An Out Of Body Experience

Recently, during a period in hospital, things were dicey. I had a seizure, lost all consciousness and had an out of body experience. As I fell, yes fell, out of my body, lying in perfect stillness on the bed above me: yes above me, I felt an odd and uncomfortable heat and, turning round, saw a gentleman lacking every charm known in the sentient universe grinning at me in a salivating manner. His eyes seemed to be saying ”Your secrets are safe with me even if your future isn’t,” and I felt myself drawn nearer and nearer to a furnace where the screams of eternal agony could be heard.

I fought to stay away from the flames and the unpleasant gentleman, eyes apart, said nothing and made no movement apart from opening the furnace door a little wider to facilitate my ease of entrance. Just when I thought all was lost I woke screaming so loudly, the doctors told me, that they thought I had had some adverse reaction to the medical treatment.

He grinned at me in a neutral way, although his body language suggested he was thinking “Welcome back to us, I’m speaking to you in my professional capacity only: we make no comment on your character or possible worth.” Strangely, the nurse standing behind him had a less engaging look and I have a dim memory of attempting some indiscretion with her before I was engulfed by seizures. I’ve always had a love for the opposite sex, normally unrequited but, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” has earned me a few nights of pleasure over the years.

I’ve done nothing awful in my estimation and lived by the teaching, “God helps those who help themselves” which wisdom I have always been happy to pass onto beggars, old ladies who sought my help to cross the road and those irritating buskers who stand too near your table playing a musical instrument while you are drinking your morning coffee.

I’ve done my bit for humanity in the full glare of publicity but real charity begins in secret and at home I’m sure you’ll agree. In short I’ve lived a normal decent modern life, free of murder or unnecessary vandalism and thought a seat sited somewhere near the top table in Paradise was mine for the taking.

Finally, and unusually at a loss, I ring one of my ex-wives with whom I am on something like speaking terms, and tell her what happened and how I feel, and she replies, “You are a waste of air Trevor: nothing more or less” and puts the phone down. No wonder I divorced her then, or she divorced me to be honest, but I ask you. “What’s that about?”

At a loss I settle down in the pub, sitting alone as is often the case and take a cautious sip from my drink. A gentleman sits down beside me, looking faintly familiar, and says, “No doubt you are thinking about you’re out of body experience” and I look at him, alarmed of course, and say “And who are you?” “Dr Death” he tells me, “Sent out on patrol by those above to view the last moments of souls near the end of their earthly existence which is why I’m sitting here with you.

“Do I have time to redeemed myself?” I ask him, suddenly filled with an uncomfortable awareness. “No” he replies, “I was meant to be with you about eighteen months ago but got delayed by other and more interesting lives, otherwise you might have. Nothing in life or death is perfect I’m afraid, least of all eternity. There are just far too many of you now, and cloud space is limited so burning you is a much more efficient option unless you have been especially good, which you have not, and then there are the elephants and whales of course”

“Elephants and whales” I said, and he replied, “Oh yes, I keep forgetting you humans think you are the most important species in the universe” and chuckled lightly before departing from the table as I depart my life: still begging for one last chance but stuck with the consequences of my previous conduct.



Posted in character, creative writing, faith, Fiction, humour, Life, Peter Wells, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

A Lunch To Remember

I met Andrew Lascelles when I was an undergraduate at Kings College. I was an average student on the fringes of the room at parties, went to most lectures but as an attendee rather than person of note. Andrew had a very different profile: always a tad quicker than most others by any measure, a leader and shaper of opinions, and a master of the telling phrase with a nuanced perception which made him the standout figure of his year.

He had that charismatic, luminous quality which engaged the interest of many girls, including Lucy whose attention I sought for in vain during my first two years as a student before turning my attentions to Carolyn, the woman I later married, whose qualities were less evident to the casual glance and possibly to others. He, Andrew that is, was marked out as the man of the hour and of the future, and so it has transpired throughout a career during which he has been admired by those who do not know him.

Some decades later, now a titled gentleman of letters and sculpture of note, he was walking down the towpath near his home towards a lunch were I was to be an unexpected guest and replacement for a late absentee. At the lunch he told us he had spotted a tramp or “Homeless gentleman,” depending on your terms of reference, sitting on the bench surrounded by his worldly belongings and, pausing near him to admire the river, was moved to say, “You must enjoy this view”

The homeless gentleman, ex-businessman, raconteur, husband and philanthropist; now current drunk and as invisible to those who had previously known him as he could make himself, raised his eyes to this passing acquaintance and replied with surprising precision, “Every perspective comes at a price,”

“And so it does, and so it does” said our engaging artist, before walking off along the path and towards the restaurant where some old friends and others, were waiting to meet him. Sir Andrew recalled the tramp’s comment, realising it would provide him with an interesting “Hook” on which to hang a conversation.

Sure enough, once we were nicely settled at our table, and one or two remarks had been exchanged about the view and the thickness of the table cloth, our knowing artist told us of his recent conversation with a seated “gentleman of the road” and the illuminating reply he had given.

