SECOND DO NO HARM

Sticky

Liberate Tutemet

Your stories need you

As is the case every single day that ends in y, you pick up a book. And whether it’s just-pressed fresh, or hills-old and tattered, it looks and smells delicious – each individual page tempting your nose towards a sniffywhiff, and collectively, begging you to fan them towards your face just so you can snort their entire essence right up the ol’ snout in one go. Shaven, pulped wood feels more natural to you than the trees whence it came; books just make you happy, gosh darn it. Good ones – happier still.

Some books are bookier than others, though: they were not all published equal. The one in your hand now, for example, has certain majestic qualities from its smart artwork to a title embossed in tall metallic lettering.  And until you unshelved it, it had just been sitting there lording it over all the other little books, knowing it looked…

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Wilfred’s Men

Sticky

A poet’s shattered soul reacts to crumpled men with words intact;

Recalling lies as glory folds, one verse – yet many stories told:

Our Wilfred said they’d cursed through sludge, towards their distant rest they’d trudged;

And Wilfred’s men had lost their boots but limped on, blind; deaf to the hoots.

There, Wilfred saw a hanging face – as death came to his writing-place;

So we could read -at every jolt- of gargled blood to our revolt.

If Wilfred knew – if he could see -dead men survived by poetry,

What would he say – and would he be surprised his words adored by me?

Adored by age, revered by youth; for otherwise-unspoken truth.

If he were now – if he were here, would Wilfred to the world endear?

Or is it likelier he’d see: arms being sold; cash weaponry?

And then the fight to stop it all, this great divide as countries fall?

Perhaps for now, hypocrisy – humanity’s mobocracy:

And as he rhymes of this or that, he’d write: Manus Manum Lavat.

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We Have Such Sights To Show You

Sticky

So – you’re a movie buff. Me too. But for those of you still in the filmfreak closet, here’s a way you can quote your favourite lines ALL….DAY….LONG….and nobody need ever know (unless you want them to – I assure you, it’s a great pulling technique if you want to gather yourself a nice, smart movie geek).

Technically, any flick with a half-decent script is a quotemine, so this list is compiled with that in mind; to show you just how easy it is. Quotes you didn’t know you knew, lines from films that are usually overlooked when it comes to “Best Quote” lists. It’s especially thigh-slappingly amusing trying to crowbar a line into a conversation at work. With a customer. On the telephone. And yes – I have. Many times.

So fly, fly – engage in a little of your own project mayhem that only the true enthusiast will espy. Let’s explore how we can take oft-overlooked statements and make them work for us (Work it, baby, work it…)

Ah….We have such sights to show you….

The Terminator (1984)

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Why it’s so quotable – with a Duel-like chase, the story becomes all the more sinister as Arnie’s Terminator takes on the voice of Sarah Connor’s mother to track her down at the sleazy motel. You too can be equally menacing if you need to know where someone lives:

“Give me your address there”.

OR…..run from that spider crawling towards you, at the same time maniacally exclaiming:

Why me? Why does it want me?

When trying to haggle at a market or garage sale, turn to whoever is next to you and tell them, referring to the vendor:

It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with.

(Using this one makes you truly awesome.)

This will all stand you in good stead for the day you need to borrow someone’s clothes, boots, and motorcycle.

Withnail and I (1987)

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Why it’s so quotable- the greatness of the nothingness of every single thing that happens in this movie owes itself to Bruce Robinson’s uber-screenplay. He provides us with a truly juicy superabundance of utterances which can be easily levered into everyday speak.

The finest hangover line available to humanity?

I feel like a pig shat in my head.

Feeling a little paranoid in a new office or hotel room?

You’re not leaving me in here alone. Those are the kind of windows faces look in at.

When you experience poor service at a local establishment, it’s super-fun to yell:

We are multimillionaires. We shall buy this place and fire you immediately.

(Of course, they won’t believe you, but your pure awesomeness makes that a moot point).

When you’ve haggled with the vendor at the aforementioned garage sale, you do of course need to tell them they’re out of their mind. But it only makes sense when you get down to two quid.

Fight Club (1999)

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Why it’s so quotable – With their screenplay, the deities that are Chuck Palahniuk and Jim Uhls make things secretly obvious. If you’re anything like me, by the end of the movie your head is spinning with the incredible dialogue you’ve just heard.

To console someone about a break-up:

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

If you want a slap in the chops, wait until someone you know gives birth to a girl and utter:

We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.

(The mere danger/stupidity value of using this quote means you’ll receive extra cool points on your awesomeness chart).

It’s the ideal movie for paraphrasing purposes, too, where you can create endless phrases inspired by Chuck and Jim: “I am Philip’s sense of utter rejection” or “I am Maria’s total lack of responsibility”.  I am Linda’s lack of fuck-giving. That kind of stuff.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

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Why it’s so quotable – it’s fucking Ferris fucking Bueller’s fucking Day Off. That is all.

Customer service agents leaving you frustrated on the telephone? So many choices: but to start with you could ask them

Do you know anything?

(Or simply tell them to stick their finger up their butt).

Worried about being fired for using Terminator quotes on the telephone? Talk about your boss thus:

If I’m gonna get busted, it is not gonna be by a guy like that.

