Category Archives: Short Story

Small Talk

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After long years spent living in the heart of Africa, I headed home. All those days spent in the equatorial sun had tanned my skin to a golden brown. Rays of light had penetrated deep into me, turning my dark hair blonde. With no inclination or motivation to learn the local language, I had become accustomed to being the outsider. I was happy at the corner of a room. Not talking. Allowing the strange voices to drift through me. I’d always hated small talk anyway. Endless hours of chatter pretending I cared about somebody who was a stranger to me. Deep in Africa, I never had to resort to such formalities.

Going back home meant going back to the tedium of socialising. Going back home meant questions. Endless questions. More infinite talk about the weather. More conversations about meaningless topics. What I did last night. Last weekend. Last month. An endless amount of judgment. Family thinking the worst of me, friends secretly discussing me. Long hours of bullshit awaited.

Dreading my return, I meandered back to England, taking as long as possible to reach my destination. Revelling in the feeling of anonymity. Being in places where nobody knew me, where I no longer had to be me anymore. I could be anybody. I enjoyed the feeling of hopelessness. Arriving in strange new places, not knowing how to order a meal. Relying on the kindness of many a middle aged waitress to bring me something edible. I listened in on unintelligible conversations that only I was privy to. Secret lovers whispered near me, ignoring me. I couldn’t understand their French, their German, their Flemish. I was invisible.

As I narrowed in on England, a strong sense of foreboding came over me. I was going back to an ordinary life. A life where I was him again. The me I didn’t like. I would be pulled back into dull interactions with my co-workers. I would be forced to endlessly repeat every tale of my absence. Every special experience that I’d had would be slowly taken from me as time passed on. I would cease to truly have anything to look back on. My entire life would be taken into the memories of others, no longer to be mine.

Crossing the sea, it dawned on me that it didn’t have to be that way. I could still be anybody. I didn’t have to go home. I could travel to another town. Far off. Far from familiar faces and catch up chats. But then I’d still be forced into the torture of sharing myself. Answering the questions. Where I’m from. How old I am. What I’ve been doing. Where I’ve been. I would still have to give myself away to others and fall back into the charade of living. Pretending I cared about people who were just pretending they cared about me. Escape was a fantasy.

However as I leaned on the rail of the ferry, watching the water stream away, an old French man came over to me. He scratched his chin lazily and spoke some unknown phrase. I simply shrugged and gave the reply “No Francais”. In a heartbeat he was gone, turning swiftly on his heels.

It dawned on me then, that the anybody I needed to be, was a foreigner. The easiest way to get out of a conversation was to feign no knowledge of language. From that moment on I decided that if anybody spoke to me, I would simply shrug and say “No English!”

With this ruse in mind, I headed far from home, to a new city and set about living as though I were an immigrant. Those years in the sun were helpful in that regard. Whenever entering a shop, or restaurant, I would affect a look of ignorance and confusion. I would stare hopelessly at words pretending not to understand. As it had been in my travels, often a kindly person would help me, guiding me along helpfully. I found a job in a factory preparing sandwiches, a task where little language was necessary. My co-workers attempted to talk to me, until it became apparent to them that it was impossible. They got some details from me. A name. A country. After that they paid me little mind. I was ignored. Becoming invisible again, excused from social graces. It was then that I became aware that these social graces were a sham as I had believed all along.

Co-workers who pretended to be the best of friends, secretly loathed each other. Men who bragged of their female conquests were secretly gay. One moment a person would be laughing at the jokes of another. The moment the person was gone they would be complaining in disgust. Conversations were layered with subterfuge. Even the secret conversations I was privy to had their layers. Nobody was ever honest with another. People spoke only words they believed others wanted to hear. Everybody’s life was a facade. A sequence of small lies wrapped up to trick others into believing they were better people than they actually were.

In that way, I was no different from them. My own life was a ruse, but at least it was an honest one that allowed me to be the person I was content being.

The hardest part was holding my tongue when my co-workers began to talk about me. Not behind my back, but in front of my face. They gave me the nickname Ham so as not to draw my suspicions. They complained about me whenever they needed to feel better about what they lacked. They attacked my appearance. They berated my lack of speech. They mocked me tirelessly, for no simple reason other than I was an easy target, unable to defend myself. 

At times I wanted to reveal my trick. To jump up and scream in their faces. To force them to confront their behaviour. But instead, I continued to feign ignorance. Responding to any chatter around me with a neutral smile.

Over time, I got bored of their secrets and conversations. They became trivial to me. I realised that although I had wanted to exclude myself from being an active participant in these social interactions, I had become an inactive participant instead. I was no longer talking about weather, but I was listening to people talk about it. Eventually my boredom got the better of me and I simply stopped listening. I had no more use for the English language, so I stopped reading too. Never bothering to bring my eyes up to read signs, menus or words. I would only have to pretend I didn’t understand them anyway.