“Did you give him any money,” said one of his friends, slightly provocative it must be said, to which the sculpture replied, “I don’t patronise my fellow man,” which may have been insightful, before taking a sip of his well-chosen wine.

I was at that lunch more by chance than merit as I’ve said, and clearly unrecognised by him after some decades. After he had finished his discourse I asked him “What do you think it is which makes a nice man, as opposed to a person of mere ability?”

“Kindness and Understanding” said our noted figure with barely a moment’s hesitation, and I, driven by some lingering animosity no doubt, responded, “And is that what you showed to that gentleman?” He did not reply but his wife, now called Lucille, gave me a hard stare in which there was a dawning recognition.

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On The Forecourt

“Life, to the interested, will always be interesting, regardless of your circumstances,” I tell myself as I work on the forecourt of my local petrol station, guiding customers to a fuelling booth or parking bay, dependant on their purpose. Are they going to fill their car with gas or wander into the shop and play themselves a symphony by Simoné de Calorie, before buying a “Slimmer’s choice” chicken curry in readiness for a cosy evening for one in front of the television?

Of course, some people buy food for more than one, demonstrating a life full of emotional richness and a family who dote and live on their every word and glance but others, like me, exist alone, apart from television and a close friend called “Microwave.” Each day I yearn for a smile from the lady I work with, who manages till number four, and whose sense of life and tragedy seem to mirror my own. I’m simple yet complicated, defined and yet confused; a muddle in search of the perfect note but most of all I’m lost.

What can I offer her; with my lack of wealth and a sub-standard career apart from those insights into the experience of living which interest no one apart from those bored by the commonplace. She is beauty in my eyes, and her expression rich in that tragic awareness which speaks of a profound understanding. Can I risk telling her I want to know her, or should I do what I always do: smile politely at her as if she is a character in a film while keeping my hunger to myself?

Each life is a single brushstroke on the canvas of experience, lost within the body of the painting we call history, yet some of us, myself included, long to be seen as that touch, that contrasting insight, which defines human experience, or perhaps, if we are truly wise, we don’t.

I have created a largely hopeless existence, apart from conversations with artists and philosophers of note, so that when I worked as a ticket collector at a provincial railway station I said to Descartes, “I think therefore I am, but I smile because I know” and nodded at him as if I’d added an extra cadence to his words, seeing if he understood my addition to his wisdom or just continued to sip his coffee at the Café Eternité without acknowledging my existence: perhaps he did or perhaps he didn’t, but we’ve no way of knowing either way.

Be that as it may, the object of my affections, to put it discreetly, was in a pub one Saturday lunchtime when I came upon her, me being somewhat the worse for wear, and ignoring the presence of her friends said, “If I were braver, and capable of time-travel I would whisk you away from this place to a café where Descartes, Monet and Gaudí were sitting discussing the importance of landscape, or the way the peripheral can become urgent depending on your circumstances, and introduce you to them as the defining beauty of our age.

She, as you may understand, just looked embarrassed, and explained to her companions that I was that odd man who worked on the forecourt at her garage. I smiled at them as if I had been joking, which is amusing given it was one of the few times in my life when I have been sincere.

Posted in character, creative writing, employment, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Silhouette Of Love

Value her as he did, and love her as he did he could not promise to value her always, and that scrupulous thought forced him to walk away and not look back. That look she gave him then, empty and yet charged, would haunt him all his life. As if he had, with unconscious wantonness, trampled on some sacred ground: her sacred ground.

Before the age of knowledge, when she discovered him walking in his oddness, and smiling at the view it had all seemed so simple and innocent and tender, He, whose life was like some dried and arid plain, a stranger to passing moisture or interest, had wondered at her giving heart, and how she made a prayer of all she did. It seemed a wonder in his life, to be found and loved so openly, but he was young and oddly scrupulous.

He felt he must be understood yet free, and had still to discover that all things have their price, and that life cannot be lived without some compromise. Later, in years ahead, he often looked back and saw her timeless beauty and those haunting eyes imprinted in his memory, staring up the path as they had then and always would, and looking at him across his history in each new circumstance and saying with a simple truth, “You never knew what I gave you” and he never had till now, when love, once more, was like a stranger in his life, and tenderness only touched him in his dreams.

Posted in creative writing, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Reflections On A Bridge

“What’s that about Sid” I heard someone ask. We were sitting in the café, mulling over events or the lack of them, (purpose can drift out of your life with age,) and his name came up. “What about him?” said Terry, and the new guy to the group, Alex I think his name is, said, “I passed him in the rain, just leaning on the bridge watching the water flow below him. “

“I asked him if he was OK and he just said, “I know where I am,” and I thought, “I know where I am.” What’s that’s supposed to mean?” Geoff, sitting opposite me, whose read a book or two in his time piped up and said, “I think it’s a quote from a novel” and we all looked over to him but that’s Geoff. His information comes in disconnected fragments and talking to him is like wandering through an archaeological site without an expert on hand to give context to your finds. Still, that’s not really the point is it?

