Issue #32 May 29th - June 5th
Sister Janice gets Defrocked
Archiving the history of the loneliness - Part 2: the Diner Monologues
A guide to sheep
Daddy buy me a pony.
Sister Janice Gets Defrocked
Sister Janice is the Friends Of The Heroes agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career.
These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed. Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer...
my head is stuck to a table.
my head feels nice on the table.
I shall leave my head on the table.
Errr... Hello there my little Bodies of Heavenliness,
I am writing to you from my lovely new surroundings in the splendid...
I am writing to you from my luxurious appartment on the planet of...
I am writing to you from my shed as it hurtles through...
I am writing to you from a bar.
The last thing I remember is asking those assembled if they wanted to see what was really underneath a nun's habit. I think I was standing on this table at the time.
Rather worryingly, I am no longer wearing the habit. I am dressed in a pirate's costume. There's even a parrot on my shoulder, saying everything when I talk.
To my left, slumbers....Al....
I believe he's called Al, because it says that on his T-Shirt. He's an eight foot long lizard. Perhaps there are a lot of eight-foot long lizards called Al wherever he comes from.
I nudge him slightly..
'If you'll be my bodyguard, I will be your long lost pal.'..
'SQUAWK! long lost pal!'
Nothing. I have no idea how I got here. I have no idea where here IS. I have no idea where everyone else in the bar went, including my travelling companion - Roger From The Burger Bar.
Its just me, the parrot and Al, the sleeping lizard. And a thumping that I thought was coming from inside my head but on second considerations its...
no, surely not..
its Donna Summer.
Try me I know/
I haul myself to my feet and stagger across the room and there, in the corner is a dilapidated old record player and a selection of albums, and tapes marked with... surely not...
'Redemption through Retrospective Dance - Sister Janice Slejj'
I wonder how long I have been here? I think we left Earth a couple of days ago, but time in space is malleable. You don't have to believe in it, if you don't want to believe in it.
Someone must have put something in my drink. I'm very well behaved. A model of decorum.
I wish I knew where my real clothes were.
Whilst I sort myself out, here's this week's letter:
oh agony aunt,
i am searching for simon.
do you have any idea
where he might be?
from someone who signs themselves Slightly Uneasy...
I wonder where this came from?
Do I have any idea where he might be?
Do I have any idea where I might be?
I stumble over to Al, and tap on the back of his giant green head.
'Do you have any idea where Simon might be?'
Al's hand swings to the left, gesturing vaguely in the direction of a nearby table.
There's nobody at the table. Perhaps underneath.
Nothing. A couple of smashed glasses, some cigarette butts, and a signed photograph of Kelly Marie:
'Loved singing live at your bar. Please let me come back some time.'
Dear Slightly Uneasy,
It is my belief that Simon has made himself invisible, and is temporarily located underneath a table at an unspecified location somewhere in the outer reaches of the solar system.
When you next see him, ask him if he's come across a nun's habit, will you? I really don't relish the prospect of wearing a funny hat and an eye-patch for the rest of my time in space.
Always Glad To Be Of Help,
Sister Janice Slejj
Yellow neon flickers above the doorway. I pick my records up from the floor, and prepare to leave the darkness.
Somewhere, out there, my ride is waiting.
Otherwise, I'm marooned on a strange planet with a lizard and a parrot.
Until next week, my little Babes of Bachanalia, I know we can make it. I know. If we try.
Archiving the History of Loneliness - Part Two: The Diner Monologues
I feel strange tonight. Light headed at times. Others. Its sharp light makes blinding glare in the window from the speeding motorists that make this view that of a busy town. Too busy to make time for the festering wound that they call progress. Nothing is sacred any more. All the farms and empty fields have been leveled to make room for hollowed out structures to keep people in. And they all have that same hollowed out look behind glass eyes, of an abandoned buildings being resurrected around them. Nothing is kept close to one's heart anymore. It's all kept at arms reach. We hide it well. The fear to be close. Packed in this fake scenery. Like Christmas presents under a half dead and dying tree. I need the lonely feeling. It feeds me endlessly. Harder and harder to keep a record of the eventless days. Words slip out of sync with the rest of the noises. I tell myself it's not me. But I know it is. Everything must end badly. Everything hands me the cards face down.