Not speaking English, didn’t mean I couldn’t speak. I was not a mute. I had to speak some language, so at first I simply spoke gibberish in a manner that sounded vaguely Russian. It fooled people enough to believe I was actually saying something, in some unknown language.

Slowly, my gibberish started to form into a new language. Whenever somebody would wave hello to me, I would say “blicktonov”. My gibberish took on meaning. I added clicks and grunts to my tones. Grammar started to form. I began to process a vocabulary.

One day, I awoke and realised that I was no longer thinking in English. I was thinking in this new language. It was the catalyst that propelled my language to grow exponentially. It grew subconsciously, without reason or analysis. A clock was a “binckt” but I never decided on the word, it just came to me and fit into place perfectly. I could speak my own language fluently yet nobody could understand it.

Then, I stopped understanding them too. My new language slowly eroded away at my English. Each time I lifted a pen to write, I would find myself taking longer to find the words. The space in my brain where English once existed was turning blank. The new language was like a virus eating away at old words, replacing them with the new.

Soon I became the person that I was pretending to be. When I looked at a newspaper, all I saw were shapes with no meaning. I could no longer understand the world around me, but it didn’t matter, because all along I’d been pretending not to understand it anyway.

As a true outsider I was forgiven any social faux pas. Society no longer mattered to me, because I wasn’t really a part of it. I was not privy to connections with the culture around me, I was of a different culture. A culture created from inside of myself. And I was happy, I was truly the person I wanted to be. I never pretended to be somebody I wasn’t. I never pretended to love somebody who I hated. What I loved, I loved and I spoke of that love in my own language although nobody understood. I transcended the mundanity of the world around me because I was no longer part of that world. I created my own world, with my own meanings, with my own emotions. I realised that our language had just become another material thing, pushing us away from happiness, keeping us from ourselves.

Despite all this, I was not lonely. I had girlfriends when I felt the urge. We spoke through the language of our bodies. I became an expert at noticing the slightest gesture on the face of a person and what it meant. I could tell how a person was feeling from the strength of their gait or the shape of their lips. For the first time in my life, I truly felt connected to a person because I could see them for who they really were. Not the lies they were spinning through speech, but the real person. Before, I simply learnt about the needs of people and not the person themselves. Now I truly knew people. I fell in love with people, taking them in one by one.

For a time, I lost nothing of value and my life was one of sweetness. I loved. But soon my love turned to loss.

The freedom of my own language became a prison. I became trapped in myself. Without anybody to completely communicate with, I was as good as dead. Without being able to speak, I could not tell a secret. Without being able to write a message, I could never truly profess the love I felt for others. When I died, I would be forgotten as nobody could remember me. Anything I wrote would be lost, untranslatable. I had transcended the society around me but without that society, I was nothing. I was a mad man. An incomprehensible lunatic living on the fringes of the world.

An urge grew within me. To speak. To converse. To discuss. But without a person to listen, I was just talking to myself. The realisation came too late. I tried to gather back the language I had lost, but without a guide, it was impossible. I looked at English and saw a jumble of letters. Even the alphabet seemed strange to me. Shapes. I would stare for hours, peering into books, looking for some way to understand, but nothing ever hit me. I listened to conversations endlessly, hoping something would come back, but the words simply floated through me incomprehensibly.

Suddenly the world was filled with a scramble of words that I neither understood or had the means to understand. Before the words surrounding me had emboldened me, they were the foundation that my life was built on. Not knowing the words allowed me to create my own words, my own world, opposed from everything around me. That opposition eventually faltered. Not being a part of the world, not being a part of anything meant I was nothing. Every effort I took to achieve comprehension of English failed and increased my lust for conversation. I babbled to my co-workers in the hopes that one of them may understand anything I said. Even the simplest of things. How are you today? What’s your name? Did you watch anything good on TV last night? I blathered for hours to anybody about anything. Some tried to listen but nobody heard a thing.

In desperation, I ran back to my home. My friends shunned me. My family disowned me. I could not understand why, because I could not understand them. I heard their words, but the only meaning I got was from the look of fear in their eyes. My desperation swelled into panic. I searched for somebody that understood me. Anybody. But nobody could.

Then they took me away. Locked me up. They spoke to me. I spoke to them. A waste of breath. They looked at me with pity in their eyes, they ticked the boxes on their forms and they sighed.

Once a week, I met a man. A psychiatrist, I suppose. Somebody to figure out what was wrong with me. His words were just as incomprehensible as anybody elses. They took me nowhere. I was lost in a world I had willingly created.

Then one afternoon, lying in my bedroom, I heard a sound. A low murmur tickling my ears. The sound was familiar, the old whine of a trumpet, the deep hum of an old record. A sad woman’s voice rang out, filled with sorrow. As I lay there, the sound took me back. Lying in the backseat of a car as a boy, rain flicking off the window, the ping of droplets hitting the roof. That same sorrowful voice crying from the radio and the words. “It’s easy to live when you’re in love.”

At first the words were nothing but shadows in my mind, but the shadows made sense. They seemed to fit together, seemed to mean something. They repeated themselves, moved over my lips. “It’s easy to live when you’re in love.”

