Black Cat Stories

‘A Very Particular View’

We thought they’d never get this far; that they’d self-destruct or get bored. Or just take long weekends to go shopping in Wal-Mart or Ikea and leave the ‘where do we come from’ pile of shit alone. I mean, we gave them enough scripts, and plays, and performances, and fables to keep them occupied. Or so we thought. The heretics, smug bastards, have been banging on forever about how, all the time we were busy putting together some flat-out awesome scene, like the aurora borealis for instance, they were niggling away at the cosmic onion and peeling bits of it back to get to the core. Sooner or later, they said, with serious eyebrows and wagging fingers, we’d be rumbled. But the rest of us just said ho hum yawn and got on with decorating the next set.

Of course there were awkward moments, usually down to a couple of individuals spending too much time in their heads and not enough in grovelling ignorance. We like ignorance because it keeps everything tidy and ticking over nicely. But now they’re loose and meddling with everything, pulling up the floorboards, unravelling the fabric of it all, and shifting the furniture to hoover up dust and stuff for their experiments. So we’ve had to start hoovering up first, and putting our own stuff away before they get their hands on, well, anomalies and things that would set them off ripping something else apart. They’ve even started inventing new scenarios to poke about in, and we’ve had to build the damn things to stop them wrecking the ones they’ve got. All that picking and spinning and throwing bits of stuff at other bits of stuff at ridiculous speeds.

The trouble is, the more we build, the more they come up with, and the more we have to go back and dismantle old sets for props and the like. Some parts of this place are almost gone now; lights switched off, contents redeployed and scattered over new builds. I liked Cassiopeia A best, before it was Cassiopeia A, of course. It’s a shame we had to nova that, but once they got off planet and parked Hubble, it was like someone pulling open your shower curtain while you were still in there. Very exposing. These images – and I can’t tell you the trouble we had with those because of all that spectral wavelength radiation and gravity distortion nonsense they’ve invented – well they’re all over their internet so every Tom, Dick, and Harry feels able to contribute a theory, and they’re hell-bent on digging up evidence for all of them.

Fortunately, their theories don’t include us. Unless you count the Tooth Fairy Agnostics who believe everything and nothing all at the same time and how ironically quantum is that? Even the ones who would like to think science is bullshit and there’s a Greater Purpose don’t exactly have us in mind. They’re thinking esoteric, grandiose and triumphal, which is a tad archetypal, if you ask me. They’d be mortified to find we’re just stagehands. The other lot; the sceptical, atheist, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer muckers about with matter, (and now dark matter for goodness sakes, and god knows we’ll have to find a way to make that soon), if they go shining their light into the right corner – you know, the one your eye doesn’t quite focus on till something moves and then when you look it’s gone – they’ll stop. But only for one blissful moment, then they’ll be after us with their gadgets and devices and things that steam and hiss and click and bellow and echo. Then we’ll all be in the shit.

So we have to keep feeding them bits more of our stuff to keep them going and today it’s a thing that has them salivating even though they know it barely exists. Which it didn’t, exist that is, until just now when we cobbled it together from some bits of the old Big Bang set and lobbed it into their fearsome engine. The God particle; dearie me, if only they knew.

 

First published in Roadside Attractions July 2012, and Readwave February 2014.

 

© suzanne conboy-hill 2017

 

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

 

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Let Me Tell You a Story

Literally. Collection includes poems and short fiction by Anne O’Brien, Lyn Jennings, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Tracy Fells, Nguyen Phan Que Mai, and Suzanne Conboy-Hill with audio accessible from the page by scanning qr codes. Try Albert’s teeth for a taster, as it were.

Find the whole book in print and e format from Lulu or (print only) Amazon. 

A Woman Wants

She wants the body of her love to hold her body

and gentle it to

ecstasy.

 

She wants him to hold her heart,

freely given,

and protect it next to

his.

 

She wants him to listen to her mind,

to nurture its freedom

and join it in its

discoveries.