I wish for some one to notice that plane crash. Burning holes in my heart and lungs. Keeping me from breathing. Talking out loud. Instead, whispers. Struggling to climb up past my own selfish thoughts. She watched me write. Her eyes followed my pens every movement. She watched my misery unfold through that same sheet of glass. Every conversation in this place is a masterpiece of words from wicked and twisted hearts. I listen in to them sometimes. A girl. "and when my heart stopped for a second..." and another waitress."...and she said she can't wait to get home." things make more sense when you are only listening to the words that are familiar, that no one knows that you are there. Listening to each beautifully crafted syllable. They look to see what I'm doing. To make sure I'm not looking back. "...bullshit and wires." there are secrets here to find. "I set it up for us." things you might miss if you don't listen in. she watched as I sat there by myself in that corner by the window. I watched her notice me in those same secret ways. I kept it in my pocket. The picture I made of her. "...we better see you later."
The coffee smell makes me sick. The swirls of smoke pouring out of my mouth and nostrils is endless. Harassing my senses "is it like a crime if they don't come?" how many times I have been asked to stay? She always asks me to stay. And I always do. She distracts me from it. Her soft glowing eyes. I tell her everything that has ever meant anything to me. I share my passion. With a waitress. And a half empty cup of coffee. For every cigarette she stayed for. For every refill on that same cup. A new secret crept out from our lips. Except for the one we both knew. The one we shared on soft water colored tables. Across the constant conversations of the tables around us. "Who's growing up." I tried hard to keep in mind that this was my heart playing against my own system of failures. That retaining wall I built up around it to keep every thing in. and everyone out. Some how her eyes. Or maybe it was her sickly sweet smile. The one that was as real or as fake as mine. Something she did rolled over each tumbler perfectly. Unlocking all my darkest secrets. We left trails of glances leading us to one another. The random chatter. "I don't know if I can wake up." I never got her number. I didn't want it. But that's a lie I tell myself.
Perhaps it was all the coffee and cigarettes that made me stay there in that booth until 7.30 in the morning. But I know it wasn't. It was her eyes. Some one once told me "we smell our own kind." he was right in all the wrong ways. So how many lonely nights spent writing at a 24 hour diner can I spend listening in to the conversations? Collecting my secrets for the sun? Puffing on those menthol cigarettes until I'm sick to my stomach waiting quietly in that corner for the perfect yellow light to come and burn out all the whispers in my head. Nothing hurts more then having no one to talk to. Only having this pen and paper. Trapping up my pain in two simple dimensions showing up just to leave. Never saying goodbye. "I still can't see who's in that truck. Lisa? Yes."
The words passed through me like the sharpest sound. A shrill of vibrations causing headaches to come faster then before. The dreams that have haunted me. My sister's hands covered in blood. That waking moment when I heard the words, "nine weeks." nine weeks pregnant. Nine weeks of dying inside of her belly. That same belly that I would blow on to make her laugh until she cried. Now she has that same hollowed look to her eyes. The look of someone that lost so much love. So much joy. It hurts to look in those eyes. Those eyes that in the past, somehow always managed to make me smile.
The thoughts keep piling up to meet the ceiling. Everything is easy when you get to pick and chose your words. The ones that you want every one to see. This is my loneliness drafted out into perfect selected phrases and gently sloping lines that filter through all the simplest emotions. Ill just keep trying to make sense of it. "I'm scared by New Jersey for life."
A Guide To Sheep...
The girl and I were out walking. I had my head down trying my hardest to keep track of the places we were visiting. The sun was beating down and a slight wind ruffled my fur. It was good to be out. I got caught up in the story written so clearly in smells on the ground.
Last night a rabbit had been there. It had eaten a dandelion and then hopped over to a nice green patch of grass and had zigzagged here and there stopping to look at the view by a lamp post and then up vanished through the hedge. Oh, Burt had been there too, he hadn't seen the rabbit but he had left me a message to say that the ginger cat had been over in his garden annoying him again. Poor old Burt.
Burt lives in the house over the road. We get on very well but we like very different things. I like to run around and around. He likes to sit by the fire and watch. I like to rollover and over on the ground crossing from one side of the room to the next on my back. He prefers to lie very still and stay in one place. I like to chase the annoying ginger cat out of my garden. He prefers to stay in his person's good books and puts up with the taunting from cat. I resolved to make it my mission to chase the ginger cat when I returned home. Just for the sake of poor old Burt of course.
