Bogies, and other equally messed up tales of love, lust, drugs and grandad porn-Launch

2 12 2013

Some extracts from Ryan Bracha’s newly released short story collection:

I started this collection in March of 2013, with the express intention of releasing six individual stories of varying lengths as standalone tales throughout the year, and then putting them together with some exclusive stories in a full sized book. These individual stories would be sold as cheaply as possible, or free whenever possible. I’d written two novels, and as much as I love the process of writing a full length book, I had this itch where I wanted to create several oddball characters, and put them in equally strange situations. Individually I would call this project The Short Shorts, and a story could be something I’d thought about for weeks, or something that just came to me in the morning and I’d finish a 6,000 word piece by night time. The whole project could be used as a metaphor for my complete creative process, really. I don’t plan so much. Most of the time I just write. If I don’t like where my characters are taking it, I reign them in, and start again. Sometimes I have the next 20,000 words mapped out in my head, and eagerly hammer away at my keyboard until I get to my destination. As chaotic as the process usually is, I love it. I love telling stories. I love making my reader chuckle, or gasp, or retch at the audacity of what my characters do or say. But most of all, I love creating characters. The following extracts are prime examples of what crap flows through my head at the best of times. I hope they sound like your cup of tea. If not, then don’t worry. My motto is It wouldn’t do if we were all the same.

Baron Catastrophe and the King of the Jackals:

“So how are you?” I sit on the sofa. It’s the flowery pale brown one that she’s had since I was a child. There’s still the dark, but faded outline of a stain from times gone by. I always avoid it. I know what caused it. The needles clack together as she knits another scarf. This one looks like it’s going to be green and blue. She knits them and then she sends them straight to the charity shop. She doesn’t send them to just a single one, she rotates the causes for each one. Cancer, animals, heart attacks, famine, blindness, she doesn’t discriminate. Every charity shop in Barnsley has at least ten of her scarves, and there are a lot of charity shops in Barnsley.
“Same as yesterday, you?” she doesn’t look up, her focus is on the blur of plastic and wool.
“Can’t complain,” I lie for the second time today. My heart is still thumping from a combination of that poster, and the extra twenty or so minutes of uphill walking that it has forced me into and I could throw up all over her. She seems happy with my response though, and we each sit in silence. The intermittent clicks and clacks of her knitting save us from total dead air. She has a television but I’m not sure she has ever watched it. Not least while I’ve been in the room with her anyhow. This is one of the things that we have in common. My fingertips rub the fabric on the sofa backward and forward. I used to write my name in it by pulling the grain of the fur back against itself.
“What do you call those little stockings?” I ask eventually, the question having been on my tongue for a while. Still her eyes remain upon her handiwork.
“What stockings?”
“Those ones that only go halfway up your shins?”
“Support socks. Or pop socks, I suppose”
“Oh.”
Another mystery of my life solved. Another piece of my knowledge jigsaw clipped into place. Another reason to sleep somewhat better tonight.

Glass Half Empty:

My eyes flicker toward Southern Keith at the bar who’s also got money on this one. Southern Keith is from the Midlands, but moved down south some years ago. He moved back up here for work last year and has become an ever present fixture in the pub. He’s usually really quite pleasant, but his mood swings sometimes set me on edge.
“Come on you dirty shit!” he growls, one hand gripped firmly around the handle of his Nottingham Forest tankard. White knuckles. Bobby’s Boy continues to edge further from the rest and I allow a smile, just a small one, to creep onto my face. This wins and it’s my rent paid this month. Victory from the jaws of eviction. An unlikely outcome, considering my luck of late, but not impossible. I can barely watch. It will only raise hopes higher than they deserve to be. Higher than they ever get. Southern Keith downs his pint of heavy and slams the tankard onto the bar, ejecting Old Terry straight from his slumber, and attracting a raised eyebrow from Northern Keith, the landlord. Northern Keith was only called Keith until Southern Keith arrived, and we needed some way to differentiate.


The Bad Day:

It’s six thirty. His still drunk, aching body switches onto autopilot and he finds himself upright, heavy heels thud against the floorboards and his body manoeuvres toward the bathroom. Pulls at the bathroom light cord. Realises that it’s already light enough in there and plinks it back off. He’s barely aware of himself as he steps into the shower cubicle, his hand spins the tap, starts up the shower. The hot streams of water serve to slowly but surely chip away at the thick film of lethargy that coats him from head to toe. Gives him the illusion that he’s feeling much more awake. He scrubs at his nooks and crannies with Babs’ bright pink clown’s wig loofah sponge, coated in thick minty shower gel, made with approximately eight thousand actual mint leaves. The mint in the gel leaves a tingle around his arsehole and under his armpits, and serves to further awaken his senses just ever so slightly. He switches off the shower. Stands beneath the dripping head and loosely, half-heartedly dries away the water and a few still remaining suds.