And if you are clever enough to crowbar:

I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind

into a real life situation, then I may need to marry you a little bit.

This will imbue a sense of greater purpose and confidence: If you need to call across the office to your colleague Grace, you KNOW how it must be done.

Beetlejuice (1988)

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Why it’s so quotable – If you ever wanted to prove yourself strange and unusual, this film gives you the chance.

Not into the person trying to pull you down the local boozer? Refuse to tell them your name:

If I tell you, you’ll tell your friends…

..and go on to say it’d make your life Hell, ok? A living hell. (Disclaimer: at this juncture, if they get it and laugh hysterically, you may have to have a rethink – they might just be The One).

Viewing a new house? Not too keen? Tell the estate agent:

Oh look! An indoor outhouse.

Of course, there is the one you HAVE to use whenever you try on a new outfit:

This might be a good look for me.

Extra points for saying it after sucking on some helium.

Dave (1993)

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Why it’s so quotable – because it rocks. Simple.

Excellent insults abound:

You’re LINT! You’re a FLEA! You’re a BLIP!

Try on a sweater vest and complain in your best Voice of Ving that it makes your neck look too thick.

Take the kids on a museum trip just so you can say:

We’re walking, we’re walking…and we’re stopping.

(This could only be made cooler if Frank Langella were to bustle past).

Be Dave. Because Dave is just wonderful. Fess up to everything:

I take full responsibility for each one of my illegal actions.

If you know anyone called Ellen (or with the initials LN), you do of course have to thank them for doing this at every available opportunity. It’s the law.

Robocop (1987)

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Why it’s so quotable – because it’s essentially a comic lavishly portrayed by real people. It’s also one of the finest movies ever made.

Assure your friend that their upcoming surgery will be a success:

They’ll fix you. They fix everything.

Made a typo on a document? As you delete it, you MUST say out loud:

Now it’s time to erase that mistake.

(Come on! Say it with me!)

There ARE a lot more quotes from this movie…..I can feel them… but I can’t remember them.

Austin Powers(s) –  (1997 et seq)

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Why it’s so quotable – because it’s such a well-rounded collection of Mmmmmovies.

Don’t go for the obvious YEAH BABY nonsense. But if you’re about to go for surgery to correct your vision, you HAVE to do air quotes when you say LASER otherwise it’s just a wasted opportunity.

Channel Scott Evil wherever possible, with as many, like, whatevers as you can. And always refer to the French language as Paris talk. It’s like, cool.

Being that you’ll often hear people using the boring old in-a-nutshell phrase, you can liven things up. You know how – get on your back and be you, in a nutshell.

As you do this, laugh inwardly at your own genius, point to someone and tell them that’s where they are. They’re there.

Casablanca (1942)

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Why it’s so quotable – it’s set in a gin joint. There’s booze.

Enter a casino and declare that you are:

..shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Next time someone calls you a piss-head, explain that that makes you a citizen of the world.

Confuse the enemy: explain that somehow,

just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.

You could also tell someone that you are looking at them, kid, but this may just cause confusion.

School for Scoundrels (1960)

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Why it’s so quotable – watch it. Just watch it.

Tell someone you’ve been married a long time. Perhaps almost

Be utterly charming and patronising at the same time, translating everything on the menu. Even if it’s in English.

Point to some tomatoes in your local store, and state what they are.

If you’re being berated for trying to get one over on someone, explain that:

he who is not one up, is one down.

Speaking of one-upmanship, get one over on your local garage by convincing them that your piss-poor excuse for a heap-of-crap car is actually a rare automotive gem.

See? It’s easy when you know how. I’m off for a game of golf now, but it’s snowing. So I’ll use red balls.

Thanks, Dad

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B40CC9D0-79A6-4DA7-BEF7-FFD1F8333A7B.jpegAs an impressionable kid, susceptible to the same crippling doubt that would continue to affect me as an unimpressive teen and self-loathing adult, I had to contend with my father as well as myself. He had scattered the confetti of neglect in my direction along with the force-feeding of his malnourishing religion. I was the goose, trapped in a man-made device whose restraints’ primary purpose was to engorge me on godfulness from throat to liver, until I became a honed, conditioned pâté, ripe for the spreading.
But there was a thing, and the thing was this: my wings had never wung. They didn’t know how. Everything I did was wrong; nothing was right. And the few aspects of my existence in which I did take pride, however fleetingly, were —of course— unworthy of his unmatchable achievements. He’d always received higher grades than me, and earned better wages. His spelling was better than mine, as were his enunciation, pronunciation, and inflexion. I knew this because he would tell me so. A hundred times a day.
He’d criticise my accent, despite his responsibility for the geography of my birth, wishing to ensure I knew how to speak properly —lest people thought me dense. That was his worst nightmare: that an unworthy, unclever child might cast her reflection on him. Nobody wanted a stupid child, least of all him —especially when I considered that almost biblical, yet perpetually unspoken chant of his: idiot begets idiot, begets idiot. He didn’t have to say it, but I knew it was there, in the voice behind his sight. I could hear the cogs of his brain whirring and churning the mantra every time he turned his pedantry on me and his blatant displeasure in my direction.
I turned to atheism, comedy, and romance, so that the last laugh —and love— would be mine. And they are. Oh, how they are.

