dark humour, fiction, flash fiction, funny, short story, writing

Heist the Buller

It was a matter of fact, not opinion, that this was not going at all well. They were now half an hour into the job and still no closer to the prize. Starmy wiped drips from his brow, chucking down the industrial saw in anger.

“It’s no good, he huffed. This outer layer looks like a house of straw but it’s tougher than Kevlar. It will be a miracle if we break through this”

“I told you we should have brought Lambo with us on this one, his accomplice said. He’s the muscle in this outfit”

“Shut it, I’m in charge here, Nando” he fired back, digging in his pocket for a dribble free hankie. Finding none he rubbed his blue jacket sleeve around his face, lamenting that it had all come down to this. He stood up slowly, arching his aching back “Where’s Ed? We need him”.

“He said he would wait in the car; you know how he’s always one for a quick getaway. Nando paused, her tone changing slightly. You know sometimes I think you like him better than me. She pouted a little, hands on hips. She could feel the outline of the Dictaphone in her blazer pocket. I’m always here to listen” she added. She felt they trusted each other, it was just, insurance.

He chose not to respond. Starmy’s plan was crumbling round his ears. I don’t have time for this he thought. Time to be a strong leader now. He rubbed his hands together then placed them firmly on Nando’s shoulders, staring her straight in the eye.

“This is not a robbery its’s national service he declared. I need to see where your loyalties lie”

Nando looked confused at the concept. Frustrated, Starmy let go of her. Anger boiling over he could only hiss through gritted teeth.

“Tell Ed not to trip as he goes down the steps”. Nando moved towards the moonlit window so she could text the getaway driver on her burner phone.

What a useless crew Starmy thought. Although he admitted it was a good idea having the burner phones. He was just a bit surprised that they had all got one spare before he’d even mentioned the plan. That was a bit weird.

He wished he’d brought more tools with him.  He had always played by the book, tried to do the right thing till now. Patience had worn to a threaded hole in his ambitions. When would he get to wear the number 10 shirt?

He hated to admit defeat, but it was time to move to plan B. Or to be more accurate, plan D. The last thing they could try. Time to dance with the devil. Time to call in Dom. The loot whisperer.

Starmy was about to place the call when, out of the shadows a scrawny paw laid itself on his cold shoulders.

“No need to call Dom simpered, I’m always around”

Starmy tried not to let Dom feel him shudder under the clammy grasp.

“I’ll find a chink in this armour he offered with a sickly grin. I’m an expert remember”

He laid his rucksack on the ground, rummaging in the contents. Starmy and Nando exchanged a glance as they witnessed a brief reveal of Dom’s knackered boxers as he bent over the bag. As if feeling the gaze, Dom attempted again to tuck the back of his shirt in and failed. He withdrew a small bottle with a cork stopper from the bag. Deftly removing the cork, he wafted its contents under the subject’s nose.  The subject snorted a little but otherwise remained calm.

“Just a little lubrication Dom explained, loosen him up a bit”

Starmy got a brief whiff of the tincture in the stuffy room. It smelled like old money, and pig blood. The feelings of helplessness, like in the old place came over him in waves. He had to press home how important this was. How it mattered.

“We’ve got to get this right Starmy proffered, everything we need to know is in there, all the… secrets

Dom nodded sagely and waved him away as he leant close into the ear of the subject. He turned for a second.

“You can’t break in here with those crude tools he said pointing at the vast array of power tools scattered on the plush carpet. This will take stealth”. He gently stroked the flabby chops  of the subject and smiled again as if reminiscing. “That’s right my pretty he said. They’ll not get through this rhino hide like that”

The eye of the subject flickered briefly. There was a semblance of recognition, half a memory. A borrowed pair of glasses, a postcard from a family trip to a castle.

He leant in once more. The subject’s mumblings grew louder as Dom whispered softly in his ear.

Starmy heard almost incoherent words from the subject. ‘Hands, face, buller buller buller’ it seemed to garble. Reaching a crescendo, Starmy quickly closed the gap in the door. The noise had reached such a pitch he was worried they might disturb the Moggy, peacefully perched in its basement dungeon.

