//True story : “ADVENTURE “

I grew up on the Isle of Wight. I wasn’t born there, but I moved there when I was about ten years old. I remember I went on an “adventure” with two of my friends. We had walked to a beach that was miles from our home town. It was starting to get late in the afternoon and they wanted to walk back home along the base of a huge chalk cliff but I strongly advised against it. I pointed out that it was getting late and that the tide would be coming in and we would get stranded out there. It was a good mile or two of ragged rocks with nowhere to go but forward. They didn’t listen to me. I didn’t listen to me. Stupidly I followed.
It got dark and as I had foretold the tide did come in. We did get stranded. It was pitch black. My friend, the one who came up with the idea, he said we had to go into the water, that it was the only way. We couldn’t turn back as the tide had blocked that way as well and we would be further from civilisation if we turned back and went the way we came. I started to panic because I thought I was going to drown. No one knew we were there. I kept imagining the news headlines: “Three teenage boys go missing on Island”, “Witnesses say they may be lost at sea”, “Body washes up on so an so beach, weeks after boys go missing”. I remember thinking we could have been dragged out to sea and never seen again.
My friend, he had to slap me around the face for me to calm down, I was hyperventilating.
We had to wade into the freezing, black sea water up to our necks, all three of us clinging to the side of the cliff. I remember being able to see the lights of the hotel that was on the other side of the bay. I remember thinking that I was so close to safety to die, that it felt like some sick joke if I did.
We did eventually reach dry land, clamoring our way up the smooth pebbled beach of Freshwater Bay. I told my friend I thought he was a dick, that this was the last time I was going on any of his stupid “adventures”.
I was soaked to the bone, the water in my shoes was squelching as I stormed off home. I was shaking and hugging myself, rubbing my arms to warm myself up.

Looking back, I actually rate it as a pretty exciting experience. I wouldn’t want to do it again though.


//Flash fiction : MACHO

His voice is raised a little more, he says, “Ten more reps bro! You’re killing it!”. The instructor’s crotch is right near my head, I can almost see up his shorts.

I do the ten reps. The instructor, he says, “Bro, I think you can beast this, gimme one more set”. He’s leaning over me and his tiny gold chain with a cross on it dangles above my face.

After I’m done with the set the instructor helps me put the barbell back, his hand strokes against mine. I sit up and dab the sweat on my face with my towel. I catch people looking over in our direction, when they see me seeing them, they look away. 

“Man, you’re a machine”, he says. Yeah, a machine, but I know he really means a “Freak“. The instructors arms aren’t as big as mine but he has better definition on his forearms, he has beautiful ravines between his muscles. When I stand up the instructor is a whole head shorter than me.

“Chicks must be throwing themselves at you”, he says, looking up at me. Yeah they throw themselves at me. Truth is, most women when they get up close, they’re a little intimidated by my size. Most women, they’re attracted to the idea of me. In the animal kingdom most females are attracted to the strongest males, it’s about survival, nothing more.

I tell him I think I’m done for today, that I’m gonna head for the showers. He says, “Yeah of course bro…”, he looks around to make sure everyone is watching us. Which they are, which they always do. I’m the guy that everyone wants to be, big, broad and bulging.

“…see you next week bro”, he grabs my hand and pulls me in for a slap on the back, like we actually are bros except he can’t reach his arm all the way round me so he just slaps my shoulder a few times, he presses his body against mine making my shirt stick to my sweaty body.     

Whilst I’m walking away he shoots me with his finger and makes a clicking sound, I don’t get it. Is it supposed to mean something?

I shower and get changed.

I’m walking across the car park carrying my gym bag when a trio of housewives, cougars in yoga pants pass me.

“Hiiiii…”, they all sing in unison, waving, carrying their mats under their other arm, puffing out their chests and doing that thing they do; meticulously placing one foot in front of the other so their butts swing from side to side like some kind of mating ritual designed to get my attention.

