The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
Bill told me first.
Maybe it is the heat. I heard a man say that. He said the heat
here makes people happy. I remember thinking that this was strange
because he seemed anything but happy. No matter. The point is
I am a different person since I came here. Whether it is because
of the heat or something else does not concern me. What is important
is that I have re-invented myself. I am happy.
I will describe
my day to you.
I wake early. I make coffee, sit on the veranda and smoke and dream
about the past. Then I shower, get dressed and take a walk around town.
I go to the harbour and talk to the fishermen. I talk to the shopkeepers.
I talk to lots of people. Then I return home and sleep.
Then I meet you. We talk for a while and then I tell you my stories.
Then I go home and I sit and I think about what I have told you. Sometimes
Then I sleep.
Then I get up and I have a beer, maybe more than a beer. Okay. I have
several beers. I drink too much, I know that. Alcohol helps me.
In the evening I listen to music. I listen to all kinds of music. I
put on the radio and I listen to that channel you told me about. I never
Some days I walk to the beach and I swim out to your boat. Once I walked
to the far side of the island and slept the night in that cave you told
me about. But most days I stay at home and sleep.
One day I will do something constructive with my life. I have always
wanted to work with my hands. There is something gratifying about working
with your hands.
Maybe one day I will meet a woman and settle down and raise a family.
Stranger things have happened.
Actually I have met a woman here. Not long after I arrived I was in
the square and a woman sat down next to my table. She was beautiful.
I think you know her. You seem to know everyone here. Her name is Alice.
She came here four, five years ago and lives behind the church. She
has dark hair and big blue eyes. Her father grew up on the island and
emigrated to America. Thats why shes here. She wants to
re-connect with her past, or maybe her fathers past. She has a
stall in the market and sells paintings of the island.
Im getting tired now. I think I might go home and sleep. Then
take a swim. I love swimming when the sun is going down. Actually I
dont swim much these days. I just float on my back. I dont
know, it helps me to relax. Sometimes I close my eyes and the next thing
I know Im out at sea. I say sometimes but it has only
happened once. I will never do that again. I thought I was going to
die. It took every ounce of energy I had to get back to the beach. I
didnt realise how dangerous the sea can be here.
I came here once before. Did I tell you that ? About ten years ago I
came here with a group of friends and we rented an apartment up on the
north coast. We did the usual thing - went to the beach during the day
and got drunk of a night. I remember thinking I wanted to come back
here one day. Ive been to many places in my life and it is the
only time I have thought that. There is something about this place.
That cave is amazing. All night I lay there and listened to the water
passing over me. Ive never been interested in nature before. But
that night it hit me that I am part of everything and everything is
part of me. I could have lay there for days. At one point it felt like
the water was inside my head. Im not joking.
The second thing Bill told.
I was with Jason. Wed been drinking all day. We were enjoying
ourselves. We were having a laugh. We were engaging with people. We
were being sociable, for Christ sake.
Its difficult to say how it started. There were women involved,
I know that much. And confusion. One of us said something and it was
taken the wrong way and all hell broke loose. I cant remember
what was said. Thinking about it, probably it doesnt matter. They
were out to thump someone and they chose us. We were in the wrong place
at the wrong time. It can happen to anyone. Trust me.
I caught the first blow. As my body doubled I took another and flew
backwards, hitting the juke box and collapsing in a heap.
Jason got the worst of it. The man stuck a knife in him and slashed
I forget when Bill told me this
They were sitting on the fence. When they saw me they shouted obscenities
at me. Normally this would not have bothered me but today I felt depressed.
I walked over to the biggest and hit him in the face. He fell backwards
off the fence and hit the ground. I asked if anyone else wanted some
but no one replied. I continued on my way.
I reached Jasons. I rang his bell and waited. I had told myself
not to have anything more to do with Jason but, as usual, I decided
to give him another chance.
The door opened. We grinned at each other.
