Kiss

lips

IT BEGAN with a kiss. Not a passionate embrace but a soft brush on the cheek.

The feeling of warmth and love from an old friend lingered on beyond the dream and well into the following days …

Like a little seed, the feeling grew and grew until I longed to be with my old friend. All the while, I thought to myself how sublime that Cupid should strike without even so much as the presence of one who I hadn’t heard from in years …

The phone call came three weeks later. He came round for a few beers and we shared stories. He’d sent me a distress flare of sorts three weeks earlier, he said. Yes, I definitely got the message, I said. And then the rest was history.

 

Copyright M K MacInnes 2018

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Brothers in Arms

templar

TO THE strains of Dire Straits, I am surrounded by battle in its last throes, a sea of mud everywhere. These fields of destruction, baptisms of fire, I’ve witnessed your suffering, every man has to die …

But not just yet. A trapped horseman is pulled from between his fallen mount and the mire. Am I the one being pulled or the one doing the pulling? I can’t tell which of us is which.

I do not know where I am or who I am other than that I am a man. And I know not how I know but the other man is Rab …

* * * * *

BOTH RAB and I fluttered in the same social circle. For me anyway, the sense of having met before was instantaneous.

It was while walking along a busy street only days after our introduction that I was hit with the cinematic picture of horses flopping about in the mud and an intense feeling of loyalty, brother to brother. I had never had a ‘vision’ with audio before.

Somewhere between a week and two weeks later, I meandered through Leith Links, on my way to the house of the mutual friend who had introduced us. Having never taken that particular route before, I scanned the open green and surrounding buildings. As I did so, got a strong impression of mud where there should have been grass.

The answer to my immediate question came quickly and without the asking. It was my friend who told me that here in the middle of the 16th century, the French had occupied Leith, until they were forcibly removed by the English army in 1560. Like most Scots, I had never heard of the Battle of Leith Links, or rather the Siege of Leith.

A short time later, Rab and I found ourselves blethering – as we were prone to do – like there was no tomorrow. Only this time our conversation took a more spooky turn than usual. Ghosts, dreams, you name it. The situation was ripe for bringing my battle vision into the conversation.

Thing is, Rab beat me to it …

“I’ve been having this recurring dream,” he said. “Well, actually, it’s more like a vision coz I only get it when I’m awake during the day.”

I know what he is going to say. Baited breath.

“I’m in a battle and I’m being pulled out from under a horse.”

I felt my face turn to rubber. It must have blanched, for he said “Not you as well.”

Up to that point, I had told no-one.

I choked “Was it a muddy battlefield?”

“Yes,” came the whisper.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

Communion

weerobin

THE HOMELESS day centres were either closed or their books were full – my options had run out hours ago. Now it was raining again and I was pissing wet through. The hunger was excruciating.

Rock bottom could not be any lower than this. Too weak to venture any further, I located the nearest available park bench and lay down my weary head, seduced by the very notion of drifting into a deep slumber from which I could never return.

Just as my eyes were half shut, a blur appeared out of nowhere. A tiny bird. Perching itself on the back of the seat, its demeanour was curious, expectant.

“Cheep.”

Sitting up, I replied “Sorry pal. Nothing today.”

“Cheep.” It strutted about then flew off.

Moments later, it landed beside me, this time with a morsel of bread in its beak. Insisting on full eye contact, it dipped its gaze only to deposit it. Then it eyeballed me again, as if just to make sure I knew what to do.

Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, I pretended to put the bread in my mouth then snuck it into my coat pocket.

“Mmmm. Yummy.”

Then my wee benefactor was gone.

Infused with just enough hope to drag myself onto my feet, my day just went from bad to better.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

Le Piroquet

parrot

THE SEARING Marseilles heat was a welcome change from the clinging smell of autumnal mildew that permeated Paris of an evening. It was morning, dawn but a distant memory for the flora and the fauna encircling my bedroom window. The sun already seemed high and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. I had just opened the wooden shutter, invigorated by a subtle awareness of the cool air hugging the ground and the soft caress of sun on my face. Better than I had ever imagined life in the South of France to be, the moment could not be more perfect. I felt connected, at one with the whole of Creation.

Sitting on the branch of an orange tree about five feet from me was a beautiful winged creature, a glorious technicolour parrot straight from the pages of Treasure Island.

“Wow, you’re gorgeous!”, I exclaimed.

He blinked at me, as if to say “Yes, I know.”

I blinked too, in disbelief that such an audience had presented itself.

The parrot studied me. I studied back. Who was the more curious, me or him? I looked about to see if there was another soul around. Nope. Just me and the bird.

It flicked its head as if it had a nervous twitch. Just as it occurred to me that he wanted to scratch, he lifted his right claw and did the deed. He squawked in a self-satisfied manner and tilted his head the other way.

I tilted mine and squawked back.

It occurred to me that I should try to teach it to say something funny. How did one say “Who’s a pretty boy, then” or “Don’t get your knickers in a twist” in French? No, that would be beneath me and insult the parrot.

As if he knew what I was thinking, he cocked his head, strutted on the spot as if walking on hot coals, then began to whistle. He articulated three crisp clear notes.

I said nothing. I couldn’t whistle to save myself. All attempts by my father to teach me had failed.

He whistled the same three notes yet again. Still I uttered not a sound.

