Issue #73 March 26th - April 2nd 2004
The beauty in the way that we are living (installment 8)
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (part 23)
The Federal Food Reserve
Mother of Three
I turned 25 a couple of months ago, but yet, I still feel like I’m about 17. I have no idea where my life is going. Sure, I have lots of dreams, and I have three kids now, but that doesn’t mean my life is all together. I never know where I’m going to be next. My children have always been my life, though. I love them more than anything else. That part of my life, I know is right. Yet, I still have something to find that I am able to go up in, to learn more of, to succeed and show a great example for my children, to have the money to raise them right.
So here I am, sitting here, writing, the other love of my life. I’ve written so much, but never really thought that maybe one day I could have something published, for others to read, to make money. One day, after a few months in college, I was talking to my mom. I told her that I couldn’t handle accounting, it was too boring, and there was no more to learn. How was I to keep doing that day after day? She told me, “Tanya, You love writing, you are great at it, make your living that way! You move people with your words, you write through your heart.” It all made me think. Wouldn’t it be great to earn a living being able to do what you love to do!
Well, that was 4 years ago. Yes at times I have started writing this and that, looked around to see how I could accomplish it. Of course, life got in the way. I had two children at that time and recently single. With a dead beat father not wanting to help take care of his children, I was on my own. I had to work to pay the bills, to take care of my children. With all that, there was never enough time.
Recently I had my third child. She is 2 months old now. I have been able to stay home the past 3 months. I’ve been the true stay at home mom. Taking and picking up my two oldest kids, from school. Always being there, helping them with homework, playing with them, and cooking dinner. Now that moneys out and I have to go back to work, I have been dreading it so much. I never knew it would be this hard. Not only to leave my new born, but all three.
I am a person that has been through a lot, down to hell and back, I’m sure you know the drill. I’ve quit crying too much about anything, awhile ago. So, I guess you can say that life has toughened me up. Yet, I find myself crying so much the past couple of weeks, knowing that I have to go back to work and leave my children for others to raise in child care.
So I have just decided, actually, while writing this, that I am going to do everything it takes to get going on my writing. Non stop, so I am able to be that stay at home mother. The mother, that is able to watch every second of her children's lives. To see them play at their baseball games, their dance classes. Life is too short to miss out on that, they are only that age once.
The beauty in the way that we are living, installment eight
Early spring is a strange time. It is a time of warm days spent lazily looking forward to the future (counting down the days to birthdays and the change to summer time) cold(-ish) clear nights spent absent-mindedly thinking of songs nearly as old as me (Blueboy, Razorcuts, Siddeleys and early Sarah singles, that sort of thing), trees that bloom briefly before they spring leaves (so that you take a friend to see a street arched with pink flowers and all he sees is a street with normal, if rather brown-leafed, trees) and wanting to write "and did you care, when I cut my hair?" on a hundred walls even though I haven't cut my hair in quite a while and and I have no discernable wish to do so, either.
And a few miracles here and there.
The part of myself that wants everything to be perfect takes this a sign of my incompetence ("you couldn't help but spoil a perfect moment") and sulks and I give up bouncing halfway through the song to fetch a broom and a dustpan. But when I came back and stare at the mess for a moment -wondering if I should do something about the water which is fast absorbed by the carpet first (and deciding it doesn't matter)- another part of me says "everything has to go". Everything goes in the end, and that is part of life, even of the happy moments, I tell myself and try to make my two halfs smile at each other. By the time I'm done 'everything has to go' has turned into 'anything goes' and I'm wondering what this reminds me of...
Wondering lasts for no more than a moment because when I take the white glass pieces in the kitchen to throw them away Stuart Murdoch (complete with scottish accent, heartbreaking voice and impeccable early Belle & Sebastian innocence) is singing it in my head which makes the perfect soundtrack for what I see as I lean forward: the moon reflecting on the windowsill marble (which means the windowsill is really shiny and the moon is pretty much in the middle of the sky above my street!) How cool is that?
I leave the flowers scattered next to the reflection and go to bed, where I try to remember to say my prayers and include something about things going in them.
