The winter sun poured a light like iced honey upon a corner of the cemetery that was sheltered by a thorny hedgerow, wherein flitted piping robins. Around twenty souls, Wombats included, had gathered around a wicker coffin suspended over a deep hole recently dug in the rough turf. We were there to celebrate the life of, and say goodbye to, one of the most caring, humorous, witty and downright mischievous women I’ve ever known. I met Erica Fairs in real life but once, though I knew her as a good friend for eight years, exchanging laughs and support and the occasional music recommendation regularly on Twitter.
The celebrant caught her life well, speaking to the importance to Erica of family, and of friends not only locally but all over the world through social media. He also spoke to the ultimate destination of the human form – gone, yes, but continuing not only physically in the genes of Erica’s children and grandchildren, but also virtually in all our memories. I hope that her husband John, son Dan and daughter Laura (and the rest of her family, of course – her sisters look remarkably like her, and hugging them felt eerily like hugging Erica again) understand that she will also live on around the world in the memories of friends that she made in cyberspace, too. Hundreds of us, as evidenced by her Twitter profile.
Later at the wake we listened to a song that Erica herself had introduced to me, Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”, and ate sausage plait in her honour – she made the best damned sausage plait in history, apparently, as well as stunning roast potatoes. There were readings from Beowulf, suggested by more online friends Aven and Mark in Canada, and a slideshow of photographs from Erica’s life. She seemed to be smiling in them all.
Back in Eashing Cemetery the robins had continued their dance of life as the coffin was lowered, leaving the bright sunshine behind. Those gathered let fall flowers into the grave. As my own petals settled on the wicker lid I whispered for one last time the words that I had said to her so often over the years. “Goodnight, Sunshine”.
A short tale that saw the light only on Daily Picspiration. Someone mentioned Angler Fish to me, so I thought it was time to give this disturbing little tale another airing.
It was her smell that first attracted me. Not her flawless ebony skin. Not eyes the colour of the ocean depths. Not the tantalising curve of her hip like a wave about to break. These things I noticed later. Before all of these, first was her scent; a warm dark musky intoxication that somehow smelled of a La Jolla sunset. I wanted to breathe her in, take her entirely into my lungs and hold her there while my imagination wallowed in her essence and she made my senses reel, like the finest marijuana smoke.
We met at San Diego’s Birch Aquarium, at a private afternoon gathering that I had set up for a local business. I sat in semi-darkness, nursing a lukewarm glass of mundane fizz and gazing at the two-storey high kelp tank, spread large before me. It shone turquoise and teal, sapphire and emerald, lit by natural sunlight pouring from above. Black sea bass swam between the swaying columns of kelp. A pair of leopard sharks circled the chrysochlorous forest, while surfperch, bright orange garibaldi damselfish, eels and barracudas played hide and seek among the lush tangle of kelp. The sight was hypnotic, a slow circling kaleidoscope of life and light.
I was pulled from my reverie by the most intoxicating scent, and looked up to find a beautiful woman standing by me. When I say beautiful, please do not lightly pass over that word. Savour it properly, and take it quite literally – she was breath-taking; a delight for both eyes and soul, all elegant grace and curves like the bays and coves of the sinuous San Diego coastline. Her dark hair shifted like a meadow of seagrass in a slow current. She wore a short fringed dress that rode up firm thighs as she sat.
“It’s actually algae, you know,” she said, her voice as soft as distant whale-song.
“Which… what?” I mumbled, lost the unwavering gaze of ocean-pearled eyes.
“The kelp. It’s actually an algae. Did you know that?”
“Um, no, I did not. The only thing I know about kelp is how to make a whistle from the bladder.”
“To call for Norouas, the north-west wind?”
“I’m no sailor. To give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” She smiled, and my stomach flipped nervously. Had that sounded too pretentious?
“In other words, to make music,” she said. “So, you know Plato. You are interesting man, Robert Penny.”
“Um, hi, yes. I am. Him, I mean. Not that I’m interesting. I mean hello.” Her eyes flashed in the half-darkness. Water-light rippled across her profile. “Excuse me. I’m not very good at, you know, talking and stuff.”
“And yet you organise social events? An interesting career choice for an introvert.” I found it hard to concentrate with those deep eyes gazing into mine and her exhilarating scent fogging my mind.
