Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Miscanthus Triangle
Part Three



All along the way Donald made mental notes about his route, after all he would eventually have to turn back and head home.
Remembering that dogs generally aligned themselves with the magnetic north-south axis whilst passing solids, he carefully paid attention to Dana as she did her ‘business.’ He meticulously paid heed to the course of the sun, albeit mostly through a profusion of clouds. He made a point of keeping the bee-less hives to his left and the abandoned treacle factory to his right.
All very well, but which was home?
He had tried to be too clever too soon. He’d amassed a lot of information and even picked up on many of the compasses nature freely gave him, but didn’t have an inkling how to actually use any of them.
In addition to the odd chair leg, the bodgers of yesteryear left in their legacy a labyrinth of footpaths. A network that was mapped out by later generations and signposted. Great wooden stakes at every intersection, each headed with arrow-shaped boards directing travellers to a choice of here, there or elsewhere.
Maybe, just maybe, he could have taken more notice of those simpler, more observable clues.
But since hearing that voice, the whole idea of heading home suddenly slipped from the forefront of his mind and into murkier recesses. It’s surprising how priorities change so radically in the ravages of time. Even in just a few minutes of ravages.
“Rex, I’m warning you, if you don’t come back here this minute . . !” Kyla persisted in vain.
You know when you’re ascending a mountain and your ears become blocked? And you swallow and you blow your nose and you eventually you achieve a few remote pockets of clearness? They don’t last long, but they’re such a relief when they do fleetingly occur. Well, Kyla’s voice brought a similar clarity to Donald’s ears as though they’d been blocked his whole life and never even realized it.
With one final step and he reached the east corner of the Miscanthus triangle. Just in time to see the silhouette of a girl turning and walking away into the sunset. Shouldn’t they be doing that together? That was the way so many films ended, wasn’t it?
Kyla squinted and under her breath asked herself, “Why do people walk into the sunset? You can’t see a damned thing!”
As he watched her silhouette moving farther away, Donald noticed that the magical white clouds streaking across the sky weren’t clouds at all, but merely aeroplane trails.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2014 M J Race


All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Miscanthus Triangle
Part Two



The Capital Symphony Orchestra was in the process of recording the soundtrack for a new feature film. A bit of variation from the usual auditoriums. Nonetheless Kyla was still extremely grateful for a few days break away from stale air and artificial flickering lights. There were many things that she was still struggling to become attuned to, but ibuprofen helped in most circumstances.
In normal daily life it was only ever her arms that had any exercise and she decided it was high time she redressed the balance. Her parents’ dog was called Rex, although often referred to as Pongo. Despite her reluctance to walk him in the past it was never too late to start. Who said an old cellist couldn’t learn new tricks?
Unfamiliar with the best doggy routes, Kyla followed Rex along to the homestead and the rusty old Bridleway signpost. The gateway to the wilderness. Rex knew exactly where he was going though. He knew all the best thickets by a long chalk, and would happily show Kyla his very favourite places for burying bones should she feel the urge to do so herself.
She didn’t.
But she was happy enough just to tag along like a tourist in the woods. If nothing else it would be interesting to be reminded what trees looked like before being made into cellos, violins and other instruments. She only hoped that they were chopped down humanely, but, on the other hand, didn’t feel too badly if not.
The bridle path followed anything but a straight line, and the scents that Rex chased took him even farther from one. But overall they both trended towards Pobblestrum.
The wetlands were awash with gorse which was untidy and pretty in equal measures, and not marred one iota by the greying clouds overhead. Lush grassy plains receded into mere tufts approaching the rickety old bridge. And on the other side, the lane became almost completely tuftless with barely anything but mud squelching underfoot and under paw. Once there, Kyla could see the tips of the Miscanthus a little way ahead.

Approaching exactly the same spot, Donald looked the perfect country gent, with his cloth cap and colour in his cheeks for the first time in his adult life. His canine companion, Dana, tore in and out of the dells on her never ending search for food.

Kyla’s bohemian look complemented her well, her hair loose and blowing in the breeze, her full-length skirt with its syncopated rippling. A stark contrast to the orchestra’s dress code. Rex disappeared into one copse and reappeared from another, clearly having a great time. Granted, the same great time he had yesterday and the day before.

Heaven didn’t intervene very often, and when it did it usually went unnoticed. But the sky began to clear, leaving only magical white clouds streaking across the sky as the sun was getting low.
All of a sudden the two dogs shot into each other’s view, and instantly froze. Although it has to be said they even halted with gusto. The traditional Mexican standoff ended with Dana and Rex hurtling into the elephant grass for a game of chase.
Kyla had never had a lot to do with Rex before and wasn’t sure what to make of this situation. She chose to yell at him. “Rex! Come back here!! Now!!!”
Rex gently reminded her that he was actually in charge, and he would come, but only when he was well and truly ready, thank you very much.
“Rex, did you hear me? Rex . . . REX!!”