Now I can hardly keep my eyes open but there's more I want to write on a hundred walls. Some of it is the sort of thing I could have done ('I’ll never forget the morning we went running around, before the sun came up, so new to this town'), some of it the sort of thing I think ('she was the one I missed stepping on the bus' - which brings tears to my eyes because I miss everyone all the time) and some of it the sort of thing I feel ('you held my hand, and I’ve held that in my heart'). Or maybe I'm just very excitable and in love with everything - but it's very late so I just write it down in my diary and go to bed where I dream you held my hand, and I held that in my heart.
The Long Lost Diary Of Miss S L Gleaden
Things had not been going well for Miss S L Gleaden since the day that she had got on a plane to Burmha instead of one to Greece. Since then she has met many people, discovered the secret of eternal youth, and has learnt how to cook noodles to perfection. Currently her goal in life is to aquire fake documentation which will allow her to return home. That, and to stop throwing up...
Our escape from the ship was worse than all of the time spent on board. The captain let us hide in a crateful of fish the smell of which I can not begin to describe. I'm not sure why we listened to I and E's who had the plan to hide in there.
"Even if anyone opened one of those crates they would be overcome by the smell and wouldn't bother to search it thoroughly. " he'd said.
Despite stuffing tissue paper up our noses the smell of the fish was overpowering and I sat cowering in the corner concentrating on the freckle at the end of my nose and trying to imagine that we were safely out of the ship and onto dry land. Nevertheless the plan worked, and the men who were inspecting the ships cargo waved the crates on with one hand and held their nose with the other.
As soon as we were safely through the port and out into the countryside we got out of the crate and looked at one another. Our luggage was thrown at us before the truck containing the reamining fish drove off quickly leaving us wobbling like green jelly ready to melt in the heat of the sun.
I and E fell to the floor, and molly and myself choose to join him.
"I don't think I'll ever move again" said I and E
"HA! You've only felt like this for 30 minutes. I've been feeling like this for 3 days." I didn't mean to snap at I and E, but whether it was exhaustion, or the lack of food, or simply the smell of fish I couldn't help myself.
"Listen" said molly "I don't think we are that far from the sea. I can practically here the waves breaking on the shore. Let's get up and walk a for a few minutes and see if I'm right. We'd all feel better if we didn't smell so bad."
Molly as always was right, and about five minutes later we were faced by sparlking blue sea. We discarded our rubbish on the shore and ran straight into the ice cold water. I felt overwhelmed by the almost immediate relief from the soothing water around my body. I sunk my throbbing head beneath the waves and listened to the gentle muted sounds of the underwater world. When I could hold my breath no longer I lifted my head and was hit by a blinding sun. I felt better. I felt as though I could cope with anything.
Having changed into cleaner clothes we managed to hitch a lift with a coach load of travelling cross stichers into the nearby city of Madras. I and E went down a treat with the old ladies on board. They found his stories "simply charming". I closed my eyes and enjoyed the fact that I did not want to throw up.
Once in Madras, we made a plan. I and E and molly would search for food and somewhere cheap to stay for the night. I would find a phone and call Harry to agree a rendez-vous with his contact who would supply us with fake documents. .
"Harry. We're in India!"
"That's my girl! knew you'd make it."
"This person we're meeting. We can trust him can't we?"
"Err yes. Yes of course. Just stay alert and don't give him any money until you have what you want and don't turn your back on him for a second. You'll be fine." Harry laughed nervously
"Right… so when do I meet this "trustworthy" man?"
"One step at a time, one step at a time. Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?"
"Maybe, not definitely."
Harry launched into detailed set of instructions which involved finding arranged a hotel that he had visited on one of his many "business" trips. We were to tell the receptionist that we were guests of doctor yellow hat and that he would be paying for two nights accommodation for the three of us.
Although I didn't hold out much hope that his instructions would work, when I and E and molly returned without food or a bed for the night we decided it was worth a try.
I felt decidedly scruffy as we entered the plush marble floored hotel. I approached the reception desk and prepared to be laughed at or worse thrown into the street in shame. Much to my surprise neither of these things happened and instead we were whisked up to a luxurious room.
We were just steadying ourselves when the phone rang.
"you found it alright then? Nice place isn't it?"
"Its beautiful Harry, but I won't even want to ask why these people are treating us so well!"
"Nothing to worry about old girl. I've arranged for you to meet my contact tomorrow at noon outside the University. I'll give you his number just incase though…"
"Great, but hadn't you better tell me his name?"
"haha good idea. Its James Trentwood…"
And now dear diary you know as much about this strange adventure as I do, and I really must leave you for tonight because I fear I'll be asleep before much longer…
to be continued...
Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, football, beer, football, football, football, beer. That is my day, she says, and she is right, in a way, except she missed out the word 'ideal'.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
I draw on the back of matted toilet roll and yellow flyers, and what I draw is another way out of this congealed mess.
I am twenty-eight years old and nothing much has changed since the doctor hacked at the umbilical cord and told me, "here, here is your world."
And he looked me in the eyes and half-expected to see the modicum of a glimmer, a half-smile, but all I do is spew on his new button-hole and bawl into the night.
Everyone that I have ever met since has always been either the devil or a saviour, but it turns out that there has been too many devils and not enough saviours.
You can scratch your head and ponder at the calamity, but at the same time you must remember that at least now, you have learnt to ponder, to awkwardly meander, as opposed to an inexplicable vomiting over learned men's button holes.
Another man walks past. He looks at me half in shame and half in arrogance. "Toilets?" he says
"Yes, they are" I say
"Where are they?"
"Down the stairs, turn left."
And off he goes. Down the stairs. Turning left. Into a brick wall.
I grab two beers from the unopened bar and take one over to Alex, who's hacking away at pigs trotters.
"Just the job" he says
I watch him deftly slice limb after limb of good clean pork. He once told me he could serve an entire wedding party from the belly of one pig, although he never did tell me the size of said wedding party.
"Another?" I ask
"Fuck it. Why not. Before those cunts open it up to the general public. Cunts."
"Alex, they're your customers."
"They're scum. Get in the way of the day."
"You want me to piss in that cannelloni?"
"Too late" he chuckles
Ingrid turns up stoned. She's in for the long haul, the late shift, and it's her way of ploughing through it all.
"Boys" she says
"Slut" says Alex. Ingrid and Alex have had an on-off relationship for as far back as I care to remember. At the moment, it's off.
"Is this where you wanted to be when you were younger?" I ask Alex.
"What the fuck do you think?" he says, as he empties a binful of pigs blood down the drain.
"I think it's fucked up."
"Hit the nail on the head, my friend."
Another beer, and then it's time for me to go. I re-wrap the cord around the handle of the buffer, give the banister a cursory dusting, and then slouch out into the bitter midday quagmire.
I call in at the newsagents on the way home and get some beer for me, and some chocolate for her. It's not much of a life, but it's enough for now, out of the womb, one cord replaced by another, and the feeding frenzy goes on.
The Federal Food Reserve
Hi. Let me tell you a little about what I do. I'm in charge of the Federal Food Reserve. Of course you haven't heard of it - very few people have. That's because it's Top Secret. But I know pretty much all there is to know about it, because it's been sortof my baby for the last 20 years or more, and I feel like telling you about it. I find most people end up being quite interested in it, actually!
Of course, I'm really a military man, but then, take something as important as this - I mean, it's the food reserve! Of the whole country! - you gotta have it well-protected, right? And that's where the army comes in, and in this case, the army means me.
But I suppose I should start off by telling you how come I got into the army in the first place. You see, I'm not really the academic type, so I didn't ever really figure on going to college or anything like that. That's not 'cause I'm stupid or anything though - I reckon I'm about as smart as most people, but I just didn't like the idea of all those books and stuff, you know. Me, I'm a practical sort of guy. And also, my family wasn't none too rich, otherwise I might have still have gone anyway. But okay, so I didn't go, and I don't reckon I'm probably any worse off for that. You don't see any of them varsity-kids here, in charge of the Federal Food Reserve, now do you? Not even over there, at the Fort, there ain't no more than maybe one or two!
Instead of wasting all that time, I went off into the world instead, and like a man should, I tried to earn my own living doing an honest day's work. Now, I don't really mind what line of work it is a man does, as long as it's honest and there ain't no funny business, and my, I certainly did start out right at the bottom, if you look at it the way most people do. My first job was a garbage-collector. Well, I reckon I could tell you a few things about garbage-collecting too. To some, I guess, that might sound like dirty work, but I reckon it's clean work if you look at it some other ways, 'cause all those nice clean sidewalks on the nice clean blocks where all these nice clean educated rich people live, who live in big houses and work in nice clean offices and... wait, where was I again? Oh yes! All those nice clean things - well, if it weren't for garbage-collectors I don't reckon they'd stay so clean so long, so I don't reckon no-one ought to knock a garbage-collector. And also, it's quite educational, I mean you learn a lot about people like that, seeing what they throw out and like that. Now, a lot of people who go into that line of work do kindof nicely for themselves through taking stuff they find in the trash, and then selling it again, 'cause a lot of it ain't so badly broke a man with a little sense in him can't fix it right up proper again, almost like new. I reckon they even sortof expect you to do that, really, 'cause otherwise why would the wages be so small? I mean, it's real important work if you think about it even a little bit, but it hardly pays anything, really.