“Yes,” I tried to sound like an adult, rather than a blushing teenager. “I’m Robert Penny.”
“I know,” she smiled, and reached out. She took the glass of wine from my hand and put it down beside her.
“How? Are you psychic? A mind reader?”
“Not yet.” She laughed, a liquid soft sound of sheer delight. Her fingertips brushed my lapel. “I read your name badge.” Her hand drifted down to my wrist, where they rested, the tips of her fingers to the inside of my wrist. My blood pulsed against her warm touch.
“Oh.” I looked for her own name badge, pinned to the neckline of her dress, but could not make out the tiny words in the gloom. My gaze strayed to the enticing swell of her breasts. Her skin smelled like the spray of saltwater against lichened rocks.
“My name is Polly,” she said. I quickly looked up from her cleavage, feeling like a schoolboy caught admiring his teacher’s backside. “Polly Char. I’m a marine biologist at Scripps.”
“Char? Like the fish? An appropriate name for a marine biologist. What field are you working in? I did some work in coastal geography once, a long time ago.”
“I’m researching deep ocean bio-DNA – from bathypelagic lophiiformes, mostly.” I could tell from her grin that she was testing me.
“Anglerfish?” I tried, scraping a guess from a remote corner of my brain. I decided to try riding my luck with the pretension. “Anglerfish, from the abysm in which nightmares crawl?”
Her slender fingers wound around mine and she drew me upright. I had clearly passed her test. She was much taller than me. She leaned close and I closed my eyes, drowning in the sensual smell of her. “Come with me,” she mouthed, lips brushing my ear, her whisper the susurration of a sighing sea.
She led me away from the crowd, past a ‘DO NOT ENTER’ sign, and down a barely-lit corridor to a darkened room, the only illumination a virescent light from two tanks set in one wall. Jellyfish pulsed rhythmically in one, their flowing, insistent rhythms reminding me of the cadences of sex. In the other tank, labelled ‘Sea Devil’, an angry-looking grey-brown fish hovered motionless. It had a huge head and an enormous crescent-shaped mouth filled with sharp, translucent teeth. It stared out at us with ugly eyes.
“What are we doing here?” I asked. She let go of my hand and turned to face me.
“When a ceratioid male goes looking for love,” she purred, her voice a caress, “He follows a particular pheremone exuded by the female. In fact, he cannot resist following it.”
I stood mute like an idiot, held by her fragrance and her perfect side-lit form. She unzipped her dress and let it fall. She continued to speak, clad only in French-cut underwear, her soft words like the swelling uprush of a flood tide, her naked thighs firm as wet sand sculpted by a downwelling current.
“He is driven headlong through the immense forbidding darkness by this impelling odour, and finds a mate much larger than he, who will often aid his search further by teasing reveals of her bioluminescent lure.”
She beckoned me to her, and I complied willingly. She embraced me, tightly, and I kissed her neck. Her fingers stroked my shoulders, then pushed me down onto my knees. I ran my lips across her naked belly. She tasted of salt.
“Bite me, little man,” she said. I could no more have resisted than flown in the air. I closed my teeth on the moist flesh just above her hip, gently, not breaking the skin. “Harder!” she commanded, and I bit down hard, tasting her blood.
“When the male mates with the female, he bites into her skin, wilfully eating into her soft flesh,” Polly’s voice continued from somewhere above me. Her blood flowed over my lips and washed my tongue. My mouth felt odd. It tingled and fizzed. Small particles of my tongue drifted in the tsunami of blood in my mouth, drifting down my throat as my face melded into her hip.
“He dissolves into her flesh,” she continued to speak normally as my eyesight darkened, “mouth and eyes melting away, slowly fusing into her body.” I sensed the gradually increasing transfusion of her blood into my own veins, her pulse now controlling my existence. I could no longer feel my limbs. I knew nothing but her, my lover, my life.
“Eventually he becomes nothing more than a glorified gonad, existing solely to pump sperm when needed in order to fertilise her eggs.” Everything that marked me as other than a worm was disappearing. I would soon become a brainless, senseless thing that was little more than an appendage.
