This is Rumpole.
Rumpole is a plaster of Paris statue of a real dog that wandered away nine years ago and never came back.
We tell tales of where he might have gone, what mischief he got up to and the puppies he might have sired.
We still think one day he will find his way back home which is why we leave the side gate open.
Meanwhile the statue is comforting. We know he’s not really there
But every Halloween he cocks his leg and pisses on the pavers to remind us he still is
There was someone on the bridge
Curving high over the dark water
About half way along
Then there wasn’t.
Someone with a mop of ginger hair
an orange top and grey track pants
Standing against the railing
Looking wistfully out.
I looked away when a siren sounded
On the headland then looked back.
No disturbance of any kind.
No bright lithe form spearing
Through the water.
No one emerging from either end.
Just someone standing on a bridge
Then there wasn’t.
in the morning
not the ones you eat
though they’re pretty good too
but the ones you listen to
the ones from Ireland playing now
over the PA system in the mall
thoze impossible melodies
thoze haunted lines
playing through my blood
such ‘harmonious madness’
hinting at what?
we’ll never know
joy or tragedy?
I go outside.
The day moves slow.
what piece of music moves you?
You hear those gunshots last night, Matt? Boom, boom, boom , one after the other. Six in a row.
Firecrackers, he chuckled. The kids down the road.
What! You killed the romance, Matt. I had a great piece of flash fiction on the go: about an active shooter on the prowl, a gang fight … it was going to be a ripper. I was up half the night writing it. I couldn’t sleep.
You can still do a great piece of flash fiction, John. Just make it comic, not horror. A good writer can do that.
If you see Millie, let me know, she says as she retires for the night.
I will, I promise.
So I watch the program I want to see
then watch the program I do not want to see
going outside to check during the ad breaks
rattling the tin of biscuits, calling out her name
but there is no sign; and the stars have come out
and the moon glows knowingly but remains tight-lipped
so I go inside to watch another show I do not want to see
going outside at intervals, rattling the old biscuit tin
looking for the cat that does not want to be found.
You don’t know what’s coming down the pike.
No one does.
Covid-19 showed that.
Now there are rumours of something else.
It doesn’t have a face or name
but the word ‘China’ is often invoked.
But no one knows.
But something is coming.
You can see its shadow.
Hear its footsteps.
Feel it breathing down yr neck.
And I feel like the poet Mark Strand
who always saw something coming down the pike
which is why he always slept, he says,
with one eye open.
the voluptuous girth
yr full mouth
tiny tiny waist
between forefinger and thumb
yr long tapering body
of yr beauty
of yr full-bodied flavours
Meg is wandering again
in smaller and smaller circles
driving us round the bend.
What is she thinking?
She worries the others.
A few days later
when we let her out she begins
circling again until
she huddles beneath the bird bath
and will not move.
We shift her.
She crawls under a bush
where she’s hard to reach.
The cat who often bothers the chooks
leaves her alone.
That night it rains and rains.
In the morning she’s bedraggled.
I lift her into the earth.
There isn’t much of her.
The chooks settle after that.
So do we.
Still they come, she said, the bibles, prayer shawls, letters.
People are very supportive, he said.
But the attic is full of them.
Their grief and incomprehension are still strong. Who can explain such a thing?
And the candy? Those bags of caramels. It wouldn’t hurt ….
What are you doing? He said, reaching out.
Surely it wouldn’t hurt to have a few? After all, they were meant for us.
No, said Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandy Hook killer, knocking them from her hand. They may be poisoned.
Forgive me. I am not myself today.
I wasn’t myself yesterday either.
To tell you the truth, I’m really uncertain whether I will be myself tomorrow.
Or the next day. Or the next.
Where I’ve gone to, I just don’t know.
I have informed the police, the Missing Person’s Bureau.
They have put out an all points alert.
I take time off work.
I go looking for myself in bars, parks, in shopping malls.
I take photographs of myself to show them what I looked like.
Ugly bastard, someone quips.
Go easy, I say. He’s not a bad bloke once you get to know him.
The rest shake their heads sadly.
I go home, hang my hat on the rack and sit down morosely on the old lounge.
Ahh, there you are, I say, almost sitting on top of me.
I was here all along, he says. Where have YOU been?