Playing Out Clothes:

I’ll always remember Playing Out Clothes. I met him briefly in ninety two. I smelled him before I saw him, really. That tangy, sweaty arse crack kind of smell. Some sort of vinegar crossed with shit aroma, but with a subtle hint of bread and butter. All wrapped up in a bundle of clothes that, although washed, had been left in the basket to collect a bitter damp smell. Imagine that and you’ve got it. Now imagine that stink sitting two chairs down in your very first high school assembly on your very first day there. The head teacher introducing herself to the new wave of students, proffering words of well-meaning but ultimately flawed advice on how to make the best of your time at school. Words by somebody who had clearly either forgotten their own time as a twelve to sixteen year old, or simply misremembered it. Or was just a blatant liar.

Bogies:

As I peruse the shelf the weathered old shopkeeper, a thin and long stick insect of a man with a full head of white hair, gazes at me over the top of his specs like I’ve laid a heavy, steaming, long poo across the doorway like some ecologically friendly draught excluder. I don’t know what his problem is, I mean, he sells the stuff, why judge the people that buy it? My eyes scan the titles beneath the modesty sleeves. Granny Sluts. Reader’s Wives. Fifty and Filthy. Sixty and Sexy. Asian Babes. It’s mostly niche stuff. I pick up Granny Sluts and turn to the counter, drop down the plastic coated publication with a heavy slap and a cheery grin.
“Alright?” I ask, with a smile in my eyes. The good gentleman vendor makes some gruff variation of a greeting. Scans the barcode with a bleep and doesn’t say anything. Just nods toward the illuminated price which informs me that I’ll be paying just under seven quid for this particular pleasure. Seems fair. I drop a tenner into his dry palm, slide the magazine into my leather satchel, and await my change. He eyes me suspiciously as he fingers the coins in the till, slowly bringing the change my way. Between the standard facial features there are long and deep wrinkles that it takes all of my resistance to hold from fingering curiously, just to see what he’s holding in there.
“Thanks,” I smile gratefully, not even a hint of shame in my eyes with the purchase I’ve just made. It’s for the greater good. He’ll love it.

The Tale I Said I’d Tell:

We were all there. The usual bunch. Me, Black Rob, Lee Jones, Ryan Davies, and a kid we called Winnit. We called him that because he was always hanging off of our arses, everywhere we went there was always Winnit. I’d paid up with Dave and then got another nine bar on tic. A nine bar is nine ounces of solid hash, by the way. I always had enough to cover my own smoking needs on top of what I’d sell to make money, and that night I was feeling a bit generous so I was sharing out the spliffs and bongs with the rest of my pals. Most of us were just about passed out by the time it happened. There was a bang on the window. Lee and Ry barely stirred from their stoned states of mind, and Winnit was out cold. There was only me and Black Rob anything like compus mentus. I looked at Rob and he looked at me. Neither of us much bothered for going to investigate, but the bang came again, only this time it was three hard fisted smacks against the panes.
“Oi! Watch yerselves!” shouted Black Rob, “you’ll smash me fookin’ windows!”
The three hard bangs came again, so I stood up and went to pull the curtains open, ready for giving shit to whoever it was. Just as I opened the curtains there was this almighty crash. My world went black.

The Short Version:

Young Jenny scrawls up some crude posters. Dog missing. Gimme my dog back. Have you seen Freckles? That kind of thing. Jenny takes these posters and sticks them up around the small mining village that she and her family live in. One of those kinds of places where everybody knows everybody. At least one of every family worked in the pits at any one time. Until the strikes. Until Thatcher. You know? Everybody knew everybody. So it’s this knowledge that leaves Jenny’s mum and dad feeling secure about their little girl wandering about on her own. They were called Karen and Steve. Her parents. That was their names. Jenny’s just about put up her last poster when a car pulls up behind her. Some said it was a brown Volvo. Others a cream Opal Manta. Another witness said it was green. A green Ford Escort. Witnesses said that the man inside rolled down his window. Calls Jenny over. You could only assume that the guy has some sort of information about Freckles. The poor little bastard. Jenny skips over to the car. The car pulls away. No more Jenny. Like gone in a puff of smoke. Like magic. Except it wasn’t magic. They found her body four weeks later, by a railway track. Mutilated. Messed with.