“This, in a nutshell, my sweet, is what’s happening to you. You no longer have to trouble yourself with seeing, eating or thinking. Your body atrophies and withers away, though you will live on in order to provide me with semen when I’m ready to spawn. Be joyful, Robert. As Plato also said, the madness of love is the greatest of heaven’s blessings.”
Polly is getting dressed now, taking care not to catch the tender new bump on her hip.
Is this the worst sex scene ever written? It should be, since I compiled it from the books nominated for this year’s Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, along with two also-rans. I’ve colour-coded the sentences so you can see who wrote what, and have altered pronouns and tenses so that the whole thing makes a kind of horrible sense. Get the smelling salts ready…
She locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo. His heart immediately started hammering like mad, and a fiery heat welled up inside him. He wanted to ask something, something tremendously urgent, something incredibly important, something that was tingling on the tip of his tongue but already her other hand was on his other buttock. Once he’d trained his sphincter to stop reflexively impersonating a Chinese finger trap, it felt pretty good. She pushed on his hips, an order that thrust him in. He entered her. Not only his prick, but the whole of him entered her, into her guts. “Anne,” he said, stopping and looking down at her. She was pinned like wet washing with his peg. “Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better.” He swayed and they listened to the soft suck at the exact place they met. The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors. The cheap mattress bounced. They breathed heavily, breached, adjusting to air. There was a fish smell too, as if the tide had just gone out. When she was sufficiently aroused, a hush finally settled and then with a sigh she rolled over gently onto her back and lay like a doe turning in leaves.
Men Like Air by Tom Connolly
The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (yes, the former Blue Peter presenter)
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler
A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin
The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
Let’s hear your voices this Sunday!
Our SundayPix theme for the coming weekend (Sunday 13th November) is one of our occasional AUDIO themes, this one prompted by the beguiling @kjcollard. Record yourself speaking the OPENING LINES of a movie* and on Sunday post it to Twitter along with the hashtag:
Not only will we get to hear what everyone sounds like, we can also have fun trying to guess the movie.
There are many apps that allow the posting of audio to Twitter, such as Soundcloud. Personally, I continue to use AudioBoom as I have for many years (that’s where the Musical Advent Calendar sits). The example accompanying this post (click the picture top right) is on Audioboom. All these apps have Android & iOS versions so that you can record yourself using your phone if you like.
So join the fun, choose a movie, and let’s hear your voices!
*yes I know, “film” would be more British, but SundayPix is an international affair, so ‘movie’ it shall remain.
No really, it is, I promise. Don’t turn away all pshaw and poo poo. Leave your snook uncocked, and just try it once, for me. If you’re not impressed, feel free to comment and tell me what your idea of a better sandwich is. If you are impressed, you can thank me later. Yes, it’s the famous
Bacon & Banana Butty
To make it properly, you really should use a nommy granary or wholemeal bread, but I suppose any old cheap white stuff would do at a pinch. Cut yourself a couple of sturdy slices. Remember, they’ll need to support two fillings when you pick it up.
Find yourself a banana. The market is a good place to start – they have good ones at Iddons in Bury Market. Spread your nana over one piece of bread, using whatever method takes your fancy. In my long experience of observing the banana habits of humans, short attractive women will slice the banana neatly, in pleasant rows reminiscent of carefully-planted flowers, while stalwart handsome beardy blokes will squish it on. I squish it on.
Fry your preferably streaky bacon (non-stick pan, no fat remember, this is a healthy sandwich*) to a pleasing crispness. Floppy bacon tends not to work so well. I have no idea why. Lay the rashers over the nana and top with your second slice of bread. As an option, you may enjoy lightly frying your bread in the greasy stuff that came off the bacon. Or possibly not. Divide and enjoy with one of those cups of tea that’s at exactly the right temperature. You’re welcome.
* not a healthy sandwich at all really.
(This is an updated post from 2011 that people are STILL asking me about).
For those who like to disguise their Twantee stalking by following more than one new twantador, or even those who like to make new friends, here’s a list of this year’s participants.
