The Tempestuous Philanthropist

It just wasn’t the done thing for a philanthropist to be so tempestuous. Despite his turbulent aura, his intentions were usually noble. But while he attempted to be kind and courteous, the majority of his associates thought he was a complete twit.

 

He would lay on decadent charity balls, but on the night lose his temper over the slightest thing. He did try to keep his cool, but continually found himself flustered over the slightest problem. Sometimes it didn’t even take a problem at all. Given a simple decision to make, his words would tumble over themselves and his gesticulations would become out of control like a rogue helicopter, turning into a gibberish whirlwind of flying limbs.

 

The more it happened, the angrier he got. He was angry at himself for getting angry. But this would make him angrier still, perpetuating a fury that was unstoppable until expelled verbally. In such a rollercoaster of rage and desperation, he would often spit orders at the nearest person, commanding them to fix the situation for him. He once did this to the mayor of Cambridge and is now most unwelcome in the city, despite being a generous benefactor to many events there himself.

 

Each time he blew his top, his emotions bounced around the room like the reflections of the very expensive disco ball he had installed. He couldn’t help but become caught up in the whirlwind of his man-made maelstrom. His resultant fits of anger were unpredictable and terrifying. Naturally, people would recoil in fear, but this would only spin his anxiety into frustration and then his temper would snap, like a worn elastic band with too much tension from being pulled in opposite directions. It was not uncommon for new associates to nearly jump out of their skin at his sudden outbursts. Those brave enough to roam close to him would conceal earplugs on their person and deploy them as soon as his voice started to staccato at the first sign of disarray.

 

Over time, his seething emotions toxified those around him. His mere presence seemed to turn all of his associates into hateful quidnuncs, endlessly gossiping about him when he was out of earshot. Their words and behaviour became increasingly spineless the more time they spent near him. It was most unfortunate.

 

On several occasions he didn’t raise a penny and had to give money to the charity himself. To compensate and try and redeem himself, he organised larger and more extravagant events.

 

But disaster and social expulsion followed him everywhere.

 

 

 

 

Image: http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/16135/1/Dealing-With-Snobbishness.html

 

 

 

Welcome to the jungle

The precarious, well-trodden rainforest trails of Hacienda Marie are the only link between the dense jungle and the vast desolate coastline facing the roaring Pacific Ocean. Few tourists go this far out of their way to brave the elements and be at the mercy of mother nature. With no road names to go by, it’s often by sheer luck that they find their way here at all. Accidents on the myriad of adventure tours and extreme sports are apparently far and few… But recently there have been whispers outside the closely knit group of instructors that things may not be as they seem…

 

“Mmmff”

“That’s it”

“Ughhh”

“Getting closer, baby”

“Ooooof…”

“Don’t stop!”

“Uhhhh …Uhhhh”

“Yes… Yes…. – You did it!!”

“I didn’t think being on honeymoon would be so much work…”

 

reaching the top of the rainforest canopy was like entering another world. From up here she could see the top of the rainforest canopy and the magnificent birds that lived on the top of the rainforest. It was another world. Down on the rainforest floor it was cool and shady, but up here the sun was bursting through everywhere she looked, magnifying the vibrant colours all around. Even the mosquitoes were dazzling. The view was breath taking.

“Hey look, the mosquitoes are blue” she said, impulsively reaching a finger out to touch its metallic back.

“Stay away from those” said Jamie as he hoisted himself up from below the happy couple, “They carry the Dengue,”

“Argh” Sophie sharply retracted her arm and tried to move her body away from the small swarm, but this made her sway on her rappel rope, slowly spinning herself alarmingly close to the blue mosquitoes, squealing each time she involuntarily swayed back towards them. She grimaced her face shut as if to keep them from flying up her nose, but also in annoyance at the boys laughing at her and doing nothing to help.

“Help!” she shouted as Jamie and Harry laughed. “I’m going to fall off!”

Jamie leant back in his harness and took his hands off the rope.

“Completely safe, see,” he said, making snow angels in the air.