Hear me laughing, Pater.
See me write.

And watch how I love —the right way.

Love begets love, begets love.

You, Myself, and I

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Today, my little grammar muffins (whatever they are), we shall be looking at Me vs I, and when to do the Re-flex-flex-flex-flex. Sort of.

BON

I had this exact ‘do at this exact time. Just so you know.

So, which is it —and me, or and I?

In accordance with fings-they-lerned-me-at-school and that one electrocution elocution lesson I attended back in the summer of 1986 (the idea of which, if you know me AT ALL, is fucking hilarious), you and I sounds posh. It just does. And if you choose it over you and me, no matter the context, it gives the impression that you have a bit of dosh to throw about. THAT’S WHAT THEY TOLD ME.

They were wrong. To prove my point, here’s a pair of toffs off the telly, who’ve *volunteered to help us out with a little exercise. I’m paying them in booze.

*Pic stolen wholesale from Google.

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A pair of toffs off the telly.

Now, Mr. Toff might be inclined to caption the pic thus: “My wife and I at Balmoral’s annual squirrel-tickling festival.” But he’d be wrong. It’s “My wife and me.” Why? Well, you wouldn’t say, “Here’s a photo of I,” would you?

I mean, just listen to how SILLY this is: “Here’s I at the Mountbattens’ monthly frog-rogering contest.” See?

So yeah  —when you post a photo of yourself with anyone, it’s “Fuckface and me.”

It is, of course, fine to use I in the grammatically-correct manner:

“Edgar and I are having a dinner party. Would you like to join us?”

Or:

“My husband and I shall be going dogging in New Brighton this evening, if you’re out and about.”

If you bump Edgar off, and do away with the husband, you’re left with: “I am having a dinner party and then I shall be going dogging.” See? Perfect sense.

Disclaimer: the above example is in no way autobiographical.

Them wot write songs have a lot to answer for, too; Geri Halliwell’s dreadful “Lift me Up” springs to mind:

Watch the first light kiss the New World
It’s a wonder, baby like you and I
All the colours of the rainbow
Going somewhere, baby like you and I

AAAARRRRRGH! *Shouts “You and ME” at the car radio twenty years ago.*

How to remember the thing about the thing: cover up the “you and” bit. If the sentence still makes sense, you’re good. Using the same vintage spice example as above: “It’s a wonder, baby, like I,” sounds shite, whereas “It’s a wonder, baby, like me,” still sounds shite. But at least it’s correct.

More food for thinky thoughtstuff: is the title Withnail and I correct? Well, it depends what’s implicit, and what floats your own paticular proverbial. If it’s “Here’s a bunch of shit that Withnail and I got up to…” then it makes complete sense. But if it’s “The story of Withnail and I,” then it’s incorrect, and should be “Withnail and Me.” You could argue a case for either, really, if you had enough time and/or the inclination. Which I don’t. But here’s some braingrub anywho:

Withnail and I went on holiday by mistake;

or:

Withnail and me went on holiday by mistake.

withnail-and-i-robot

Yeah. It’s I. DO NOT MESS WITH THE ‘NAIL.

Speaking of dinner parties, someone once asked me, by text, “would you like to come to Steve and I’s on Saturday?” I couldn’t answer, what with the BLEEDING EARS ‘n’ all. True story.

Now, allow me to introduce … myself.

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Myself/yourself/himself/herself/themselves … yadda yadda … are all reflexive pronouns; i.e. a pronoun [me/you/him/her/them] that reflects right back at … itself. Like a reflection, really. But not really.

If you’re looking for a swanky explanation, WIKI says: “In general linguistics, a reflexive pronoun, sometimes simply called a reflexive, is an anaphoric pronoun that must be coreferential with another nominal (its antecedent) within the same clause.” Ain’t nobody got time for that (at this point, you might want to refer to the ‘double negatives’ blog I haven’t written yet).

Using “I don’t like myself,” or “I’m going to reward myself for finally finishing that 120,000 word novel after seventeen years,” are fine.

Using “Gordon Ramsey and myself are going to cook you a meal” is bollocks. Gordon wouldn’t allow anyone else in his kitchen. Unless, of course, they were conveniently placed just so he could swear at them. But why ELSE is it bollocks?

Well, you wouldn’t say “Myself are going to cook you a meal,” would you? You’d say “I am…” Same as before, folks —same as before. Cover up the first bit and see if it still makes sense.

Office-speak has a lot to answer for *sigh* …

Alright, alright —I’ll wrap it up. Off y’go. Be sure to tune in to the next instalment: *THE GAPING MAW OF A PLETHORA OF A MYRIAD OF CREATIVE WRITING CLASSES. WITH TENTACLES.

*I might come up with a better title before then.

 

 

 

Let Loose and Lose the Eyebrows

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Further to part one (here: https://liberatetutemet.com/category/eds-blogs/), this is … erm … part two of How to Avoid Dem Pesky Mistakes  —identifying some of the most common wordie whoopsies.

Loose and Lose are first up today —so, what’s the dealio? Well, the word on the street is that —gasp!—they mean different things!

Loose: something wot’s not tight, innit. T’is pronounced in such a way that it rhymes with moose and hoose (admit it— you’re singing it now).