Call Me Dr Fuck Knuckles:

“Did you just look at my wife’s arse John?”
John coughed harshly, and turned to Dr Fuck Knuckles, and then Helen with fear and confusion in his eyes.
“No, I didn’t! Helen I promise I didn’t,” he frantically pleaded, holding her hand tighter. Helen smiled at him and kissed him on the cheek before looking to her dad.
“Daddy, behave yourself.”
“When that letch is undressing my wife, your mother, with his eyes, in my house?”
“In your house what dear?” asked the returning Cynthia, carrying what looked remarkably like two deep green plastic one litre bottles of white cider.
“Oh nothing, except I caught Helen’s boyfriend sexing you with his eyes. Sexing you!”
“He wasn’t sexing me were you John?” she purred, but her eyes sparkling with something that said sexing was exactly what she wanted from him. John coughed again.
“No, I wasn’t, I really wasn’t.”
“See, dear? John says he wasn’t. Shall I pour the bubbly?”

Tha Dunt Come Frumt Tarn Tha Gets Nowt Frumt Tarn:

As if on cue there’s a knock at the door. Danny.
“Knock knock,” he says.
“You don’t need to say knock knock Daniel. You just knocked,” I speak as I peer over the edge of my hardback first edition, “besides, you just came in, I don’t think there was even a need to actually knock.”
“Ah shurrup, I was wondering if you’d changed your mind about the Secret Millionaire thing.”
This is what I like about Danny, he doesn’t seem to even understand that I’m loaded, it means nothing to him. I feel like reminding him.
“I’ll consider it if you punch yourself in the face,” I say, Danny smiles and shakes his head.
“Easy stuff, you got nowt better than that? You must be feeling really down,” he says with a sigh. He’s right. I was just discussing my imagination getting a work out and then I go and spoil it all by suggesting something stupid like a self-punch to the face.
“Okay, fair enough. I’ll consider it if you throw yourself out of my bedroom window. I’ll give you ten grand too,” I say, take that Daniel you Northern Monkey.

The Happiest Day of Your Lives:

“I’ll always remember when Lee came up to me and told me that he thought he’d met the woman of his dreams. I laughed my arse off, I really did, because he’s always been a warm ‘un. Can’t keep it in his pants. Well, he couldn’t keep it in his pants,” I say, noting a few looks of disapproval, “until he met the beautiful Fiona.”
I smile down at the bride, she’s not impressed with me, but that’s fine. I’m the best man. The best man. She’ll get over it.
“Fiona whirled into his life like a hurricane. A beautiful, sexy, stunner of a hurricane. He was besotted by her. I can tell you. There were so many times I asked him if he was coming up the town and he said no. You know why ladies and gentlemen? You know why? Because he was head over heels in love with her. She’s so good for him. He-“
I pause. Aware that I’m going off on one. I knew I should’ve left the coke out of the party, at least until the speech was done, can’t help myself though, can I?
“She is. She’s great for him. She’s made a real man out of my favourite boy. I’m gonna miss him, of course I am. Much like a lot of you are missing Tony.”
My mouth feels dry, and I grab a sip of water. Some people have just broken down over the missing brother, but like I say, he’ll show up.

The Banjo String Snapped but the Band Played on:

Jesus didn’t speak. Just sat, slumped on the green and red padded and striped bench behind the knackered old table, the remains of a beer mat bunched up in a small pile of shredded card from where he’d decimated it. His filthy, muddy, blood stained previously-white trainers poked their scabby noses out from beneath his torn piss-stained robe. His crown of thorns was a distant memory, as was his makeshift crucifix, only the faded red stigmata remained of his sacrifice to humankind. His bright red-rimmed eyelids battled gravity bravely but felt so heavy. His neck felt as if it had been chipped away at by an invisible lumberjack, and was now holding on to his ten-stone head by luck alone. He needed to sleep. He’d give up everything he owned, or had ever owned, to be in his bed right now. Through his glassy eyed gaze he watched The Pimp approach, his own shitty feeling mirrored in The Pimp’s demeanour. The Pimp clumsily plonked the pint glasses down onto the table, spilling ice cold cider over his fingers, the beer mats, and the sticky chipped varnish of the wooden surface. The Pimp pulled his wet fingers to his mouth and slurped the booze from them with a laboured effort. The last thing Jesus needed now was more drink, so he was more than surprised by his own hand’s actions as it sailed through the air toward the pint glass, returning to his proximity with the booze, drawing it to his lips which surprised him further still by gulping down a generous helping. The alcohol burned his throat, and did absolutely nothing to quench the raging thirst which had been a product of his weekend so far, he would happily kill for a massive glass of water, lemonade, Coke, anything. Anything that did not have an alcohol content. Had a random stranger entered the bar, and handed him a machine gun with the instruction to pepper each and every one of the locals in their stupid faces in exchange for a two-litre bottle of lemonade he would have undertaken his deadly task with a veritable relish, and only when he’d absorbed every drop of thirst quenching goodness would the guilt over his merciless killing spree begin to set in. But at least I’d not be thirsty, he thought malevolently.

End of extracts

Bogies, and other equally messed up tales of love, lust, drugs and grandad porn is Available here
You can find Ryan and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing and on Amazon.

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