“Ok,” said Sophie, catching her breath, “Well this is stunning, but I’m starting to feel dizzy. Can we go back down?”

“No problem” said Jamie. Unlike the other two, Jamie was quite at ease 156 feet up here in the top of the canopy. He ran this tour twice a day, every day. He sat comfortably in his harness, coordinated and free.

“Plus I’m getting quite worried about Harry’s testicles…” she added.

Harry glanced down and automatically went to cover his crotch with both hands, in the split second where his hands left the rope, his stomach lurched and he gripped the rope as tight as he could, opting to cross his legs instead. The sight of him pouting and spinning on his rope with crossed legs made Sophie giggle.

“Well, I’ll go down first then shall I?” said Harry, still visibly uncomfortable.

“You’d better, before those balls plummet to the floor,” said Sophie, still giggling. She was glad to finally be able to relax. Her arms were aching after hoisting herself up, and she tested her confidence by letting go of the rope and letting herself be suspended by the safety of the rope.

“Ha Ha Ha,” Said Harry with a deadpan expression. “Well anyway, getting down is faster than going up.”

“Right buddy, you know what to do,” Said Jamie. “Pull that rope behind you gently and let the rope slide through your glove. If you let go, it’ll stop. Can’t go wrong”

“Yup,” answered Harry nervously through strained breaths.

“Remember the deal…” he said to Jamie through the side of his mouth.

“Mmmhuh” mumbled Jamie, squinting in the sun and glancing towards Harry as he slid down the rapel thorugh the leaves below.

“What?” asked Sophie, woken from her reverie. She had leaned back on the rope and was almost lying down in her harness, as if floating on the canopy roof.

“What deal?” she said, scrunching her face.

“Nothing” answered Jamie with a stiff smile.

Sophie watched him, noticing that his LEFT eye was twitching and that he looked different compared to how it did a moment ago. The warmth had left him and his face was stony.

“But he did just say -”

“Hey look, the Montezuma bird,” interrupted Jamie, “Can you see it?”

He pulled Sophie’s rope close to him to they were level and pointed beyond her. She followed his gaze, searching for the elusive black bird with the long yellow tail within the leaves.

“Where?” she asked, turning to him just enough to notice a metallic glint in his right hand, but before she could say anything else, she felt weightless, flashes of green rushing past her. There was no room for breath. No time to ask why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: http://magazine.luxuryretreats.com/costa-rica-rainforest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking Love in Bohemia

The sprawling city of Brighton & Hove is cut off from the outside world by the sea on one side and the south downs on the other. In the heart of the narrow Laines lay rows upon rows of identical townhouses, each as brightly coloured as the beach huts that line the seafront promenade. Alternative lifestyles are the norm and the mainstream is considered both unethical and socially unacceptable, although the rise of the Hipster has confused this. Brighton was Hipster before Hipster was hip. The bohemian streets are lined with bearded men on bikes. These immaculately groomed men dressed as lumberjacks parade around with perfectly styled monochrome hair, twizzling the points of their moustache while they shop for round vintage spectacles and the perfect hummus.

 

Beatrice longed to meet a man who spent more time admiring her than he did his own beard. The last one, Gerry, lined the walls of their flat with mirrors so he could make sure that his hair was immaculate at all times, and spent three hours every Sunday pruning and oiling his bushy appendages. He even refrained from kissing her too much for fear of undoing his tireless work. It all ended with that terrible argument on the seafront. She’d watched him storm off into the sunset, zigzagging towards Hove and hoping that his gears wouldn’t fall apart until he was out of view so she didn’t feel obliged to help him fix them again.

 

Since then, she’d been spending more and more time sitting in the myriad of boutique coffee shops that lined every street in the hope that a handsome stranger would ask her out. At first it seemed exciting, the sort of start to a relationship that would be in a movie (apart from being there on purpose – these things are supposed to happen by accident). But at the rate she was going, she’d need to take out a second mortgage to fund it. Spending more on a cup of Fairtrade cruelty free organic coffee from deepest darkest Peru that buys poor children a pair of shoes with every sip you take seemed nice in principle, but it didn’t taste very good and was costing her a fortune. Plus, all this coffee was giving her the shakes, and she was finding it hard to look busy (and actually get some work done) while also oh-so casually looking around for totty every 5 minutes.