The hair on the back of Donald’s neck stood on end. He’d never had any near-life experiences before, but that voice was so evocative of another place and another time. He’d see the voice’s owner just around the corner, but until then were never ending seconds in which dreams lived and died.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2014 M J Race


All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Miscanthus Triangle
Part One



For Donald it was just the short journey from Bogcragston back to Pobblestrum as he returned to pastures old.
He tentatively made a few attempts to reintegrate himself back into a life that once was by attending village fĂȘtes and so on. Some people looked exactly as they had years before, almost as if they had rotting paintings of themselves in their attics. At the same time others were totally unrecognizable, but he didn't know who they were.
Likewise, he was just another stranger in their midst. A lifetime ago the locals knew him because he was an appendage to a pillar of the community, a minister no less, albeit a spotty and obnoxious one (Donald, not the pillar). Now no longer youthful, he was an alien on his own stamping ground. For him, around every corner there were constant reminders of bygone days. For the indigenous folk of Pobblestrum, around every corner there was some greying, worried-looking bloke with a fag in his mouth who they'd never seen before and didn't care if they ever saw again.
He thought he knew the area like the back of his hand. And by road he did. The fields were another matter though. Imagining he could get some sort of grip on his many neuroses by getting himself a dog, he quickly became an indoor type with an outside life. And in doing so he rediscovered the locale by circumnavigating the dog-walking circuits and strolling the lengths and breadths of the footpaths and bridleways of the area.
Late that afternoon the sky was a diffused grey, almost as if God had replaced the sun with a low-energy version. But undaunted by the weather Donald made his way out of the village. Getting into the swing of things he tipped his cap to the odd peddler man as he headed towards his favourite walk, and his dog headed in every other direction.


What ever the weather or time of year Dolores always wore a long rain Mac and ankle socks which revealed just a little too much of her blotchy legs. She was probably completely normal in every way and maybe not in the least bit eccentric at all. But from an onlooker’s point of view it seemed strange that you’d pass her going the opposite direction on one lane and then bump into her again on another at the other end of the village. A place where, common sense would tell you, she couldn’t possibly be.
Logic-defying truths sat awkwardly in a world that thought it could explain everything but clearly couldn’t. Donald had imagined becoming one with this rural society again would mean mentally dropping down a gear or two, but not a bit of it. As he glimpsed Dolores again for the umpteenth time he concluded that it’d be easier on the brain just not to think about it. Go with the flow, he told himself, or more accurately, go with the dog, who dragged him towards Saint Ivy’s church.
Donald managed to slow his Dalmatian down a tad as he reached the, “Grimace, God loves you,” poster at the lich-gate. This pretty much marked the end of the village, beyond it only fields for a very long way.
Even beneath the dull clouds the shires retained their outstanding beauty. Miles of hedgerow criss-crossed the sweeping downlands. Thoroughfares meandered throughout the acres of landscape, snaking through glade and grove and twisting through cattle and crop. Having traversed a couple of coverts Donald reached the dirt track he’d been heading for, with more emphases on dirt than track. But for all its shortcomings this was a veritable canine highway and people brought their hounds from far and wide.
Ahead the path kinked to the right slightly and then split into two marking the east corner of the triangular field of tall Miscanthus grass.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2014 M J Race


All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Moving On



One dingy flat is much the same as the next and a music degree doesn’t change that. In other respects moving to the big city was an eye-opener for a country girl like Kyla, and one which she welcomed readily. Becoming a small cog in the big wheel of a professional orchestra wasn’t the most profitable career move, but it took her farther away from home and into pastures new.
She was quite reasonably nervous about her very first rehearsal with the great ensemble and arrived far too early. The hall was still fairly dark and quiet apart from the sound of an odd far-off voice or the occasional door opening or closing somewhere in the distance. Kyla lurked in the shadows hoping not to be noticed or seem too sinister if she was. It wasn’t long though before the place started filling up with people of very different appearances and smells. Instrument cases clicked open, chairs scraped over the already scratched wooden floor. Shuffling music and chatting friends all added to the decibels that began to resound across the vast rehearsal room.
Kyla tried to eavesdrop on other players’ conversations, but most were too unintelligible in the mayhem and difficult to follow all the way through. So she had to just make do with passing snippets.
Veronica, one of the oboists, with her pre-moulded hair and gargoyled face, who resembled something Goya may have painted during his dark convalescing period, was talking to her friend. “What do lighting and a cellists’ fingers have in common?” she asked with a self-satisfied grin.
Amanda, not the most charismatic violist the world had ever known, merely shrugged. She looked like the summer of her life was behind her, and judging by her expression, it had rained.
Kyla would have jumped down the throat of any man who judged women by their appearance, but as a woman herself she was doing so with sisterly bitchiness so that made it all right.
Veronica continued to answer her own question, “They never strike in the same place twice.” The one joke she ever remembered fell on deaf ears.
Kyla’s desk partner was someone she would have to at least try to get on with. Brenda seemed really nice. A bit too nice maybe. If she’d learned nothing else from school, Kyla knew that the sweeter the smile, the more venomous the smiler.
The Principal Cellist, Mary, still seemed just as encouraging as she did at the audition. Enthusiastic and hearty she gave the impression that she lived entirely on raw meat and cups of tea.
Kyla was sure they were all extremely talented musicians and wanted to be liked by them all, but with the firm proviso that she didn’t have to like them back. She also hoped that they would sound more united whilst playing than all this hullabaloo.
A thin man with thick-rimmed spectacles balanced half way down his nose strutted up to the podium and the hall fell silent. He glanced through his eyeglasses at the score in front of him, and then over the top of them to the assembled musicians. “Right,” he said quietly, “we have a lot to get through this season, and we begin with Bruch’s Violin Concerto Number One.” He picked up his baton, which he knew had more power than a lightsaber within these walls, “So, without further ado . . .”