The song continued and for a few moments, I was no longer lying on a bed, but lying in the backseat of that old car. The damp smell of the rain coming in through a crack in the window and the worn leather sticking to my cheek. Those words flowing through my mind “It’s easy to live when you’re in love.”

As the song came to its end, I came back to my room. Jumping up, I grabbed for a pen and paper and scrawled the words. Moved my eyes over them, realised their meaning.

From that moment on, I became obsessed with the radio in the common room. I would sit beside it waiting for another song to awaken some lost memory. I would continue to repeat those words to myself over and over, praying I would never forget them. It’s easy to live when you’re in love. It’s easy to live when you’re in love. It’s easy to live when you’re in love.

That week, I said them to the psychiatrist. Hoping, praying it would give him an epitphany. But instead he was unphased. He wrote something onto a piece of paper and simply nodded. This only added fuel to my obsession. Each day, I would awaken and go to the radio. Some days, I would flick between the stations hoping for some glimpse of the past. As each day passed, I became more desperate. I slept a little less, stopped eating, stopped cleaning. Each moment not listening, was a moment when I may miss the next song. Vaguely, I started to notice the nurses changing their attitude towards me.

Then one day, I awoke and the radio was gone. Immediately, I was thrown into a rage. I screamed and shouted. But as always, nobody could hear me. They pinned me down, tied me up. All I could whimper were the words. “It’s easy to live when you’re in love.” They nodded with sympathy, fake understanding, but I knew they thought me mad.

Maybe I was mad. No way to communicate, a stranger in a world I had lived in all of my life. Isn’t that what mad is? Still, I was hungry to get back what I had lost,  deciding to be patient. More would come back to me, it would just take time. I waited and I listened and slowly the words did come back. From adverts on the ward TV. The hum of an old song on the lips of a nurse. The drum beat in the ringtone of a doctor’s phone.

Billie Holiday. A rainy car trip. The Beatles. My first kiss. AC/DC. A friend’s funeral.

The words came back to and they all made sense. 

The Spice Girls. Serge Gainsbourg. Leonard Bernstein.

My doctor’s expression slowly started to change.

Chuck Berry. Elton John. The Animals.

I started to communicate, started to be somewhat understood. The only words I remembered, the words from songs. The only meaning I could convey, the meaning from lyrics.

When I was feeling sad, I used Brian Wilson. When I felt happy, I used Michael Jackson.

My doctor’s scribbling got more incessant. We started to communicate, if only through lyrics.

Then I awoke, thinking in English again. It was as if a dark cloak had been removed from over my mind, like I could see after years of blindness. Quickly my language came back to me. I started to talk. To talk about everything with anyone. Every day more and more words came back. Every day I would go to sleep feeling invigorated. Finally, I could communicate again. I could write. I could read. I rarely stopped.

I travelled back home. I met my old friends. My family. They asked questions. Questions I was happy to answer. We talked about everything and anything. I gave away every part of myself to everyone. I spoke every memory I could remember, wrote every tale I knew until my mouth was dry and my fingers were blistered. I wrote my words wherever I could scrawl them. Spray painted on walls, carved into trees, penned onto bathroom doors. I would never be forgotten, I would live forever through my writing, my stories, my memories.

I talked, I keep talking. I will always talk. I’m a part of the world. No longer an outsider. I’m me and a me I’m happy to be. No longer trapped in madness. Enjoying other people.

Oh and just incase you’re wondering. It looks like its going to rain today. I had a great weekend. The Arsenal match was a classic on Saturday. I went to the cinema on Sunday. I think you’re hilarious, you’re oh so funny. How are your wife and kids? Doing well, I hope. What about your dog? Is it still fat and angry? Good good.

And me? Well, I’m fine.

Thanks for asking.

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Whole Again

In my dreams I am whole, I am complete, and I run.

I run down unknown streets, feeling the cobbles on my feet. Feeling every touch of glorious pressure as my toes hit the ground. Feeling alive, feeling happy, feeling free.

But even in my dreams, I can’t forget. It sits in the back of my mind – waiting for that perfect moment to strike. Waiting –

(To hit?)

Running down those streets. Those silent, empty streets. Passing by the same grey houses, like a washed out cartoon background, always repeating. No people, no cats, no cars,

(No cars?)

no destination. Nothing. Just me.

And I run.

I run forever. Barely needing to breath, heart barely beating. I run. On and on, I run.

And although I am dreaming. Although part of me knows it’s not real – I taste the cool air as it rushes into me. Feeling alive, feeling happy, feeling free.

(Alive? Happy? Free?)

But even in dreams, I can’t forget. It claws inside my memory, like a lost word on the tip of my tongue – waiting for that perfect moment to strike. Waiting.

(To hit?!)

Running down those streets, those endless blurry streets, fading off long into the distance, no corners to break the flow, no stumbles to stop my movement. Nothing. Just me, the air, my legs,

(My legs?)

my freedom. No sweat on my brow, no tears in my eyes, no pain.

