Hey! How’s it going? It’s been a while, but let’s get into this.
So this was supposed to be a quick short housekeeping thing, but that’d be tedious so I reheated some pizza, loaded up a little Van Hagar and wrote you a quick short story right off the bat. Here it is. See you on the other side.
He waited until he heard their car doors close in the distance and then sat down with his back against the cold stone. He didn’t feel it.
“Hey! Anything good?”
He looked at her and raised a hand in greeting.
“The usual. Flowers. Some news.”
She sat down opposite him, cross legged, and he smiled like he always did at the faded CBGB shirt she was wearing.
“Good news? I mean you look happy.”
He was surprised to realise that she was right.
“Yeah, I guess. She’s met someone.”
Her face fell.
“Ah, fuck. Sorry, man.”
“No it’s okay. It’s good actually. Good for the girls. Good for her. It’s been long enough.”
A squirrel runs between them and stops to have a good scratch at itself and then the ground. No one is sure if the squirrels can actually see them, but if they can they’re definitely not scared of them.
“How about you?”
She looks embarrassed by the question. Rubs at the back of her neck, shrugging her shoulders.
“Nothing. Not yet. Maybe they’ll come tomorrow. Or next week for sure. You know?”
“You really do look great.”
He wants to return the compliment. But she doesn’t look great. Not even good really. She’s as faded as the shirt she’s wearing. Worse than yesterday.
He’s relieved they came today. He shuffles himself to the left to make room for her.
“Come and sit down.”
“I am sat down.”
He gestures with his eyes to the space next to him. The smooth slab of granite with his name on the other side.
She wants to. She thinks she can’t.
“You don’t have to.”
“I know, but I want to. I have plenty.”
Her need overwhelms whatever it is that stands in for decorum here and she gets up and then slots herself back down right next to him.
“Just for a minute then. You have plenty now, but if she’s moving on…”
The squirrel is back and seems to be looking right at them. If it had been here thirty minutes ago the girls would have been shrieking and chasing it.
“She’ll still visit. And the kids. I’m their dad. They won’t forget.”
She droops her head.
“That’s what I said.”
She regrets it instantly. Tries to undo it.
“But I’m no one’s dad! You’re right. They won’t forget.”
They sit in the silence and enjoy the… what’s the word for it? Charge? It’s not like feeding - although he misses pizza more than some of the people he’d known for 20+ years - this is something else. He settles on charge. A few flowers at the foot of a grave. A few words said over it. Good mojo, he guesses. Maybe he’s proof that you don’t really die as long as someone remembers you. All he really knows is that everyone here feels recharged after a visit. Meanhile those that don’t have visitors anymore…
He looks down. She’s never going to have a tan, but he can see a little colour returning to her arm. The mojo had started working as soon as she touched the stone.
Good. I can still help people. That’s something, he thinks.
“Thanks for this.”
“No problem. And if yours are late again there’s a spot here for you anytime. Hey… I’m sorry. I didn’t meant to…”
She wipes her eyes and pulls it back together. There’s no crying in punk rock.
“No, it’s okay. It’s a lot to process is all…”
She’s not sad anymore. It’s anger. Not at them, but at herself.
“Missing them more than they miss me.”
He doesn’t know how to respond to that so is relieved when the squirrel sees something in its peripheral vision and panics. She laughs as it runs this way and that until it finds a tree, clambers up it and feels safe again.
Safe from the boy in the bushes.
“It’s okay. He’s just a kid.”
“Dude, he’s like 300 years old.”
She was exaggerating but just a little. This was an old, old cemetery. The oldest resident he’d met said she’d seen Archduke Franz Ferdinand shot in front of her, but this kid could have easily seen half a play and Lincoln assassinated.
There weren’t many like him that he’d seen - but then again they were hard to see. The light had to hit them just right. Although squirrels see them just fine, he thought.
He shuffles over a little more and waves at the faded boy.