The garbling stopped abruptly. A scraping noise like a long-forgotten hinge cracked open the thatched lid of the Prime Minister’s head. Out rolled a pig skin purse, gilded with dusty swan feathers.

‘Remember you owe me now’ Dom uttered and melted waxy into the shadows of the cabinet office.

With a trembling hand Starmy picked up the bag as the hinged skull shut its door once more.

Stitched in italic gold on the side of the bag were the words ‘The Truth’

Starmy stuffed the bag into his inside jacket pocket. Nando collected their belongings and together they rushed out to the waiting saloon. Ed attempted to rev the engine, forgetting it was an electric. He pushed the pedal to the floor and sped off inaudibly into the London night.

The Prime minister, snorted in his sleep, oblivious to the raid. Only the darkness was now left to witness the midnight blathering, spewing nonsense in its slumber, all its secrets spilled. Inside the skull, the memories, the mistakes, squirming like a forced apology, spilling their way out of the open mouth.

“Hands, face, buller buller buller”.

First published by Punk Noir magazine as part of the ‘Heist’ prompt.

Christmas, dark humour, diary, featured, fiction, Hell, human resources, humour, news, writing

A cold day in Hell

From the diary of Phelan Tweed, Manager of People and Persecutions, Hell Inc

I didn’t think this would ever happen at Hell Inc. The fiery furnace is on the blink and with temperatures plummeting like the souls of devious scam callers through our gates the situation has become more and more alarming. We often talk about the day Hell freezes over. We may just have arrived at that unfortunate juncture.

Brian Bentham, the local representative for the UDP (Union of dead people) paid me a visit despite my email informing him that the engineers had been called. Here was a man with the face of a fairly disgruntled tortoise who had somehow found himself front and centre of an issue that neither of us felt would ever occur. His green roll neck sweater was not helping the situation either. Normally I am only honoured with a personal visit from our union friends in emergencies. One could typically anticipate a long-winded email, peppered with micro aggressions and blind copied into the world and his wife for good measure. Such is the way that the UDP conduct their business. Brian was highly vexed at the cost of no longer living crisis and how it affected his membership, not to mention it was getting rather chilly down here.

‘My members are not happy’ he railed, slamming his fist on the desk and disturbing my overfilled latte. They are not satisfied at all, and my members would like to know what you, being the representative of people in this business are going to do about it’

I found his lack of respect for my coffee break irritating but nonetheless in the interest of partnership working I allowed this indiscretion. The veins in his temples were pulsing and I began to speculate that the rupture of one of these vessels was likely the very cause of him arriving in Hell in the first place.

‘Take this one member of mine, he continued, waggling his podgy digit in my face. This member of mine can’t even afford to keep warm in his hovel of an evening, let alone feed his family. My member is shivering in his shack Mr Tweed.

‘Please would you refrain from describing your union colleagues as ‘Members’ I insisted. It conjures up a highly uncomfortable image in my head’. I think it was the unfortunate combination of the roll neck and his wrinkly bald head.

‘Be that as it may, what action are you going to take?’

By this point I am afraid I was beginning to lose my interest in the conversation and played the card that only a business as unique as ours can. ‘I’m sure they will survive Mr Bentham’ I said failing to hide a smirk. After all, we are here forever. ‘Perhaps we could offer some wellbeing support, how about a free yoga lesson?’ This didn’t go down well. His wrinkly face had turned bright red, he looked like he might actually explode. Although it did give him a rather festive look.

‘I am filing a grievance he yelled, you haven’t heard the last of this’ He stormed out of the office. I have sent him a roll up yoga mat and some candles in the post to cheer him up. I hope this won’t aggravate the silly fool too much. You see, as I have mentioned before, people round here tend to revert to type, they don’t understand or know that they are really dead, and that they are here forever. There is no point in trying to rock the boat or get into arguments with your colleagues about things. The things that affect you on Earth bear no meaning here. Oh it might look like Earth but it is Hell, it is designed to irritate you much as life would have done in the past.  It is about time you got used to it. Time for another coffee I shouldn’t wonder. It was getting rather chilly.

dark humour, diary, featured, fiction, funny, Hell, people, short story, writing

Interviews with the dead

I awoke early this morning knowing I had to interview some people today for the new post. I don’t think any of them had actually realised they were dead yet.  It is notoriously tricky coming to terms with being a living, breathing entity. I don’t have to tell you all that, after all you are doing it right now. All those stages of physical and mental progression and regression, doubts, successes, tackling love. Then, all of a sudden you find it’s over, done. Not surprisingly it can take many years to resolve the issue in your head that deadness (yes that is what we call it) does not have the immediacy to it that one would automatically presume. Awareness of being awake and alive does not come to us instantly, death is much the same. I spend much of my time trying to get people to wake up to the facts.

So back to the interviews. The first candidate had lovely shoes but had an annoying habit of sniffing after he finished a sentence. When he made a point that he was particularly proud of he licked his lips as if savouring the words falling from his gob. Forgive me if I appear hypercritical or unforgiving but I have being doing this work for a long time, perhaps too long. Making decisions about employment round here is a skilled job. If you are aware that you will have to have to put up with these little foibles for eternity you best be the most patient person in the dead world or just avoid employing people at all.  They aren’t the worst of it though. At least they are trying to do something valuable with their time.  Those who aren’t seeking employment generally spend their time drifting around looking for family members for reasons I have yet to fathom. They only visited twice a year when alive (birthday and Christmas – I know, the irony) so why this becomes so important once dead is a mystery to me. Seems to be a misaligned superficial sense of belonging. I was explaining about the first candidate, ultimately he lacked the experience of his predecessor. You must allow me these digressions, after all, we do have till, well, forever.

My name is Phelan Tweed, talent management specialist in the dead world. You may know this as heaven or hell if you are one of those ‘believing in stuff’ types. Quick fact check for those not yet in the know, everyone already existed in heaven and hell simultaneously. It’s called earth. It is surprising that most of us didn’t work this out when it was relevant and yet we spend most of our time in constant astonishment and horror at the wonderful and most terrible things that happen there. The thing is, in the dead world it’s just like earth but more monotonous, because its forever, so you can take your time to achieve things. It’s not quite as hilly which is good because we have a lot of pensioners here. Ironically people are less risk averse, once they work out that the worst thing that can happen already has. It is not uncommon to find fragile gentleman white water rafting on a weekend.  You can’t exactly end up more dead, can you?

The role we are aiming to fill here is security. It’ a pretty easy role. Stand at the gates, let people in, check they are properly dead (usually they are, but sometimes you get those special cases and they get turned right back round). You get a nice office and sometimes Janice brings biscuits in. We can usually tell who to refuse entry to as every couple of minutes their whole body jumps 2 feet as if they have been electrocuted. It’s very disconcerting having a conversation with someone in that position. Sometimes they turn up with the paddles still attached. Big giveaway.

It was a shame to see Pete retire. He had been at the gates for a lot of years. He had some kind of mid life crisis I guess and started attending poetry slams in the hippy quarter. Think he found his calling, I mean, he already had the beard.

So we were still after a replacement. I had a whole list of people to see but each of them was an extra level of foible that I could hardly deal with. The next lady ended her sentence with both a raised inflection and a barely but definitely audible ‘mm hm’ as if to emphasise her point. Crossed off the list. The next chap was a decapitation. I don’t wish to appear prejudicial but it simply wasn’t going to work.

Most people don’t realise that you get here how you left there, injured, old, missing body parts. There are no body refresh options. Although there is a black market in spare limbs if you are into that sort of thing. Hence the reason you may see an elderly gentleman, ambling round with a beautifully manicured hand, or a child with a fully grown male leg attached. They look like children, but they just inhabit that form. Some of them are older than me and the language that comes out of them is shocking I have to say.

Even as a talent management expert, dead land is a hard sell for employment, there is no salary or pension. You take the job till you feel like doing something else, and on it goes indefinitely. There are very few perks, apart from a vague sense of superiority over the Neanderthals and the beaker people. Of course they are here too, moping around in the kind of primitive way you would expect. Sometimes I feel a pang of jealousy towards them. They don’t know they are primitive, they can’t know they are dead. They just are. How I wish I could just be. In fact the very thought left me in a dark mood that even Janice’s biscuits couldn’t lift.

