My Fly

I once had a pet fly called Buzz. No, really – I did. He was a boy fly. No, don’t ask me how I knew that.

I used to keep him in a jar by my bed. He used to make this really great buzzing noise that I could hear through the holes I had made in the lid of the jar. It sang me to sleep in the night and woke me up in the morning.

I used to let him out of the jar every day so that he could stretch his wings. He would swoop around the room like my very own stunt-plane display. Landings and takeoffs were his best thing.

Sometimes he would come and sit on my arm but mostly on the back of my hand. I guess he wasn’t keen on being on the hairs on my arms and so he zoomed in on the smoothest flesh. Plus, I used to put honey on my hand.

He was an iridescent blue. My mom helped me to find that word in the dictionary. Actually, she told me the word first and then we looked it up together. It means ‘showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles’.

I asked my mom what kind of fly is mostly blue because that’s what Buzz was, and she said a bluebottle. I was a bit confused my that because Buzz didn’t look anything like a bottle.

Kids in school used to say ‘you’re stupid’ and I used to say ‘no, you’re stupid’. One of them tried to hit me once, which kind of proved my point. I’m big now and I haven’t grown much since then. I nearly got suspended for what I did to that kid. But Betty said that I was provoked. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it meant that I got let off.

I liked Betty after that, but I still preferred spending time with Buzz. That is, until the accident.

I heard it happen, but I wasn’t in my bedroom at the time. Mom was there cleaning. And Buzz was there too, in his jar, on the window-ledge, next to the open window, getting some air. When I asked her if she did it, she said ‘probably’, but that could have meant anything. It probably meant that she didn’t care either way. She was a bit mean like that sometimes. Particularly the day after the nights that Dad came home late.

She used to mutter ‘working late at the office, my fanny-pack’ under her breath when she thought I couldn’t hear. But that’s always been my superpower: listening to things I’m not meant to hear.

That night, I thought that Buzz had woke me up at first, but then I knew it couldn’t have been him because that was the night of the day of the accident.

It was the engine of a car that woke me, then it was the slam of the front door hitting the wall that opened my eyes wide and then it was the shouting that made me lay there listening. I heard my name said a couple of times and then I heard another sound. It got me out of bed. It was the sound of something breaking. Probably a plate on the tiled wall in the kitchen. It sounded just like a jar smashing on the path below my bedroom window.

I got to a place that was about halfway between my bed and the door to my room. I didn’t know where I was going so I just stood there. More whispering and then a loud noise that made me jump. Like something big falling onto something hard. I can’t tell you what that was, but judging by the way that my mom’s face looked the next morning – not iridescent, but with colours that brought that word to mind – I could guess what the noise was.

Then there was the sound of the front door slamming and the sound of a car door doing the same. There was an engine revving. It sounded angry but that faded the further the car got away from the house. And that was the last we saw of Dad. And I didn’t even see him, which made it worse.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. And I miss him a lot. I miss the games that we used to play. He was fun to be around and it’s a shame that he’s not around any more. I was sad for a long, long time.

And yeah, I guess that I miss Dad too.


The Other Shoplifter

It’s difficult to be comfortable with a knee on your neck and your cheek on the pavement. The shrieks spilling into the city centre streets told of indignation. He would wake with the next morning with knee marks on his chest, legs and neck. Whether he woke up in a cell or on the street would be up to him, but the sounds he’s making do not add up to promising.

Shops are organised these days. Security staff, sometimes disguised as shoppers and sometimes as Rambo addicts patrol the aisles and talk to each other with walkie-talkies that squawk at the approach of the familiar suspects.

The bronzed face and neck is a giveaway. The scrawny frame adds a clue. A certain stench warns the wary nose. The screwed-up face: insular and wary with eyes that see threats everywhere, is definitely one to watch for. And then there’s the street uniform: baggy, grimy and careless of style.

It seems ridiculous that anyone like that could imagine getting away with shoplifting. And yet, there’s hunger that must be rubbed. A belly that must be filled. And so …

I laughed when I heard the story about the young man who staggered out of the pub, stumbled his way to the car, singing all the way and then turned the key, roared the engine, whipped around the car park twice before screeching off down the road at a speed of a little under 30mph.