The girl, as normal, had her head in the air without a care in the world. She was oblivious to all the stories written on the ground. The poor thing misses so much.
We approached one of those wooden fences with a step for the girl to climb over and three gaps for me and my lead to get tangled up in. That's when I saw them. A field full of strange white fluffy animals. They looked strangely familiar. I thought back to that day by the canal. I had seen a white and orange ghost-like creature on the surface of the water. Then I had jumped in and splash! it was gone.
The white creatures approached me and the girl. I stood on tip toes pretending to be brave. I didn't want my girl to get scared by these strange animals. After a few seconds we were surrounded.
“they think that you are one of them Belle, the sheep must think you are a lamb, they are trying to round you up!” the girl laughed.
I looked at these animals. Had I finally found some friends who would understand me? Would they appreciate the joys of running around and around in circles for no reason? Would they know all the answers to all the questions that I ever wanted to ask?”
I watched them. They were eating grass. The girl was always telling me
“Belle you are the only dog I have ever seen to eat grass and not be sick”
Would they be sick after eating grass? I waited a little bit longer. No they weren't!
Could it be possible that I was really a lamb? Would I grow up to become a sheep? This was a very exciting development in my life. I decided to test my theory a little bit. I ran around in circles and the girl got tangled up in my lead. The sheep didn't join in. In fact they backed off a little bit.
Unwilling to get disheartened by such a small setback I decided to ask them a few questions:
“Why am I allowed to only two meals a day when the girl is allowed three?”
“How come cats never get into trouble but I do?”
“Where can I find more chocolate?”
By the second question they were looking disinterested. By the final question they had all gone. The girl was not looking happy.
“You shouldn't bark at the sheep belle. You'll scare them.”
I was disappointed but not disheartened. It was that age old language problem that me and my girl often encounter. There was nothing for it. If I wanted to know the answer to my questions I would just have to learn how to speak sheep. On the way back home I practised hard until the girl said:
“Belle be quiet you sound like a cat!”
I was horrified. I sounded like a cat!? Perhaps I would just have to find someone else who would tell me the answers to my questions...
Perched at an angle on the threadbare mantlepiece was his bronze statuette. 'The Evils of Capitalism' it's called. It has a fat man and his bulldog astride a mountain of workers. The mantlepiece was it's home. You remember being sat on his knee as a kid and in his quiet, thoughtful, yet passionate voice, he would explain to you all about the meaning behind the statuette, and when you asked what capitalism was he would tell you it was the exact opposite of what he was and that, for you, was enough to detest it more than anything else on this earth.
You remember your uncle, drunk and falling to one side as he bid farewell to the last of his daughters, telling you that your father was a man of principles, and principles made the man. You wasn't sure about the principles. For one thing, you didn't know what it meant, but when you looked it up it talked about morals, ethics, goodness, conscience and scruples, but still you thought that it didn't explain half of what he was, that it never mentioned the jokes he told or the games of football you played or the kisses goodnight as he tucked you tight in sheets; This word 'principles' told only half of the story.
He was the one constant in your life and now he is gone.
It's ok. It's ok to grieve now, here, out of the way, out of the glare of the public eye. Never show them your weaknesses. That was something else he said. Even when the miners went back to work after a year out on strike, he organised the brass band to march them back at five in the morning to the pit face, and the whole village roused themselves one more time and set up a ticker tape parade. "THE MINERS, UNITED, WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!" It echoed around four corners of the valley as it is echoing now against the four walls of this room. It's funny because you remember that year, the year they were out on strike, as being one of the best of your life. You remember helping your mum in the soup kitchens, and the way that every morning the village hall was inundated with food parcels from complete strangers, people you never knew, people from places like Spain and Italy and America and even a place called Cuba. You remember how everyone pulled together, the way the whole village celebrated birthdays, and made sure that weddings scheduled for that year went ahead as planned. You remember your dad in his element, telling you that there is no limit to what can be done when people pull together, growling his belief and utterly convinced of the collective power of the human soul. Never had he looked so young, so alive with possibility.