Alive. Happy. Free.

Never forgetting, trying to forget. Haunted, hunted.

Running. The joy within me building slowly, a stir in the stomach. Flowing through my body. Along my arms, up my throat into my head, down my legs

(My legs?!)

into my feet. I feel so alive, so happy, so free.

And just when it feels that joy will overtake me, when it all seems to finally be forgotten, when I almost, finally, thankfully, lose myself. I look up. I see it. Unexpected but at the same time so utterly obvious – the turn in the street.

Immediately the joy escapes me, the stir in my stomach turned to dread. I sense the power around the corner. Always there, always in my dreams.

Every part of me begs that I stop. Now I sweat, now I cry, now I feel the pain. I try to turn, try to escape. But still I run, as I did, as I always will. As it waits for me.

It growls. A pneumatic drill forced into my brain. The sound of a beast.

My eyes wont close, locked open. My legs wont stop, they drag me forward.

Turning the corner – I only have a brief moment to glimpse.

In that moment, if I’m lucky – I awake. My heart racing in sweat covered sheets. That slight glimpse stamped onto the back of my mind. Two giant, dead white eyes in the darkness, bearing down on me, coming to get me, coming to hit me.

Too often I’m not lucky – I continue to dream.

Those eyes. Rushing toward me, pouncing upon me. My heart explodes in my chest, but I am stuck. Paralysed by fear.

I know it will get me, I know it will take me. I know it will hit me.

(Hit me?)

Then it does.

The world is silent but for the snap of my bones. My body is smashed to the ground like a porcelain figurine.

My legs explode beneath me, no longer legs but a mass of pink flesh and rags.

The Beast’s growl disappears into the distance and soon enough is gone. I am left, on the ground, my body broken, a heap of blood and bone.  My legs battered and bloodied, no longer legs but snapped twigs.

I cry. Tears fall down my cheeks. I beg. Nobody helps, nobody hears.

I am alone. In the street. In my dreams. Dying. Slowly fading. Never again to fly down those streets. Never again to enjoy my dreams.

(my dreams?)

Finally I fade back to reality, lying on my bed,  no longer on the road, tears on my cheeks.

I can’t bring myself to look. I have not forgotten. I can never forget. Even in my dreams.

Where for a moment, I feel alive. Happy. Free.

_________________________

Illustration by Agnieszka Wielgorecka of Abnormal Newspaper

The Problem

I’m a little tipsy. I’ve had a few pints. And I’m walking through the bus station. Smiling.

I don’t know why but when I’m tipsy it’s like I act as a magnet to every other person who’s reality is skewered. It’s like crazy can smell crazy, and everyone knows I can’t think straight.

I walk by a homeless man. He’s lying in a shop doorway, slowly licking a cigarette he’s in the middle of rolling. I’m still smiling to myself when I make eye contact. An invite. He stops licking the cigarette and stares back, shouting up into the doorway “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE!” and I know he’s really saying “you, can YOU spare some change” but by the time he’s finished his sentence I’m no longer looking at him and I’m pretending he’s not there and I can feel his eyes watching me as I walk by.

I sit down in the bus station. Wait for my bus.

I feel guilty. I ignored something in plain sight. A man looked into my eyes, I looked back. Then moments later I pretended he wasn’t there. I feel disgusted with myself. But I don’t go back and give him any change. I’m too ashamed. I wonder why I’m too ashamed to give money to a person in need. He needs the money more than I. But I feel like everyone would look at me, say “look at him, giving money to a homeless person.” I don’t have the guts.

I wallow in self-pity.

Then another man comes over. He wears a cream coloured suit, slightly dusty after what was obviously a good night. The good night is spread on his face in the form of a wide smile, each muscle of his face joins in on the activity.

“When do you reckon the bus is coming?”

I know when the bus is coming. He knows when the bus is coming. There’s a digital sign beside us, telling us when the bus is coming. I humour him anyway.

“About 10 minutes, mate.”

He’s not my mate, but I’m tipsy and he looks like the type of person that would make a good mate. He repeats my answer through his wide grin “about 10 minutes?” and he laughs loudly.

I get caught up in the laugh and I laugh with him, “aye, about 10 minutes!” I say. He laughs again. I laugh again. I’m laughing at a joke I don’t understand, a joke he probably doesn’t understand, but it doesn’t matter because we’re both happy and we’re laughing.

He skulks off a bit to talk with other people. But I know he’ll be back. Jovial people in white suits always come back.

He comes back.

“Hey mate!” he says. I turn to him, we make eye contact, but he says it again, just incase I’m looking through him. “Hey mate! I’ve got a problem.” I don’t say anything, but he knows I want him to continue.

As he tells me his problem he continues to smile, the happiest man alive. “I’ve only gone and got myself two girlfriends haven’t I?!”

He laughs. I laugh. We laugh. “Two girlfriends?! How’s that a problem?!” He laughs again. I laugh again. We laugh again.