Lose: To misplace something (or even someone). T’is pronounced LOOZE, to rhyme with snooze/shoes/I demand to have some booze.

See the source image

See? T’is a doddle. Of course, there’s also LOOSED, which throws itself rather splendidly into the mix as the past tense of LOOSE, and means … erm … loosed. Not to be confused with LOST, which means lost. Gottit?

“He loosed his grip around her throat” —indicating a deliberate action: second thoughts, perhaps. Remorse, maybe … Bless him.

Vs:

“He lost his grip” —which might indicate either clumsiness or an inability to retain said grip upon, say, a glass (or reality itself, owing to an exaggerated state of inebriation caused by ill-advised imbibement of lighter fluid).

Speaking of which, a friend of mine once had soooo much of the stuff that upon lighting a cigarette, he ignited his face instead, his eyebrows scattering to the floor in ashy despair. This may or may not be true, but it brings me nicely onto the topic of furry facethings. Because GAWD DAMN IT, people.

Perhaps your creative writing class suggested you employ the furrowing of brows to indicate expression, which is no bad thing, if used sparingly. But, dear LAWD —must EVERY single line of dialogue come with a description of what the character’s face is doing? The same applies to nodding, m’dears.

When you over-egg the prose, it sounds like this to me:

“He raised an eyebrow, browishly. It was the only way he could express his emotions, emotionally. There were other adverbs to be had, adverbially, but he would save those for the next paragraph, in which he would explore the exploratory possibilities of nodding, noddingly. Unsurprisingly, he did, indeed, nod once more, which set his damn eyebrows off again. They looked as if they could do with a l’il twitch, arch, or furrow —after all, it had been a while. Right on cue, they did an ugly little jig, like Theresa May at a Tory Party conference.”

I challenge you to search for “brow” in your latest WIP. “Nod,” too. Now, there are no hard and fast browcount rules, of course, but please bear in mind that I recently edited a 60,000 word novel wot came with 1,657 brow references and 2,313 nods of one head or another. Yes, really.

It’s just YUK. Stop it.

The Science Bit (maybe):

Here’s why it doesn’t work (aside from standing out like the proverbial thumb): come with me, if you will, to the makings of an anecdote.

You witness an event. Perhaps a car crash, or maybe even a pastie of chavs havin’ a scrap. How do you tell the missus/hubby/whoever about your day?

DO you say:

a) So there was this gaggle of chavs, right, knocking proppa shit out of each other down the pub today;

or:

b) Let me tell you, Ethel —what a day I’ve had. Trying to relax at lunchtime over a pint of mild and a bag of squirrels, I happened upon a group of strangers having a bit of a to-do. I took a swig, furrowed my brow, and began to watch the unfolding drama. With an eyebrow raised, a young woman approached a rather unkempt young man, and glared right at him. He furrowed his brow, and nodded. Then a third person joined the fray, Ethel. A third person! His eyebrows were set in surprise, they were. Like a stone clock. Ten-past-ten, right there on his face.

Catchie mah driftie? Keep it REAL, folks! Please get out of the habit of describing every.single.thing your characters’ faces do. Be descriptive, not prescriptive.

On that note, I’m off. Unlike my eyebrows, which are very much on (I’m a Scouser —it’s the law).

th1K0RNZBG

Bert was surprised to find he actually preferred version B.

 

It’s *You’re Call —fixing the fundamental

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*Your.

Damn it.

Do you have to be gud wiv werds to be a decent writer? Nah —but it certainly helps. If you want to cut down on those rejections, for instance, it’s not a bad thing to up your technical accuracy game. If you wish to master your craft or hone your skills, then you might want to start with the basics.

Here are some of the most common mistakes writers make —and some easy ways to remember the correct usage. I’ll stick with cat/dog/coffee/pizza analogies, because writers (be warned: this might get a little gross and/or sweary, because me).

ITS vs IT’S 

ITS is possessive; that is, something belonging to it. So, if we’re talking about a cat who has a propensity for displaying all things posterior, then we might say it had its ‘… tail in the air, flaunting its sticky brown bumhole …’

Just as that which belongs to her is hers, or something belonging to him is his, then that which belongs to it must be its.

IT’S is a contraction of IT and HAS, or IT and IS. A contraction is the abbreviation (shortening) of a phrase or word group, using apostrophes to denote the omission of a letter (or letters).

Common contractions include: 

  • Don’t (Do not tell me how to write);
  • Haven’t (I have not written anything today because I’ve been dicking around on Facebook for twelve hours);
  • Shouldn’t (You should NOT ever, ever, ever put pineapple on pizza).
  • She’s (She is banging on about fucking grammar again, the pedantic bint).

And the one we’re talking about here: it’s (it has/it is).

Example:  ‘It’s too late.’ (i.e. ‘I was just about to scoff a bunch of soggy, overboiled ramen but it is too late because the cat’s been sick in the bowl, so I guess I’ll have pizza instead. But with no pineapple. Because ew.’)

PLURALS vs POSSESSIVES

Speaking of apostrophes —those buggers get everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Have a gander:

shop

Sofa’s. The sofa is what? Comfortable? What about the chair’s legs? The recliner’s a bit tatty but that’s nothing compared to the bed’s grotty old mattress? Maybe something belongs to the bed, which is owned by the recliner, which is the property of the chair … AAAARGH!