Years later in the hospital bed, as the cancer ate away the best part of his limbs, you closed your eyes as he spoke and you could picture him there again, holding up barbed wire fences for the pickets to get in at the pit faces, or, as a man of 45, knocking a policeman off his horse on a day trip to London during the poll tax riots, and you picture your uncle and his inebriated eulogy to your fathers principles, but most of all you picture that day he sat you on his knee and told you all about that bronze statuette and what capitalism meant.
Daddy buy me a pony
With the star upon your shoulder
Belle & Sebastian
And then one day she saw a pony.
It was on a detour that she hadn't tried before. Turns out it ran along a little paddock of green field. It was early spring and there were already little daisies in the field. Of course she wasn't eager to get home again, and so she stayed there for a little while.
The pony was lying on its side. It wasn't that it was a sick pony, it was only a very sleepy pony. It had had its fill of putting up with people prodding it every which way all day, and prancing for their kids to watch, and now it had a belly bulging full of hay... it was suddenly a very contented little piebald pony, and it simply felt like having a bit of a nap. And so it had lain down, and was taking a bit of a nap.
The girl had stopped her bike right alongside the fence, and now she was really looking at it, fingers hooked into the chicken-wire mesh to help her stay upright. It seemed as if the pony was swishing its tail at her, and spontaneously she waved back, but turns out it was only a silly old fly. Silly, but she was smiling. Behind her, the girl could hear the cars hissing by, but she didn't turn around to look at the tired faces on the grey road, on their way home. She was still sitting on her bike, half-off and half-on, fingers hooked into the fence. Somehow she had lost her shadow, though – it really was looking like rain, alright – but the stubborn old sun was still clinging onto one corner of the field, there where the pony lay. Then the sun too let out a deep and silent sigh – was it, could it possibly have been, maybe, a yawn? – and also set off, grumbling, for its cold home behind the soft-edged hills. The clouds didn't hesitate for a second, and clubbed together behind old man sun's weary back as he hobbled off far away. Till tomorrow then? The girl was always thinking about things that way.
She had thought that she was thinking about all this, but when she paid attention again, was surprised to find herself speaking softly to the pony instead. She tried for a while to listen to what she was saying, but she soon lost interest. It really wasn't very interesting, what she was saying – just what she had done that day at school and so on – but it felt nice, the way her lips were moving and her warm breath crystallizing momentary clouds of words into the crisp air. So she kept at it a little bit longer. She kept a pretty close eye on the pony though, to see if it might not perhaps be listening in spite of itself, but its ears remained still and inattentive, except for that lousy little so-and-so of a fly, buzzing about its head now. The only other movement was its tummy bulging up and falling back a little less rotundly, every now... and again. Once she even thought she heard it rumble, but then again she also thought how that would be most unlikely, from where she was. The next thing she knew she had stopped talking and was wholly back on her bike again.
So what she did then, was to shrug her little shoulders, pull the woollen muff a little closer about her ears – because the sun was long gone now and the wind really starting to blow cold – and ride on home, slowly. She did look around, once, at the pony, but it hadn't moved at all; it hadn't really noticed her coming or going at all. Now, she didn't shrug this time, though if you knew her you could tell that really she wanted to, except only that she had a rather peculiar strain of pride. She just rode slowly on home, her fingers growing ice-cold on the handle-bars.
She didn't see her father's car in the driveway as she put her bike away, but she knew he must be home. It certainly was that time of day. And there he was in his armchair, asleep under the wide white newspaper. It was lying spread-eagled over his face, the one side riding the slow wave of his stomach as it breathed in slowly... and out, more slowly. She could see it trembling on the other end as well, the hot air streaming past it from his nostrils. The TV was on, turned down low, but she could hear his little snores, made funny by the sound of the vibrating newspaper, and she put her hand up to her mouth to stifle a giggle. But it turns out there wasn't a giggle there to stifle after all, and so she turned to tip-toe up to her room with the sky-blue wallpaper.
Her foot had nearly landed neatly on the first step when she heard the newspaper being put aside, and instinctively she tried to hurry up the next few steps, but too late! Already she heard his voice. She turned, surprised, and came back down to the landing again. There was a whole day's work, and probably more, in his voice, and she wanted to flee away from all that fatigue, up to her room with the sky-blue curtains, but also she didn't want to. I know – I can't explain it any better either.
“How was your day, Judy?”
She had never known what he wanted to hear, and she didn't have anything to say. Anyway, she didn't want to, and it was bound to be silly... and then she said it.