“Well” he says “I love ’em both, don’t I!” His grin seems to get wilder, so happy about his problem. I grin back and my moral side speaks up “maybe you should own up?”

Stupid suggestion. He shakes his head. Walks away for a few steps, staring at the ground, mulling over the thought. He paces back “nah, I can’t man. I can’t!” He pleads with me, begs me to give him better advice, the wrong advice.

“How’d you get yourself into this mess?” I wonder aloud.

He runs his hand through his curly grey hair. His mouth still grins but his forehead wrinkles, deep in thought.

Well…she broke up with him didn’t she! Then when he was out the next week. You know, at that pub just around the corner. Just over there. He met the other one didn’t he, and she was amazing man, wasn’t she! Then a few days later his lass rang up didn’t she. Said she might have made a mistake, wanted him back didn’t she. Then he was stuck with both of them wasn’t he.

I sigh deeply. “I think you’ve got to pick one of them over the other, mate.” And he is my mate now.

He doesn’t even let me finish the sentence though. “You don’t understand man..” he brings out his hands, places them in front of him. “You see..” he shakes his right hand “..this one has a great house…” he shakes his left hand “..and this one has a great house.”

He looks at me as though it should make sense, but we both know it doesn’t, he swings his hands back down and sighs. He paces away again, but a presence stays in his place, a piece of energy holds his spot. He jumps back and tries to explain it again.

“You see mate, this type of thing…like…” his eyes dart about as he tries to figure out the words to tell me. “The chances of this happening are like, one hundred thousand to one.”

I tell him. He has to choose. One of them. He has to choose.

He shakes his head, continues to grin. “I can’t choose man. I just can’t. And this whole thing, you know. It tears me apart. In here.” He points to his chest, the grin still wide across his face. But he’s betrayed by his eyes. The eyes tell me the smile is a lie and the eyes turn the grin into a grimace.

I think of what to say, some choice words of wisdom and  but after a few moments he walks away. Gone.

This time he doesn’t come back.

The New Car

It all started with an arrival. Not the arrival of a train or the arrival of a baby but the arrival of a brand new car.

Now to most people, a new car means little. Sure when you first get it you brag about it to your friends, you make up excuses to use it and the brand new smell fills you with confidence when you get into it.

But of course, that smell goes eventually and the feeling goes with it. The car is just a car now, nothing more, nothing less.

My grandfathers first car was no different. It was just a car. It had one engine. It had four wheels and it was nothing special.

It was when my grandmother first fell pregnant that he decided to buy the car. He was getting tired of walking with her at a snails pace and a car seemed the perfect answer. So one morning while she slept he snuck out and came back with a dazzlingly red car.

As women are want to do though, she hit the roof. “We can’t afford this” she screamed and “we don’t need a car” she complained. My grandfather stuck to his guns though and the car stayed. “It just jumped out at me in the lot” he said “it looked so beautiful sitting there, I thought it would be perfect for driving our kids to school in.” The thought of children made her silent, the joy of a family ending her mood.

That night they went to sleep dreaming of their car filled up with children. The would bounce on the back seats as the car sailed along the coastline, the perfect summer holiday.

The next morning my grandpa woke up early as usual. He rolled over to my grandma and kissed her on the shoulder, “good morning beautiful” he purred before jumping out of bed.

He took a shower, put on his clothes and made himself a coffee. All part of his normal morning routine, preparing himself to go out to work in his DIY store. After breakfast he threw his shoes on, leaving the house and stepping into the front garden.

The new car was out in the yard, shining in the low morning sun, it’s body glowing red. He slid over and kissed the car and laughing said “good morning beautiful” before jumping in and driving off.

His day went by as usual. He sold nails. He sold paint. He sold a hammer. At the end of the day he drove back home, the car already starting to look slightly dusty.

That night he spoke constantly of the car. He spoke so much my grandma quipped “if you love that car so damn much, why didn’t you marry it instead of me?” He never spoke much of the car again after that.

Again that night they fell asleep and the next morning it was routine as usual. Roll over, kiss, “good morning beautiful,” shower, clothes, coffee and finally shoes. My grandpa walked to the front door and opening it he stepped out booming “good morning beau…” but he was cut off mid sentence when he noticed his car. No longer was the car new and elegant, it looked old and dirty.

Mud was splattered along the body of the car, grass stuck out from the lights and dark dust coated the windows.

His face grew red and he screamed in anger (to noone in particular) “DAMN KIDS! IF I CATCH WHO DID THIS TO ME I’LL MAKE THEM SO SORRY THAT I’LL…I’LL…WELL IT WON’T BE PRETTY!” The anger rose even more in his stomach and he kicked out at the cars wheel violently. As his body shuddered from the kick he gained his senses and he looked around, embaressed at how he had acted.

“Don’t worry, tonight you will be beautiful” he whispered to the car. He patted the cleanest part of the car before running out of the yard, hoping to catch the bus to work for the day.