“Hi. There’s room for three.”
She’s not sure. Maybe a little scared too.
“You shouldn’t. He needs to move on.”
Once the last flowers are long dead, once the graves have become overgrown and sometimes collapsed completely, most do move on. He’s not sure how or if its by choice, but move on they do.
But not all.
Walking slowly towards them now he can tell just how little of the boy there is left.
“Maybe. But right now he’s still here. Like us.”
The faded boy stops at their feet and nods. Unsure now.
They can see through his eyes.
John Patrick Bryant, Loving Father and Husband, January 9th 1978 to September 21st 2010, not quite resting in peace just yet, smiled at the boy.
He smiled with just as much warmth as he had earlier that day when he saw his girls running towards him and arguing over whose turn it was to carry the flowers.
“Like I was telling my friend here…”
Julie had won, but then gave half to Becky anyway. Sandra was doing a hell of a job.
“I have plenty.”
The boy, it turns out, still has his smile and flops down between them.
And they sit in the sun they can’t feel anymore, closing their eyes against it anyway.
A little reminder about the stories I write here. Like this one they’re written quickly and only get a slight edit from that initial puke draft to what you just read. I’m writing these things regularly so there’s more spit than polish, but they’re exclusive to you. A little further down the line I may collect them, rejig them or even pull them into a different format, but I’ll always let you know what’s going on with that stuff. Movie stuff like the piece I wrote on THE HOT ROCK will take a little longer as I need to get that stuff right first time as I’m talking about other people’s work. Plus I won’t be talking about stuff I don’t dig and more often than not will be covering stuff I fucking love so the process is a little different.
Midnight Quatermass is always a work in progress, but I’ll keep you in the loop.
Michael Crawford is breathless and panting when Oliver Reed catches up with him and before he can get a word of explanation out, he’s picked up by one ankle and finds himself hanging upside down over one of the fountains in Trafalgar Square.
Wanna read me somewhere else? I wrote about one of my favourite, yet bafflingly obscure, British movies for the inaugural Electric Theatre column over on London in Bits. Check it out and hit me up on Twitter if you wanna talk about Oliver Reed.
I’ve been thinking about this space a lot and the mistakes I made with earlier versions. The bottom line is that it’ll be a little more concise and I’ll jump from fiction to non-fiction each issue rather than stuff it to the gills. We’ve got time.
I also spoke to the lovely folk at Substack about why I’m writing this and what kind of thing it could become and they gave me a lot of valuable advice (thanks, Farrah!) that I’m gonna follow because I have no real idea what I’m doing. So the first addition is there’s now a (very) loose paid subscription model. DON’T PANIC. The newsletter you’re reading, the short stories, the movie stuff, all that jazz is and ALWAYS will remain absolutely FREE. So if you’re happy don’t change anything.
However, its been pointed out that a small percentage of subscribers like to help support the work if they have the means. So now anyone that wants to pay a couple of quid a month can. But please think of that as more of a Backstage Pass. You won’t get exclusive stories and I won’t be trying to churn out the equivalent number of newsletters. What you will get is an occasional look at how I pull stuff together - the stories, the non fiction stuff, the comic books, the tv and film scripts. And it’ll be conversational and hopefully fun. But it’s an EXTRA. The main bread and butter of Midnight Quatermass is what you just read and its always always FREE.
One bonus reason for having a paid option that I hadn’t even considered is that it keeps me honest. If even one soul signs up for that then I’m honour bound to keep putting these out. That’s my intention regardless, but it’s always good to know there’s a sword hanging from the ceiling when you’re on a deadline…
So that’s it. It’s a short one. I wanna get straight into writing the next one and also let you know what’s going on with the comic stuff now we have a publication date for FETCH and I’m knee deep in angels and demons elsewhere. As always though if you like the story and wanna share it then spread the word and thank you for reading.
Cheers Mike, it was worth the wait.