Assuming the store has more than one sofa/chair/recliner/bed for sale, they should have used plurals here, which, in this case, is as simple as adding ‘s’ to the end of each item.

As for Goodwyns Furniture; assuming Goodwyn is one person, Goodwyn’s Furniture would be correct. I dunno —perhaps signwriters are easily confused these days. Humph.

Here are some photos of a rather splendid bookstore chain. I guess only half of these shops belong to Mr W.

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Are you still with me? No? Okay —back to animals, then:

  • The dog’s knackers —a pair of soft, dangly objects between a dog’s legs;
  • The dogs’ knackers —the danglies of more than one canine;
  • The dog’s knackered —the dog is exhausted, probably having tried and failed to catch the cat who spewed in the noodles earlier today.

Recap

Something belonging to one thing: the thing’s thing.

Something belonging to more than one thing: the things’ thing.

It’s easier to nail if you sort out the plural first and then determine the correct possessive:

Cat —>cats —> I wuv cats’ wikkle toebeans (aww).

YOU’RE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY

You’re writing a nice l’il story, but you’re just not sure about your grammar. Here’s a quick once-over:

You’re —a contraction of you and are.

Your —something belonging to you.

So:

Your coffee’s gone cold. You’re just too wrapped up in your novel to remember to drink it (you badass wordsmith, you).

On that note, here endeth the first lesson. Up next: You and Me, Lose and Loose, and Why Eyebrows are Ripe for the Pluckin’.

 

 

 

 

The Blood that Jack Spilt —by Stephanie Ellis

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dark

This is the blood that Jack spilt.

 

This is the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

This is the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

This is the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

This is the dark

That hid the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

This is the night watch with a lamp

That lit the dark

That hid the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

This is the body, desecrated, forlorn

Found by the night watch with a lamp

That lit the dark

That hid the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

These are the organs, ripped and torn

From the body, desecrated, forlorn

Found by the night watch with a lamp

That lit the dark

That hid the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

This is Whitechapel, fogbound and poor

That shrouded the organs, ripped and torn

From the body, desecrated, forlorn

Found by the night watch with a lamp

That lit the dark

That hid the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

Mary Ann Nichols was the name that was borne

By the body in Whitechapel, fogbound and poor

That shrouded the organs, ripped and torn

From the body, desecrated, forlorn

Found by the night watch with a lamp

That lit the dark

That hid the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

There would be more, did Saucy Jack warn

After Mary Ann Nichols, whose name was borne

By the body in Whitechapel, fogbound and poor

That shrouded the organs, ripped and torn

From the body, desecrated, forlorn

Found by the night watch with a lamp

That lit the dark

That hid the hand

That held the knife

That killed the whore

That gave the blood that Jack spilt.

 

From Dark is my Playground —by Stephanie Ellis. Purchase it here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Playground-collection-twisted-rhymes/dp/1718128347/ref=sr_1_1?crid=OI0L4S3KIN3R&keywords=dark+is+my+playground+stephanie+ellis&qid=1571749330&sprefix=dark+is+my+playground%2Caps%2C142&sr=8-1

Beware of the Bull -by CM Franklyn

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Guernica – Pablo Picasso

This whole place is white. Eggshell white. There’s not much else to be said about it. Not much else, because it’s just a room —and there is hardly anything in it. Not yet. Far better to start with the absentees in any case; in rooms, life, and everything else, that which is missing can often provide the greater presence.

First, there are no windows here, so we are not privy to the weather conditions. And as there are no windows, there are no blinds, and consequently no slashes of sunlight cast upon the floor. There are four walls, one ceiling, wooden boards underfoot, and a table. The walls keep the ceiling up, and the ceiling keeps the walls down. The floor is there for walking and for the table to rest upon. The table is a device for people to sit around, for this is what shall happen in a short while. And as they come, so shall they bring chairs, for they know their own comfort. And comfort is enough —for now.

Bringing her life along, yet making sure to leave it behind, Sam enters through a doorless space. Hi, Carl, she says, once he has squeezed in after her. Hi, Sam. This is not the most inventive of introductions, and these are not the most engaging of people, it has to be said. But this is how it goes in a place like this. This is how it always goes. And it’s enough.

Dave, next. Like Carl and Sam, he has a monosyllabic name for simplicity. Some of these people, as we shall discover, have monosyllabic brains, too. Hi, Carl. Hi, Dave. Hi, Carl. Hi, Sam.

One-by-one, the seat-bringers surround the table until every space is filled in this, the eggshell room in which they will chat. They all have names, and we will come to learn them; whether these people will learn anything about themselves is largely dependent upon confidence, contemplation, and foible.

Bill is entrant number seven. He gets right up in Sam’s face straight away and yells, LIKE ME! But Sam doesn’t want to like him yet, having only just met the guy.

Even after he shows her his private collection, she finds him hard to like. Especially after he shows her his private collection. Managing a half-polite semi-smile, she ferrets herself away into a corner of photographs: images of cats, food, guns —and guns’ results. The latter doesn’t matter; that sort of stuff only registers with people who care. Ferreting away doesn’t seem to matter, either. Not to Bill. What is he supposed to think? The girl is clearly playing hard-to-rape. Pfft —she obviously wants it.

Girls, man. They want it

ALL.

THE.

TIME.

All of them. Bill knows this, so he backs Sam into a corner and up against a version of herself. She’s fuckable, he thinks. You’re gorgeous, he says, even though he doesn’t know her from Eve. This is not to be considered creepy in the slightest; women are well-accustomed to such compliments, and as such, should appreciate every last one. Bear them all with fortitude and a little bit of gratitude, they should, for they might never know another. In any case, there are far worse things to be worrying about than the odd catcall or thirty. Girls should get a grip and worry about serious matters such as the environment or climate change or —wait: strike that. Reverse it. Girls should never worry their pretty little heads about serious matters such as the environment or climate change because those things are not even real issues anyway, and even if they were, they should certainly not be addressed by spoilt brats who should be at school where they can look forward to a bright and wonderful future —it’s so nice to see!

In the next breath, and after a good ol’ cup of covfefe, he mentions his height —it’s a whopper of a number. Huge. In fact, this number of ultimate and almighty bigness means PRAISE MY ENORMOUS PENIS but she (the silly girl) thinks he’s telling her how tall he is. Ha!

Unsure of her options now, being that she has always been taught to welcome attention from men no matter how vulgar they are because it would be rude not to and people would consider her unworthy of a second glance and she must always explain herself and her behaviour and her face and justify her choice to wear make-up on it because everyone knows she looks better without it and she must regularly apologise for her weight and shape and the clothes she adorns it with and she must respond with kindness and a wink to every comment from Every Man Ever otherwise how else will she find a husband and how else will she ever become a mother or feel any sense of self-worth whatsoever and who would even look at her twice let alone want to mate because look how ugly and inappropriately burdensome she is, she hands him her coerced thumb. It is up, but her eyes are down.

Happy with that for now —but only for now— the man sits his arse down with the girl’s digit held aloft for all to see. He didn’t have this much luck with the previous one, who is not in this room. She was a proper pig. A pig who had refused to praise his celestial diamond-cut throne-dwelling penis of golden gloriousness so he’d made sure to tell her how fat and ugly and worthless she was and said he hadn’t meant it when he’d called her gorgeous, the fatuglyworthlesspig. He’d made sure to drive the point home with sharpened words. He’d made sure the pig knew he considered her A Fat. He’d made sure the pig knew he considered her An Ugly. That was all she was, and that was enough.

Now, the group sit ‘round the table not quite knowing what to say, so, being default-weather-talkers, they discuss the mundane. Anyone notice the rain last night? It was wet. They offer equally dull gusts by way of response, including but not limited to the wind (it blows, man) and the ambient humidity which is frizzing all the female hair (a look which is downright unattractive and puts a man right off no matter how otherwise-fuckable the bearer) before they move on to the next topic: films.

John’s favourite is ___________, and the other men agree. This makes them look cool. It makes them look clever. It makes them look educated. Ann, though (oh, Ann, when will you learn?) says ________ is the best movie ever made. She enjoys it and it brings her happiness. But this makes her look stupid. The others laugh and mock, and mock and laugh. She takes off her face and hands it around for the others to witness the parallel blue streams of her twilight tears.

Seven eighths of the room’s inhabitants enjoy a long-running TV show (no, not that one). The odd man out does not. But, as his opinion is crucial and must be shared with the others, he takes a big brown ice-cream swirl of a dump on their enthusiasm. That’s enough, that’s enough.

Next, their favourite author. Dave really enjoys _________, of whom nobody in this room has ever heard, but who is somebody everybody pretends to know. Lucy, though, has a bit of a thing for ________, and happens to have upon her person, at this table, in this room, a copy of ­­­­the latest novel. She approaches her neighbours in turn and fans the pages in their faces. It smells nice (it’s a book —of course it does). But ________ is considered a joke even though she consistently churns out best-sellers, making money while she sleeps the most enviable slumbers that reek of happy Saturdays and extended middle fingers.

Four people fall to the floor and roll about on it, laughing. The reader is as stupid as the author and they know it, so they want her to know it, too. As she is laughed out of the room, the remainers agree on one thing: no pineapple on pizza. Next, a related topic comes up. Neither John nor Ann would be found eating anything that ever had a face, or that which came from anything that came from anyone who ever had a mother. This is a red flag to the proverbial because plants feel pain, too. But it’s the one about the animals being grateful (as in they should be) that gets on Ann’s tits. This weighs heavily on her everything, and she voices her concerns —silly girl.

Dave can’t be doing with this nonsense. Stupid girl, having an opinion; this place has no time for outsiders. With one click of his fingers, he banishes Ann from the room.

The six insiders are still on the subject, and John holds up a photograph of a piglet. It’s tiny and wearing a onesie. Isn’t it cute, he says, and it is not a question. Bacon, someone else says, which is not only hilarious but entirely original because nobody has ever before had the sheer genius to come up with such a thing. What a wag!

People are stupid. So stupid, in fact, they can no longer sit down, as they no longer have arses, having laughed them off at the side-splitting comment about thinly sliced pigmeat. But John is his own enemy —he goes on to hold up a dripping red foetus even though nobody had asked to see it. And now, there are five.