After another day at the DIY store my grandpa came back home and as he entered the house my grandma asked sympathetically “what happened to the car, honey?” to which my grandpa could only reply “probably those troublesome kids from down the street.”

That night, after dinner my grandpa set to work. Using a bucket of soapy water and a sponge he wiped the mud off his car. He spent hours making the car spotless and afterwards the car shone. “As good as new” he said, throwing the sponge into his bucket.

Sleep came easy that night after the work of cleaning the car. Unfortunately the next morning things were the same. The car was splattered in mud, grass hanging from various recesses and dirt covered the windows.

As my grandfather stood in the front garden, staring at his beautiful car, dirty for a second time, his head filled with anger. With the anger came angry plans and over the rest of the day the thought of getting revenge never left his mind.

That night at dinner he told my grandmother his plan. “Well Deloris, my plan is simple. I’m going to wash the car like I did last night. I’ll get it spotless, it’ll be perfect. This time though I won’t leave the car. I’ll hide inside of it and I’ll wait. I’ll wait for those pesky kids and when they come to mess up my beautiful car I’ll jump out with a baseball bat. God damn those kids’ll get a beating.”

My grandma just laughed at the plan “you couldn’t fight a midget, let alone a bunch of kids. I’m not calling any ambulance when they jump you.” He shrugged her thoughts off and went out again, cleaning the car till it was spotless.

When my grandma was getting into bed that night my grandpa was getting into the car. He lay on the floor, hiding under a blanket and he waited.

After hours of waiting his eyes started to droop. Trying hard to stay awake he started to hum but the gentle hum just hypnotised his senses further and soon enough he was asleep on the car floor.

What seemed like moments of sleep passed when suddenly he was jolted awake as the car shook violently. It took him a few moments to realise he was in the car and not in bed but when he realised he grabbed his baseball bat and stared out of the car window to see who was wrecking his car.

The problem was though, he couldn’t see out of the windows. They were covered in what he could only guess was a black cloth.

Peering out of the front window he could just see his house in front of the car and an idea came to him immediately. He decided he would shock the kids. He would start the car, reverse out of the garden and twist the car violently around, throwing the kids from the car in the process.

He slipped into the cars front seat and clicked his seatbelt in. Quickly he placed his car key into the ignition and turned it, as soon as the engine has started he was at his controls and almost immediately the car was reversed out of his drive. In the space of the road he accelerated grabbing his wheel and throwing the car around in a doughnut shaped circle. From above him he could hear a squeal of delight, a squeal which brought forth my grandfathers rage.

Stopping the car he lined it up. He could still barely see out of the front window but he managed to point the car down his long street. He hit the gas, speeding down the road, gears changing quickly and as the car hit 40 miles per hour he jammed on the brakes, his body flying into his seat belt and his wheels skidding along the road.

Light suddenly shone in through the cars windows and something hit the bonnet of his car before rolling off into the road.

What my grandfather saw in that moment was almost impossibly freakish. It’s body was just smaller than the car he was driving. It’s eight legs the size of elephant trunks. A thick black fur covered it entirely and it’s eight eyes blinked at him in surprise. Standing in the middle of the street was a spider the size of a car. Later my grandfather decided to call him Henry, in that moment though my grandfather could only say one thing “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!” and in true hysteria he bashed the cars horn while screaming.

The flash of the headlights in Henrys eyes and the loud sound of the car horn scared Henry and he scarpered into the woods on the other side of the street.

When finally my grandfather was sure of his safety he looked out of his car onto the street and he fainted, his head landing on the steering wheel.

Later that night he drove the car back to his house and checking the coast was clear he sprang from the car. Running up the stairs he pulled off his clothes and jumped into bed. Hiding under the covers he crawled to my grandma and held her, waking her up. Sleepily she asked “did you teach those kids a lesson” and he could say nothing, he just held her tighter and he closed his eyes, trying to forget the night.

Now my grandfather wasn’t a fearful man, although it might not seem that way. If anyone had seen a giant spider they would have acted the same way, I’ve no doubt of that. Once he was used to the idea though it no longer worried him. For around a week everynight he would go out to his car after dinner and clean it only to wake the next morning to find it was dirty again. He hoped he’d dreamt up the spider but one night he woke from his sleep and headed to the toilet. As he slipped back into bed he heard a squeaking from outside and looking out of his window he seen the spider again.

The spider was lying on top of the car. Six of it’s hairy legs wrapped around the car and the other two gently stroking the bonnet. The car rocked slowly from side to side and the spider purred with delight, from time to time it squeezed the car tight and groaned.

Straight away my grandfather knew what was happening. The spider was in love with his car. He didn’t understand it, but just from the way it held the car he knew that could be the only explanation. He went to bed storing the information in his brain and giggling at the spider in love with a car.

After two weeks of cleaning the car everynight my grandfather finally lost his nerve and after constant questions from my grandmother he gave up. After cleaning the car he drove back to the car lot where he bought it. “I’m sorry” he said to the manager “but would it be possible to get this car in another colour? I don’t really like this one.”