- Sorry, Bill.
- Dont worry about it, I said. Just dont do it again. Okay
He nodded. We went inside.
Let me tell you about Jason. Jason is an idiot. Ive known Jason
for years so I can say that. The guy cant even add up. You can
tell him something a hundred times and it will never sink in. Hes
- Whatve you been up to ? I asked him.
- Not much, he shrugged.
- Seen Maria ?
Maria is Jasons girlfriend. Sorry, was Jasons girlfriend.
Maria died last year of an overdose. Im not sure what happened
exactly. One minute she was alive and the next she wasnt.
- I havent seen Marie for over a week.
He stared at me but I didnt respond. Whats the point ? Their
business is their own. Ive got my own shit to deal with. Its
not like anyones looking out for me.
I got up and put on some music. I think it was Travis. Then I went into
the kitchen and got myself a beer.
- Youre better off without her, I said, sitting back down.
- Dont say that. I love her.
- I do, he said.
The reason I disliked Maria is straightforward. She was a nut. Then
again all women are nuts.
- Look. If youve just come round here to -
The bell went.
- Thatll be her now. Go on, I said, go and answer the door like
a lapdog. Do what youre good at.
Jason went out into the hall, closing the door behind him.
In a second they would start fighting. Jason and Maria had been together
for years and all they did was fight. Sometimes I split them up but
mostly I did what I am doing now. In a way I enjoyed listening to them
fight. Most couples keep their problems to themselves. While I sat and
listened to Jason and Maria fight it was like they were educating me.
Finally Jason came back into the room. He shook his head and said Maria
was at it again, meaning, she wanted money. I told him to forget her.
I told him she wasnt worth bothering with. I told him to wake
up and demand more from life.
Did he listen to me ? Up until Maria died Jason was convinced he could
change her. He never stopped loving her, no matter how badly she treated
him. He still does. I saw him before I left and all he could talk about
was how much he missed her. I refuse to feel sorry for him.
The fourth thing Bill told me
His name was Kurt. He was from New York or maybe Las Vegas. He was a
prick. I met him through a friend and I hated him immediately. He was
about six-five and his neck was huge. Everything he said was offensive.
He only smiled when he thought he had hurt someone. Id like to
say he was an ugly fucker but it isnt true. He looked like a film
icon. Women loved him. He was all surface, though. When he spoke you
could hear his brain turning over, like a dead car.
I cant remember where and when I knocked him to the floor. I remember
pulling back my fist and thumping the side of his head but thats
about it. Jason insists it was at a party but I dont go along
with that because, as far as I know, Jason has never met him. Whatever.
I knocked Kurt to the floor. Where and when is irrelevant. The point
is he was a bully and he got what was coming to him.
Actually I remember where it was now. It was in the Jacaranda. I remember
him speaking to me like I was a piece of shit before pushing himself
off the bar to go the toilet.
- Im going to bang the fucker, I said.
- Dont, Bill. Hes not worth it.
I looked at Jenny, my girlfriend at the time, and told her enough was
On my way to the toilet I clenched my fists and breathed in deeply several
times in an effort to relax myself. I remember telling myself that if
I took him by surprise there could only be one outcome.
I pushed open the door and stepped inside. Kurt had his zip down and
was pissing in the urinal. There was no one else in there. I walked
over and punched the side of his head, following through with my fist
and almost hitting the wall. He dropped to the floor. I paused a moment,
amazed, then turned and made my way out the toilet and back to the bar.
- Lets go, I said, draining what was left in my glass.
We went to another bar. Jenny still could not believe I had hit Kurt.
Im not sure how long I had been seeing Jenny. During this period
I saw a lot of women.
- Tell me again, she said. You went into the toilet
- He had his back to me, I told her. So I went over to him and smacked
- And ?
- And what ? He hit the floor. End of story. I came back out and now
were here. What dyou want me to tell you ?
- I want the truth.
