Six Stories (The Ongoing Riot)

Where the orchid grew into a room; where a scientist discovered the properties of rare neon specifically for the glow of its sign; where a “Eureka!” moment follows every prematurely-flowering sigh, there is a front yard where a mysterious lady, with her long hair coiled above her head under a bright cloth, wanders with a portable, fold-up seat.

First she will be seen at one end of the garden, by a Tree. Next time, should you see her, she’ll be talking to the Owl. The next moment she will whistle her Marshall-amplified tune, and enter the large sand dune on the swiftly-appearing beach. This, a place which can also appear as a bar, is the front porch of a house on which I left a gift. A card with glitter stuck on with glue. You coloured outside the lines too.

The yellow aeroplane which hung above the bar had little propellers which spun whenever the door opened. Simultaneously, there was a bell that prompted an anteater to fire a projectile peanut at a bongo drum, and the others to applaud the trick.

Soon came the tapping of rain onto seashells and piano keys, and the scent of coffee throughout day and night. A leak, or a hole, in the roof that we had decided to call the sky, provided the addition of stars to the already fine ensemble.

The kids were tearing up the seats at the picture house. The projectionist set the place alight. The young and rampaging teenage delinquents, in black leather jackets, floated three centimetres or so above the orange cellophane torching the plush patterned carpet, towards the smoking exit. They escaped, tin eyes gleaming, to the Orchid Riot, where everyone, it was generally agreed, had the time of their lives. The delinquents grew up – and Angus, in his wisdom, kept on his cap, tie and blazer.

The maids in the garden giggled at that curious phrase, “To plant a kiss”. Their faces were still fertile soil, their cheeks had seen no tears. They sang,

“How many songbirds fly to and fro?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know…
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots,
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Kookaburra, Emu,
Rainbow Lorikeet, Bluebird, lark, and thrush,
Zebra Finch and cardinal, nightingale,
Tawny Frogmouth”.

The song was harmonious.

It was like summer at Christmastime; something that a man at odds with England had always struggled to grasp at another side of the world. He fumbled with the red curtain of the Moroccan archway, into the Room. There he saw that even the chief catalysts of The Orchid Riot had been persuaded to wear purple platforms. Inevitably, everyone found them impossible to walk in, and instead walked bare-footed and innocent, on tip-toes. The jet-lagged Englishman asked for a whisky, took a sip of it and coughed. Embarrassed that the beverage of riches and experience was too strong for him, he nursed it while sharing the warm spirit of conversation with the others, in the idioglossia that is common to this exotic room.

One other thing – I heard a story about the baroque fountain; we remembered the hope and happiness that came of first drinking and filling our bottles there. They say, if you’ve cupped your hand in the clear stream once – that moved the ornate miniature steamboats on the water, that made each frog jump from each lily pad to play their didgeridoos in sandcastles and on marble bicycles – and the dragonflies circle around the drinker’s head where words flowed from golden mouths and he, of course, laughed his heart out with every laugh, they say that drink will be enough to sustain you for all time.

An Announcement

Hi Everyone.

I don’t know how you all feel, but I think it is time for us to start writing here again as a tribute to Paul.

Let me know what you think, or just start posting.

Much love.

Alain Verne Jnr.’s New Year

In Reality, Verne’s prosthetic head was a beautiful thing. It exploded,
as if in a movie of a dream,
from a distance,
on the pier,
in a seafood restaurant
in which I drank a glass of water.

Thinking that a guy’s brain is kinda a big deal, I looked round for someone else’s, while the water tasted of fish. This meant I could not be as refreshed as I might be if I shared Verne’s taste for the ocean.

Elsewhere in the story, I woke up in my own sweat, drawing the curtains back to pictures of Verne’s fake head. I knew then that I was elsewhere, perhaps in England or Australia or America or Spain. In short, I was awake.

So then, at the same time, Verne stroked his straw hair. Going over the dream with a toothcomb or a brush, I struggled to figure out the meaning of the things you are now reading. And a warm welcome to you and to the New Year, if I only say one thing that makes any sense at all.

Alain had his memories. He shared the name of someone’s father, long ago, and spent a month eating nothing but dried apricots. He almost died. His hair was blue. He wanted something different, said his father with the hair of straw. Alain woke from his senior’s dream of the seafront, and by day, in his room, he edited a film about religion.

In the corner of a certain bar called The Orchid Room, Alain stepped in, his head still thick with memories of the man I know as Verne, the man he knew as Alain.

The stereo played Cut Your Hair by Pavement. With hope freshly preserved inside a frozen tear from a showerhead, Alain made a statue of Barack Obama out of tinfoil; not knowing, for the moment, how to talk to Leonard or anyone.

“HEY! French, I mean, kid!” The face that had enough smiles for the whole room belonged to Handsome Johnny, who danced a little with his swagger under an amber spotlight. “YEAH! I know you, you the French kid who writes adventure stories?”

“Non.” Alain Verne Jnr. might have even giggled.
“Oh man! I picked up one of your pamphlets in the Laundromat! Awesome! Twenty Leagues…”
Amy’s Century?”
Yeah! I liked that, the *liddle* jigsaw in the envelope, man! Son of a Dadaist! Hey Mamu, come here! You know this guy?”

Your First Cappuccino of the Day, Leonard Disney.

“There are worse things…”, on that we can agree.
For instance, there are worse things than visiting the municipal zoo only to find all the animals asleep…
But then what is a person your age doing at the zoo? You may as well ask Don Quixote what he’s doing fighting windmills. Ask me what my interest is in sleeping animals and I’ll smile, but will not remove my gaze from some caged bundle of fur, a tail, and amazing lungs – which snores…

And I’ll say…
“How did you manage to break into the zoo at night-time?”
You make two assumptions here – that it is closed, which means one cannot enter. Also, I dislike your tone – why assume I broke in?
I had a camera; I listened to a symphony, but then preferred the sound of air. Which you will presume makes no sound, and it will be a poor soul like you, Amy, who wakes me from my daydreams of night.

As I read the paper on New World Street, my head and feet in foreign climes, I decided that there are worse things than downing one’s sorrows in…

How I love thee.
I won’t count the ways; you know. It’s – your froth, my spoon, my lips, your warmth.
I need no flavoured syrups,
but love.

We know this better than Starbucks. And I know everything better than the man dressed as Santa Claus. Except here, he’s called Saint Nicholas, and I miss my local library. “Świat”, or “World”, presumably as in “World News”, was a word in the paper that I could recognise from the airport.

Confusing. I was freeing the penguins from the faux-Antarctic swimming pool, catching the fish that leapt for freedom in my hands. There I was in a daydream, dripping past the bars of the cage to see an old friend

and this is how –

my entire body reduced to tears, my hands recognisable only as puddles. For this I had to cry, and cry out so intensely. There are worse things.

When in the cage, I offered the lion a greeting he would not hear. He slept so deeply, and grand exhalations from his nostrils disturbed my puddle. I checked the time of the moon, and consulted my watch – a clock face that rose with a bubble to the surface.

Kneeling down beside the lion, I felt human but not solid, because that irritates me. In the dark, I felt for the lion’s bones, and in a state of liquidity, I notice my own – my muscles floating as if in a cold stew, the occasional human bone snapping with each movement. With every broken bone, I shed a tear, but it is painless. I find the lion’s mane, stroke it and, with the effortlessness of water, loose my clothes.


Continue reading

A goddamn intermission.

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Dvořák’s Instant Camera

The walls of The Orchid Room are painted with all the pretty shades its various misfits have had knocked out of them over the years, and you are just as likely to find a tooth, removed by force on the bathroom floor, as you are to find a fairy of some description, granting you all the wishes you don’t want, all the nightmares you dare to dream…

His eyes glossed over, something alchemic and blue. Poured like a social taboo and broken easy over ice, its after-chill made a mockery of caution.

Back at home, the last bars of a Bolero were calling his furniture to life, dancing the sad and baroque tragedy of a man too stylish to cry. The man’s tuxedo developed a damp red stain around his heart, which puzzled him.

When he locked the door behind him, his house became another world, with different wallpaper.

It was as if he was viewing it from the city’s dilapidated observatory.

Would it matter to him, then, that his home was now engulfed in flames, as a candle he forgot to extinguish fell over, stupidly and without reason? –

The flame spread first to read old comic books – an early issue of Superman he would never get back, and a Polaroid of a human, forgotten by time.

and you can’t get the film for those things anymore.

He auctioned a document signed by a certain dictator –

The flame is now engrossed in his chessboard, and makes some good moves.
His anthology of Dickens.
He had been reading about psychology.
But Dvořák’s P.I. turned up close to nothing.

What would the flame think of videocassettes? Not much.

Dvořák wore an eyepatch, with an embroidered globe. So he’d remember his days as a scientist and businessman – which almost made him feel like the Earth was the most beautiful thing to be sold.

and he wore the patch on the eye that wasn’t blind.

He had in his hand, at most times, an instant camera.

Now, Offenbach’s Can-Can from Orpheus in the Underworld
to give the fire something lively to dance to,

There was no doubt now that
the candle and the gramophone
were in cahoots.

Back at The Orchid Room, he asked if there were any rooms you’d want to close your eyes in,

whether The Orchid Room ever took in guests

“What, are you crazy?”
was the reply.

“what the…fuck! You’re bleeding!”

Like the stray cat that wandered into the composer’s home, in the old Empire:
“our spee- *cough* -cies has a chance”,
muttered Dvořák,
before he died.


Words that I saw written on an actual door.

The man made of clay,
and an armature skeleton,

whose arm fell off,

and a ramshackle of drunk
Laurel n’ Hardys
on the floor.

They say he’s Irish,
talks about Ireland.
Either Ireland or “an island” –

drinks like an unfamiliar dog.

A well-thumbed Bible,
thrown against the wall,

frantic and important,
the most often stolen book.

Said Matthew,
“why you keep dragging me out
on walks?
My life like a pancake…”

Sad Matthew,
“I don’t care

how many
flowers, birds and animals,
which road sign brings good luck.”

The dragonflies
he imagined
gave his dislodged hand
a clover.


Traditional Ballad – Dying Slowly by Tindersticks, from the album “Can Our Love…” (2001, Beggars Banquet.) Video – Cosgrove Hall Animation Studios