The manager was only happy to oblige…for a small price. My grandfather handed the manager some money and drove back home with a shiny new blue car.

That night he stayed up, watching the car from his window, scanning the trees across the street for the spider. After a few hours the spider emerged from the woods and started to walk over to the other side of the road. Halfway over though it stopped. It looked over at the new car and blinked. A groan of sadness came from the spider and it’s body flopped down. It turned back towards the woods, sobbing as it slowly walked back.

My grandfather told himself he was a monster. He thought about himself coming back from work one day to find my grandmother missing. He thought about the heartbreak and with this thought he promised the next day he would go back to the lot and ask for his old car back.

“Of course” said the manager “for a small price.” So again my grandfather handed over some money which the manager pocketed with a smile on his face.

As my grandfather drove home he tried to think up another one of his amazing plans. How could he keep his car clean but also not break the spiders heart? After scheming for a short time he came up with a solution, a solution which he put into action that night.

That night he waited by his car, scanning the woods for the spider, knowing it would turn up to see if it’s love was back.

After much waiting the spider emerged from the woods and as it walked over the road my grandfather walked towards it. “Listen he said, I’ve got a…” but the rest of his sentence was lost to the excited squeals of the spider. The spider pounced over my grandpa and landed on the car, rubbing it’s muddy legs along the metallic body.

Almost immediately the car was dirty and my grandfather ran over shouting at the spider “For God sake! Look at how dirty you’re getting my car! I HAVE TO WASH IT YOU KNOW!” The spider just continued to purr with delight, rubbing it’s fur along the windows, blacking them out.

“IF YOU WANT TO SEE MY CAR YOU CAN SEE HER BY MY RULES” my grandfather screamed “OTHERWISE I’LL TAKE HER AWAY!” The spider continued and he cursed to himself. Why did he think a spider would understand English?

Instead he tried another method. He tapped the spider on it’s leg and one of it’s eyes turned to look at him. Pointing at the spider and the car my grandfather shook his head. Then pulling some dirt from the spider and throwing it on the car my grandfather shook his head again. The spider moved the tops of it’s legs up and down, my grandfather knew it was a shrug. The spider didn’t care if he was getting the car dirty.

“You will care though” said my grandfather and he motioned with his hands to tell Henry that if he wasn’t clean then he would take the car away again.

All of Henrys eyes turned to my grandfather and suddenly they started to water. My grandfather patted him on the leg, feeling his soft fur. “Don’t worry he said. We’ll get you clean” and he pulled the spider by the leg and the spider moved with him.

He led the spider into the back garden and pointed “there we go” he said “perfect.” The spider followed the direction of the finger and noticed he was pointing at a swimming pool. Jumping back the spider squealed.

“Don’t worry” my grandfather said softly “it’s only a swimming pool, you won’t drown. Look.” And my grandfather removed his clothes and jumped into the pool, splashing the water around him.

The spider edged slowly towards the side of the pool, scared of the water. My grandpa stood in the middle and waved his arm. “Come on in….erm….Henry.”

Henry lowered one leg slowly into the water and touched it, quickly reeling back. “Don’t worry” my grandad said “it’s not deep.” Soon enough the spiders whole leg was in the water and it was moving back and forth, the mud sliding off. After the first leg came the second and after that came the third until eventually the spider had enough confidence to get into the pool by himself. At first he panicked, splashing the water around all over my grandad. Eventually though he calmed down, realising the water came no higher than his legs.

My grandfather stood in the water staring at Henry. “Do this” he said and my grandfather held his nose and plunged his head until the water. Moments later he came back up, his hair flattened to his head.

Hentry followed suit. His whole body falling into the pool and the water displacing over the sides. He stood straight back up and the water fell from his body. The dried mud was getting wet and muddy water was slowly emerging from Henry in clouds of dirt.

“Right, time we got you sorted out” my grandfather said walking to the side of the pool and picking up two sponges. He walked back over the pool to Henry and he slowly started to sponge his furry body. The spider purred, obviously enjoying it.

My grandfather stopped and held out the sponges to Henry. “Your turn” he said and he handed the two sponges to Henry. As he handed them over he fiddled with the sponges in front of Henry, showing him some straps which he had attached to the them. “Thats so you can hold them” my grandpa said showing Henry how to put them on.

Henry slid the sponges onto two legs and began scrubbing himself. As he scrubbed my grandad went over again to the side of the pool and picked up some more cleaning things. In both hands he held a giant bar of soap strapped into a holder.

Again he scrubbed these on Henrys body and showed Henry how to use them. Pretty soon Henry had four legs at work. Two with soap and two with sponges.

Once more my grandfather went to the side of the pool but this time he got out. He walked over to the back of the house and picked up his hose. He whistled to grab Henrys attention and Henry turned in the water, continuing to scrub himself.

“This is a hose, it shoots water!” my grandfather called and he twisted the tap making water spray from the end of the hose. Henry jumped as the water spurted out and my grandfather laughed. Walking over to Henry he sprayed the water over his body while Henry scrubbed.