I must admit I dismissed the remaining candidates today. It is no great inconvenience to them or to me. There will always be another day, another role to fulfil. Perhaps one day you will join us If you can get past security, maybe mention my name. I am always looking for new talent.

This section was first published in Voidspace zine as a flash fiction piece entitled Frimmelstein’s diary and is the inspiration for Hell is other people. Acknowledgments to Katy Naylor and Voidspace for the initial prompt.

dark humour, diary, featured, fiction, funny, Hell, humour

A special place in Hell

I really should have started with a proper induction into Hell Inc. Of course we want you to feel welcome so please be reassured, there is a special place in Hell just for you!

Hell Inc formerly known as Purgatory holdings is a unique business based in the fiery depths of God knows where (literally). How do you get to be part of this fabulous company I hear you ask. Well, to assist you I have created a series of FAQ’s to resolve any queries you might have.

FAQ’s for Hell Inc

What opportunities are there for promotion?

We are always on the look out for talented sadists and torturers, it is a dying skill, literally! Submit your CV to our Manager of People and Persecutions and we will give it due consideration. Expect long delays in responses times (this is Hell after all)

Annual leave and holidays

It’s fine to take time off whenever you feel like it. and subject to business needs. The fires must be stoked daily however and this is non negotiable so ensure that you have appropriate cover.


We are an inclusive organisation. If you wish to grown horns or hooves feel free. We have a zero tolerance approach to discrimination. We aim to treat all employees with equal contempt. Our standard uniform comes in red and…red. White and gold are strictly forbidden colour palettes.


Each employee is allocated there own hovel to live in. It is acceptable to burn down other people’s hovels but not your own.


Yes of course! take liberties, we encourage creativity and innovation.

Reward scheme

Notice a colleague who is particular evil or skilled in torture? Great! Why not nominate them for a red letter day? Mr B the CEO will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

Leaving the organisation

Sadly we are unable to accept resignations, once you are in you are here for eternity. Sorry (not sorry).

book, featured, fiction, funny, writing

The Funniest book you have ever read

I recently put a hopeful question out there for a Twitter response. I hear you, why put a question out into a void that no longer exists due to a recent and somewhat controversial take over?. Well, contrary to popular belief there are still a significant number of us using the little blue bird page regularly. Lots of writers in particular have build up a following over a number of years and are not ready as yet to chuck the bird out with the bath water.

The question was this:

What is the funniest book you have ever read?

Frankly I was amazed by the response and it threw up some interesting stuff. There were books that were overwhelmingly popular and some of those tantalising new on the radar type books. So maybe some of these below will be familiar to you, maybe not. If you like to snort uncontrollably on the train or spit your coffee out when reading, maybe take a punt on some of the highly recommended books below.

The popular ones

There were two or three books that were overwhelmingly popular

A confederacy of dunces – John Kennedy Toole

Confederacy of dunces cover.jpg

This was overwhelmingly the most popular on the list, certainly amongst the twitter responses. I have this on order for Christmas.

Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy – Douglas Adams

H2G2 UK front cover.jpg

The hapless Arthur Dent careering round the galaxy, very popular and consistently a very funny book. If you haven’t read it already, go pick it up, you never know, the next Arthur Dent might be you. Also further advice was as often is the case, read the book, don’t watch the film!

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller


Confession here, lots of people love this book, I’ll be honest, couldn’t seem to get past the first couple of chapters. Humour is something really unique to the individual I think, what makes you laugh might leave me cold and vice versa. Perhaps it’s time for me to give this one another go.

Don Quixote – Cervantes

Title page first edition Don Quijote.jpg

There are many comparisons between Cervantes Don Quixote and Ignatius Jacques Reilly (see the earlier confederacy of dunces recommendation) in terms of the characteristic style. Both are eccentric and delusional. Is there something about this character style that tickles the funny bone?

Interesting to me that many of the really truly funny books in most people’s opinion are, let’s say, classics. Certainly in the sense that they were not first published recently. A confederacy for example was published in 1980, posthumously (sadly) winning the Pulitzer in 1981.