When the police car, that had been waiting outside the pub, caught him at the end of the road and pulled him over he wound down his window and said ‘hello, how can I help?’

The police officer said ‘can you step out of the vehicle, sir?’

He did. Then he looked back up the road towards the pub and watched as a half dozen cars pulled slowly out of the car park and sedately, carefully drove off in the other direction.

When they were out of sight, he turned his head towards the police officer and carefully, with no sudden movements, handed over the card he had been holding in his hand.

With a twinkle in his eyes he said ‘Sean Smythe – Professional Decoy. Please to meet you, officer.’

You can probably figure out the rest.

Orange – A Story in Parts

I started to write in June 2015. By September 2016 I had established a blog and was writing stories in parts that were hyperlinked together in a similar way to William Gillespie’s Letters to Linus (but more coherently (yet with less polish)) and Jennifer Egan’s Black Box (but on WordPress instead of Twitter (and so in larger chunks)).

Below are these blocks of prose. Approach with caution. If ever I want to be reminded how much I’ve improved, I click on these links:


  1. Break –
  2. Heal –
  3. Clench –
  4. Release –
  5. Awake –
  6. Screaming –
  7. Boom –
  8. Start –
  9. Fled –
  10. Tear –
  11. Layers –
  12. Juice –

As you can see, the first eleven parts were published (and written) over an eleven day period and the final part was added today. I remember that someone has accused me of being emotionless and so the project became an exercise in expressing feeling. The glut of adjectives is, I suppose, an inadvertent by-product.

What would I change if I were doing this today? I guess I’d take out a lot of those adjectives. 🙂

More Like True Love Than You’d Think

Sometimes, when I watch people weaving their curved paths through a crowd, with their little glances, feints and unconscious signals, then it seems to me to be like an exquisitely choreographed ballet.

Of course, at other times, life is more like a mosh-pit. This is about one of those times.

Characters first. Imagine a stage. Last night we went to the theatre and so this part is pretty easy. Make them colourful and distinct.


No. This isn’t easy at all. I can imagine people on a stage, but then what do I want to say about them? That the one on the left looks like a mad rainbow in his Technicolour Dreamcoat. That he’s called Joseph? But then what! He’s my brother, so I should know all about him. But what do you need to know? Okay, he’s up from Brum for a visit. I’m in York. He’s twenty-four and he’s as giddy as a box of frogs.

The lady to his right is Caroline. She’s got a face like a slab of granite. All angles with a skin you could sand planks of wood down with. Outdoors type. She’ll have rope for muscles when she’s forty; you can just tell. But for now – she’s my one and only, older by a year, sister. Down for the day and losing, just for now, that chewing-bricks Dundee accent she uses up there. For all of that, it doesn’t stop her calling me a choob when I say something daft. Yeah, you’re right; a what? I could look it up, but I don’t want to know. I can see the meaning in her eyes anyway. She was always disappointed by me. Dunno. Ask her yourself.

And then there’s me. What do you want, my OkCupid profile? The photo of me visiting Stonehenge last year for my 25th? Or this: I’m a dead ringer for Prince Harry from when he had all his hair. I’m on the stage too. Obviously, I’m the one writing as the other two catch up. I must look like I’m sketching them because I keep glancing up and down, up and down.

In about five seconds, one of them is going to screw up her face and a second later they’re both going to pay the first attention they’ve paid me since they arrived. I had curried beans for lunch and … hold on, here it comes; and … Oh, wait, what’s wrong? No-one’s looking! Ah, I know why – it didn’t happen. I made it up. I do that. Don’t we all? Actually, they’re still just ignoring me.

Okay, that’s enough of that, let’s see if we can plot ourselves out of this paper-bag of people. Or alternatively, we can make some stuff up. How about we just do that. A zombie story for instance. I always fancied writing one of those. Not so keen to be in one, but it’d be nice to put all the people I don’t really like into one and they get them eaten one by one. Sound like fun?

Uh-oh. Alert. They’re both looking at me. No idea why. Got the feeling they just asked me a question. Stop writing, phone-apps-media-recorder, tap the red button. I’ll transcribe it later.

“What!” That’s me.

“Have you farted?” Caroline. Common as compost.

“Nah. I just wrote that I did, but I didn’t.” I shut the notepad and put the phone on top, screen down.

“He’s up to no good. I can tell from his eyes. He has this look about him when he’s done something bad. Like, his face looks like it’s going to explode or something. It goes all red and …”

Joseph doesn’t half like to go on. I can’t be bothered to write the rest. You get the idea.

“Nah.” I don’t say much with my mouth. Most of it is already in the notebook. Not much to say once you’ve written it all. It’s like it’s already been said. And no-one likes repeats.

“So, you up for it?” Caroline.

“What’s that?”

She rolled her eyes and …

Hold on, let me just rewind a bit and fill in the scenery. The rain’s falling again outside the window and steam’s dripping down the wall above the cooker, partly ’cause the kettle’s just boiled but mostly because the gas rings are on. No central heating and no other way to keep it warm. Spring’s not very good at getting old houses with high ceilings warm. Like living in a bando sometimes. Okay, translation for all the mummies and daddies out there: abandoned house. You’re welcome.

… said, “we’re going to a gig. Wanna come?”

“Sure. Where? Who?”

“Whoever’s on down the Leadmill.”

I made a show of thinking about it, but there was nothing to ponder. Few bottles of Thunderbird to get us warmed up, best black skinny jeans, least smelly top (sniff those armpits) and we’re off.

Could have walked into town but Caroline didn’t want to get her hair wet. I could see her point. It would have been spike to frizz in five minutes flat. As it was, the walk to the bus nearly did her in. Me and Joseph have the sensitivity of hyperactive toddlers. If she hadn’t been holding her coat with a grip of steel, it’d have been gone. As it was, she just managed to keep it above her head. Cost her a boob-flash, but that was just par for the … Oh, okay, I made that up too. What can I say; I have a crude imagination. So sue!

The thing about a mosh-pit is that, although it doesn’t look like it from the outside, there are rules. Sure, they’re unspoken and so … yeah, actually they might all be in my head. You might think that it’s a hyperviolent free-for-all: all those arms going at ninety miles an hour, eyes rolling back in their sockets and those rictus grins, but that’s just pure show. Legs planted, looking like we’re defending our little territory to the death, but in our minds, we’re all there together. We’re one machine. A love machine. And if someone happens to slip and go down, then we pick them back up. Scoop down and set them right. And yeah, you get the odd one or two who don’t know the rules and use their elbows and fists, but, like as not, they’ll mysteriously go down. And they won’t get up again. And they learn. We all do.

She … Yeah, you knew there was going to be a she. It says love in the title. She was kissing all the fellas, and some of the girls too. And so, three-quarters of a bottle of Thunderbird and two cans of Red Stripe in, I said: “Where’s my kiss?” Fake petulance. I didn’t know her. Not before that.

Two minutes later I was laying flat on one the benches in the cafe area and she was laying flat on top of me. She wasn’t light, but I wasn’t bothered.

Three hours later she was at my place. A few of us crammed into a couple of taxis; impromptu party, and she slipped into mine. Brother, sister, friends and stranger (but getting more familiar by the minute).

Four days later I met her for a drink. We drank and we talked and we drank some more. She didn’t follow me home that night; even though I wanted her to.

Five weeks later and I was at her place and I was laying on top of her and she was crying and saying no. That she didn’t want it to be like it was with all the others. I didn’t ask her what she meant. But it wasn’t. I mean, it just didn’t happen.

Six months later and we were in town and she was teasing me and touching me and wanting more than I was willing to give and that evening didn’t really end that well.

Seven years later and I see her on the internet. A photograph from a strange angle with the kind of effects on it that took me ages to undo bring back to flesh and blood. She’d lost whatever fat she had and looked better for it. And she was a scriptwriter too. Won some prizes, had some of her stuff performed. But then nothing after the first few years. Strange. She just stopped. I could have sent her an email. But I didn’t. I would have known what to say. But I just didn’t

Meanwhile, going back to minute zero, my sister and brother were standing in the crowd, arms aloft, saluting the song that’s just ended. They’d entangled themselves in it. Music is so much better when you’re ears are singing along to it too and they … okay, let me try this thing that they call polyphony. I’m not God, so it’s not real. You just have to pretend along with me.

‘Wow, this is good. Good, good songs so glad I came here and the sweat, shirt soaking, t-shirt wring it out afterwards, going to be cold outside borrow brother’s jumper, he’s kind so he’ll let me but wow this song, that guitar, hey that guy looking at me with those come-here-eyes. Come here right back at you, dude, come kiss me, kiss me, kiss me. Gah, that girl draping her arms around his neck, scratch her eyes. Caroline! What’s got into you, not that drunk. Am I? Must be. Hey, this bass is good. Gotta dance. Jump up and shake it.’

And she did. Is it okay to put thoughts in other people’s heads like that? Writers do it all the time, but they’re making things up to put into stories. Then again, so am I. And it’s fun. Wonder what Joseph’s thinking.

‘Am I one of the bright and shiny people? Maybe not. Maybe I’m a bug; a bug-ugly punk with a big nose and a …’

Yeah, okay, Joseph; maybe I’ll just leave that to you. No sense in upsetting the punters with that kind of misery. Hey, though – this is kind of fun. What about that chick over there, the one with the bright red lipstick and the mournful face. She’s cute in a kind of a sultry way. Wonder what she’s thinking.

‘I swear that if something doesn’t happen tonight then I’m just going to go home and draw myself a bath, strip right down, ease myself into the water and slit my veins open.’


‘And not just across my wrists this time, but up and down. Get them good and open. Empty them out into the water. Empty this body. No more waking up wishing I hadn’t woken up. No more. Just no more. I’m so sick of this dreary life where nothing makes sense and no-one says anything that means anything. Such a dreary, dreary life. Insipid people. Nothing. No-one. Slit my veins. Say goodbye. Say goodbye with kisses. Salutations from a defective. A broken head slut.’

Of course, none of that is real. But then again, none of any of this is either. Memory is as full of holes as Swiss cheese. Not propionibacteria pulling the mind apart, but new experiences poking and prodding the old ones into new shapes. I know I asked her for a kiss then, but I already told you that. And I know the kind of dance that that starts.

And I kept her dancing. Trod on her feet for as long as I could. Sometimes it was a good old mosh, sometimes a foxtrot across the ballroom floor and sometimes just a soft shoe shuffle. But eventually, life collapsed into something other than what we really wanted. Things start, things end. We can’t keep dancing forever, but we do what we can.

Writing this is my way of saving us from oblivion. Maybe you have a different way. I try to accumulate. A drift of words to store against the years. To save me and maybe save us all.

And now there’s just this to say: love is still the answer when you don’t know the question. That and kisses.

Not a Good Day (to be a Mind Reader)

I used to envy those guys on the television who played like they could read minds. You see, I really wanted to know for sure what Ruthybaby … not her real name, thought about me. Whether she had the same kind of hots for me as I had for her. If she wanted into my pants as much as I wanted into hers. Maybe she didn’t, but that’d be okay, because at least I’d know. At least I wouldn’t have to spend sleepless nights tossing and … well, you know.

Instead I used to have to try to imagine the way she thought about me. Lots of yeah, Brad, touch me there. Oooh, Brad, that hurts so good. Oh, oh, oh. Then she’d arch her back and kind of grimace. But in a nice way.

But hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a sleaze-ball. I’m actually one of the good guys. I still keep the fire burning. Not just for the future of the human race, which, let’s face it, is going down the pan at a rate of knots, but also for the important things in life. Like football.

So yeah, I wanted to read minds, but then that day happened. That was the day that I decided that there’s no way I’d want to know what people were thinking. Not no never.

Started out like any other Saturday. Me and my mate Russolini … no that’s not his real name, were in town doing something or other. He would have been recovering from a hangover, but he would pretty cool with it. I would have been looking at records and women. Of course, I couldn’t do that all the time. You don’t get many records walking down the street. Joke!

So here’s the funny thing – we were walking home from town and we starts to see people streaming towards us. More and more of them the nearer we got to home. It was a lovely day for walking. But not so nice for these people it seems. They were all crying.

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s not something you see every day where we lived. At least, not at that time of day. Actually, not at any time of day. You’d think that you might see a bit of it after four forty-five, but you don’t. It’s just not how we are up north. Must be the Viking blood. And anyway, it wasn’t as late as that. Must have been before three.

Being northerners, although actually Russolini was born in Brum and his dad came from even further south, somewhere near Naples I think. Being northerners, even ones with swarthy good looks and no accent at all, which I always thought was weird. I mean, how do you get rid of a Birmingham Italian accent? Anyway, being northerners, we didn’t really do much more than share a frown at first. A kind of a shared confusion as to what was happening.

Perhaps it was the southern blood in him, I mean – they’re more friendly down south aren’t they. They sit around drinking ouzo, or whatever they have in Italy. Oh, wait – wine, right? Yeah, they sit around drinking wine and practicing being friendly with each other. Leastwise, that’s how I got to know him, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. So it comes more naturally to them I guess. Being friendly that is. So that must have been why he asked first. Why they were so upset, that is. Or perhaps he was just a nosy git.

I was shy. I was so shy that the only way I could get to be close to a girl … and this is when I was in my early teens, I don’t do this anymore. Leastwise not intentionally. There are always occasions on the tube where people are packed close together on the tube for instance, where you can’t ‘observe proper social conventions’ and ‘maintain personal space’ even if you want to.

God know how they get on in Tokyo where they have professional pushers to get more people packed onto their trains. I mean, who knows what thoughts are going on behind those implacable masks. So, yeah – not like that anymore. But I was when I was a young teen … And I was quite young. Late developer and all of that. Well, not that late, but later than the other kids. I remember once in the shower, this other kid said … but that’s a whole other story too.

So there was me, being shy; and young; not a pervert; and there were crowds of people at concerts. And there were girls in the crowd. Perhaps I said to myself that they needed protecting from being crushed. Perhaps I gave myself some kind of a justification like that. It doesn’t really matter now; I was there and a girl would be there and we would be moulded nicely to each other and no one said nothing to no-one. Nice way to enjoy a concert. Nice way to get close to girls.

Then I got into the footie. There was this one time when, for some reason, the terraces were packed. I mean – really packed. I’m pretty sure it was a cup match, but I’ve no idea why it would have been important enough for all those people to be there. And we were only playing Burnley, or some other nobody team that began with B. Maybe it was Brentford, but certainly not Barnsley – I would have remembered that. And not Birmingham either. It was long before Russolini, but I would have remembered that too.

I said to myself that if we scored another goal I would casually hug her and jump up and down with her and then, if she was up for it, I would kiss her on the mouth and all of that. It would have seemed like the natural thing to do. I mean, even strangers get carried away when their team is winning three nil and they pop another in the net.

Picture the scene: we were right at the front of the crowd. Right in the middle of the kop. We kept looking at each other. She was fit, despite that tiny harelip thing she had, and I reckoned that I was fit too.

The fourth goal went in and the crowd went mad! If you’ve never been at a match in those days, they this is what it’s like: on the terraces, there are these broad, shallow steps, and there are barriers every twenty or so steps. I guess the barriers are to keep the whole crowd from falling onto the pitch like dominos every time a goal is scored. Thing is, you can fit a lot of people in between those barriers. And those people are pretty heavy. Okay, skip the classic English understatement – those people are enormously heavy.

I was stood right behind here. And she was up against the barrier when we scored. Of course, I had my arms braced against the barrier so that she was in a little protective cage. I thought that I was strong enough to hold the whole of the crown back. I thought that I could protect her. And I probably could have. I mean, I had good strength. I did a lot of push-ups you see. But I couldn’t as it turned out.