 

She turns, restless,

while his sweetness rests

elsewhere.

 

© suzanne conboy-hill 2016

 

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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The Handover

‘I don’t have time for you to die,’ Sarah grunted, delivering a hefty thwack to the chest of the man with the grey face and bluish lips. She called out to the room, ‘Action stations: fluids, paddles, let’s go everyone.’ The new SHO bounded over; a leggy youngster with arms like string, he seemed to be everywhere at once connecting things, inserting things, extracting samples. In short order, the monitor beeped and a green light hopped encouragingly across the screen. Sarah relaxed, surveying the aftermath of the resuscitation which her SHO and one of the nurses were already clearing up. She would wait a moment, see the chap properly stabilised and then she would leave.

Sarah was good at waiting: waiting for test results, for bloods or fluids or the right dose of something to be delivered, for patients in crisis on their way by ambulance, for relatives to give good news to – or bad. She was single-minded and dedicated. She was also, it had to be said, single. That thought hovered for a moment and flipped back and forth between her well-rehearsed rationalisations and the sharp dig-in-the-ribs of regret. She elbowed it out, ‘How’s his gases, Sadhu?’

‘They’re good; he’s good.’ Sadhu grinned, eyes glistening with pride and excitement at his part in a successful outcome.

‘And so were you.’ Sarah smiled back at him, remembering her own reaction to those early successes. When you’re starting out, nothing quite beats pulling someone back from the brink.

‘Off to the seminar now,’ she said, aiming for nonchalance. ‘I’ll be back for a handover about nine.’ She glanced at the clock, there was probably time give her hair a bit of attention, scrub herself up a bit.

 

 

Standing at the mirror in the locker room a few moments later, Sarah told herself she always did that at the end of a shift, tidied herself up, but it wasn’t true, it was because Narinder was here again. It crossed her mind briefly that he may not have aged particularly well, that he might have put on weight and turned a bit lardy since the time when Thunderclap Newman had Something in the Air and The Beatles played a gig on a rooftop. Thirty years was a long time. Sarah peered at her own reflection to see how she had fared. Eyes a bit on the baggy side; skin good; no sign of a jowl. Even so, those thirty years had stolen something. She let out a whisper of a sigh and pressed her thumbs against her jaw line just below her ears then two finger tips each side near the hair line above, she pulled gently upwards to reveal the ghost of the face Narinder had fallen in love with.

 

They’d known from the start that what they had was temporary, that it couldn’t last, but when you’re nineteen, twenty-one seems a lifetime away and you ignore it. It’s the sort of tomorrow that’s never going to come. But of course it did, and on Narinder’s twenty first birthday he returned to India to take the wife found for him by his.

They spent their last day together out on the green at the back of the med school; at first holding each other in a grip so tight it hurt almost as much as the reason for it, then gradually letting go until just their fingertips touched. Like new lovers, shy and coy but moving apart, not together. Narinder left first. He stood in front of her as she sat on the grass, arms around her knees looking up at him. ‘Don’t wait,’ he said eventually, his eyes on the roped-off wicket in the middle of the green and not on her at all, ‘and please be happy.’

Now suddenly he was back, come to deliver the post grad seminar on emergency medicine. Did he know she worked here? Had he scheduled this venue particularly in the hope of seeing her? Setting aside the fact that he hadn’t let her know, she grabbed at an old lipstick, scrubbed some on and wiped it off again. She squinted at her hair and rooted through her bag for a brush to rake at the bird’s nest that had spent its day under a theatre hat, finally yanking the lot upwards and anchoring it with a large silver clip. After a final glance in the slightly distorted mirror, she blew out a long breath and took off down the corridor towards the conference centre.