Sam, who is clearly gagging for it by now, frames her face and shows off her freckles. This time, it’s Carl who’s taken by her fuckability. She must only be doing it for attention, he thinks (and says, to the others). He’s right, they think. You’re right, they say. But there is a thing, and the thing is this: she knows she’s attractive. This is strike one. A real woman should never be aware of her own beauty unless she is describing for men her shaven netherparts or the effect of shower water on her breasts; drips and beads of H2-Oh, I’m so horny. Otherwise, she should consider herself quite the moose.

Strike two: she’s wearing a cosmetic mask. She’d look much better without it, and the chorus tells her so via a bollockful of ugly voices. Strike three: she displays herself in another frame now, but this time her tattoos are on display. Females should not be permitted to darken their bodies with ink, for the sake of utter fuck. Have they learned nothing?

It’s obvious what’s going to happen, too —she’ll be in town, or at the mall, peacocking all around (well, pea-henning, to be more accurate), ugly ink on display for all to see, and she’ll be the one to complain when people prod her! You can’t go around like that and not expect to be touched. You just can’t. Pfft —girls should be happy in their natural skin, and that should be enough.

And sure, she could come up with excuses. Shoddy reasons for wanting to look like an ol’ slapper. But it doesn’t matter that she feels good about herself, finally. It doesn’t matter that she’s escaped years of abuse, finally. And it certainly doesn’t matter that she’s found confidence and embraced self-expression and is now experiencing if not self-love then self not-hate, finally.

But who cares, because tits. Who cares, because lingerie. There are no question marks here because there are no questions, only judgement and condemnation. She is clearly asking for it, having brought it on herself via wardrobe and demeanour, so one of the men gives it to her. It doesn’t matter which one. One is enough.

And now, there are four. The man stays, because he was only doing as nature intended. And, as we all know, boys will be boys will be boys will be boys will BE BOYS BE BOYS BE BOYS BOYS BOYS especially when females encourage and insist upon causing the eruption of their volcanic ballbags. If only the weaker, infinitely useless sex would realise they are there solely for the pleasure of the penis, the world would be a much calmer place. Silly girls. Silly, silly girls. Pfft.

It’s just Carl, Bill, Dave, and the one-girl-left, now. I’ve forgotten her name, because she’s unimportant. She’s just a girl. A girl in a roomful of men. A ballsack of masculinity. A murder of testosterone. A girl with skin unlike their own, and with a sexuality and gender far removed from theirs.

They make a bet to turn her, although they regret not having asked her to do a duet before Sam’s departure. She’s sure to have gone for it, too, lesbianism not even being a real thing in any case. It’s all just play-acting. They love putting on a show for men, they do.

In a way, they kind of pity her. It’s a threefer: she’s worth less than them because she’s a girl. She’s worth nothing to them because she doesn’t like cock. She’s worth less than nothing to them because she has dark chocolate skin. Or is it mocha? Gravy? Caramel, maybe. They aren’t quite sure which foodstuff or drinkthing to use to describe her, so they settle on ______. It’s a word they haven’t been able to say until now, and they sure are pissed about it. Why should _______ be the only ones who can say ______? It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.

It’s fine, though, there’s nothing to see here. No racism here. There can’t be; they each knew somebody who used to work for someone who had a cousin somewhere whose best friend’s paperboy’s uncle’s teacher’s sister’s dog walker’s hair stylist’s boyfriend was a ______. Oh —and they liked that actor in that film. The one who’s always mistaken for the other one because they all look the same. And there’s enough black performers in any case. And as for them getting their own superhero movie? Pfft —one was enough.

Now, they touch her hair. In turn, each man grasps a strand and pulls it to fuckdom come to see how long it really is. Handsy people have hands and they have the right to use them, gosh darn it. Wow! How does it coil up so tight? It must be difficult to get a comb through. I bet it was a bastard when head lice were doing the rounds. Why do you all smell of coconut oil? Give us a song, I bet you have a great voice. Next, they ask where she’s from, and because she gives a stupid answer like Liverpool or Cape Elizabeth or Manchester or Nova Scotia, and because she is clearly stupid, they have to explain no, originally. And why do you wear sheets on your head? Why do you have an Anglicised name? You’re so exotic. I’ve always wanted to try it with a ______.

As they try to cure her with their insatiable, irresistible handsomeness, they flag up a concerning discovery between her legs. This makes her a fourfer, now. With her quartet of unworthiness, she’s erased from the room. She’s not even worth turning; she’s not even a she, for fuck’s sake. Since when did pink, white, and blue make the colour of a woman?

With her exit comes her replacement. Jane comes in on wheels and with electronically enhanced ears. How do you people manage to have sex? Does everything work? Is it all in proportion? What’s wrong with you? These questions are not spoken but yelled, for she is OBVIOUSLY A BIT DENSE. Her husband must have married her for the cash because they clearly rake it in with disability benefits. Scroungers, the pair of ‘em. Either that, or it’s a case of pity; he cannot love her. Not in the proper way —the only way: between one man and one woman. I mean —look at her. She can’t use her legs. Scrawny little atrophied things, they are. That’s hardly a turn-on in bed, is it? What is even the point of her existence? What is the point of her?