She must have got her arm caught between her body and the barrier because she was cradling it afterwards. And she was crying. And so I didn’t get to kiss her. Not that I would have anyway. I was shy, remember? And a wuss. Point is, those barriers were killers when you got all those people pushing against you from behind. Absolute killers.

They told us what happened. Through their tears. Through sobs. And they told us how many. And the worse thing was, the closer we got, the more the numbers went up. It was like they were dying as we walked. Ninety-six in the end. Not a good day to be able to read minds. Not a good day whichever way around. Long time ago, but we still remember.

Locked in Syndrome (three parts)

I used to see people in wheelchairs, drooling and twitching, and I used to think what a waste. I used to wonder why they were kept alive. Why people wanted them around. I mean, it’s not as if they were going to recover and become rocket scientists. They would never do anything but nothing. Just nothing. Just a drain on resource. I used to think all of that until I woke up one morning like this.

Locked in syndrome. That’s what they call it. Stupid name. I mean, everyone’s locked into a body when you think about it. Apart from those that are dead that is. And even then, who’s to say they just haven’t moved on to another body; like what the Hindus and Buddhists believe. Yeah, I’m locked in a body and so are you. The only difference is that you can move yours about. And you can talk.

I was never much for talking anyway. At parties, when someone was stupid enough to invite me to one, I’d stand on the edge of the room and watch other people do all the talking for me. And dancing. And fun. I wasn’t really up for fun either. Best that I watch everyone else making a fool of themselves rather than the other way around.

I’m not sure that I’d want to go back to that. As I am now, there are no expectations for me. I don’t disappoint if I don’t go out there and get on in life. Get a good job. A beautiful wife. And kids. You know what I mean? I can just lay here and read, watch movies, browse the internet and write on my blog. It’s kind of the life I always dreamed of, to be honest with you. Some stroke of luck.

Rock a cage a bye baby. No treetop. No fall from grace. She left me. Woke up day one in none. Thought. Was. Dead. Not. The screaming wasn’t there and never a twitch. Not the lids. Not the toes. Wherever he goes, he’s gone.

Came back in a black limo. Not in a casket, not in a bar. Old rhyme, new words. Took ’em shook ’em ages to find me locked in in the old body old chap. Ages. Time. Old never young never old never shouldn’t. Long. Long. Bloody long. Like stretched taffy. Like dark and light and dark. Mostly dark. Sleep eludes. Runs away. Itch no scratch no nails no fingers no …

Tried to move. Mind and matter. No matter. Mind inside. Funny the dreams come faster in the day. Daydreams. Ha. Nightmare in the day. Hit the hay. Open casket. Watching me like a sick man. Pity party. Only one in the bed and the little one said. Am I the little? Me? How!

They told me. They told me the news but something broke in me. Not out but in. Broken line. Trains not running. The man throws himself. Blood. Pieces but not many. A foot in a shoe. A shovel. Full. Bin full. Bag me up and where’s the key. You see me? See. See!

Wake-sleep. Snake-sleep. Hot rock and slow day.

My eyes? Blink and stop. Blink, blink and stop. Dots and stops. They know. See me in here. Know I’m in. At home. Never out until I go out. Candle flame. Where’s the wind, mother. Blow. Blow, Mother – please. But not enough. Not enough to say to stop or stay. Stop. Stop. Please, mother – make them stop. Plug out. Unplug. Off. I’m ess oh ess but not to be saved. Blow, mother, now.

Head hoppin’ be-boppin’ couldn’t stop it if I tried and Uncle Ernest has a lover lady on the side and I see him thinking about her with Aunty Ruth at his side the sly sliding out old dog and she don’t suspect nothing and he ain’t stoppin’ and neither am I ‘though it’s sad to see the face of the old gal in her sloppy shoes tattered trews on the table when the nurses ain’t looking and they’re never looking ’cause I don’t say nothin’ to no-one not never and I can blink and wink all I like but they don’t hide their pity pity party.