 

The foyer was full of people heading away from the lecture hall; what had happened – she couldn’t have missed it, surely? But a notice on the door showed a change of time due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’. Damn! She pushed on anyway; she should apologise for being late. But what if he actually wasn’t expecting her, how stupid would that look? But what if he was? And then she was through the door and taking in the scene – silhouettes at the far end of the lecture theatre as people crossed in front of the slide projector, one or two hangers-on making the most of an opportunity to impress and bag themselves a prestigious contact; Narinder, elegant and graceful as ever, immaculate in a dark suit and black turban. She wondered if he was still able to wear his kirpan with its gold hilt and curled blade. She remembered how surprised she’d been to see it the first time and how glamorous it felt to be with a man who carried such an exotic item. No glamour now of course, after so many years of dealing with the aftermath of people’s encounters with less principled blades. Sarah watched herself moving down the steps, saw Narinder look up as she approached, heard herself begin to tell him who she was.

‘Sarah!’ That voice, still soft and rich. A gold-ringed hand reached out; she took it and they stood, fingers lightly held, the feel of them familiar. She wondered if they would kiss because everyone did these days, didn’t they? Old friends especially. But they weren’t old friends; they were something else, something other.  Sarah held herself still and waited to see what he would do.

He raised her fingers to his lips, seeming to watch her over their hands; to be looking for something. She watched him back, trying to penetrate the mannered veneer and uncover a hint of what she might still mean to him. For a moment, his pupils widened and she felt pulled towards him, then they snapped back and he released her hand.

‘We should leave,’ he said, ‘Before we outstay our welcome.’ He nodded towards the man lugging a vacuum cleaner through the doors at the back and the woman wielding a duster and spray over the lectern. He glanced at his watch, ‘Look at the time! I expect you have family waiting for you, I know I do.’ He leaned forward a little, ‘And a new grandchild just today – we’re travelling up there now.’

Sarah paused, stilled like a flow of water suddenly become a colloid. After a moment, she lifted her chin and the flow resumed its course, threatened surface eddies contained. ‘Boy or girl?’

‘Our first girl.’

‘You must be very pleased.’

‘We are, although it does make me feel a little old.’ There was a slightly conspiratorial tone to his remark; and self-deprecating as was the way with people who knew they had worn well.

‘I seem to have managed that without grandchildren. Or children for that matter.’ Sarah heard the slightly acidic note in her voice and didn’t know quite how she felt about it being there. She raised a smile, the sort she used to end conversations with patients to whom she’d said everything she could say. ‘I have to get back,’ she said, aiming a nod in the general direction of the ICU, ‘For a handover.’

‘I know.’ Narinder brought his hands together in a light clasp and waited. Sarah wasn’t sure what ‘I know’ referred to – the routine of handovers or the subtext of her previous comment, so she rummaged in her pockets for a moment to give him space to expand. But he stayed silent so she stepped back, ‘See you then,’ she said.

‘Will it be another thirty years, do you suppose?’ A smile and the hint of a wink.

She considered that for a moment, feeling a shift within, and winked back, ‘Best not hold your breath then,’ she said and waggled her fingers in a small wave as she turned to leave, ‘Be happy.’

 

 

© suzanne conboy-hill 2016

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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Sydney’s Solution

Sydney leaned back on the door of his converted garage and shook his head. The thudding and hammering from within was beginning to irritate him but it was in a good cause because it would be short-lived, and it would put an end to the screeching and whining noises he had tolerated in this house for as long as he could remember. He had thought about it carefully: some solutions were fast and furious; like race horses or dogs, they were out of the starting gate and galloping away full pelt to the finish line with no time to consider anything or draw pleasure from the process. These he thought too hasty and liable to unexpected error as a result. He dismissed them. Others meandered along slowly like ancient rivers in flood plains with oxbow lakes and soggy marshes at their edges. This was attractive in the sense that there was time for adjustments to be made – little course changes along the way. But there was always the risk of getting washed into a minor tributary and running aground before the job was done, and this would not do.