@_inno @_polyhymnia @alexbrightsmith @alliterative @ananizapta @anise44 @auldyth @avensarah @AzzaThePirate @bieredeluxe @bilbobaggins2k @bywordandstitch @captain_doodle @cara_erin @carly_whyborn @cdlcreative @chrisridd @confusedlinnet @cumbrianblondie @davidtims @dawbes @dawn1968 @dbrereton @dutch_bitch @ericafairs @evermoreanon @fannyingabout @fisher1946 @fizzandnonsense @gemmajoobjoob @gingerfig @ginlington @gordon_t_miller @greythorne @hols1983 @iainlj @Im_Gggrr @jaxbourne @JustSJP @katobell @kimnmilward @kirstyhalton @kizletwiggle @kjcollard @kykaree @landladycheryl @leontia2001 @lgh95 @louisehector @LucieMR @magentakoru @mallrat_uk @marmotbiscuits @mavisdee @monbling @mrsashboroscat @mrssimontemplar @MsSJH @NicolaCubes @nikkisinclair64 @ninjaworrier @nyncompoop @phantom_blonde @poorlittlenell @pricklyemu @rachamuffin @sarahtregear @sarahv1982 @secretstef @squeakysays @starlitwolf @stickymitts @sumarumi @Sundayhandbag @superkrispydj @taffy3rock @tajasel @tauntongardener @teddy_red @theeastanglian @tjathurman @waysidehealer @woodpeckergreen @xx_ItsOnlyMe_xx
The beginning of a new story written for my patrons over on Patreon.
Marian introduced me to sea wormwood that morning. I put a sprig in my belt, and every so often was greeted by a lovely sage and camomile smell that complemented perfectly the salt breeze from the cove. We sat on the shingle. Marian took my arm, pulled me close and laid her head against my shoulder.
“What are we to do?” she whispered. I sighed. I could see only one way ahead, and it hurt me to my core to even consider it.
“It pains me to say this,” I began, lifting a hand to stroke a wisp of hair away from her eye, “but if he will not see reas—”
“John! John!” The shout pierced the whisper of waves and set to flight screeching gulls and piping waders. Much thumped out of the nearby trees and slid to a halt, scattering fine pebbles over Marian’s boots. “He’s at it again!” he roared, his baritone bedizened with frustration. “We can’t stop him!”
“Fucksake,” Marian cursed. “I thought I told you to watch him, Much!”
“I’ve got to have a shit sometimes!” Much clenched his fists. His eyes dared her to argue with him.
Marian raised her hands apologetically, then leaned on my shoulder to push to her feet. “Come on, buggerlugs,” she said. “Let’s go see what our intrepid leader’s up to this time.”
To read more, please consider becoming a Wombie patron over on Patreon. You can join for as little as $1, and you’ll get an exclusive, not published anywhere else story once a month. At higher levels the rewards get ever more, um, rewarding. You could even co-author a book with me. Go have a quick shufti.
I dashed off a small poem this morning (my version of doodling, I suppose), and it was only after I came to post it here that I realised I was imagining moth-girls again. I wonder if this says anything about me, other than a lack of originality? Whatever, here it is.
as a silversoft moth;
her lifedance lights my dark existence
and sets a flame in this ancient dry soul.
She flutters closer.
Jingly balls, jingly balls, jingly up your way. It’s time for #TWANTA2016 to shove another tree up another fairy’s frock and display his shiny balls for the seventh time. For the uninitiated, it was all @captain_doodle’s idea. There he is on the right, the sexpot. Those taking part in Twanta send a cheap but fun gift to someone that I nominate, possibly a complete stranger, and in return they receive a similar pressie from someone else. TWitter secret sANTA, see? As usual I’ll link you to the blog post from @davidtims from a few years ago which beautifully sums up the spirit of Twanta.
FOR NOW, JUST TELL ME IF YOU WANT TO TAKE PART so that I can add you to the Master Wallchart here at Twanta Towers. I’ll give people a few weeks to join, and you’ll receive the name of your Twantee shortly after that, deffo before the end of October. Those of you who are old hands will know all this already, but for the sake of completeness here’s a reminder of how the whole thing works.
You must have specifically asked me, and I must have confirmed that you’re taking part before you can join in. I reserve the right to reject anyone that I suspect of being dodgy. This is an attempt to avoid the slight wobble that happened several years back for two of our lovely twantadors (see below for a glossary of terms).
