Digestive Press in the Wider World

A quick notification that The Second Beestung International (see below) is in stock at Good Grief! Shop once again.

Good Grief! is now located inside The Soup Kitchen (Manchester’s premier Soup venue which can be found in Stevenson Square in the city’s Northern Quarter), which means you can take care of lunch at the same time as visiting the shop.  I still remember fondly a mushroom soup I had there once which had huge pieces of lots of different types of mushroom lolling about in the murk like sea lions at the docks.  YUM.

Good Grief! also stocks lots of other great stuff which you can read about here.

Each copy of The Second Beesting International comes in a unique numbered envelope.  The book itself contains two short stories, The Witch and The Wizard & The Silent Motorbike, and one poem which I have just realised is untitled.  There are not a huge number available at the shop so best to get them while they’re hot.

People Who Disappear

I switched on the torch and shone the beam into Mrs Camberapple’s big round eyes.  “Look to your left please… lovely, now to your right.”  I watched her eyeballs roll around from side to side.  “Now, open wide,” I said, lowering the beam to her mouth.  “Isn’t that normally the dentist’s job?”  “I just want to check something.”  I explored her illuminated mouth – her teeth, her tongue, gums and tonsils.  All were the normal size and shape, perfect even.  “Thanks,” I said, flicking the torch off.  “That’s fine.”

Wherever I walked in the village I found myself being watched.  Big round eyes turning to follow me, like undercover beasties in a cartoon.  I was still new enough to attract their attention, but there was something else too.  I was not like them, not entirely.  On the rain-loosened sea front I stopped and watched the fog and the waves rolling in.  The waves being the same as they were back home.  Which was something else.  I thought about swimming out a little, cracking the waves with my bones.  But I didn’t.  I turned away from the sea and walked back inland, big round eyes watching me all the way back to the surgery.

In my second week there I started to measure my patients’ eyes.  “And why exactly is this necessary?” asked serious Mr Wholegrain, villager and veteran.  “It’s… something new we have to check for.  These things change all the time.  It won’t take a second.”  He, like the other villagers, was kind enough to not ask any more questions.  “Just relax for a moment and…” I took my tape measure and gently held it as close to the eyeball as is polite.  First vertically, then horizontally.  Read the numbers on the measure with my little eyes and wrote them down in a book.  “Thank you Mr Wholegrain, that’s wonderful.”

By the third week I had started to measure my own eyes.  I could not shake the feeling that day-by-day my face felt heavier and when I looked in the mirror I was convinced that my eyes were getting bigger.  Maybe it was just tricks of the mind.  Outside, the broken clouds were subjecting the village to a taste of the sea.  I got back into bed and read through my book of eye measurements and doodled big-eyed faces in the margins.  I read and drew by candlelight until the sun rose and I did not need the candle any longer.

I couldn’t help but think of the villagers’ big eyes as being like balls of wood.  I wondered about tears, whether they would come out bigger, faster, whether there would be such a quantity of tears as to drown in.  Big eyes, sad eyes, big sad eyes everywhere I looked, like a whole commune of puppy-dog people.  And yet they all seemed quite content, resigned maybe, but content.  I wondered how I ended up here.  My eyes were growing big and heavy like wooden apples.

A knock at the door sounds like a wooden apple falling on the floor.

I stopped watching the rain falling through the fog and went to the front door.  “Hello,” I said.  “I don’t know how I got here,” I said.  “I’m sorry,” I said.  “Things just got,” I said.  I opened the door and she stepped in and away from the fog and the rain.  The elements stayed outside.  “I know,” she said.  “You look sad,” she said, straight into my big eyes.  “Where did you go?” she said.  “Here,” I said.  “Not straight away, but here,” I said.  “I’m here now,” I said.  My eyes were big, round.  Like the moon.  I watched it all settle like broken waves on her haunted face, looked at her little eyes and felt like the attention I was giving dwarfed them.

She left, and the door opening and closing again felt like the world cracking back down, like freeze-thaw erosion breaking us into pieces.

In the surgery Miss Mickleworth looked up into my big eyes with her big eyes as I ran my finger along her cheek bone.  She was one of my more compliant patients, almost flirtatiously helpful.  “And what do you hope to find in your research?”  I didn’t say anything.  I had stopped measuring eyes now.  I was just admiring them.

Dream, In 18 Objects (In Which All Objects Are Clearly Defined In An Otherwise Vague And Fuggy World)

In the dream, I am being kept prisoner by the Chinese Government, a situation which leaves me perplexed but not indignant.  They are keeping me locked in the back of a Nissan Micra (object #1) with the child lock enabled.  A second prisoner sits in the passenger seat and there are also two prison guards (objects #2 and #3) in the car with us.  There are lots of novels to read and the prison guards even give me my own Nissan pen (object #4) with which to write in my prison book (object #5).  The other prisoner is a Chinese national.  I do not know what he has done to end up here but he seems alright.  We drive around a lot in the Nissan and I read, and write, several interesting books.  The prison guards take a keen interest in my writing (object #6).  They seem alright as well and I come to the conclusion that we have all found ourselves in an unfortunate situation and that we should make the best of it.

One day the guards leave the Nissan to get ice cream (object #7) and forget to put the handbrake (object #8) on.  The car rolls very slowly down the hill and crashes into a wall (object #9) which disables the child lock.  The other prisoner sees his chance to escape and leaves the Nissan but I decide that, as I do not speak Mandarin (object #10), I am best staying put.  We say goodbye and he scarpers.  The guards return with ice creams and I am rewarded with the ice cream they had bought for the other prisoner as an extra treat.  So, I have two ice creams.  We drive around some more and I write in my prison book before later being sick (object #11) from a combination of ice cream and driving.

Some unspecified time later I am allowed to go free.  I wonder what the prison guards will do now and whether the prison itself will be decomissioned.  I leave China (object #12) and return home (object #13).  As a homecoming treat I am taken by my family (object #14) for cream tea (object #15) at a model village (object #16) with a miniature railway (object #17).  They ask me why I am so quiet and I say that there is still a lot for me to consider with regard my incarceration in the Chinese Nissan.  They do not say as much but I get the impression, from their sighs and their rolled eyes, that they believe I am milking it.  We wander around the model village but nothing seems very real.  And then we drive home in our own Nissan (object #18).