 
Some though, were like snakes; ribs undulating in silence while large shapes made their way along the body with nothing but a flickering tongue to acknowledge their transition. This was a pleasing metaphor to Sydney because he rather liked snakes; at first for entirely aesthetic reasons, but latterly due to both the conceptual and practical utility of them. When a snake took its prey, it did so in a way Sydney thought of as almost religious, Buddhist perhaps, often swallowing it feet first, allowing it to witness its own progress from individual entity to becoming an integral part of another. Should the victim be capable of such, there was plenty of time for reflection on past sins – before the juices got to work on it. Realisation and regret, Sydney believed – albeit without the actual capacity to make amends – was important. It was also important that no mess be left behind.

 
Sydney’s mother, with her shrill attention to cleanliness and hygiene and whether or not even the fifty-three year old Sydney had changed his vest today, would appreciate that eventually, once she was done banging on the reinforced glass of the terrarium. He waved to her and smiled.

 

© suzanne conboy-hill 2016

 

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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Philosopher Stoned

He is brazenly, brilliantly, brassed off by the polished politics of the righteous right.
He heats arguments on pupils bright as buttons of molten jet in eyes alive with intellectual trickery.
He rolls concepts and ideas over the strop of his tongue like globules of mercury, loosed from the tedium of measurement.
His love of chase is betrayed by tiny garnet blushes on nose and cheeks; cooing infants to his icy fire of victory.

He scrubs the thoughts of neophytes with the steel wool of Socratic questioning.
Deftly iterating incantations of hegemonies, he hides exquisite diamond cuts in the woollen clouds of distracting verbiage.
He wears iron filings on his chin and calls them his beard; a professorial promulgation of proletarianism.
His wisdom does not come in glossy spheres to be cast before swine, but in the weft and warp of knit-one-purl-one patchwork blankets of the Workers’ Struggle.

Ideas settle like wise moths in the old, gold grail of his ancient and modern mind, to feed on dusty nets of idealism.
Like neglected and slowly rusting scaffolding, his body is there only to house the sapphiric laser of his intellect.
He chisels and chips at the coal face of complexity, mining for perpetuity in the legacy of runes.

 

 

© suzanne conboy-hill 2011

 

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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Jigsaw

You are Glyndebourne

I am Glastonbury

You are tennis

I am rugby

You are Savile Row

I am rock chick chic

You are dignity, understated

I am – not

*

I am tiptoes

You are ground

I am Virgin

You are BA

I am Karma Chameleon

You are Moon River

I am white water

You are my mooring

*

I am your proxy; you my shield

Neither one exposed nor concealed, we fit

As perfect pieces

Of our lovers’ jigsaw

 

© suzanne conboy-hill 2011

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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The Gunmetal Pound in Your Pocket

Grubby filigree dropping through time like a brass badge,

We catch

Momentarily, hold, pass on, exchange

For time punctuated

Ephemera.

*

History’s tale, brass braille

In a rounded token.

Currency to be stolen, traded, bitten in a

Hand-spit handshake

Gentleman’s deal.

Makes it real.

*

The economics of

Usury.

 

©suzanne conboy-hill 2011

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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Heavy Metal

His smile was like pig-iron blasted from a stormy sky in winter.

His tears were like silver mirrors, cracked and splattered on his taut plastic skin.

Because she was as grudging as gold made lead by a malevolent alchemist.

 

©suzanne conboy-hill 2011

 

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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The Box of Me

The instructions said to open up my soul

To pull aside the clattering shades, the dusty drapes

Of my personal museum

To cast light on fractured mirrors of truth and wishes

*

No!

They didn’t

That’s not it at all

It’s not …

That’s not what it meant

*

But the instructions said …

And I draw up my knees to protect my heart from

The thundering minds of curious and dispassionate scrutineers

Bent on clamorous critique

*

Wuss!

Who’s looking?

It means nothing at all

Just do it

Nobody here cares

*

But there is caring, in this new family

Not for the tiny living remnants of loves and losses curated here

Rather for the catacombs in which they are sealed, held safely

Behind my drawn up blanket dark knees.

 

 

©suzanne conboy-hill 2010

You may share but not sell, alter, substantially extract, or claim as your own.

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