It was only when he whistled the third time that the penny dropped and I attempted to follow suit. My first efforts were in vain, for I blew like a flat tyre.

He repeated the same notes. I tried again. And again. And again. He persisted until I had mastered whistling all the notes in exactly the manner that he had done.
I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. At long bloody last, I could whistle …

After a short pause, in which he almost seemed to make a little bow of approval, the maestro whistled again. Only this time, there were four notes. The first two were the same as before, but the third was different and the fourth was entirely new.

In the midst of my euphoria, it was not lost on me that the parrot knew exactly what it was doing. Everything about this strange and wonderful experience made me want to pinch myself. I half expected Richard Dreyfuss to come out of nowhere and a massive flying disk to appear above my head. Close Encounters of the Bird Kind … ha ha. I kept my imaginings simple and settled instead on Simon Says.

But Mister Feathered Smarty Pants was not satisfied that I had got the hang of four notes. Oh no, he piled it on and took it up to five. By the time he racked the level of difficulty up to six, my attention span was shot to pieces and I couldn’t handle all the notes.

He paced about like a disgruntled drill sergeant, then looked at me as if to say “Pfft, is that it?”

Mmm, I could smell breakfast. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say “Mais oui.”

In the blink of an eye my Teacher fluttered off into the big blue sky.

FIN

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015-2017

The Skipper

foxy

IT WAS still there then. My cardboard mattress topped with musty carpet still intact, thank God nobody else had found my refuge. The corporate umbrella, concealed by thick bushes and at full mast to shield me from the elements, hadn’t moved since this morning. Under it, still rolled up, was my four-season sleeping bag.

The flattened boxes, damp and soft from five days of use, were dispensable. The ones I had just lifted from the nearby supermarket carpark were even better suited. Now with any luck there would be no snow and I would be guaranteed a good night’s sleep, just like the one I had had the night before. The very thought of lying cold and awake was too much to bear.

I finished the rolled up cigarette I had started yesterday, then fought with my sleeping bag until I lay half shut like a Swiss knife. Safe, warm and dry, what more could a homeless man ask for. Rock bottom wasn’t always so bad now, was it. Snuggled in a toasty sleeping bag, the stars upon you, it was easier to pretend that things could only get better. That is until you remembered you were alone, so so alone.

Just as I began to drift off, I felt something brush against the back of my knees.

“What the ****?”

I shuffled, thinking I it must have been a rat or a bird. Then I felt it again. There was no mistake, something large was pressing into me. I lifted my head to look over my shoulder only to find a wary pair of eyes and pointed ears looking back at me. Tucked between the back of my knees and a large stone was a small fox. We locked eyes, both as bemused as the other, until finally It ducked its head back behind my knees. The moon winked behind a cloud, just as I closed my eyes.

All was well.

“Night night, wee pal.”

 

Copyright (c) MK MacInnes 2017

Moby

MANY full moons ago I flew to Duluth, Minnesota, via Chicago on a business trip.

A few minutes into the return ascent out of Duluth, I looked out the window. Even in the blinding sunlight, I could make out the shape of a very large white underwater creature feeding by the side of a small lake.

At first I wondered whether it could just be a submersible but when it flicked its rudder, I was sure it was a tail. In which case it was most likely a whale. A white whale. Moby Dick to be exact.

I unfocussed my eyes, refocused, then shoved my nose back up to the glass.

Yes, no two ways about it. Until someone could prove to me otherwise, that was indeed Moby Dick.

Nine years later

IT WAS the height of summer in a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands and I was serving a visiting customer. As he happened to be the only one in the house at the time, I was not so busy that I couldn’t stop for a wee bit of banter.

He was a Canadian retired pilot and an avid storyteller. Most of his anecdotes were about flying and the kind of cultural misunderstandings that could arise between Canadians and Americans. What a hoot.

He brought up Minnesota, so I mentioned my trip to Duluth. This in turn prompted me to remember looking out of the plane window and seeing the whale.

“Nobody believed me, for some reason. Even after I found out it was probably a beluga. I guess most people, here anyway, have never heard of beluga whales. You’d have thought I was talking about a unicorn.”

The man proceeded to tell me about the mammoth water tank he had had to transport out of Chicago several years earlier. The beluga whale inside it was resident at the Zoo there. It had taken all the pilot’s flying experience just to avoid spilling the contents and afford his passenger a smooth ride.

My neurons exploded.

“Hang on a minute,” I said, “Chicago Zoo, you say?”

Wheels turned. “My God, but it was Chicago we flew out of, not Duluth. That must have been the Zoo I saw from the plane. Does it have a small natural lake in the middle of it?”

“Why, yes, I believe so.”

 “So I did see Moby Dick … I did, I did! Might even have been the same one … “Hey, what are the chances of that? Thank you so much for confirming that I am not completely insane after all.”

 “My pleasure, ma’am.”

FIN

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

When life imitates fiction I

The evening started so well. Like a fairytale it was …

“… I LEGGED it at the next stop … Giving nothing away until the last possible moment, I attached myself to a small group of people in order to make my escape. Even as I dashed along the platform, I took a backward glance, only to see my watchers lumbering in my wake. Off came the shoes …”

Extract from ‘The Prince and the Sgitheanach’ from Close Call: Short and Bittersweet by M K MacInnes. More info here.