Thursday, 7 October 2010

Marbles Came Out Instead of Words

I was sitting by the duck pond. I watched the ducks sticking their bums in the air as they searched for food. Some fully immersed themselves and I would try to guess where they were going to surface. One appeared to be fighting itself. A couple of swans drifted on the periphery, looking unimpressed.

A man sat next to me on the concrete step, a little closer than I was comfortable with. He looked distressed. His forehead was creased and his skin was pale, shining slightly as if covered with a thin transparent outer layer.

‘Are you ok, mate?’ I asked.

He turned to me and opened his mouth.

Marbles came out instead of words. One or two at first. They hit hard on the concrete and bounced three or four times into the water with a plop. More marbles came bouncing down. They didn’t stop coming. They built into a steady stream that stretched the edges of his mouth wide until a discordant waterfall was flowing from his distended features. The duck that had been fighting itself stopped to watch.

I’m not sure how long it went on for, but at some point it finished. The ducks came over to see what the fuss was all about - maybe it was the entertainment before their dinner time.

The man coughed into his hands a few times. He let out a laugh, which turned into another cough as a final marble popped out and bounced down and plopped into the water

‘Well, well,’ he said. ‘I feel much better.’

His voice was thick and dented, a marble possibly still stuck in his throat. I wasn’t surprised. He got up, patted me on the shoulder and left.

The ducks looked at me expectantly. I’m pretty sure they knew I had the last of an almost stale loaf in my bag. As I pulled it out, I could see the swans take note and start making their way over for a piece of the action.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Mountain Man

They called him Mountain Man. There wasn’t any reason that they called him that past the fact that he lived on a mountain. Right now he was flying a plane. They would never have thought that Mountain Man was able to fly a plane. He wouldn’t have either. But he was up there all the same. No lessons, no reading up on it, no co-pilot; just him guessing. He was doing ok. He was doing pretty well. He just wasn’t sure how to bring it back down, or how much fuel was left.

He looked down at the fields around him. He was far from the mountain now. Looking at the fields he found himself thinking about tea on Sunday evenings, watching the Antiques Roadshow. Crumpets saturated with butter, cheese and crackers, crisps, fruit and Battenberg. He wondered why he had loved Ballykissangel so much as a kid. He thought about Dervla Kirwin. I wonder what she’s doing right now, he thought as the sea came into sight on the horizon.

He flew out over the sea and started to drift out of conscious. The land receded behind him. As he leant back into sleep he pulled back the joystick and the plane angled up towards the sun.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Seeing the Mountains from the Train Window, I Forget

The brown paint on the wood of the decking is chipped. Weathered grain shows through in patches. It is hot to the touch as I feel the contours on bare skin. I pick at a piece of the paint before I slip into the water. I let my body sink a moment, bubbles rising up my leg. I kick to the surface, back to the sound of the wind in the trees above.

I’m in the flat again. Dry and clothed. I expected you home, but I’m glad you’re not. Your washing up has been left on the side. You did not rinse the bowl and there are bits of tomato and green drying against its sides in the sun coming in from the window.

I put the radio on and dance momentarily to the song that’s playing. I make coffee. I was meaning to write or to read, but I cannot concentrate. I cannot order my thoughts, so I leave them alone and sit in the sun on the balcony and do not think much of anything.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Spreadeagle Rests the Noise

She closed her eyes and listened to the clatter and tumult of the bar. The pint she held was halfway down and still cold.

She waited as she had been for a half hour or so. She didn’t mind. She had been early. But there was no rush.

She opened her eyes and saw a solitary man sitting on the corner of a table that he was sharing with strangers. The man had a plastic bag on his lap, which he was reaching into and pulling out a variety of pebbles. He arranged them in front of him. The strangers glanced at the pebbles that were gradually filling the table, but carried on their conversations without commenting. Eventually the plastic bag was empty. The man scrunched it up in his hand, got up and left the pub. The pebbles remained on the table.

The conversation had dried up between the table's inhabitants. They sat in silence and contemplated the pattern laid out before them.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Briefcase

The mariachi band had left a briefcase in his bar. They had slept on the stage after the gig and left early in the morning, packing everything away except the briefcase. He put it behind the bar and got on with things, thinking they’d come back for it or call. It troubled him. It was a pretty ordinary suitcase. And very light - almost as if it didn’t have anything inside it. He tried the catches on it, but it was locked shut.

As the day went on and turned into evening, he realised he kept touching the briefcase absentmindedly as he served customers. He nudged it with his knees, stroked a hand across it when he bent down to pick up glasses. When he finally locked up the bar shortly before dawn, he decided to take the briefcase home with him. It didn’t want to be left alone, he felt. When he was home, he placed the briefcase in the middle of the bedroom floor, so that he could see it from his bed, which he climbed into and fell fast asleep. When he woke up he discovered he was holding the case in a tight embrace against his chest.

