Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Steampunk story

STEAMPUNK STRIPPER!                             By Neil Coleman   12/11/19

   “No … you stay home, girl. I took you for a long walk this morning. I got up early, just for you.”
   Perdy’s eyes said otherwise. She gave me a look that went beyond my attire. Indeed, she couldn’t have cared less about my crazy ‘look.’ My black costume festooned with a plethora of decor from times past … or was its times neutral, historic reality mixed with fantasy gone mad? Perdy had been there, while I slaved late into many nights, cutting, inventing new techniques, attaching, mending, repairing mistakes, pricking fingers, swearing copiously, calling for help, strutting around, then changing my mind.
    On one occasion, well past midnight, I almost threw in the towel, until I realized that an old towel was all I needed to modify a kind of ‘vagabondous’ look. I stitched it to a flowing cloak. My costume weighed as much as a small car, along with so many additions, I could be heard from quite a distance; clinging, clacking, ringing and reflecting light in a manner that defeated the stars in the Milky Way.
   The morning of the parade was upon me. Breakfast was done and dusted, I visited the toilet for the last time because any visits from here on were going to be a mission. Perdy made another attempt to ‘guilt-me-out.’ I folded. Hell … her company would be great, and she loves a good walk. The noise of the parade would keep her close to me, and I’d stay well away from the beating drums of the ‘Latin Marchers.’  “Come on then … here … stick this on your collar. It’s just a bit of bling-punk-bling!”
    I attached Perdy to me in the usual fashion; a tried and true method to contain her exuberance; the long leash clicked around my much-expanded waist, in a non-calorific manner. Still … I looked like a huge monument to fashion gone wrong. I figured I’d be lost in the crowd of similar displays of Thame’s version of The Big Gay Out.
   I pushed the car seat to its maximum and folded myself in. “I may regret this, Perdy … It’s gonna be a hot one.” She jumped up onto the parcel tray and barked the whole way in to town, where after driving around the block several times, I found a car park behind the bookshop. We walked down a side-street, avoiding the main street.  A crowd had gathered at the southern end of the street, waiting for a signal to begin the procession. Perdy wasn’t the only dog. She dragged me towards a beautiful Labrador, whose Mum had matched her attire to that of her fur-babe. Her glance at Perdy informed me that she thought I was a lazy bastard. “She won’t let me add much more than a collar,” I said defensively.
   Ten minutes later, the parade kicked off. An explosion of music covering many genres punctuated warm air. I was already sweating, beneath the top-hat, cloak. and yes … the dagger! At first, it was manageable, trudging along to the cries of the admiring crowd. It seemed everyone was taking pictures, or sending out live feeds on Facebook
    It wasn’t long before Perdy decided that walking along the main street simply bored her … barking at the crowd, the dogs, imagined vermin and people she knew from our numerous walks. She took interest in a voluminous dress, that dragged along behind a woman, enticingly just out of her reach … almost … oh no! She pounced, grabbing the hemline in her mouth. She tugged … all eight kilos of muscle, and reverse pulled. The woman screamed as half her dress departed from her back. Luckily, she had an underlay of frilly garments, something passing for a Nineteenth Century petticoat, I guess, but looking more like something from a sex shop. She tried to grab the ruined dress from Perdy’s mouth, a hopeless task, because my monster had started ripping it to shreds, like an unlucky rat. To make matters worse, the people around us were laughing. I wasn’t.
   I took off my cloak and thrust it towards the distraught lady. I looked at her more closely. I knew her, beneath her layers of makeup, long eyelashes and iridescent lipstick. “I’m so sorry,” I offered pathetically as she grabbed the cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders. Bits dropped off, bouncing in front of Perdy, who immediate tried to gather them up. In the meantime, the crowd of marchers parted either side of the spectacle. From various comments, it sounded like people thought it was ‘staged.’
   Thankfully, the woman played along, but the darting, angry looks directed at Perdy and me, spoke otherwise. Then she seemed to recognize me. Unbelievably, she started laughing. “YOU … owe me, big time mate!” Perdy had finally let go the remnants of her dress. The cloak added a crazy, pseudo-sexual quality to her look, something halfway between a dominatrix and Wonder Woman.
   “I am so sorry,” I spluttered. I had met her several times on the walks Perdy, and I enjoyed every day. “How can I make up for Perdy’s ‘wreck-fest?”
   We stopped and moved to the side of the road in a gap outside a café. “Let’s go inside,” I said, indicating the café. She followed. We found a seat, close to the window, just outside. “What can I get you?”
   “I don’t think they serve what I need. Just grab me a flat white and a slice.” She pulled a small flask from her Victorian handbag. Tell Rex to leave a gap … for this,” she added. “I so need it. Now … where are you taking me for an EXPENSIVE dinner, tonight?!”
   “Thanks Perdy … you always make my day, eh. Is it gonna be poll dancing next year?”