Again, after a short while he handed it to Henry and Henry took it up with another leg.

My grandfather clambered back into the pool and watched as Henry cleaned himself. He pointed out spots the spider was missing and the spider would nod, learning how best to clean itself with it’s many arms.

Eventually it’s body was free of mud and dirt and the water of the pool was dark brown. The tap was turned off and my grandfather placed the soap and sponges next to it. “Right, a few more things” said my grandpa getting the spider out of the pool. When the spider was standing on the grass he pointed at it before shaking his head violently. Drops of water flew from his hair.

Henry followed suit. Lifting each leg up individually to shake it then finishing with one last shake of his entire body. For a moment it felt as though it was raining as water pelted down.

“Oh and one last thing” said my grandfather pulling out two brushes. He moved over to Henry and slowly started to brush his fur, pulling as each brush was caught in the messy hair.

Henry cried out and grandpa handed him a brush which Henry used to brush the hair above his eyes. Henry received the second brush a few moments later after my grandfather had taught the technique to him as well as he could.

After 20 minutes of brushing Henry placed down the brushes and he stood in the garden staring at my grandpa.

Henry was a new man…or rather…a new spider. His coat of hair and fur was neatly combed back with not a speck of dirt in sight. My grandfather smiled and pointing his thumb to the front of the house he spoke “go get her.”

As quick as a flash Henry was gone and a gentle squeak could be heard from the front of the house.

My grandpa sighed with relief and finally went off to bed. Beforehand though he checked on Henry. Looking down out of the window he could see his plan had worked…the now clean Henry was rubbing himself against the car and the car was getting cleaner. The dirt sticking to Henry.

That night my grandfather slept well and the next morning he woke up to a beautifully clean car. He kissed it “good morning beautiful” he said and every night from then on my grandfather would go to bed and wake up the next morning to find his car was still beautiful, looking as good as new.

From time to time he would wake up in the night from the sound of splashing but not too often, Henry was always as quiet as possible.

After almost a year had gone by my grandpa found it curious that my grandma suspected nothing, but then he wondered why she would. He was sure the last thing that would pop into her mind was that a giant spider was using their pool everynight and he was happy there was no complications.

Another year passed and another year and still the car looked as good as ever…but while the outside looked great the inside wasn’t doing so well.

As the years went by the car would enter the garage more and more. Each time less and less of the original car would come back.

Then on an especially cold winter morning it happened. My grandad turned the key to the car and it wouldn’t start. He knew right then that that was it. That the car had died and it would never start again. He sat in the drivers seat holding the wheel and he cried. Tears fell down his cheek and it was then that he realised that it wasn’t just Henry that had loved the car, but he had loved it as well.

Over the years he had told himself he was keeping the car alive for Henry, but he was keeping it alive for himself too. He loved his car because it was always new to him. It greeted him everyday when he left the house and everyday he said good morning to it. By that time he considered it a on-running joke but deep down he knew it was serious.

So he cried until everything was gone from him. He believed himself stupid for loving a car so much and convinced himself that “it’s only a car” so immediately he went into the house and phoned the scrapyard, arranging for them to pick up the car the next day.

Throughout the day he tried to come up with a plan, some way to stop Henry from getting hurt, but he could think of nothing and that night he waited beside his car until the silence of the night hit the street and the spider came from the trees.

When the spider noticed my grandfather it knew there was something wrong immediately. It walked up to the car and with one leg it shook the car. To my grandpa the shake looked like the normal, but to the spider the shake was different and the spider knew the car had died.

It moved it’s leg from the car slowly and it patted the car door before moving into the backgarden, no noise coming from it at all.

My grandfather waited for the spider to come back to the car but when an hour later it hadn’t come back he checked the back garden to see where it was.

There, floating limp in the middle of the pool was Henry, his legs bobbing with his body.

Grandad jumped into the pool and splashed over, pushing Henrys body towards the side of the pool.

Jumping out of the water he struggled to pull Henry out onto the grass but finally he managed it and he kneeled down by the body and moved his ear to the spider. No sound came from Henry and his body hung dead. My grandfather wept again, putting his arms around Henry and feeling his cold fur against his face.

“Thank you” he said to the spider “for making her more than a car. I won’t forget either of you” and my grandpa kissed the spider before dragging him into the woods to be in his home.

My grandfather went back to his home and showered, wiping the dirt from his body. Each stage of the shower reminding him of Henry.

He got into bed knowing that sleep wouldn’t come, but he tried. His mind was full and sleep never came and the next morning he got out of bed late and rang the scrapyard again. “Sorry but I don’t need you to pick up my car” he said “I think I can find a better place for it.”

That night he stood in front of the car and pushed it out of his drive and over the road, pushing it between two trees into the woods. He pushed it through the darkness for a long time until his energy was all drained. Catching his breath he looked down at the car. Bending down to the car he kissed it on the bonnet and walking off into the night he called “goodnight beautiful.”

Dan