This was odd, he thought. Not too healthy. He decided to track the mariachi band down and return it, rather than wait for them to come back for it. He tried calling the number he had booked them through, but the line was dead. He got in his car and travelled to the small town they had said they would be playing next. He went to all of the bars in the town and asked if the mariachi band had played there. Eventually he found the one that they had played at. The owner told him where they had been going next. He got back in his car and travelled to the next town they had been going to. Again, he did the rounds around the bars until he got the information he needed.

He ended up driving up and down the country, trying to catch up with the mariachi band, but never quite managing it. He slept on the back seat of his car, clutching the briefcase for fear of losing it. He carried on looking for the mariachi band, but found himself taking it slowly, not really wanting to find them so much anymore. His thoughts became less coherent. His beard grew long and his armpits grew smelly. Eventually, as he drove across the desert, his car ran out of petrol. There was nothing for miles around. He would never get anywhere on foot.

He took the briefcase and sat down on the ground a short way from the car. He decided to see what was actually in the briefcase, if anything. He took a rock from the ground and spent a while trying to break open the catches. After a while he gave up and decided to rest. He woke up a few hours later, very red faced and burnt. He would have cursed his stupidity, but his mind was still too drawn to the briefcase. He tried the catches again. To his surprise, they opened without fuss, as if they had never been locked.

He opened the briefcase wide. Neatly lined up inside were stacks of waffles covered in Nutella, melting in the heat. One by one he picked out the waffles and slowly ate them, not pausing until every last one had gone. He sat there in the sun, face smeared with chocolate, smiling a very large smile.

I Rubbed the Surface of the Pebble in My Pocket

As I stood surveying the calm sea, thinking how nice it was not being able to see any signs of civilisation, I noticed something rising in the water. It was a black dot around fifty metres away. My first thought was that it might be a seal, but as it moved towards land I could see that it looked more like a bowler hat. Rather than float as you would expect, bobbing on the waves, it moved steadily in a purposeful straight line. Where the water started to become more shallow, the bowler hat rose and revealed a head underneath it. A smartly dressed business man gradually emerged from the water. He was very dignified, despite his sopping wet clothes and the water leaking out of his briefcase. As he passed me he lifted his hat slightly and bid me good day. I turned to watch as he disappeared amongst the sand dunes.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Another Letter to the Broken Pavement

He sat down in the soggy pile of leaves and pulled them round him. He hadn't meant to. He had been on his way to the shops and had seen the leaves piled next to the park railings. There was a memory somewhere telling him to do so, but he couldn't remember what. He didn't care. The feel of the wet leaves on his cheeks was delightful.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Some Kind of Spirit

Some kind of spirit rose from the river and spoke to him. He didn’t understand it. They were both frustrated. The spirit was reluctant to go without having successfully conveyed its message, but it eventually had to give in. He felt bad, as if he had failed the spirit. He wondered what it had been trying to say. He knew it wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t understand, but that didn’t stop a cloudy feeling of guilt lurking behind him for the rest of his walk.

The weather kept changing abruptly. This didn’t help. It had been sunny in the morning, now cloudy. The sun kept coming and going as it pleased. If he went home it would come out, he was sure.

Later, he was still walking despite the sun having decided it really wasn’t in the mood for being out any more. He had got lost in a thought which had meandered into another and it had been a long time since he’d paid much attention to where he was and what he was doing. He was walking by the road now. His attention was hooked and dragged back into reality by a passing scooter. Another two passed soon after. Must be friends, he thought. A few more passed. Then more. Must be some sort of scooter society.

There weren’t any more for a couple of minutes, just cars, a few vans, a couple of buses. Then there was a another scooter. And another. A long unbroken line of scooters passed by. He wondered whether it would end. It didn’t seem like it. He got lost in another side-thought and when something wrestled his attention back to his surroundings, he discovered there were no more scooters.

How dull and ordinary they had looked under the grey sky. How much more glorious they would have looked if the sun had been shining.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


He sat cross legged on the patio. It was hot and he could feel the sun on his back through his shirt. He held a magnifying glass, which he was angling carefully, trapping ants within the heat of the magnified light, burning them and making their insides bubble. He was mesmerised.

He hadn’t done this since he was a child. He hadn’t even thought about it. There had been something about the light of this bright day, the way the garden had looked from his study window that stirred the memory from wherever it had been sleeping.

As a child he had purely been fascinated at the power of the sun and the way that he could borrow it. Now he felt guilt too. The ants weren’t causing him much trouble. Not enough to deserve being burnt alive. He still carried on, however. And the ants kept coming from between the sandy cracks in the pavement. They were unaware of the fate of their friends.