Friday, October 11, 2019

'P' (Methamphetamine) is the new Opium War.

In the mid-19th Century, the Opium Wars were fought between theGreat Qing and the British and the latter imposing the trade of opium upon China. The result was the compromising of China's sovereignty and economic power. It wasn't until the Revolution under Mao, that China finally threw off the last vestiges of Western Colonialiization.
For the last 30 years, (maybe more) the Chinese have arrived at a point where their economy rivals that of the super-power, the USA, probably surpassing it. The future is one in which the USA and it's 'allies' will not be the 'only show in town.' The cultural dominance of the USA showcased in many formats is being increasingly challenged. The shift is increasing in complexity, driven by the economic power of China. Whilst the military supremity of the USA is still a fact, that too is becoming a challengeable proposition, the gap is narrowing. To maintain it's 'top Dog position, the USA is having to divert resources from other sectors of its economy, and that will and is having dire consequences for many vulnerable Americans.
The current 'Trade War,' between the USA and China can only add to the tension between the two nations. The more 'resilient' will be 'the stronger' survivor. The populace of China is possibly in a position where they are more compliant to the direction the leadership 'dictates,' and the leadership of China is m0ore ensconced to holding power.
There is another 'player' in this struggle, and it is a direct repetition of history, only this time, the 'worm has turned.' A new Opium War(s) is being fought, not militarily, but in the dark underworld of'substances. It is not 'provably' State-sponsored,  but it could well have the same dire consequences of the Opium Wars, the breakdown of society and an imposition on nations' finances, as they attempt to stop the flow of the 'new opium.'
China is not the only source of the prerequisites or 'ready to use,' 'P'(Methamphetamine) but it is the major player. New Zealand is not the only recipient. The seizure of MDA, and the fully cooked 'P,' at our (and other nations') borders, is a regular front-page news item. Those benefitting, are not just the gangs, but 'reportedly other groups and individuals, spanning many sectors of our society.
The spread of this scourge has long been documented, reaching into all of our towns and cities. The cost of families, individuals, businesses is massive.
One only needs to go beyond the headlines in our papers and news outlets, and take a look at online discussions, to realize how insidious "P' has become. The suffering is endemic. The loss of hope, the crime related to 'P' is incredibly destructive, (although many would say alcohol is right up there too)ripping families apart and destroying lives. No sector of society is immune to its evil reach. Politicians promise, fail, making false claims or using the 'P' Crisis' to lambast their political foes, whilst the damage spreads. It has been cynically used by others to dishonestly gain; for example in the 'P-testing ' of homes, that did not need such desperate interventions.
We know how 'P' is easily purchased. Indeed, the price has fallen to a point that it is cheaper than 'Pot.'
The market has been flooded by massive amounts of MDA from China. China has a 'take-no-prisoners-that-live,' approach, brutally eliminating those who are caught in possession or trading. That so much 'product' flows beyond its borders is the new Opium War. They fight 'the good war' within their borders,' only publicly and occasionally featuring the punishment of those involved in sending the scourge abroad ... just enough to pay lip-service to stamp out the practice..
In the meantime, we face the costs on a daily basis.
It is for that reason that I wrote my book, ROSKILL, a few years ago. Roskill is the story of a family in crisis, facing the loss of their father, husband and hope. Roskill is also a journey of hope; that we can fight the demons within us. It tells a story that all teens and parents should read.
Some libraries have the book. Ask if they do not. (Roskill, by Neil Coleman).
You can purchase it directly from me (the cheapest option, but even less expensive, is the online version. Just go to my website. ( Just click on Neils Books and follow the links. While you are doing this, check out Talk To Me (Finalist in the  Ngaio Marsh Crime Writers Awards, a few years ago.)
Let's fight this battle together. China suffered in the past, through actions of Western powers. Wars in all formats have no winners!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

'Sons of Orpheus,' Book One' is coming!

I have indicated many times in the past, that  a book I started nine years ago, Sons of Orpheus, is 'coming.' OK, it has undergone two edits, and it was entered into a Writer's competition, getting into the final ten, but nothing eventuated.
I gave up!
However, my staunch friends at the Thames Writer's Group encouraged me to persist. I can now announce that I have divided the huge book (700 plus pages) into a trilogy. I have extensively rewritten the first book of the trilogy, cutting out superfluous content, and took out some  amazingly 'creative errors.' Hell, I had killed off a major character, then resurrected her, later in the book. Some who had read the first effort, thought it was a quirky twist. Lol. Nope! Just me!
I was kind of over the book, but it would not leave me alone. I would go somewhere featured in the book, and the story would pop into my mind. It invaded my dreams. I must get it 'out there.'
I cannot afford the huge cost involved in self-publishing, but I can cope with an Ebook on Amazon.
I have a wonderful group of friends, family and supporters, including a skillful editor, and a clever artist, who is designing, painting a cover, behind me.
I have learned much about publicizing my books, and hopefully, with my new levels of energy and commitment, this book will be out there well before Christmas.
It will only available via Amazon, as an E-book, initially, but if this one does better than ROSKILL and TALK TO ME, I may be able to make hard copy available through Amazon, or by printing it here in New Zealand.
Watch this space, as I start posting 'progress reports,' and giving a few clues about the 'story.'

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

KFC for dinner:

After a busy morning cleaning, turning his clients house into  '$howhouse Special,' Rio pulled into the drive through option at the KFC by the round about. The queue was bearable. Maybe the lunch crowd had  driven to the parks or beaches up the Coast, to consume their greasy, mouth watering portions of chicken chips and Coke.
Rio placed his order, and proceeded to the window, where the girl with the headset was taking another order. She had to wait while the group in the car behind Rio argued about their order, changing their minds several times.
She smiled at Rio, muttering, 'Some people are pains in ... '  She didn't finish.  Passing the mobile EFTPOS through window to Rio, who entered  his code, then following through with the bag of goodies and the Coke, then rechecking the order for the group behind, she turned to her supervisor. 'Can you deal with them?'
Rio stuck the Coke in the drink-holder and placed the bag on the passenger seat. He couldn't resist sampling a few chips as he pulled onto the main road.
A few minutes later he opened the back door of the little yellow cottage, met by a manic Jack Russell, who jumped up, seeking the source of the tantalizing smell, accompanying 'Daddy.'
'Out of the way, girl. It's not for you.'
Perdy persisted. She wasn't one to give up, just because Rio commanded. Even as he turned the warming oven on, she kept up her frantic pleading.
'You know I'm not like Neil, so give up girl. THERE'S your food ... in the fish's
Perdy looked at Rio, with that look that screamed, " selfish bastard ... HE shares his food!"
Perdy gave up and chopped on a few of her doggie biscuits before stomping off to the lounge, while Rio placed the KFC into the warming oven, switched on the kettle, measured out the rice, before cooking it in the microwave.
Fifteen minutes later he piled the chicken and chips.onto the rice and joined PERDY in the lounge. He selected the next episode of GLEE on Netflix, settling himself onto the lounge. He was all set for an escape into the dizzy world of 'teenage hope and dreams of ... making it.'
Neil in the meantime, needed to head to town, for an appointment with a client. He was boxed in by Rio's car, necessitating a shout from the back door. 'Can you move your car, Rio ... please?'
Three minutes later, Neil's phone rang in the car, via Bluetooth. He answered, once again happy with the hands-free facility.
'What's up ... did I leave my walker again?'
'Umm ... no ... but Perdy has been really bad ... really naughty.'
'Has she escaped again ... killed a chook ... what?' Neil asked.
Rio hesitated. ' She ... ate my KFC ... except for the chips.' His voice was a mix of anger, frustration and an edge of concern.
Neil amplified that. 'Shit ... bones and all ...?
Rio interrupted. 'Yes ...'
'Bloody Hell ... that kill her.' Neil sounded upset. 'Is she looking Ok ... Has she been sick ... bugger ... Christ ... she may have to contribute vet, if a bone is stuck. I'm right outside the vet now ... I'm going in ... I'll get back to you. Keep a watch.'
'OK ... Hell she gulped it all down in seconds.'
Neil parked directly opposite the vet, parked and entered the Vet, and approached the counter where he foiled in the details of Perdy's gastronomic adventure. He was informed that, yes, there was a risk, and that Perdy would need to be watched.
A few minutes later, he called Rio  and told him about the receptionist's comments. 'All we can do is watch her, I guess,' Rio said, in that no nonsense practical way he  sometimes viewed the world.
' It's gonna be a waiting few days,' Neil replied, with a resigned look. 'It's not like we haven't been here, before, eh!'
'It's bloody hard being a parent, especially of one of these little sods ... Right ... You go to your meeting. I'll ring you if anything happens.
And so the waiting begins! So far .....

Sunday, April 21, 2019

DIMINISHING ODDS. A short story by Neil Coleman April/22/2019

    ‘Come on Erick … get up. You have got to get that form done. You know it’s important … bloody important. You can’t keep putting it off. Your slot is at three.’
    I rolled over, trying to put Alex’s voice into another place … like the backyard. It’s not as if I didn’t know what today signified. Hell … I’d thought of nothing else for the last few months. Everything was on hold. What the hell … nothing else mattered. Even the trip Alex had planned for our thirtieth anniversary didn’t seem real. Other people had those, not us. His plans for a special dinner tonight, with friends, some had survived several throws of the dice.
    ‘Do I have to replicate your dear old mum’s method then?’ Alex said from the kitchen. My thoughts drifted back to my teens … to that brick house in the ‘burbs,’ and the time when bugger all mattered, other than homework, noisy brothers, competing for … everything. I could smell the coffee and almost see the milk frothing for my usual ‘Flat White.’ “
    ‘Is that bacon I can smell?’ Shit … I must have done something right, or he was feeling sorry for me. After all, he still had about six years to go before he hit the mark.
    ‘Don’t get too excited. You’re only getting one piece and it’s grilled, not fried, along with the other three or more bits you have when I go to work early. You know what the doctor said.’
    I laughed. He obviously didn’t know about the Hash Browns … the ones I had hidden at the back of the freezer.
    ‘Sorry … we’re all out of the Hash browns… you’ll to do with toast.’
 I threw back the blankets, to discover I had company on the bed. Jenna, our Jack Russell, had sneaked into the bed during the night. She wasn’t in a hurry to vacate her warm spot. I wasn’t the only one approaching an elderly state. Yeah, we both loved our comforts. She differed in her approach to her morning shower though. She started the process whilst still in bed, as evidenced by the slurpy sounds and the white hair on the sheets.
    ‘Jesus, Jenna. Can’t you do that on the floor?!’ I threw on a dressing gown, one purloined from a stay at a hotel. It had somehow slipped into my case when I left. I’m not sure what conference it was. It still fitted me, so I wasn’t about to send it to the recycle bins … just yet. I wandered into the kitchen, followed by Jenna, her tail wagging in anticipation of her breakfast and morning walk.
     Alex had lied. The little table was set for two, complete with a crystal vase and one red rose. A solitary petal that had fallen on to the table cloth. Erik hadn’t bothered to pick it up; it kind of belonged there.
    ‘I’ve used your favourite Crown Lynn,’ he said as he embraced me in a ‘Alex hug’ … the kind that leaves you in little doubt as to his ‘mountain man’ strength. ‘I’m breaking all the rules … what the hell … It’s not every day that you face the ‘spin.’
   I returned his hug and a wave of emotion flooded over me. I didn’t need reminding of the ‘one in ten chance’ … the one that would decide if I could see another breakfast like the one spread before me. Erik had lied big time: Bacon, toast, fried tomatoes, black pudding, fried eggs and creamy mushrooms.
    ‘You do know that the chooks are gonna get a large part of this,’ I reminded him.
    ‘Bullshit … you really think I can’t help you out a bit,’ Erik replied, rubbing his ample stomach.
    ‘I guess you’re taking a gamble of an entirely different kind to me then,’ I quipped as I sat down and placed the linen serviette across my legs.
    A strained silence ensued. We both avoided the elephant in the room. The trip to the doctors to get my lab test results, and the interview with the doctor and the Ministry official …
Neil Coleman  April 2019

