THE MODEL

Chris R-1-227 Image by Christine Renney

If the model had been bigger it wouldn’t have survived, someone would have destroyed it years ago, taken a hammer and smashed it to smithereens. But the baseboard was a little less than a metre square and it fitted easily into the back of a small van or a large estate car and so moving it from place to place hadn’t ever been that difficult, not too much of a task. When it outstayed its welcome there was always someone able to transport it and somewhere else willing to take it. And so the model had survived and it had languished in little museums and dusty civic centres and draughty village halls. Over the years people had looked at it and a lot of them had been impressed. But no-one had really, really looked at it, not in the way he did. Jacob was the first to study and scrutinise it and to recognise just how delicate, how intricate and extraordinary it was.

The model was a sprawling cityscape of high-rise towers, a section of a much larger metropolis. It wasn’t a re-creation of a particular place, not New York or Singapore or Chicago or Hong Kong. This city was the model makers’ invention and no attempt had been made to conjure anything futuristic or other-worldly. No, this place was representative of the here and now, a city that had once been high-tech and ultra modern but was quickly fading, losing its lustre and its glow.
The model was constructed from molded plastic and the paintwork was exquisite. It had been the model maker’s forte, the masterstroke. At first glance the tower blocks appeared identical and it was only when you looked closely that you noticed the subtle differences and could see the wealth of tiny detail and Jacob couldn’t stop looking.

As he moved around the model that first afternoon and gazed down into it and it snatched the hours away from him, he wracked his brain for an analogy. The best he could come up with was that it was a little like staring at a computer generated image on a screen. A scene from a game perhaps or a video installation. A mid twentieth century city that has become jaded and has somehow lost its way. A place where no-one wants to be, certainly not somewhere that Jacob would want to go and yet he couldn’t stop looking.

Squinting in the bright sunlight, Jacob felt giddy and disoriented. Stumbling he managed to reach the bench in front of the community hall and he sat. Gradually he began to focus again and, looking up, he realised that it was a beautiful evening. After standing for so long in front of the model he needed to stretch his legs and started to walk.
Jacob had lived in this small town since he was a child and he couldn’t remember ever being anywhere else. But, as he walked through the narrow streets and alongside the rows of Georgian and Victorian houses, it began to dawn on him that he had not looked properly at the place in years. Moving out across the market square he felt like a stranger but no, not a stranger, like someone returning to their home town after a long journey and discovering it anew. It felt good and Jacob considered himself to be lucky, lucky to be here and yet he knew that, in the morning, he would re-visit the community hall and look again at the model. That he would look at it as often as he could and for as long as he was able.

FESTER

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-1-224 Image by Christine Renney

This story has been published previously in the journal ‘Yellow Mama’ – my thanks to Editor, Cindy Rosmus.

A chain link fence runs along the back of the terraced houses and the posts have been pulled across the path. Taking giant steps, the boy walks on the green plastic mesh. Avoiding garden refuse and a rusty bicycle frame, he reaches the gap between the garages on his right. He leaps clear of the web and stumbles onto the ground. Flies rise in his face but he stays down and, collecting himself, he crawls forward on all fours.
Keeping to the centre of the narrow cut, he pushes an old Coke can in front of him. A little of the drink spills onto the dirt. Flies buzz around the sweet and sticky droplets and he notices now the swarm, a little to his left, close to the…

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GHOST LETTER 52

Chris R-1-174 Image by Mark Renney

The Bus Station is no longer a beacon, a light I can head toward at night or a place where I can just fleetingly expose myself to a little daytime bustle or I can step into from out of the cold and warm my hands on a polystyrene cup of weak but scalding hot tea.
The Station’s usefulness for me is fast fading and yet I am here all of the time now. I stalk its environs and it is hardly ever out of my sight and never clear of my mind. I am haunted by it or more accurately I am the one who haunts the Station. I am an ethereal presence, hovering above the ground, a waft of smoke with no reflection in the glass. But if they looked, if the rush hour regulars really, really looked and not just when they arrive but also when they leave, if they looked back from the windows of their buses they would see me standing here, still waiting.

THE LAST STATION

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-1-206 Image by Christine Renney

The Station was small and tidy. This is what struck Carter as he stepped onto the platform; how incredibly neat and tidy it was. The Ticket Booth and Waiting Room were painted a muted purple that shone in the sunlight. There were window boxes and the flowers were unseasonably fresh and fragrant. Strangely, there were no signs and Carter had no idea where he was.
He realised that the train he had only just departed was already pulling away and he could so easily have jumped back on board and made his way back but he didn’t.
He moved toward the Ticket Booth and the middle-aged woman behind the glass smiled broadly. But as he drew closer Carter realised that it wasn’t a woman at all but a cardboard cut-out, faded and creased. And the smile he had found so welcoming at a distance was in…

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MASTERPIECES II

Chris R-1-204 Image by Christine Renney

I was flicking through the TV channels the other night
A skinhead appeared on the screen
An actor in front of a black backdrop
Running on the spot
Shouting into the living room
Resolute
But lonely and desperate,
Like the jagged blue ink letters
Stamped on his forehead
He was for real

Anyway, I stuck with it
The director said: I hope they gain something
They said, in their cells, it’s a laugh
Anything that got them out for a while
One bloke, he started quoting Nietzsche
Reworking his philosophy to fit his life
Prison being part of it, for him, what he did

The skinhead said he was taking the street with him
If he wasn’t here that’s where he’d be
Getting a hit, stealing a car, bricking shop windows
Acting these out could be good
I won’t be acting said the skinhead
It’s gonna be scary
Something like they’ve never seen before

(I thought about chaperoned school trips
Edinburgh and Stratford-upon-Avon
Holidays, France and Filey
The Donkey Derby)

After the first night
They were buzzing
As good as stealing a car
Better pouring it out for the people who
Listened and applauded
The Nietzsche bloke, he got onto culture shocks

(I remembered reading my own story in class at school
I thought about Warhol and his quote about fame
And then my wedding
My wife
My best man
And being his best man
I thought about the old man
And his poems
And his
Masterpieces)