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

Communion

sparrow

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 to my feet, my day just went from bad to better.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

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

The Dalmatian, the Cactus and the Wormery

cactus

ALEX tells me he had a dream in which he has a dog. A Dalmatian to be precise. Only, it leaves him because he didn’t feed it properly.

“Jeez, that sucks,” I say. “If a dog leaves you, you really have to be doing something wrong.”

Nose in the air, bags packed, the Dalmatian says to Alex “I’m leaving. I’m not staying here a minute longer.” Then off he goes, nose down, tail down, into the sunset.

In theatrical fashion, I nearly cry. I say to Alex “Please, I beg you. Don’t tell me any more. This is just too sad.”

The next thing he knows, the Dalmatian is standing on a branch next to his wee suitcase.

Eyes tight shut, I wail “Nooooooooo.”

My mind darts back to the night before when we realised that we had somehow managed to murder a mere cactus through unwitting neglect. After congratulating ourselves on how lovely it looked and how much it had grown. Why hadn’t we thought to look underneath?

I say as much. “Thank God we don’t have kids.”

“And then …”

“No, don’t tell me any more.”

My existential crisis of 2012 … Only weeks after being congratulated by my gardening tutor on how considerate a mother I was to the contents of the wormery I had lovingly set up on my balcony to compost my food waste, I somehow managed to wipe them all out.

Eyes tight shut, I wail again “Nooooooooo.”

“In the end he came back.”

“Aaawww.” Relief.

“With a bunch of other dogs …”

“Aaaaaaawwwwwww.”

“And moved back in.”

“Aaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwww, that’s so sweet.”

“And gave me a big hug.”

“Really? Well, why couldn’t you have just said that in the first place?”

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

Analyse that

pelican

I STOOD in a house, the appearance of which I cannot remember. I stepped outside to look for something. It was dark and when I turned to go back inside, I couldn’t see a thing. I blinked and squinted in an attempt to see at least the outlines in front of me. That’s when I saw a man standing against a lit background, a streetlight perhaps, watching me.

In panic I fled. He came after me. Next thing I knew, it was daylight and I was airborne in a cloudless sky, chased by an enormous pelican. This went on for some time, until at last I thought I had outrun (or outflown) it.

Just as I gained what I thought to be a safe distance, I turned to see the outstretched wings of yet another massive pelican close in on me. Scooping me up with both its wings, it stopped me from falling to the ground. I felt an infusion of energy, that rose from my backside and up through my solar plexus.

My last sight of the pelicans was one of them turning back into a man …

 

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

Dear Dynamo

dynamo

THE other day I had a lunch date in Edinburgh with an old friend who I had just reconnected with after many years. The first thing I saw when I got off the bus near the top of Leith Walk was a massive German Shepherd with the shaggiest coat I had ever seen.

Wow, it’s a bear! With big hair!

I couldn’t help but gape at him, imagining what it would be like to tangle my fingers in his warm inviting fur. I barely noticed the owner, I just wanted to pat the dog. He had a shiny wet nose and soft expressive eyes. Oh, and his ears looked sooo soft …

Don’t look at the dog.

I tore myself away, all warm and fuzzy inside. Even before I sang along to the half-naked man performing White Lines a few hundred yards away, I had a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

II

I LUNCHED as planned with my old friend. We caught up, shared memories and then it was time to go. She told me a story that was even more heart-warming and magical than the sight of the walking shagpile and hard to get out of my head. As I made my way to my next destination, I still had a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

III

APPROACHING the Christmas Fayre in the middle of St Andrew Square, I paused to work out whether to go round it or through it and spied a gaggle of people standing by the open gate. And a dog. A huge mutt that looked like a bear. My heart skipped. The German Shepherd with the Tina Turner haircut. It wasn’t the most spectacular synchronicity I had ever experienced but it sure was cute. And, if I played my cards right, I might get my wish after all.

As I passed through the entrance and readied myself to move in on the dog, I noticed a man in a hoodie who looked like he might have been the owner. Then I glanced at the guy to his right. They were both looking at a mobile phone.

Dynamo?

I thought about the magic trick I had seen on TV the week before. The one where you were in a crowd of people in London or New York or wherever and everybody’s phones rang at the same time, all from the same number. However you did that, it was so cool.

I might have been tempted to approach you and say something like how much I enjoyed your shows, but a) you were talking to someone, and b) I’m suspicious about hidden cameras – and for all I knew I had just walked in on some grand mind trick. So I marched right past, already conjuring up the next story for my blog.

Anyway, thank you, Dynamo, for the bonus plot twist. Just one thing, though, how exactly did you materialise the dog?

P.S. Good luck with the rest of your Dynamo Live Tour 2015.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

The Lab

jodiedog 

DEEP in the forest lay a pharmaceutical testing facility. Its location was once a secret but it was common knowledge now that many sentient beings of the four-legged variety went in and never came out.

Leading away from the bars of the massive steel gate and between an avenue of conifers was a road that disappeared into a band of thick fog. This place would have been eerie were it not for the commotion.

A dozen or so security personnel had lined up to face the angry throng on the other side. Today the AFB was out in force, along with the usual agents provocateurs and whoever else had decided to join the party. Chants and placards punched the air. The only thing keeping the crowd clear of the entrance was the two rows of metal barriers flanking the gate. Each had its own complement of Dayglo police officers, unarmed and mostly first-timers by the looks of things. Two of the security guards exchanged nervous glances. Another rolled his eyes and let out a weary sigh.

This was going to be a long day.

II

AN UNMARKED white van emerged from the thinning fog. It was intercepted by two police officers before it could reach the gate. The driver rolled down the window.

One of the officers approached to ask the driver a question, which could only be overheard by those in close proximity. Within seconds, she and her colleagues were shoved to the side like skittles and the crowd locked in a scrum around the vehicle.

The rocking was relentless. Thinking he and his passenger might be in mortal danger and with the intention of reversing the hell out of there, the driver attempted to secure his window. But four pairs of hands got there first, pulling down on the glass. The police were nowhere to be seen.

The protester with the green Barbour coat had the driver by the neck of his tee-shirt, half pulling, half cursing him. But the driver had the advantage. He grabbed the fully fastened neck of the man’s coat into a vice-like twist that made its occupant relinquish his hold and his face turn blustering shades of pink and blue.

The driver growled “Look, pal …” followed by something that no one else could hear above the deafening racket. The result was that the front row of the angry mob stood down. Chinese whispers ensued until finally a man who looked like he might be the ringleader lifted his megaphone.

“Stand back. I’m coming through!”

The melee parted so he could make his way to the rear of the vehicle. There was a hush as he flung the doors open to inspect the payload, then a gasp when it became apparent what was in the boxes.

“Okay, folks, slight misunderstanding!” he groaned. “The man said BAGELS, not beagles!”

III

EVEN now that that the police had regained control and the mob lost its appetite for further mayhem, no way would the guards open the gate. Not that they didn’t want to, they would gladly have allowed through the consignment of sandwiches, bagels, cakes and chocolate donuts. Instead, they signed for it and insisted it be left in situ. And to demonstrate their humanity, the protesters honoured their promise not to taunt them by scoffing the lot.

Just as the driver pulled away, his passenger turned to him and said “So what the **** was all that about? You and your ****ing sense of humour.”

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

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