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Christmas story .. spread it!

    ‘Come on MUM … there’s heaps of cars in the car park. All those people are gonna get the best stuff!’  Cindy rolled the window up of the aging Holden. ‘Why can’t we have a car with those automatic winders,’ she added in that whining tone her brother Tim hated, and usually responded in his uniquely enigmatic manner. This time, he was ‘otherwise-engaged,’ his headphones blasting out Rap music his mum, June, would rather not hear.
    June manoeuvred the car into a space, avoiding the eyes of a man driving a late model Nissan. ‘Looks like he might have to drive around for looking,’ she said, a bit guiltily. ‘Come on … let’s get this over and done with. Remember … I only have $150 in the Christmas Club, so only a few treats. Are you joining us, Tim?’
    Tim muttered a reply, just quietly enough for June not to hear. She had long since given up trying to interpret his adolescent brooding. The sun was sending the temperature into the mid-twenties, adding a layer of discomfort to her already stressed demeanour. The reality of the meagre $150 and what it could purchase hung heavily on her.
    A few minutes later, they were trudging down the veggie aisle, Tim heading towards the snacks around the corner. He didn’t hear June telling him to wait.
    ‘Oh well … better get the essentials,’ she said, forlornly, lifting a 10kg bag of potatoes into the trolley, which Cindy insisted was her job to propel through the crowded supermarket. June had to return several items to the shelves that Tim had carelessly shoved into the trolley. ‘When will that boy learn that ‘essential’ does not include expensive Turkish dried apricots … or whatever he is getting now?’
    Her fears were validated, as they rounded the corner. Tim dumped about twelve different packets of ‘munchies,’ as he liked to call them, into the trolley. June shrugged her shoulders, then faced her daughter, who was less inclined to hold back. “Why does he always get to choose … ‘‘Don’t … just don’t,’ June pleaded, as other shoppers sent various ‘judgments’ her way.
     They continued, collecting meat, bread, cleaning products, a small Christmas cake and a bottle of cheap wine. June began to feel anxious.  ‘The $150 was beginning to look totally inadequate.  As they approached the checkouts, June searched for the shortest line. They waited in line. June started the process of quietly deciding which items were going to ‘return’ to the shelves. She braced herself for the glances, the pitying looks, the unspoken comments.
    Tim walked through and waited by the sliding doors, totally unconcerned, while Cindy helped to stack the purchases on to the counter. June watched as the total passed her target. She rummaged around in her purse, finding about $20 in coins. She was forty dollars short.
    Her face reddened as she asked the operator to take out items. June returned the larger packets of munchies, the bottle of wine, and asked for the new total. She was still $5 short
June was close to tears. She searched for another item that would lower the total. As she picked up a large bag of frozen veggies, a hand gently reached across from behind.
    ‘How about you put them all back in. I’ll pay for them.’ His eyes seemed to say … ‘please let me. It’s OK … I’ve been there. I KNOW what it’s like.’
    ‘But … I don’t know you … why … ‘June burst into tears. There was no doubt that people were looking now … intensely … but without the judgment she feared. ‘I can …n’t … except … your generosity.’
    ‘You can. Call it, paying forward. If you knew my story you would KNOW. It’s OK.’
    June was overwhelmed. For once, Tim showed a side she hadn’t seen for years … well not since he was launched in to the ‘difficult years.’ He came forward and put his arms around his mother. ‘Mum … let him. He’s a good one.’
    June watched, as the man paid for ALL her groceries; dumbfounded, unable to respond in words … for a while. ‘How can I repay you?’ Then it hit her. He was the man in the car park … the one she had pushed into the empty car park in front of … the only empty car park! ‘I’m so sorry about my behaviour in the car park.’
    ‘I wouldn’t be concerned about that,’ he replied. I could see you had a handful. I know what kids are like. He smiled at Tim and Cindy. ‘You two … look after your mum. Show her you care.’
    He walked away. As June left the store, she felt every eye on her, some of them moist. Maybe Christmas was going to be a little different this year. People do care … sometimes.
Neil Coleman