In the animal kingdom it’s mostly males who do most of the pageantry to attract a mate. I saw a documentary about birds in the rainforest, them jumping around and flashing their feathers, saying look at me, look at me.

I nod and curl my lips, forcing a smile.

I get to my pick-up and chuck the bag on the passenger seat. 

My body aches. I just sit there soaking in the soreness. I can see the instructor through the window of the gym. He’s helping to stretch out one of the cougars, pressing his body against hers. The others just stand around watching, waiting for their turn.

It trickles down my cheek, over my lip and I taste the salt. I start taking short, rapid breaths, the salty water and snot starts pouring out of my face. Why am I so weak?

I start wailing, like really moaning. I’m happy I paid the extra for the tinted windows. I wipe my arm under my nose and there’s a long shiny snail trail from my wrist to my elbow. Seeing it glisten I think to myself; I need to work on my forearms. I’m gritting my teeth so much I’m afraid I might break them.

I don’t know after how long but I start to calm down. I reach for the box of tissues in the glove box and dry my eyes. I take a look in the rear-view and my eyes are all red and puffy. The instructor is standing in some Yoga pose and the cougars are copying him as best they can.

“I love you”, I say softly.

On the way home I buy a box of donuts, glazed ones, the ones with all the coloured sprinkles on top. It’s ok, I’ll work it off tomorrow at the gym I tell myself.

//Flash fiction : WILD THING

That boy was a wild thing, that’s what they tell their guests who ask how they’re doing. The mauled remains of dessert still on some of their plates.
They say they’ve started him on a new course of treatment and it seems to be working.

They say the boy must have been doing drugs or that he was watching too much TV, the shows nowadays have so much violence in them, they say it was the music he was listening to, it just encourages violent behaviour you know, that’s what they say.

They take a sip of wine.
They compliment each other on how well they’ve handled the boy, yes, yes and others agree.
Yes they say, it does take its toll.
They just wanted their baby boy back, they say, dabbing dry eyes with an unused napkin.
They wanted him to be the little angel he was before all of the trouble began, before the boy started screaming at his poor, parents when they searched his room for drugs because they heard there was a crisis. That the Hendersons had found a tiny bag that looked like herbs in the back of their daughters underwear drawer and that their boy had been spending too much time with that one.

Yes they say, it’s been a difficult time.
Swallowing a mouthful of wine, they don’t understand why he turned to drugs, where he got them or where he hid them for that matter. They take another shot of wine and they just don’t understand why someone would do such a thing they say.
One of their guests announces, through their pineapple flavoured vapor, that they blame the schools.
An agreeing chorus of nods from everyone sat around the table. Yes, the schools are too Liberal these days, they teach their children ridiculous things.
Things that back when they were kids you would be beaten for, but for Christ sake you can’t even do that. There’s just no discipline in schools nowadays, that’s the problem, and you can’t hit your child any more because it’s “abuse” they say, making bunny ears.

They say when they were younger their parents used to hit them and they all turned out fine, right?
Another chorus of nods.

There aren’t any side effects? someone at the other end of the table asks.
No they say, not really.
He cries a lot but they aren’t really tears, no he doesn’t really get sad anymore,they say, he’s always smiling.

His behaviour has changed, that’s the important thing, now he listens to what they tell him to do. Sure he spends a lot of time in his room but this is the real world, they say, he needs to get used to it.
Maybe he’s lost a little freedom they say, but he’ll be thanking them in the future when he’s a respected, well behaved member of society.

He never learnt how to fit in, that was his problem they say, he always wanted attention.
Their hand quacking, they say he was always me, me, me.

They gave him everything, he never wanted for nothing, they say. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you need to work to put food on the table, he never understood that, he was lost in his own little fantasy world, all he ever did was twirl and prance around the house.
No, they wouldn’t pay for him to study dance, what type of man does that? No, their little boy was going to be a real man, like his father.