She retreats; she must be too weak to stay.

Another girl takes her place. A knocked-up, beaten-down girl with only antacid for company and seventeen weeks to go. She should have held her legs together, they say. She’s on her third husband and fifth tit-sucking parasite so they’ll be burying her in a Y-shaped coffin they say they say they say they say THEY SAY THEY SAY THEY SAY they tell her what a terrible role model she is —or what a good one she isn’t.

Funny thing is, though, this is the same thing they tell the ones who do keep their legs closed. The same thing they say to Women of Choice. The same thing they tell women, period. Oh, periods —yet another subject on which they have words. And once those words are spoken, being that the female form belongs to them for purposes sexual and legislative, they mutilate their argument via a certain type of explanation reserved only for their gender (someone should totally come up with a catchy term for that).

But yes, girls need everything spelled out and underlined and yelled at them, such is their stupidity. Men, though, men are a blessing to the thickest, most stupid of doom-brained females. It is those men —these men, right here—we should all appreciate. Poor souls, experiencing sexism —nay, sheer hatred all the time. Fucking feminists. I mean —did you catch that Scouse Bint the other day, shaming some guy just because he sent her an innocent message? Those things are private, for Satan’s sake. Did he give his consent for her to take that screenshot and post it for the world to see? Did he bollocks. A simple, innocent request from a complete stranger offering her a role in his movie along with a gaggle of other redheads —she should be flattered.

Poor men. Poor, poor men.

As they contemplate everything they’ve just witnessed, everything they’ve just heard, every ugly girl and every memory of every fat girl they ever had to endure and every lezzer they had to try to cure and every disabled girl they wouldn’t fuck even though they should be grateful because who else would have them and all those not-even-female-girls who dare to call themselves women even though they have a dick and how dare they because there are only two genders which is something everybody knows because nature and science and GOD, they cry as one, holding and hugging and wiping tears away from a breakage of broken faces. But it doesn’t last; they quickly collect themselves and man up. There’ll be none of that, none of that. There are better, worthier girls out there. Girls who will worship at the Altar of the Enormous and Almighty Penis without question.

One of them says let’s have a fight and is immediately met with a flying fist. Much better –a violent bandage to bridge a sappy wound that’s been bleeding estrogen. The trio get into a scuffle, enjoying every punch, hook, and scratch –no, not scratch, too feminine. Strike that. Every Thump!

They fight, and they fight. And then they fight some more. But besides their own collective, there is nobody left to pass thumbs and hearts around, so they can neither seek nor receive the oxygen of validation.

It’s no surprise they’re pissed. Pfft —fucking men-haters, with their refusal to cook a decent meal for their husbands or sweep up after their boyfriends. Bloody lesbians with their anti-men stance. Bloody man-hatin’ feminist lezzers, the lot of ‘em. How do they ever get wet enough for penetration? They’re such a passion-killer, those dykes, they put the dry into misandry. A good helping of cock would cure them. One cock would be enough.

Hearing the red flag of commotion, the proverbial animal bounds into the room. Like a wrecking ball of cartoon meat, he bowls over to the three men and stops still before making any sort of contact. He looks not so much wrong, as unright. It’s as if he’s been written by Picasso or painted by Burroughs.

So fragile are they that a single breath from his ringed nose is enough to floor the brittle trio, who shred into shards and fall down, piece-by-piece. Down to a floor upon which they can no longer roll, laughing. Down to a floor upon which they sit, now, shattered smatterings of bone china so white and so fragile that even a single pfft from a whispering nostril was enough.

Job done, but retaining unspent aggression, the bull begins to back away into the nowhere and the everything outside the room. There, where it is not so contained and not so white, we get a closer look at the anime meat of his fibre. He’s made of a non-exhaustive list of real men, birthed by and bathed in estrogen. Fighters. Champions. Feminists. Gay men. Men assigned female at birth. Black men, brown. Tall men, short. Round and thin and young and old and masculine men and feminine men and …women, holding up the rear. Women, leading from behind. Gretas and Lindas and Catherines and Jessicas and Allegras and Erikas and Sheilas and Angelas and Lisas and Lizas and Emmas and Pixies. Nicola, Nikki, Peggy and Pippa, Renee, Laura, Brooklynne, Betty, Toni, Larissa, Sloane, Zoe, and Cate are here. Priya is Jennifer is Shana is Sheri is Georgina is Sandra is Tanya is Thana is Sarah is Marie is Roberta. They —we— are all made from the same fabric. We are enough.

The bull needs to break something down, and fast, so he selects the fourth wall. The fourth very white, very fragile wall. From there, a tiny voice from a tiny reader: not all men.

Del Toro sees the red flag again. We bound over. There are smashes, shattering, shards. Unfixable, unputbacktogetherable. No words have they; no power, now. We brush the shreds into the eggshell arena where we lean over their fibre and offer a selection of thoughts and prayers.

Now, the sediment of misplaced sentiment rests where once sat a girl —in a room; a white, fragile room. There’s not much else to be said about it. Not much else, because it’s just a room —and there is hardly anything in it. Not yet. Far better to start with the absentees in any case; in rooms, life, and everything else, that which is missing can often provide the greater presence.