Special mention – PG Wodehouse

There were so many references to Wodehouse. Lots of mentions of a whole range of his canon. Obviously Bertie Wooster was perhaps one of his most enduring characters. People seem to appreciate the care and attention that Wodehouse takes to make each sentence deliver with real vigour.

Following on from this was a whole range of literature. It was interesting that different genres were still able to sit high on the list as works of humour. Bill Bryson’s travel text ‘A walk in the woods’ for example. Sue Townsend’s fictional diary of a teenage boy in the Midlands is as hilarious now as it was on release. I have included a whole reading list below of these and other recommendations. With Christmas round the corner, the season of good cheer, why not get one of these in your stocking and you can be spraying mince pies and Gluhwein all over the family from your little reading nook.

The best of the rest

A walk in the woods – Bill Bryson

Consider the lobster – David Foster Wallace

Dress your family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

About a boy – Nick Hornby

Dear Committee members – Julie Schumacher

Wilt – Tom Sharpe

The Fan Man – William Kotzwinkle

Cats Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

Travels with a donkey in the Cevennes – Robert Louis Stevenson

Norwood – Charles Portis

The Hawkline Monster – Richard Brautigan

Happiness – Will Ferguson

Dona Flor and her two husbands – Jorge Amado

Fight night – Miriam Toews

Seven nights at the Flaming hotel – Drew Gummerson

Lake of Urine – Guillermo Stitch

My life and hard times – James Thurber

The White house mess – Christopher Buckley

Notes from the Underground – Dostoyevski

Heart of a dog – Bulgakov

The secret diary of Adrian Mole – Sue Townsend

Did your favourite not hit the list? why not add a comment and share your favourite funny fiction. After all, laughter is the best medicine apparently!

dark humour, fiction, Hell, human resources, people, writing

Better the devil you know

The diary of Phelan Tweed, HR Manager in Hell

Mr B can be a hard taskmaster. Today he advised me that last night two of the horsemen of the apocalypse had lost their steeds on a drunken work night out in Blackpool, Hell on earth you might say. He was in a right mood. You should have heard the language, obviously it’s not for inclusion here but let’s just say it was like an industrial revolution. As you may already be aware, because it was ‘work related’ it’s hard for us to argue ‘what happens in Blackpool, stays in Blackpool’ however much we would wish for it. He does seem pretty angry most of the time these days, I mean, more than usual.

He was really ranting on. ‘We can’t call it the four horsemen department if two of them haven’t got horses, and you know what Famine’s like, with his two hour lunch breaks, he probably ate it’ I tried to calm him down a bit but it wasn’t working. ‘Do you want me to carry out an investigation’ I asked. It is preferable to me if we at least try and follow the procedure in these cases but I was unsure of the grounds for disciplinary. Was it a breach of the alcohol policy or misuse of office equipment? It was a quandary. ‘No he sighed, just try and locate the horrible beasts and if you can’t, just order a new one with the transport team. But you can tell them from me they can’t claim any expenses this month and neither can the rest of them’. Well, I thought, that’s going to go down like a lead balloon later, if one thing was certain on the expenses list each month, it was Death and taxis.

dark humour, diary, fiction, Hell, human resources

Hell is other People

Phelan Tweeds diary in HR Hell

Let me begin, like so many meetings have before this, with a completely unnecessary round of introductions. My name is Phelan Tweed, People and Persecutions Manager at Hell Inc. I am in charge of the hiring and…. firing, amongst my other duties. I frankly won’t listen to your names or job titles, unless there’s something in it for me. Honesty is very important here.

You may have heard people in your company say they have been around forever. Well, in fact I actually have. I was here at the beginning when Mr B. set up the company, back in the days before there was light. Recruitment back then was difficult let me tell you, what with there only being two people in the world but we managed. We have some excellent head hunters, and you know what those snakes are like.

In our most recent board meeting we discussed how it might be about time we gave something back to the community. We agreed that as long as it didn’t cost anything and didn’t involve any extra work for the board it was an excellent suggestion. I suggested the idea of a newsletter sharing all our tried and tested approaches to managing people. We know there may be some companies out there who already implement some of our cultural policies, kudos to you trailblazers. For the rest of you, I hope these insights will inspire you and we can take steps together towards complete world domination, or at least a sensible absence policy.