Make sure you follow @twanta2016 on Twitter. He (it’s me really, but don’t tell the little tweeters. Let’s not spoil the magic, eh?) will follow you back. DM your address to him so that he can pass it on to your own Secret Twanta. I do remember some of your addresses from last year, but once #Twanta2016 is over I will always delete the addresses of those who ask. If the Twitter Unfollow Bug has caused @twanta2016 to unfollow you, let me know so that I can correct that.
Tell me if there are any mortal enemies that you don’t want to be paired with. We don’t want to be responsible for any “INCIDENTS”. You can also make special requests (e.g. if you’re allergic to chocolate, or perhaps you don’t want to post anything to a different country). We are a benign Santa, and will accept all reasonable requests.
Very occasionally things go awry, and when that happens Twanta Fairies step in to send a gift at short notice. Please also let us know if you would be happy to be a volunteer Fairy, should any be required (though that’s not very likely).
Once @twanta2016 has everyone’s address, he’ll DM you to let you know for whom you are buying a gift (grammar), together with their address. You might want to spend a little while researching their timeline to find out a little bit about them. Yes, that’s a bit stalkery, but you’ll be able to make your gift a bit more personalised that way.
Buy a pressie for your twantee (as the recipients have somehow come to be known) and send it to them. Mark the envelope #TWANTA so they know what it is. Let @twanta2016 know that you’ve posted it (so I can keep track in case anything goes missing). It’s entirely up to you whether to remain anonymous or to expose yourself *snigger*.
Do NOT buy hugely expensive pressies (unless you’re buying for me, obv). Small, fun and imaginative is the rule of thumb, but don’t send an actual thumb. That would be hideous. I recommend spending no more than a tenner, though that of course is up to you. The photographs accompanying this post are of some previous gifts, should you need inspiration.
When you receive your #TWANTA pressie, again let @twanta2016 know. Challenge yourself to wait until Christmas Eve or Day to open the thing. Harness your willpower, grasshopper.
When your willpower fails, take a photo of your gift ready to post on Christmas Day when there will be a special SundayPix theme so that we can all follow the fun. Post the pic on Christmas Day including the hashtag #TWANTA2016 so that we can all follow the fun, and collect the pics on a special Pinterest board.
Have fun, and if it all goes tits up, remember that it was originally all the idea of that @captain_doodle, and castigate him mercilessly, not me oh no leave me alone.
Having trouble separating your twanta from your twantee? Completed your trifecta yet? Got no bloody idea what I’m talking about? Then this section will save you from social embarrassment akin to leaving the Ladies with your skirt tucked into the back of your knickers.
TWANTA – this word has two meanings. Firstly it is the all-encompassing name for the whole cosy event itself, although usually with the relevant year attached to its tail. Secondly, the Twanta is the person sending a gift. It is the Twanta’s own choice whether or not to remain secret.
TWANTEE – the person receiving said gift, with a smile and a song.
TWANTADOR – general term for anyone taking part.
TRIFECTA – the magic three milestones achieved by a Twantador who has (1) sent a gift, (2) learned that it has arrived, and (3) received their own.
TWUMBUG – a dirty rapscallion who fails to send a gift as promised.
FAIRY – a good-hearted TWANTADOR who volunteers to step in and provide a gift at short notice for anyone who falls victim to a TWUMBUG.
TWANTAVERSE – every bloody thing to do with Twanta. Constantly expanding.
EPISTLETOE – a hand-written letter included with the gift to add a virtual Christmas kiss and a personal touch. Not to be confused with Camel Toe, which is something entirely different.
Occasionally I get told off by SundayPix lovers because I either forget or CBA to set a theme. In an effort to overcome this I’ve drawn up this schedule of themes for the rest of the year. Bookmark this post, then if dim old Wombie forgets again you can simply refer back here. I’m especially looking forward to 13th November.
For those who don’t know, SundayPix is a weekly photograph thingy I run on Twitter. See me there for more info.
25/09 Festival – @dbrereton
09/10 The pattern on my duvet cover – @little_mavis
23/10 Sunday Confessional – a weekend guilty pleasure – @allthisandless
06/11 Bonfire night
13/11 Audio – speak a movie quote for others to identify – @kjcollard
04/12 Favourite book cover – @_polyhymnia
01/01 To be decided by a poll of SundayPixers