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

'Please pull over, Sir!'

I took the 'High Road to my job today, or maybe I should call it the 'long road!' About halfway to my destination, I received a phone call, telling me that my first two clients were attending a Powhiri. OK ... time to kill. The gentle hills, painted by a mix of pasture, dotted with ruminating beasts, and trees, watching over The Firth of Thames, with mussel farms, holiday homes and Regional parks on both sides of the winding road.
I drove past the oyster shop ... once again promising to 'stop, next time,' almost tasting the fat creamy morsels, as they slid down my throat. A few more kilometres and Clevedon appeared. I slowed down.
Just past the pub, I espied lots of orange cones on the road outside the school, attended by their very own collection of constables. As I approached, I was flagged down and asked to drive into the left lane. I'm not sure what the other lane was for.
Oh no ... was I driving too fast? I remembered passing the flashing warning about a school. Bugger ... the fines for speeding near a school are not your run-of-the-mill parking fine. Not a good look!
The officer asked me to wind down my window. Here it comes ... I may as well admit it and get it over with and never tell a soul! But he was smiling. One of those ... the nasty, power-freak, sort.
'Sir ... could you please wind down your window, so the girls can talk to you?'
What ... he was gonna get the kids to rub it in?! Bastard! Of course ... I didn't say that. I did as he asked.
'Good morning sir. We are doing a project about keeping us safe. We would like to thank you for driving safely.'
One of her friends stepped closer to the car. 'We would like to give you a little present for caring about us,' she said as she passed a lovely card and a pen through the window.
I was flabbergasted. I thought I was speeding and only vaguely remembered the sign and although I wasn't going flat-tick, I did not consciously aim at the required 40PH. I guess I was 'doing the right thing ... by habit. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. They had their guns ... the ones that have caught me out a few years ago ... nothing more than about 4 above the limit, but enough to cop a fine!
'Thanks, girls. What a nice surprise. Keep up the good work. Ka kite,' I said and drove off, with a warm fuzzy feeling and a sense of wonderment.
What a good way to get the message across. Something similar had happened in Thames a few moons ago, but it involved Jack Russell and a Dog Ranger! That's another sotry.