 

Ben had noticed the young woman with the red coat in the other cafes he delivered milk to each lunchtime. She was pretty in a cute kooky way and he almost went over to ask her out, but hesitated because of her unusual behaviour. In every café he’d seen her in, she’d type on her iPad for a few minutes, and then scan every person in the room, eyes as wide as a rabbit, fingers tapping the table like she was late for a fix. Sometimes she’d burst in from the rain and cause quite a commotion getting to a seat by the window through the cramped tables. Then, she’d put her sunglasses on as though they made her invisible and very noticeably stare at various people in the room, as if weighing them up for a duel.

 

He would feel concerned if it wasn’t so amusing… his curiosity was stirred and he decided to watch her from the side lines. It seemed she was looking for someone, but he couldn’t understand why she would be touring Brighton’s café’s to do so. He considered the possibility that she may be a spy, but chuckled to himself at how ridiculous this seemed, given her lack of subtlety. Suddenly her head turned sharply to him. He jerkily averted his eyes to the ceiling, realising that she had seen him laughing straight at her. He didn’t even have his earphones in to pretend he was on handsfree. He slowly lowered his gaze back to her. Her scarlet lips were pouting and she wore a frown that disappeared behind her huge sunglasses. She was staring straight at him.

 

Image: https://blogs.nordstrom.com/bp/fashion-favorites-things-to-get-excited-about-for-the-holidays

The Artist

The little girl with the chocolate brown fringe was in full flow. Kitted out in her navy blue overalls, she dab-dab-dabbed onto the splotchy paper.

 

The sea of newspaper did little to protect the table from the army of rogue globules that ricocheted with each splat, stroke and squelch onto her increasingly fragile paper canvas. She swished the brush ferociously, oblivious to the streams of colour slicing into the walls, fridge and cooker. The mess affirmed the importance of her work. All around her, blue and red ponds soaked through to the aged wood underneath.

 

All around her paint bottles lay sideways, pouring their contents onto yesterday’s news. Choosing the last one standing, she squeezed a mighty squeeze into the blue willow china bowl. Her eyes lit up as emerald green cascaded into the bowl and over the edge. Scooping a dollop onto her brush, she flicked it at the page (and unwittingly, the ceiling) then swung her short arms diagonally to add stripes across it. The drizzled dog groaned as paint landed on his sleeping back.

 

She paused to assess her progress, pondering her options and casting a big green ‘L’ across her dimpled chin. There was something missing, but she couldn’t figure out what.  Twizzling her paint crusted pigtail, she scanned the kitchen for inspiration. An idea started to form.

 

Forgetting to wipe her hands on the multicoloured mayhem of her overalls, she padded to the larder, giving the cat a friendly emerald stroke on the way. She picked up the fattest potato she could find, turned it over and frowned.  It didn’t have a star shape on the bottom like the one at school did. Neither did the others. Hands on hips, she scanned beyond the multicoloured spuds for another idea.

“Aha!”

She carefully carried the egg back to her workstation. Holding it high she squeezed it until it popped, clear and orange goo splatted down onto her paper.

 

She gripped her pointiest brush in a clenched fist and slowly lowered it until it touched the yolk. In one sweeping movement she made a big ‘O’ on the page.

 

She picked up the glue pot that was pebble-dashed in glitter and poured some onto the page to stick the egg in place. For the piece de resistance, she dunked both of her hands into the glitter, held her breath dramatically and emptied two entire handfuls onto the sticky swamp below.

 

Reaching the crescendo of creativity, she scrunched her face and bared her teeth like an animal possessed. She grabbed her biggest brush and raised it like a dagger about to strike the fatal blow. On impact, paint splattered in the air like fireworks celebrating her victory.

