Thursday, 22 September 2005


High tide always scared the hell out of me. The stories I used to read as a kid, where the hero was in a cave and got trapped by the tide would leave me with my security eroded and my body alert for attack. The nights I read adventures like that I'd sleep with my head buried under the covers and the pillow, trying to stop water from seeping into my soul.

I don't know why I've never moved away from the sea. Considering my phobia, living in a place like Hallaton or Chelmorton might have made more sense. Little stone houses and patchwork fields cut with streams that have no tides. No highs and lows of salty danger invading my life twice each day.

But I've lived in Deal all of my days. On the beach. I can't count the number of days I've watched the waters come and go, in a never ending cycle linked to the moon. I've never learned what beasts lurk under that dark surface. I've never investigated a cave at low tide, or picnicked beside tidal pools teeming with interesting creatures. I've always given the tides a respectful distance.

And they have provided the same courtesy.

Last night on the news, another tidal surge was headed for Texas. People were packing their lives into their vehicles and heading for higher ground. I would join them. I would pack my photographs and my Japanese fighting fish and drive until I felt safe.

Safety has been a harsh mistress for me. She has lurked in my closets and read a book while I ventured toward my future. But will she always be my saviour? Or did I merely rack up points owed so that one day the sea can claim me?

Saturday, 17 September 2005


Halva kept a candle on her desk. Not the romantic kind, or the tapered kind, but a big cube of orange wax with a bat on the side. She picked it up one Halloween, mesmerized by the bat. She loved bats. More than she loved herself.

But that wasn't hard. She pretty much hated herself.

Life had started out lousy for her, not only because her parents argued all the time, but also because she had no money and few friends. The skinny kid down the street--Lucy Kwidbunker--was her friend, but that wasn't saying much. Lucy was "touched" or "slow" which basically meant that Lucy didn't have any hope of ever being treated like a regular kid. But that was years ago. Now Halva was an adult, responsible for her own failures. Her life had turned out exactly as she had feared. And it showed no signs of improving any time soon.

Halva sat most nights, staring at a blank computer screen and dreaming of being a writer. She decided to never use her real name. She chose the name "Priscilla Pasterline" because it sounded pretty and romantic. Priscilla was the kind of woman who had tapered candles that emanated scents of lavender and cinnamon. Priscilla had several boyfriends, all of whom adored her. She was smart, funny, athletic, but most of all she loved herself only enough to be happy. Not too much; that wouldn't do. Only enough that it boosted her self-esteem.

This particular Tuesday, Halva lit the tea light inside her bat candle. Long ago, she'd used up all of the fuel within the original candle, but she couldn't part with her lucky dollar store treasure.

The black outline of the bat flickered in the flame light. Bats had to be the best mammals alive, except for humans of course. They were night creatures. They didn't see, they only heard. And by hearing they could see more than humans. They were fast and smart, light and strong, and the most amazing creatures to fly without wings or feathers. Too bad Halloween had taken them on as mascots. They deserved better: Christmas or Easter or some nobler holiday.

Thursday, 8 September 2005


The guy came to the door, asking me to order a subscription to the paper. I hadn't done the news-thing in awhile, and the deal was uber-cheap so I signed up. Figured my six year old could practice reading on the headlines.

The next thing I knew, the papers started coming. First it was one a day. Then two. I thought two was a bit odd, but maybe the paperboy was shortchanging his route, or trying to make extra bucks?

Then one day I got four. That's right, four. How is it that a single Mom in a 2 bedroom bungalow needs four papers every day? What was the delivery guy thinking? I checked my bank account, to make sure I wasn't being charged for all of this multiplicity. I wasn't.

Took me a week--and by that time I was getting six papers a day--but I found the guy's number and phoned him. He didn't answer, so I left a message on his machine. No big surprise that he didn't return the call.

I left him six messages, a kind of "code" so that he'd know which irate customer I was. He never phoned me back.

My house didn't have room for all of the paper. The recycle truck only picks up every other week. My kids started to build forts out of all of the stacks. When the two-year-old climbed to the top of one pile, fell off, and broke her collar bone, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I'm not one to get up at three o'clock in the morning to catch a paperboy in the act of delivering, but a five hour trip to a hospital with a toddler can change a mom's perspective. So I sat with a big cup of coffee and waited.

The steam from the cup drifted through the morning haze. The street light flickered in front of Bill's house across the way. Moths drifted in and out of the bright places, dive-bombing over and over for the fake-sun.

Then the dark blue mini-van--black in the dim light--pulled around the corner and into view.

Monday, 5 September 2005


Thanks for the word, Joseph.

They used to call it extrasensory perception, or ESP. Now they just call us know-it-alls, or KIAs.

My name is Sirla, and I work for the marketing department of an advertising agency. They use us to gauge reactions to new campaigns in focus groups. The rats come in, they watch our commercials or read our print ads, they eat our sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and all the while I probe their brains for their reactions.

Personally, I enjoy the food reactions the most. A guy last week loved tuna salad so much that he practically wet himself. Apparently he goes to focus groups to supplement his pathetic income. I wanted to slip the guy a few cans of coffee or something on the side, but they don't let the clients see me. Keep me locked in a room with two way glass. If the subjects knew they were being scanned, they'd never come back. Plus, commercial use of my abilities is against the law.

But all the big name firms do it.

Ever since the bio-spray raids of 2008, KIAs have popped up everywhere. Something about our bizarre mix of DNA made us less susceptible to the virus. Instead of dying or living the rest of our lives hooked up to oxygen, we got a two day cold and the ability to read other people's thoughts. Good for us. Not so good for those with common DNA.

Like my parents. And my dog.

But hey, there's more food for the rest of us now.