- Im telling you the truth.
This makes me laugh. Back then I thought I could say that - Im
telling you the truth - and automatically people would believe me. Now
I know that nobody tells the truth. The best policy is to say nothing.
Keep your secrets to yourself. That way no one can accuse you of being
a liar. A hypocrite, yes, but not a liar.
After that, my guess is we went back to Jennys and had sex and
in the morning forgot all about it. Or maybe we stopped seeing each
other. Whatever. The point is I stood up to him. Jenny could have been
anyone. I dont even think it was Jenny. My heads all over
When Bill told me this everything made sense
I was having a bad day at work. All day I had been putting out fires,
expending my energy and getting nothing in return. I was frustrated.
I wanted to scream. Everyone was getting on my nerves. Whenever anyone
spoke to me I glared at them and said nothing. I wanted to be alone.
It was like I had a fever.
Late in the afternoon, just before we were due to leave work and return
to our respective lives, a meeting was called. Before I entered the
room I heard someone mention that it was serious.
- Whats happening ? I asked the woman from admin, who had sat
down next to me because there was nowhere else to sit. We getting the
- John The Baptist finally gone mad ?
She put a finger to her lips and told me to shush. The meeting had started.
I listened for a while then stopped. The meeting was about nothing.
As per usual. Every time we had a meeting I wished for something dramatic
to happen but it never did. I suppose it happens in every workplace.
People go to work to escape drama, not to seek it out.
Three, four minutes later the meeting was closed and everyone began
filing out the room. I stayed in my seat.
- Everything okay, Bill?
- Not really.
Nicola paused a moment then sat down next to me and asked what was wrong.
- I cant do this job anymore, I told her. I feel
All I do is give, give, give and get nothing in return. Ive had
I hardly ever talked to Nicola. She was nice, though. Attractive. Intelligent
too. You picked that up by the way she conducted herself. She left her
private life at the door.
- Maybe you just need some time off ? Put in for a holiday.
- Its more than that.
I wasnt sure why I was saying this but there seemed some truth
in it. I needed a fresh challenge. I was bored.
Nicola went to say something but I stopped her, got up and walked out
the room, went down the corridor and into my bosss office. And
for fifteen minutes I ranted. Then I sat back and waited for her to
- I think you need a break, Bill. Youre stressed, thats
all. You need to get away and forget about everything. You need to relax.
And thats what I did. I took her advice. I went away and I relaxed
and I forgot about everything. Literally. I mean, I never went back.
I made a new life for myself. A better life. Better because it was new
and different. Thats why I am here. Thats the point Im
trying to make here. Every now and again you have to change things.
Otherwise, well, you end up bored and frustrated. Which has to be the
worst thing imaginable.
The last thing Bill told me
You are in a foreign country. Lets say it is America. You are
in America and you have not spoken to anyone for days. You are tired
of speaking to people. To buy things you gesticulate, make animal noises,
whatever. Ditto if someone asks you for something.
You are wondering how far you can take this.
Okay. You havent spoken to anyone for days and youre starting
to believe you can do this indefinitely. Then a woman walks up to you,
sits down and stares directly into your eyes.
For the first time in years you feel your blood beginning to boil. All
your thoughts, all those conclusions you have reached about women have
- I love you, you tell her.
A lyric enters your head and you almost burst into song. You do burst
into song. You need to mark this moment.
- I love you, you tell her again.
You go back to her apartment and you make love to her. She asks questions
about your life and you tell her everything. Occasionally, you exaggerate.
But thats okay. You have a right to do that. She needs to know
what you have been through. Every second counts now. At any moment she
may change her mind and banish you. Plus you havent spoken to
anyone for days and you realise now just how much you have missed that.
Its like you have been reborn.
You tell her that. You hold her face in your hands and you tell her
that you have been reborn.
© Alan Stokes Feb 2005
See also Stone Cold in the staffroom
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