‘Nother day another nothin’.

God’s not home today they say and who’s to say they’re not right ’cause I can’t find his face in the sun neither and when you can’t find a face that fits under the hat or the sun then hun there’s none to say he ain’t gone to the big house in sky where by and bye we’ll all go soon and I know ’cause I see them slip away into the bay on their ships of silver and gold thinking they’ll keep them with but they won’t and that’s never the way with gone and some stay but not so many as they say.

Inside the face is the eye of the never seeing the sky that’s blue more like the sound of you saying look at that guy on the bed with the locked in head and he can’t say a thing and what’s the point of that might as well put an end to that and I see you say switch it off but I’m he not it and I see you that says this and you can’t even see me now and dry my invisible tears.

The Road South

I’m a nice guy. You’d like me if we met. I’d strike you at first as being kind of shy; I have this way of holding my head as if I want to talk to you but I’m not sure that I can. But once you open me up with a couple of glasses of something strong and a well-chosen bag of snacks, I’ll go all night.

Oh, no – wait – not like that. I’m not the kind of man that can be bought so cheaply. We have to talk deep and long about life and love and commitment before I’ll let you go there. Unless, of course, you want to. I mean, I’m an open-minded guy at heart.

So, here’s the thing, we’re going on a road trip tomorrow. It’s all prepared. Got the shopping trolly all stacked up with whatever cans of food we had left from the raids we did on the neighbours. They didn’t mind so much. They’re all dead. And yes, of course, I’m sad about that on one level, but it was a while ago and we need that food.

We watched a movie called The Road before it happened. Adapted from the book of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. That’s where we got the idea to go south. In the movie, they’re always heading south. They ‘won’t survive the cold’, if they don’t. And neither will we.

Who’d have thought that a movie like that would become our bible! We had no clue when we were sat working down a big bowl of popcorn that night, that the world as we knew it (thanks R.E.M.) would end the very next day. Thing is, though – when the bugs hit (at least that’s what we reckoned happened), we felt anything but fine. We were knocked out; absolutely zonked for a week. Graham Crackers were all we could manage to eat, and even then it was a struggle to get through the plastic. A week later and we tried a can of soup. Took us all day to get into it. Then we found out that the gas was off. Cold soup. Crackers. Thing is, though – it tasted wonderful.

We wondered why it was so quiet until we started to knock on doors. We had to do that because the internet was down. And the TV and the radio and the telephones. All of it – dead. And power was off too.

I was confused. We talked about it, but it was as if we were talking about the moon landings or life on Pluto. There was this kind of disconnect. Sleep. Wander around the house in a daze. So quiet outside. Why so quiet?

Eventually, I started to think. Then we went a knocking. The first call was Betty and Jo. They were lesbians, but we’d come to terms with that long ago. I mean, I know the Good Book says that they shouldn’t; but they did, and they weren’t struck down and so, well – we thought if God’s not going to do anything then neither are we.

They didn’t answer the door on the first knock. Or the fourth. So we used the key under the mat. Boy, you’ve never seen such a mess. The place was trashed. And the stink? Unbelievable. We found them in the bathroom. Both of them were naked and leant over, one at the bath and the other at the toilet. Don’t know why they bothered; there were pools of vomit on every surface.

Of course, they were dead. You would be too if your body was covered with so many sores. Some of them were straight through to the bone. Looked like some sort of acid attack but I don’t think so. Anyway, we didn’t look too close; we got out of there pronto.

Canada gets awful cold in the winter. Summer doesn’t last forever and what with all the power being off. There were generators. But even they didn’t work. The electricity hadn’t just gone off. It’d gone away. Like the tech just didn’t work. No, not the tech; the law. The law of whatever makes electricity and magnetism work was just turned off.

We didn’t know why until we saw the ships. Yeah, you know what kind of ships.

So it’s south for us. Night travel because of you-know-what. Packed up the trolley like I said. Sat him safely on top facing forward. And there’s the road, just like in the movie.

I tell you, if I didn’t have Teddy Booboo to talk to, then I swear I’d go stark, raving mad.