For Kyla these early days meant a lot of hard work, they were very regimented but extremely productive. She settled in quickly but relished her time off, and returned to the country for home-cooked dinners and fresh air whenever she could.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2014 M J Race


All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The End of the Corridor



Another day and another pound or two in debt. Donald’s world-weary expression was more deeply ingrained by the day. The practice had certainly paid off.
Most of the post was on the dirty carpet, bills, TV Licensing threats, bank statements, all disregarded as junk mail. Not even worth picking up let alone throwing away. A small glossy flyer still hung in the letter box though and Donald grabbed it merely to see if he could catch it before the door fell back into its hole. Not a big achievement. But an achievement nonetheless. He waded through the rising tide of paper that littered the floor, sat at the table, lit a cigarette and surveyed the flat.
On the top floor the flat offered little protection from the elements. In the summer it was like a greenhouse. And in the windy season the walls vibrated and the roof shuddered. It howled through windows and whistled through the doors at randomly varying pitches and rhythms, not unlike jazz, only more musical. The water in the toilet bowl became tidal and you’d be lucky to use it without getting splashed by its violent waves.
In 1970s America, NASA sent Voyager 1 off into outer space, even making it turn around several years later and snap a photograph of the earth from a distance of some 3.7 billion miles away. In 1970s Bogcragston, the company commissioned to build Apollo Towers couldn’t even make a flat that worked properly.
On top of that a few ‘improvements’ only made matters worse. Not only was Donald’s father an orthodox Anglican minister, but he was also something of an unorthodox DIY expert. George had a peculiar method for reaching up; he would hunch himself down and raise his hands. His unique ‘upward crouch’ may have contributed to the doors not quite closing properly, the toilet needing an extra flush and the shelves sloping in different directions.
Donald inhaled deeply on the cigarette he was only barely conscious he was smoking and he looked at the flyer he had been equally unaware he was holding. Estate agents regularly expressed their interest in other people’s homes in such a crass manner. But this time the words showed more promise. Donald flicked his ash, only missing the ashtray by a few inches, and glanced over in Kyla’s direction.

Sitting silently just 3.7 feet away, Kyla looked fraught.
Her dad had felt it necessary to make his own contributions to the flat despite strong discouragement. Alf was an interesting man whose voice and mouth were always slightly out of synch with each other. A good trick if you can do it. But in Alf’s case not good enough to distract from his inadequacies as a carpenter.
An avalanche of musical notations and orchestral scores sprinkled across the floor was a filing system that Kyla understood completely. Authentic Omnidowns woodwork in the vague shape of a filing cabinet was not. Merely another object to rattle in time with the gales. Or indeed to rattle whenever you walked passed.
Kyla finished her glass, unsteadily placed it back onto the table next to the empty wine bottle, brushed the cigarette lighter to one side and picked up the letter she was now finally inebriated enough to open.
Her audition with the Capital Symphony Orchestra seemed to go well at the time, the Principal Cellist was encouraging and the conductor wasn’t completely off-putting. The contents of this envelope would tell her just how well it went, and would decide the next direction of her life one way or the other.
She took a deep breath and looked over towards Donald, “It’s now or never,” she said slightly unsteadily.
Donald was distracted by his own uncertainties and simply grunted, “OK.”
Both were betwixt the then and next and things were becoming increasingly fractious.

Having only wafer-thin walls separating their adjoining flats meant that they had lived in dreadfully close proximity for the last seventeen-and-a-half years. Oh, they’d seen each other through their windows, and even windscreens, but not once had they actually met, let alone had an inkling that they were next-door neighbours. Not once had they even passed each other in those grim foreboding brick corridors that the estate agents always played down. They hadn’t so much as seen each other through the spyholes that were located at exactly the wrong heights in their front doors.
Never the twain shall meet. At least not these twain.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2014 M J Race


All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.