The sun soon took its toll upon his head. It felt as if someone had been holding a magnifying glass above him, as he had above the ants. He stood up too quickly, almost blacking out. He had to wait for the dizziness to pass. When he had recovered he went back indoors. Instead of returning to the study he went to the kitchen. There he placed the magnifying glass on the side and took a can of beer from the fridge. He took it into the living room, where he sat on the sofa. He opened the beer and gulped it down. He soon drifted off into a light doze, the sort he’d wake up from in half an hour or so with a bit of a headache and a dry mouth. Outside, the sun kept shining on the little dark specks that were once ants, their corpses dotted across the patio.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


I met the Beatles on the boat to Hades. They wanted sandwiches. They were sitting on a bench on the top deck, all squashed together. They looked pretty ill. Their skin was pale and yellowing. It hung saggy from their bones. The bags under their eyes had long forgotten sleep.

I greeted them.

“Have you got any sandwiches?” said Ringo.

I apologised and said that I didn’t.

“Not any cheese and pickle?”

I shook my head.

I asked them how they came to be on the boat to Hades.

“Got any sandwiches?” said John, raising his voice as if I were hard of hearing.

Again I said that I didn’t. The Beatles exchanged glances and rolled their eyes.

It was funny, I said, all four of them here at once.

Paul leaned forward and said slowly, “Do… you… have… any… sandwiches?”

I said that I hadn’t bothered packing any sandwiches.

I looked away and out over the grey sea. There was no sound at all. After a while I looked back at them.

“You don’t, by any chance, have any sandwiches, do you?” said George.

Instead of responding I walked further along the deck. When I was fifty or so paces away, I looked back. The Beatles sat there together staring out to sea, motionless.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


The first parcel arrived on a day in May. It was a medium sized cardboard box. About the size of a fat curled up cat. Very light. The writing on the top was neat. Curious, I opened the package. There was nothing in it. Just air.

Following this I would receive a parcel every week or so afterwards. They were always the same - same size, same weight. Same nothing inside them. Never a return address.

They were an oddity, but I got used to them. There were no messages, nothing horrible inside. Just nothing.

So I carried on as normal, quietly getting on with it. Going to my job, eating, sleeping and so on.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Jelly Sweets

I took the top of my skull apart in sections. It was dark, the room lit only by the desk light. I carefully placed the parts of skull on the bedside table. They made me think of an Easter egg, broken into and waiting to be eaten. That would make my brain the jelly sweets.

Once I had removed the last piece, I sat down on the bed. I kept my back straight and placed my hands on my lap. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander. Soon my brain rose gently out from the cavity left in my head and disconnected from me. It floated towards the open window. It was some time after dawn when I opened my eyes and started thinking again.

Brain nestled back in place, I replaced the top of my skull, making sure I put the pieces in the right place and got ready to start the day. I often questioned my brain as to where it went at night, but it would never tell me.

Sunday, 31 January 2010


Bees swarm out of the night-sick mind and into the day, where they return to being harmless eccentric flying machines. One by one I tie strings to each bee and tie the other ends to strands of my hair. By the end of the day I am levitating. Old people point and laugh. I don’t care.

Singing in the woods, bleeping in the kitchen...

Everywhere I turn from Paul Higginson on Vimeo.

John Lawrence being all lovely in the woods. While his old bandmate Euros is having fun in the kitchen...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Gravity Gives Up

Finally, after so many occasional daydreams of gravity giving up and everything floating away, it actually did. He was out walking when everything not attached to the ground drifted off in different directions. Cars lifted up, bobbing like boats left to their own devices. A confused cat passed him a chest level. His legs lifted behind him until he was horizontal. As his body ascended towards the sky, he couldn’t think of anything to say. He just took everything in; the scenery, the streets he’d never contemplated from this angle, the bodies of others gently rising amongst all the other bits and pieces and animals saying goodbye to the Earth. It was beautiful. Nothing had ever absorbed him so much. He didn’t mind what happened next.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Turn key in lock. He enters house. Post underfoot. Bills. Sighs. Remaining sunlight half lights room. Decides not to turn lights on. Beer from fridge. Sit on sofa. Cold on throat. Close eyes. Chilled brain. Work has softened spirit. Cannot get energy. Finishes beer. Thinks. Eyes still closed. Time passes. Gets up. Makes small supper. Eats. Chews well. Washes up with care. Drying last dish decides on walk. Get out of house. Unfinished thoughts. Cannot be brought into house. Puts on coat. Keys in pocket. Leaves.

Sun near horizon. Breeze small. Foot here. There. One Two. One. Two. He takes pleasure in his body’s propulsion. The air is mild. For the first time that day he remembers to give thanks. Stops on street corner. Stares at sky. Lifts arms. Wonders.