And I mean, me, here I come from a decent house and with decent folks and I reckon they raised me to live right, and I never could bring myself to take nothing that belonged to no-one else, even if they'd gone and thrown it right away. But so, what with the small wages and all, it meant I couldn't never really afford to live the way I was accustomed to. I mean, not that my folks raised me to be grand or anything, but when I say they raised me right, I don't mean just stuff like love your neighbour and say your prayers and so on, but also what it means to live like a proper human being and person, and not like any dog or bum or nothing. You know, eat proper and always have clean clothes to put on in the morning and always wash the dishes before you go to sleep and like that. Soon's I saw I couldn't live like that no more, on account of I didn't make enough money doing what I was doing, well, right there I told myself I need to find another line of work. Better-paid you know. And so that is what I did.
Luckily for me, this guy I sortof used to be buddies with back in high-school - he used to play the bugle in the marching-band, and I played the big boss drum - well, he worked in the city's sanitation department. And just as I was thinking of changing my career, he happened one day to tell me of this vacancy they had for a sanitation inspector, and I knew right there that it was sortof like fate, me going to work there, given the timing and like that, and so I sent in my application the next day, and of course by that afternoon I had the job. I mean, I'm humble as the next guy, but really they were lucky to find a guy like me willing to do a job like that, I mean with my intelligence and high sense of morals and my experience in the garbage-sector and everything. Because though I really have a high respect for the job of garbage-collecting, inspecting is a nasty underhand sneaking job. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mean inspecting like I do here, at the Federal Food Reserve, 'cause that's all different and very respectable and stuff, but I mean inspecting like I did in those days. You're always barging in on people when they're not expecting it, and trying to catch them out at doing something dirty. And it don't matter how far up you go with that, it's always still the same, even by the time I had been there for only 6 months and I was already trusted to go and inspect restaurants (I'm a very fast-learner!) it was still the same. So even though the money was much better, and it was still a useful job, just because of that, that it didn't feel quite honest, I didn't want to do it no more. So I quit then and right there. Funny though - thinking back now, if it wasn't for that job, I wouldn't be here now, no sir. Thinking back now, I sure did learn a lot in those months.
But anyway, I don't want to be getting ahead of myself here. After doing that there, I went for a stint as a short-order cook. Now, it's funny how things work out sometimes, 'cause just like I'd got the inspector-job sortof because I was a garbage-collector before, so I got this job sortof 'cause I was an inspector. See, way it was, there was this one restaurant I sometimes used to go and inspect, and then often I stopped there to get lunch too, on account of me and the manager, Little Fred got along kindof well. Now, I don't reckon your job as a sanitation inspector is to make trouble for nobody, but to make sure places are clean and healthy to eat at. It's like being the conscience of restaurants, you know, not their police. So anyway, sometimes when I got to a place and it wasn't quite clean enough to pass the regulations, well, I didn't see no use in causing a fuss, so I just sortof of quietly told them to clean up before I got back there again. And actually, some of those regulations are just plain too strict, you know? I mean, some of those places that wouldn't pass those regulations, I'd eat in just as soon as any other place. Anyway, and that's the way it was sometimes with me and Little Fred, and I guess he must've appreciated it or something 'cause when I was there one day and I sortof let fall that I wasn't none to happy in my current line of work, he sortof let on that he might be willing to take me on as a cook. I mean, by then I'd spent so much time in his place - checking it was clean and all - and in the kitchen there and everywhere that I doubt anyone knew more about that place than I did. So I said, sure, I'd take it, even though at that stage I couldn't hardly boil an egg. I mean, you take a guy a like me, and if he's willing to put his mind to it, I bet he could do just 'bout anything. Like, see this thing with the Federal Food Reserve and I - there wasn't even no Federal Food Reserve before I got hold of it, nevermind someone to show me how to run it, but I reckon I've done just fine at it.
to be continued....