See you in Hell next time.

Phelan Tweed

fiction, funny, horror stories, short story, Uncategorized, writing

The Entertainer



Rusty Pinkerton peered between the lowered trouser legs of his outdated suit trousers from his porcelain perch in the cubicle. He was hovering slightly. There was a crack in the plastic seat which had the ability to pinch if you were not careful.

‘Psssst, I’m here’

Rusty saw nothing immediately in the broken tiles of the toilet floor, until, almost blending with the cracked adhesive beneath he observed the medium sized cockroach, motionless. There was something about its tilted head that made the situation slightly tense, and weird.

‘How was the show’?? the cockroach rasped at him. This time, the tinny vocality almost made him jump. He remembered the toilet seat and thankfully managed to stay still this time. Rusty put his hands through the remaining curls on his visible scalp and whispered ‘terrible’. It was uttered half to himself really. The pre-show vodkas the seemingly obvious reason he had just started to converse with a cockroach.

‘Thought so – I heard your squeaky dad jokes from my corner, he seemed to indicate with a flourish of his antennae. Then after you had told the joke, I heard, well, nothing’, he sniggered slightly.

‘I can’t do this anymore, seven years of trying and trying. People just don’t find this stuff funny anymore, maybe they never did, it’s hopeless.

‘They never did, smirked the cockroach. You lack the skill to share the joke in the right way…. I could teach you. If you wish?’ The cockroach let the last ‘S’ rattle around for a second.

‘Could you? Rusty heard himself say.

‘Yes, of course I would ask very little in return, very little indeed’ the cockroach wiggled slightly.

‘Why are you talking like that it’s so creepy?’ Rusty winced. He had never been overly keen on insects. This one seemed to have a personality flaw.

‘It adds to the drama, Cockroach twitched, don’t you like a little drama?’

Rusty shrugged ‘I’d like to finish what I came in here for without a cockroach watching me’

‘Oh, I’d ask very little in return, just a place to be safe, I could make you very successful, I mean – you do look funny don’t you, if only you had the right words?’

Rusty put his head in his hands. How much worse could this get? A cockroach was telling him that he looked funny. It was probably one of the funniest things Rusty Pinkerton had ever been witness to. He wasn’t even on stage for anyone to hear it.

‘So, the cockroach prodded again – do we have a deal?’

‘How come you aren’t going sssssss? Rusty said.

‘Ooooh it comes and goes you know’ the cockroach hissed back’

‘Yes, you have a deal – where were you thinking?’

‘Your jacket pocket’. The cockroach seemed to narrow his eyes. It could have been grinning, but it was hard to tell.

‘No chance – people would see you on stage’.

‘No – I would keep very quiet and still – I would simply look like a stain on your jacket, I would blend right in, besides that would just be where I will live. To help you on stage, I might need to get a little… closer’. The cockroach did the eye narrowing thing again.

How close? Rusty was sure he had only thought this, but the cockroach answered anyway.

‘I may need to whisper in your ear’, the cockroach half sang. I would be very delicate, you would hardly know I was there, but you will need to hear me so I can give you your lines’. It felt like he added the last elongated ‘S’ for effect

‘I see, and how do I know this will work?’ He couldn’t help but be curious. He was desperate. Both he and the cockroach knew it.

‘Yes, I have helped many acts over the years, do you remember Georgio?’

‘The talking spaniel? That was you?’ Rusty was pretty impressed, this was a high calibre act, at least by his own standards.

‘Yes, taught him all he knows, but there was inevitably a falling out of sorts, and of course once I taught him language he became a consummate liar’.

‘Yes I think I read about that’ Rusty half remembered the headlines, the scandal. AS disgusted as he was by the prospect, he wanted in.

‘It wasn’t true’ the cockroach muttered.

‘’What wasn’t true?

‘Anything, anything he said’. The cockroach did a sly little side shuffle. He was becoming impatient.

‘OK, so what now?’

