sven rolled away from the prone, defeated Steward and stood up. Now was as good time as any, he started to unwind the bandages from his neck and face in front of Sis.
'My God!' she exclaimed, ' first I uncover a killer in our midst and now "The Return of the Mummy" uncovers himself. I need to sit down.'
'Sis you haff my undying gratitude,' said Sven,' you saved my life from this...this monster.'
The Steward was saying nothing, staring expressionless into the middle distance.
Sis looked at Sven's revealed face with interest. She'd seen many disfigurements during her time cage-fighting in Cambodia, many much worse than Sven's. She was intrigued.
'I thought you had massive burns and scars or something,' she said,' why do you keep the bandages on?'
'I'm embarrassed and it's a long story,' he muttered, looking away, avoiding her eyes, ' I vill tell you tonight if you are interested?'
'OK but first we have to decide what to do with this pathetic psycho. I think we can assume he also murdered the Captain, the Anglo-Swedish industrialist and the English MP. We'd be perfectly entitled to throw him over the side to sleep with the fishes.'
'I didn't kill the industrialist,' mumbled the Steward,' I didn't have anything to do with that one.'
'Hmm, whether you did or not, no one will believe you anyway,' said Sis,' we'll put you in one of the storage lockers for now,' and she pulled him up and dragged him down to the storage areas below decks.
As she slammed the door and slid the bolt home to Steward's prison, her mind was churning over the recent events. This had certainly been a day to remember, she was looking forward to telling the others. She strolled purposefully round to Esmee's container to tell her the news, her tattoos rippling in the hot sun..

Saturday, 9 October 2010

66. Face

Sven was, at last, comfortable within himself. As he stood at the ship's rail, looking out at the azure sea, he'd reached a major conclusion. He'd decided to come out. Not in a gay way - he wasn't of that persuasion - but to strip off the head and face bandages that had blighted his life for so long and to accept the consequences.
There were two problems he had to come to terms with: Firstly his appearance. The botched plastic surgery was still in evidence, his slack face looking like an advanced stroke victim, with one eye semi-shut and his mouth sagging to one side. On refection, looking at it from a casual observer's persepective, it probably wasn't that bad, but Sven knew it wasn't his face, not the face he had started out with. He would have to get used to it. It would certainly look better once it was exposed to the sun and fresh air. At the moment perpetually covered up, it had a ghostly look of a cadaver.
The second problem he faced was the identity issue: He was here on the Star of the Seas XIII posing as the son of a World War II hero, the captain of U-57. Without the bandages he was sure he'd be discovered as a fraud and imposter ... but why?
As far as he knew there were only a handfull of old grainy photos depicting the great man amongst the memorabilia and none of the son. In fact he couldn't be sure if the captain even had a son, there'd been no record of one during the extensive research. These thoughts put Sven's mind at ease and he decided to bite the bullet that night and remove the bandages, showing his new, strange face to the group and world for the first time.
As he gazed out to sea, he was so pleased and relieved with his decision, he failed to notice the shadowy figure in the starched white suit creeping towards him. The first he knew of another's presence was when he felt a sharp tug as he was lifted up bodily by his legs and jacket collar. He was being hoisted over the rail... he was powerless, his flailing hands could only clutch at the empty air ...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

65. Friends

At first he thought he'd crossed over to the other side and was in heaven. There was a dazzling white light in his eyes and an angel looking down on him with a beautiful soft benevolence.
He soon realised he wasn't however, when a bucket of cold water hit him full in the face.
'What the HELL were you trying to do?!'
It was Sis leaning over him, shaking his shoulders, 'I came to tell you about the noise; you'd passed out, what on earth were you playing at?'
'I...I'm sorry, 'he blurted, 'It was stupid of me, I'm so sorry..but thanks for rescuing me. I'm OK now.'
Sis was concerned. ' C'mon, walk with me round the deck, get some oxygen in you, you look terrible,' she lifted him up and supported him, as he stumbled along gasping for some fresh air.
Later on, as he sat in Sis's container, she busied herself making some strong cruppers tea.
'I've never been in here before,' he said,' this micro-jungle is amazing, how do you get it to grow?'
'Pure skill on my part,'she laughed,'I learned about jungle plants in Cambodia. I like to nurture them; watch them grow, some of them taste good too - very healthy, you should try it.'
'Yeah I guess I should eat better, just lately I haven't bothered.'
Sis looked directly at him with a steady gaze. 'We've never really talked have we? You've always seemed so...well, preoccupied with other things. It felt like I would be intruding.'
'Strange isn't it,' said Paul,' I've never felt as if I should talk to you either. You always seem so self-reliant, tough and strong. I thought if I started talking to you... you'd well, think I was coming on to you.'
Sis looked at him again,' well you have got a bit of a reputation in that department, but I'm sure it's nothing I can't handle. I can always put you in your place can't I ?' and she laughed as she poured out the tea.
They sat and looked at each other fondly - in a new light. Paul was the first to speak.
'Thanks Sis - for everything.'
'Let's raise a cup "to new horizons!"' she toasted as they both slurped the perfectly brewed tea.
'Hmm those cruppers make all the difference,' she murmured to herself...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

64. Blues.

The noise of sustained guitar feedback coming from ex-rock star Paul's container was frightening and yet magnificent. From the bows to the stern of the Star of the Seas XIII, the distorted, tortured, sustained D chord from a Stratocaster could be heard echoing out across the waves. Outside Paul's container the sound was deafening - inside it was surgical.
Three 100w Marshall stacks wired in series. 24 twelve inch speakers being overdriven with the volume turned to eleven. What was he thinking of?
What Paul was thinking of - was oblivion.
He'd had another troubled nights sleep. The memories of past glories had kept returning; brief snatches of his on-stage fame, the time he opened for the Stones at Nice, the solo he played at Earls Court during the Blues Beyond tour. All fantastic achievements but all in the past. What had he done lately?
After the fame and fortune he'd retired to the lazy LA sun, where his wife had soon become bored with him and left. In an effort to relive earlier, happier days, he'd formed other bands with some of his old music mates but without success. The spark had gone, he had peaked years ago. He realised his playing had now become a stale, cliche ridden joke.
He had been awake since the early dawn smoking too many of his 'jazz woodbines', trying to shake off the heavy miasma but without success. In fact his mood had deepened during the day to a point where even playing his guitar now seemed pointless. He kept smoking more until he found he'd lost the major use of his limbs. He slumped lower into his chair, his head lolling back, guitar draped across his knees with the volume turned right up. Yes he thought,"Death By Sound" - he didn't care anymore, a good way to go.
He could feel the build up of blood in his temples. Any minute now, the vessels would hemorrhage and he would be bleeding from the ears, after which, total blackness as the blood leaked through to the brain's frontal lobes. Then that perfect silence...
Deep in his subconscious he heard the clang of metal, a metal door opening and then being roughly pulled up, his guitar falling to the floor...