Some bloke I didn’t know, who was sitting at a close-by table, said “His wife died last week” and there you have it: answered in a phrase. Sid is one of those guys who looked the other way when real life drove by. Why his wife stayed with him I cannot say, but the power to endure was admired back then before the age of planned obsolescence and euthanasia parties. I mean Sid is a good hearted man but basically a mess in a worn-out shirt but he loved his wife. That is the truth in him: her living gave him purpose.

Posted in ageing, creative writing, Humanity, Love, marriage, old age, Peter Wells, Relationships, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

On the Passing Of His Wife

The mourners stood around him eating cakes and sandwiches not made by him. Some catering company he employed to do the work, did the work while he stood near a corner of the room, watching his guests share memories of his wife and stain the carpet with their drink and crumbs. He, who hated fuss above all else, and kept emotions strictly under wraps, nodded as each passing face offered him comfort and support, not realising all he longed for was their silence. Mavis, his wife now deceased, who spelt reflection with the word ‘Abyss’ had filled his life with whims and groundless fears, till her death offered him relief and left him with the chance to dream once more, and sit and watch the natural world and catch his breath.

So thorough was his daily care of her that those around her wondered at his discreet gentleness and diligent support for one who loved hysteria as if it were her only child. In fact, by chance or was it luck, the union had proved fruitless in that way, and wardrobes full of dresses and shoes would be her brief legacy.

He loved her without doubt, but more for herself than him, he always thought, and sought to ease her constant anxieties. Strangely once she knew that she must die, courage came from somewhere in her heart bringing its dignity to her passing. She, who made a fuss of everything, and thought a chipped cup a calamity, faced her death with humour and her spoken thought that, “You’ll be alright,” was her last comment as her husband sat beside her on the bed.

He, who for years had lived within his wife’s concerns, alone at last, could set his dreams alight, or so he thought. He might explore and get to know people he had not yet met, and tread the path to discovery, and taste adventure ungoverned by her fears.

But now alone, and challenged by his imagination, he realised the very door that kept this world beyond his reach, gave him the licence to shape its landscape and possibilities without cost. As he reflected thus, a wave of sadness startling in its suddenness, swept through him as he realised how her concerns had shielded him from himself, and allowed him his whimsies without risk. Nothing, he finally understood, makes a dream more frightening than it becoming possible

Posted in Compassion, Creative Fiction, Fiction, kindness, Peter Wells, Relationships, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

A Tale Of Two Brothers

Isn’t it curious how two very different aspects of the human character can manifest themselves under one roof, from one family and as a result of much the same upbringing. ‘Ducker’ had a brother called Nicholas who, for some years, thought ‘Ali Money’ was some Arab prince who seemed to know a lot of Hollywood stars. To be fair to him, which is never enjoyable , the penny had dropped by the time he took up his residency as the Vicar at St Anthony’s church in Lower Sadworth; a position he filled quite happily, but without note, for the majority of his life. His career was so colourless that we have no difficulty in dropping him from this tale and we won’t be referring to him again. As his brother said to him, “Nicki, the road to hell is paved with great anecdotes, and you don’t have any”

So back to his younger brother ‘Ducker’ who had qualified as an accountant through luck and bribery and now worked in his local town signing off the accounts of the more adventurous local businesses. He was a popular figure at the bar by reason of his colourful stories and the ability to buy a round. His “sage” advice was repeated with abandon.   ”Never make a promise you can’t break”, which he would pass on to any passing ingénue who was lucky enough to cross his path in search of professional glory.

I remember someone asking him how it was he had been so successful with the ladies and yet had no children. He smiled knowingly and winked in that way the world weary pass on their wisdoms. “No forwarding address son”. “Pardon” says the innocent pupil. “Never leave a forwarding address and then they cannot contact you.” Needless to say he was regarded more as a fund of good stories than useful guidance but then the ability to entertain is the new gold in our reflective society don’t you find.

He was one of those people of whom you might say, “Count your fingers before you shake his hand”. His speciality was massaging the figures of local small businesses to prevent any unpleasant conversations about tax. Despite his ‘slack-happy’ approach to deadlines, his ability to overlook a decent percentage of the profits when auditing accounts always kept his glass full at the bar, and a decent car on the drive.

Moving on with reluctance and a man calls up and asks if he can come round for some advice. “Come as soon as you like” says Ducker. It’s one of the curiosities of life that the morally bankrupt enjoy giving advice almost more than anyone else. Anyway, this chap rolls up and settles into the chair opposite Ducker’s desk. He clutches his cup of tea and says. “I have a day job, but I want to start an evening business with my wife offering interior design”. “I’ve been given your name as a person who can set us on the path to a profitable enterprise”. Ducker smiles, which gives him the chance to flash some expensive dentistry, and says. “You’ve stepped in the right door son”. I can give the addresses of quite a few round here who could do with your help.”

“Not me, of course” he said pointing to his purple and orange lamp shaped like a parrot. “As for profits, you make em and we’ll hide them under the overheads if you catch my drift.”. ( More teeth flashmanship) and then he asked. “So what do you do during the day. His young client replies “I work for the Inland Revenue as a tax inspector.”

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, values, vintage-cars | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments