Rhythms in Tobacco and in Fog

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2009 by Nicki

He’d be in a big chair, with a fire going.  We’d be smoking pipes and drinking brandy.  Every once in awhile he would stop reading and we would have a discussion about what he just read. Who was this learned traveler? I only remember this conversation like a dream. The last words I told him as he left were blown back at me, oval mouth lined with moustache and tobacco crumbs.

‘The fog gathers in the corners, in your lungs. It settles in your soul. Button up your coat.’


When he left I felt numb.  Even the fire failed to restore the usual invigorating flow of my blood.  Dawn was placing long hands on windowsills and still, there I was, blowing on embers, my breath slow and painfully rhythmic. I was trying to grasp hold of stability, buffet squirming thoughts into steadfast pattern.  Suddenly Crenshaw hurled his feathered body like a small cannonball into my arms.  He pecked the soft roll of skin beneath my chin, determined to have my eyes on him.  I brushed off the bird and vaguely heard him scuttling into the kitchen, sulking no doubt.  I heard the lid of the biscuit tin lifted, crashing to the neatly swept, hard-dirt floor.  Moments later Crenshaw flew into the fireplace, gingerbread sticking from gullet.  Aghast I saw him perching on a flaming piece of coal.  My pet!  Crenshaw opened his beak to let out a horrific scream, more fantastic than any other scream known to birdkind. I lurched forward, pulled out the raven and sat rubbing his smoldering talons.  Crenshaw swallowed laboriously as I massaged his belly.  He tipped his beak back in bliss.  My thoughts never ceased to circle the occurrences of the night before. I got up, pacing the small distance between fireplace and kitchen.  Crenshaw lolled in my arms, little saucy tongue hanging out.      


The day continued wandering, slightly unsteadily on her feet.  Near the edge of afternoon the front doormat had small frost crystals forming.  I sat on a wooden block, watching the crystals and drinking spicy tea.  Near me Crenshaw sat reading ‘Spirits of the Dead’.  I had been perusing a volume of the travels of a contemporary adventurer, and wishing myself on the ocean or in my caravan, at least, when I decided that my pet had had enough morbid literature to last him his entire life.  The sun was going down, leaking last rays of warmth across the cobblestones.  Freezing and starving, I kicked aside the doormat and opened the house door.   We prepared a gigantic pot of vegetable stew, with bay leaves.  Suddenly Crenshaw let a carrot drop that he’d been chopping with his beak, and with a shriek left through the north tower window.  Used to my pet’s antics I shrugged my shoulders and continued with the stew until a potful sat neatly bubbling over the fire. 

It was late that night when the raven returned. I’d fallen asleep with several books across my chest, scent of leather bindings lulling me into a deep sleep that took me to foreign lands. Crenshaw appeared with head feathers sticking up like a little punk.  He sat with rain gleaming on his blue-black feathers, exuberant smile lurking in his shrewd eyes.  Around his foot was tied a ribbon, black, with a lunar shimmer to it.  I took hold of it, curious and suddenly wide-awake.  Where had this inquisitive raven been?

There was no doubt about it – he must have visited Lady October.    



Story by one young reader!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20, 2009 by Nicki


Major R. Thunderbolt gripped the sides slightly harder, clamping his jaw tightly together. (Not that it made much of a difference; clamping his jaw could not stop this flimsy contraption falling apart.)  If he had one of his favourite cigars in his mouth, he would have ground its stump to a pulp, a thing which he only did when he was nervous (which wasn’t very often).  Major R. Thunderbolt was hurtling through the air at breakneck speed with a crazy professor in front of him in a flying machine.  This flying machine, which had been clapped together by the eccentric, seemingly mad scientist Silas Arrow, had two propellers at the rear end of the craft.  Of course there were wings, but these didn’t seem too sturdy.  Two seats were in the body of the craft, which were currently occupied by Silas Arrow and Major R. Thunderbolt.  Major R. Thunderbolt seemed much taken in by the idea that this day could very well be his last.  To think that he had survived so many battles, sieges, sniper bullets, bombs, attacks, assaults and missions only to get finished off by a malfunctioning flying apparatus seemed to weigh heavily on his mind.  He closed his eyes, hoping he would miraculously wake up in his bed from this exceptionally bad nightmare….. after all he had not planned on actually flying in this machine.  The excited professor had insisted that the Major test the co-pilot seat for comfort.  Then the engine started and Silas Arrow shouted with glee, “Off we go!”

  “Well, that was quite a spiffing flight, wasn’t it?” Silas Arrow queried, excitement written all over his face.  “Next time you could be a bit more specific about what you’re going to do with this flying contraption of yours,” the rather annoyed Major growled, and felt to see if all his bones were in place.  “That thing nearly shook me to pieces,” he muttered under his breath.  “Well, I’m sorry about having taken my little machine for an early ride,” Silas shrugged.  “SORRY?  I nearly fell out of that thing!” said the Major, pointing an accusing finger at the machine, which hadn’t completed the neatest landing.  “I –” His words were cut short by the arrival of three men.  Both Silas and Major Thunderbolt didn’t like the appearance of these men, especially the latter, who had many bad experiences with shifty characters.  The three people advanced, and the Major and Silas instinctively pulled back.  One of the men, who seemed to be the leader, advanced menacingly.  Major Thunderbolt’s mind told him something was not right.  “Where were the other two men?” he asked himself.  He got his answer soon enough.  Suddenly both he and Silas Arrow were attacked from behind!  Then they both lost consciousness.

  THUMP!  When they woke up, they were bound and gagged. Well, what a turn of events, thought Silas.  Outside he heard crashes.  Evidently the robbers were searching his house/laboratory/work-shop for anything useful or valuable.  That’s strange, Silas reflected.  Hardly anyone knows that this place exists, and even fewer people know what I do.  Suddenly Major Thunderbolt sat up and proceeded to untie the bewildered inventor.  As soon as his gag was taken out he asked, “How did you get free so quickly?”

“An old trick I learned,” was the reply.  “Well, what now?” The inventor asked.  “Distract them, get a big stick and give them a ding on the coconut, then tie them up neater than an Easter ham.”   “If you put it that way…”  The Major then found two suitably large objects to knock the intruders with.  But Silas had a better idea. 

The ransacking assailants could hardly have been more surprised when they heard a very loud “Hallooooooooooo” from a corner of the inventor’s workshop.  One of the rogues grumbled “If yer didn’t tie those knots tight, Bill, you’re gonna be in trouble!” “I always tie me knots tight, Bob!” retorted the man who was known as Bill.    “Bert, go see what that noise was!” commanded Bob.  “Why is it always me?” whinged Bert. “Just go!” Bob shouted. But before anyone could go see what was going on there was a mechanical hissing noise followed by several grinds and clanks.  Suddenly a strange-looking vehicle ploughed through the mess that the bandits had created and screamed to a halt.  The vehicle had treads, with two seats and a triumphant Silas Arrow and Major Thunderbolt sitting in it!

After the three villains had been tied up and been taken care of, Silas rushed off to see if any damage had occurred.  He returned with an unhappy look on this face.  Major Thunderbolt said, “Well, I suppose all’s well that ends well,” “That’s all right for you to say,” said Silas dejectedly.  “These barbarians practically tore apart this place!!!!!  Most of my creations have been obliterated!!  It will take me months, maybe even years before I get this building back into the state it was before these philistines ploughed in!” “Well, then you’d best get started right away,” Major Thunderbolt said as he proceeded to light one of his favourite cigars.

The End


Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2009 by Nicki


ochre-coloured room, daylight
suspended between moth wings.

gust exhaling from behind,
release and conceal

‘for lounge use only’.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29, 2009 by Nicki

‘Where can you be found’ is a question often asked. But where you find me depends on my mood. Where does one find wind.  Where does one find the north star. Where are syllables found?  You might find a pair of boots in the ditch, or an orphan child. Perhaps a silk cravatte soaked in sweat and eau de cologne. But more likely you’ll find that with the changing of the wind the hemisphere shifts. The star outside your window smirks.  You’ll find words dribbling from your mouth slightly differently. Softer – here yesterday, goo today. Staler – airy today, porous tomorow. And the cycle goes on, clack-clack knitting needles knitting a shawl of metaphors. Well I can knit a good ol’ shawl. If you need soup and a shawl, come to mine. I’ll make a stew for you, humming to the hard little flames that refuse to die in this damp climate. 

My main trade, however, is book peddling.  I sell periodicals, serials, leather-bound atlases, travel tales, religious texts, histories, and navigation maps.  Find me in my caravan…find trails of loose paper where Crenshaw, my pet raven, has dragged leaflets of Edgar Allen Poe (his favorite author).  He is reading ‘The Conqueror Worm’ one page at a time…sometimes he brings back a page he has finished perusing on some high perch overlooking London-town. Other days he forgets and the pidgeons, who have no respect for book learning, giggle at the long words.  You may see them dash beneath fountain water at Picadilly Circus mouthing,

 ‘Motley drama!’ 

 ‘A blood-red thing!’

 ‘It writhes!- it writhes!-‘. 

They cackle rauscously, beaks splitting open until one of them tips backwards into the basin.  The death of Fred brings reason back to pidgeon-brain, however temporary this may be.

I alternate between caravan and coffee houses. Since last November I’ve been frequenting Assaf’s coffee house, a fine red place of Persian carpets and green glass china.  Dim candelabras and bolts of Turkish coffee rearrange the atmosphere between fading and glowing. I’ve been aquainted with two backgammon players and they have several times specified rules on paper napkins, which Crenshaw inevitably destroys with his greasy after-dinner claws. Meticulous bird.

What I sang today.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2009 by Nicki



Your heart will have a great moral trailing down it like a vine.