 

“There!” She exclaimed triumphantly.

 

Tossing her redundant brush to the un-newspapered floor, she admired her work. The untrained eye could mistake this paint-logged sagging piece as the work of a novice, but to her, it was a masterpiece of her favourite colours, toys and hobbies.

 

Delighted and with no time to waste before the sheer weight of toppings threatened to tear the masterpiece in half, she jumped off her chair and ran with it draped over her hand to show her mum in the next room, oozing a sticky trail of paint and egg all the way from the newspaper to the brand new carpet beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

A Treasured Gift

Tamsin knew where heaven was. Her Grandpa took her there the second he picked up his golden saxophone and played those first syrupy notes. The magic contraption with complicated buttons sparkled like glistening treasure and made melodies sweeter than milk and honey.

She’d lay tummy down on the floor, butterfly hands cupping her dimpled chin, gazing adoringly at the show he put on for her, strutting up and down the room striking the intense crooked poses she’d seen on record sleeves. He’d grin through ballooned cheeks and lean back like a diva to project the high notes and make her giggle. It was like witnessing a spectacle, something beautiful being created that was unique to that perfect but fleeting moment. Every moment was caramel.

She learnt to feel the music, noticing how the notes related to each other and what a difference it made it they were played with love. Her dancing fingers found rhythm in their patter and her feet swung in time like chubby little metronomes.

At night she was sometimes woken by the wonky chorus of instruments tuning up and getting ready to play. Over the distant hum of chatting and laughter downstairs, she could hear the stretching and yawning of brass and string.

She’d quietly slide out of bed and tip-toe down the stairs, carefully hopping over the creaky step. Sweet, wispy smoke tickled her button nose as she peeked through the gap in the front room door.

The musicians faces turned to her Grandpa, and as though he had spoken, their instruments suddenly came alive. Her imagination ran wild with the stories told by each melody, each instrument telling a different part. They conversed without words, lifelong friendships forged from meeting at the perfect harmony.

The makeshift audience of wives and close friends were transported by familiar songs back to the days of youth and freedom. Red wine was sipped through lipstick smiles and cigarettes suspended from dainty fingers.
Although mesmerised by the the band’s unity, it was him she loved watching the most. She craned her neck to witness him fully each dreamy note inviting her closer. He was mid solo, gently puffing his cheeks with the face of an angel. Eyes closed, completely relaxed.

 

He’d had the same peaceful expression years later when she visited him in the chapel of rest. He’d taken her to heaven many times and now he was there to stay. She kissed his cold, clammy forehead and said ‘Sweet dreams Pumpkin Pie’ just like he used to say to her, all those years ago.

 

The house seemed so empty without his music. Records weren’t the same, even with eyes closed and memories as vivid as yesterday. Her grief was consoled by love, but life had a piece missing.

 

She read the note again, welling up at the sight of his spidery handwriting which could have been written yesterday.

 

Pumpkin Pie,

Wish I could be there to hear you play.

All my love,

Grandpa

xXx

Image: https://roxycoss.wordpress.com

Watched

I need to calm down, figure out what’s going on. The sticky sea air fills my lungs like heavy tar, forcing them open. I tell myself to get a grip. My breath finally relaxes when my feet crunch on the pebbles. But immediately I have to fight visions of my heavy footsteps crunching human bones, shattering and splintering with each step. I try to replace them with visions of walking on snow, but before I succeed, the snow morphs into a thick layer of human ash. I shake the visions out of my head. Are they thoughts or memories? I can’t keep track of what’s real anymore. I can’t ask anyone in case they’re true. If anyone found out, I’d have to kill them too.

My legs give way and I collapse onto the stony beach. I shuffle my hips from side to side like I used to when I was little and the pebbles mould around me. I used to come here to settle my thoughts. The quiet stony beach used to be my sanctuary. How could somewhere that felt so familiar suddenly feel so alien? This is home, but I feel like I’ve never been here before. Never seen it for what it truly was. Everything I’ve ever known, or thought I knew, suddenly doesn’t fit. My entire perception of what I thought was real is compromised in a way I hadn’t thought possible, and with it my sense of safety. I no longer belong here.

Did I really do what she accused me of? Or are my suspicions right? I keep connecting the dots and finding her in the centre of it all, but every time I confront her she melts my suspicion away and replaces it with accusation. It doesn’t add up. I can’t trust her any more. Or is it me I can’t trust? The confusion is exhausting, weighing down on the last pieces of my sanity like concrete.

Not even the ocean clears my head. Time always seemed irrelevant here, ticking clocks replaced by lapping waves. Either side of me they crash against the wooden groynes, each punch pummeling them closer to destruction. The angry seaweed thrashes the shore, assaulting the pebbles. The sea beyond looks black and molten, ready to swallow and consume any who dare cross it. Maybe I should walk straight in. Let it consume me.

 

The deep roar of the sea penetrates my thoughts like white noise. Graphite clouds above me look ready to burst. Hungry seagulls scream at me from above, sweeping and circling like vultures. The bellowing wind gains momentum and casts icy warnings across my cheeks. Two dogs canter along the surf in a dangerous game of tag, one barking at the waves as if warning at the sea to stay back. Their owner lags behind, deep in thought. I can’t stay here much longer; it’s not safe anymore.

The wind changes direction and brings back that murderous shriek, begging for life. My stomach recoils into a knot, taking me right back where it happened. I follow the sound with panicked eyes and see squealing toddlers nearly getting swamped by sea foam as they try to paddle. They could get washed away by the huge waves in a second, but their parents seemed unfazed and laugh from the shore. Maybe they want them dead. Images of drowning faces tumble inside my mind. I shake my body to detach from the grotesque visions before they take over and make me do it.

I sit there alone, filled with dreadful connection to her. I don’t know how to escape. I take a deep sigh and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, sending a shiver down my spine. But it’s not from the cold. I’m being watched.

Image: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woman-who-stole-pebbles-beach-2330090

Pebble Perfect

Time becomes irrelevant here. The time to go home is not dictated by a clock, but rather the weather and mood. Worries are left at the promenade and replaced with peace and comfort. No one hurries. Only the dogs move fast, cantering along the rolling rocks, tongues waggling, eyes bright, bounding along with freedom. Their owners lag behind, ambling slowly. Others stop completely, simply breathing in the horizon, lost in the moment. 
I feel calm as soon as my feel start crunching on the pebbles. I take giant sinking strides towards my perfect spot. The sticky sea air fills my lungs and my body feels renewed with each breath. I let my tired legs give way and flop my down onto the lumpy carpet below. I shuffle my bum from side to side until I’m moulded into the beach like a human limpet. From my custom-made seat facing the ocean, I have the best view in the world. 
The low roar of the sea quietens my thoughts like white noise. The caw of the thieving gulls and the march of someone else’s footsteps interrupts my thoughts before they have the chance to form. The sun drenches my face with heat like a hot bath and soaks into my clothes. The cool breeze whispers loving affirmations on my cheeks.
The waves are gentle today. Either side of me they gently caress the wooden groynes, their rhythm as steady as a heartbeat. I breathe in time with them and watch as they comb the shore.
The sea looks viscous, as though it’s just one expansive undulating mass of jelly, a single living thing. The sun shimmers on its surface, reflecting off its millions of tiny peaks as it would off a wet crocodile’s back, each scale glistening. The peaceful blue sky is mottled with cellulite clouds, each a suspended clump of cotton wool.

As the breeze changes direction it brings the laughter and music of circles of friends, and the squeals of delight from toddlers getting splashed by cold waves creeping up and tickling their feet. The seaweed scent that lingers in the air is regularly interrupted by the whiff of a nearby BBQ and the hedonistic aroma of home grown weed. Although I sit here alone, I’m filled with the feeling of joy and connection.

Image: http://www.pebblebeachfundraising.com/