‘Lets go…home? Cautiously, the cockroach sidled across the filthy floor. It tentatively navigated the broken tiles and onto Rusty’s shoe. Rusty watched, fascinated. Following the seam of the trouser leg it eventually sat itself in the top pocket of his jacket as planned. He had tried hard not to shudder as he felt the spindly legs on his bare skin. He glanced down to see the back end of his new accomplice disappear into his jacket pocket. Leaving the cubicle he returned to the dressing room where he found a miserly fee waiting for him. Rusty Pink shoved open the fire escape door of the Chuckle Bucket and sloped his shoulders into the Lancashire drizzle.

The first night was over. Despite his initial reservations, he needn’t have been so worried. As it turns out, this cockroach was hilarious. Rusty was elated. It felt as if he was truly alive for the first time, like a rebirth. It is true that once you have become desensitised to something there is a real sense of liberation that follows. Since the first meeting in the bathroom cubicle Rusty  had become more or less used to waking up to cockroach in his hair, curled up asleep in the crook of his arm or lying flat, bellow down, right above his heart. The fees increased, as did the fame. Rusty was on the up.

 Sometime later, cockroach suggested casually that maybe it would be better if he were to sit in Rusty’s ear all the time. That way he could hide behind the curtain of curly hair and could not be heard whispering to Rusty all the time. Of course, Rusty agreed, success of this kind could be like a drug. What else is there to want but more. Television came calling, his own chat show. Rusty was prime time, except…it wasn’t really Rusty who was the star. He was like that silly green duck puppet from the 1980’s. He was the dummy in the duo. He knew enough of the material now to maybe just, steal it. He decided he had to call time on this partnership. Only he did not feel as strong as he had done. The years of tours, shows and after parties had begun to take their toll. He seriously wondered if he could leave all of this behind. In all honesty, without cockroach, what was he?

Unfortunately, cockroach was the experienced partner here. He really held all the cards in his mandibles. The discussions and pleadings became arguments that quickly escalated. Cockroach refused to leave his ear. No matter how hard Rusty tried this resistant beast was immoveable. If he dug his finger in to scoop him out, he was bitten. He even tried tweezers and once, after several vodkas, a steel skewer. Cockroach just climbed further and further inside the more he was irked. He stubbornly dug himself into his foxhole and would not budge. All the while he whispered, ridiculed, and bullied Rusty into submission.

‘If you try to take me out, I will die, he would say, and you will die on stage for the rest of your miserable career, let me live here, I can make you a legend, let me live’. Rusty knew he needed this life; he needed the roach. He needed.

The constant chattering eventually took its toll. Rusty had to sleep, it seemed cockroach did not. Rusty would wake in a daze from confused dreams and hear cockroach singing show tunes to himself in the early hours. The tunes were familiar, but the words were needles and scarring.  He knew in the end it would break him and he would have to give in. He let the hissing and wailing wash over him like a tide. The dummy and the star were reborn together.

Rusty had held the limelight firmly in his hand, for a time at least. Inevitably, fashions changed in humour as they do in all things. More significantly though, cockroach had noticed the body begin to fail. It was slower to respond than before. The timing was off. The once thumping pulse had begun to weaken. The brain, in many ways had been his since the very beginning. Now, cockroach sensed a darker sickness creep in. He knew a parasite when he saw one.  From his crevice he had found ways to infiltrate and keep the other parasite at bay. By tapping into the matter in the skull, he shaped the squishy grey plasticine over and over till there was nothing of the original shape left. Cockroach was Rusty. Now Rusty’s shell was dying and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

When the time inevitably came, he slipped sadly and unnoticed from his comfortable home. He felt the cold fingers of loneliness stroke his smooth shell at night. He needed.

It took him time, but he found his way back to the theatre. The place of all his beginnings.  He listened intently to the crowd, in search of the next death under the lights, and the next host.


Note from the Author

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Hell is other people – a substack blog

One of my projects away from GT Poems is a new Substack blog I have created. ‘Hell is other people’ is the regular news letter/ diary of Phelan Tweed, Manager for People and Persecutions in Hell. Running a successful HR department can be difficult at the best of times, but HR in Hell is a whole different ball game. Why not head over and check it out.! Maybe I’ll see you in Hell.