It’s Only a Moment – A charity project in aid of Alzheimer’s

It’s Only a Moment.

Auntie Lizzie found me on the main street of my hometown (Bellshill), despondent and crying over something I don’t recall, but I’m sure it seemed world-ending to fifteen year-old me.

Auntie Lizzie took me into a little baker’s, (Dalziel’s) gave me tea and cake and just let me talk at her.

When I’d finished moaning, and sobbing and snotting, she simply took my hand and gently told me that ‘It’s only a moment in time, son. It’ll pass.’ We talked some more, had a laugh about some things and parted. It was probably one of the last times I saw Lizzie.

Many times through my life, happy times, hard times, heart break and emotional despair, I’ve recited Auntie Lizzie’s words to myself. To remind myself that it will pass, that it was only a moment.

 

Moments are something that defines Alzheimer’s, for those living with the condition and for those supporting someone they love through it. Moments of lucidity, or joy or anger or despair. Moments where the person is lost, or trapped deep inside themselves under the weight of misfiring neurones and jumbled memories, when their very sense of identity seems a distant chink of light in a dark tunnel.

A series of moments, where the present world seems alien, and unfamiliar and cruel…perhaps. Sometimes it seems wondrous, but not often. Moments where they return to themselves and smile at someone who loves them in recognition. Just a smile, but that moment reminds you that they are in there and still love you. That moment returns part of your soul to you as surely as it does theirs.

Moments that pass. Moments that are excruciating; but beautiful moments also that, despite the maze they walk in, makes you rediscover that part of them you thought may be gone. A squeeze of a hand. A wink, a smile. The words, I love you.

Moments. They pass even when sometimes we wish they wouldn’t.

Mark Wilson

May, 2017

 

Today sees the release of Ryan Bracha’s Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn project. An ambitious undertaking, Ryan brought together a group of writers (me included) with the remit, ‘Tell a story about this man named frank who has just died’. At that point Ryan’s task was to weave these disparate voices and stories and writing styles into a cohesive, flowing novel. A task which he succeeded in, and with quite some flair.

By the project’s end, Bracha and I discussed which charities we’d like to receive all proceeds from the sale of this book. I proposed Alzheimer’s charities, as my aunt had died recently. Auntie Lizzie isn’t the only relative in my family to have endured this condition.

Whilst I hadn’t seen my auntie in a number of years, her death (as these things often do) brought back some long forgotten memories of a time when Lizzie helped me.

 

All proceeds from the sale of Prank Peppercorn will got to Alzheimer’s charities. You can find more information on Alzheimer’s here:

 

http://www.alzscot.org/

http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

https://www.dementiauk.org/

IMG_703.jpg

Blurb:

Thirteen ways to remember the dead. Thirteen histories of a loving husband.

Betty Peppercorn is burning her husband Frank today. Well, she’s burning her property. The corpse she was left with as a reward for loving somebody for better or worse. Frank exists only in her thoughts, anymore. To her knowledge, Frank had no friends. Betty’s not even sure he existed before they met. It comes as a major surprise, then, when several strange faces appear at the funeral, each of them bringing their own stories of what Frank meant to them. As the day goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that Frank was not the man she thought he was. Thirteen new and established writers collide in this brand new novel-of-stories project from Ryan Bracha, the brains behind Twelve Mad Men, The Switched, and The Dead Man Trilogy.

All proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s charities. Featuring contributions from: Dominic Adler – The Ninth Circle Jason Beech – Moorlands Kevin Berg – Indifference Paul D. Brazill – A Case of Noir, Guns of Brixton, Kill Me Quick Robert Cowan – The Search For Ethan, For All is Vanity Craig Furchtenicht – Dimebag Bandits, Behind the 8 Ball Shervin Jamali – The Devil’s Lieutenant Jason Michel – The Death of Three Colours, The Black-Hearted Beat Allen Miles – This is How You Disappear Alex Shaw – The Aidan Snow series Martin Stanley – The Gamblers, Glasgow Grin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum Mark Wilson (CP Wilson) – The dEaDINBURGH series, On The Seventh Day, Ice Cold Alice

 

 

The Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn is available now from Abrachadabra books at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

After Call Work: Gross Misconduct by Ryan Bracha – Review

This novel is a sequel to After Call Work: Verbal Warning which was one of my favourite books of 2016.
In This follow-up, subtitled ‘Gross Misconduct’, we once again encounter the insipid call centre introduced in Book 1. Rather than simply continue the story, utilising the same characters, and expanding on the previous events, Bracha has chosen to introduce a handful of new characters for his readers to love, as well as build on some familiar players from Book 1.
As is Bracha’s custom, he avoids the easy route and avoids giving his readers a simple sequel to the previous work, choosing instead to tell a story that runs parallel to the events in Book 1, with the plotlines overlapping, converging and diverging. This decision is exactly the type of work ethic and tight plotting that makes Bracha the standout Indie writer on the UK scene.
Bracha continues to grow as a writer, utilising a simple, unflashy, first-person, present-tense narrative, but peppering it with some lovely technical quirks, my favourite of which is the odd occasion where he breaks the fourth wall, slyly making the reader complicit In his character’s choices and self-justifications.
Despite this choice of narrative style, Bracha’s precise characterisation lends each of his players a distinct and unmistakable voice. It’s quite a feat.

bra

Another step forward in Bracha’s development, and quite simply a fantastically entertaining read.

 

You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon

For All is Vanity by Robert Cowan – Review

With ‘For All is Vanity’, we see Robert Cowan maturing as a writer. With two solid novels under his belt, Cowan has chosen to remove himself from any potential comfort zone and to stretch his literary legs with gusto.

‘Vanity’ is by far Cowan’s most creative and experimental piece to date. A novel that makes you shift in unease at the main protagonist at points, but also feel the deepest sympathy for the mad bugger at others. Cowan has utilised a lovely narrative that switches between straight-up novel prose and some too-real diary entries.

Brave, compelling, skilful and a bold step in a new, more powerful direction, ‘Vanity’ reveals Cowan as a creative force to be reckoned with on the Indie scene and sets him apart from the formulaic breed of writers too often found there and in traditional publishing.

 

For All is Vanity is available now at Amazon

Marketing and Promo for ‘On The Seventh Day’

I’m not a marketing or promo expert, not by any estimation.

Whilst I kind of enjoy marketing, I hate promo. I really, really hate it. So much so that I haven’t done any significant promo on my last three books (since dEaDINBURGH: Vantage for anyone who cares).

 

Why?

I find that most book promo is repetitive, exhausting, uninspired, tantamount to begging in some cases and very often fruitless.

For me, Twitter is the least effective way to promo a book and comparable to throwing pieces of paper into the wind with your book name on one side and ‘pwease buy my bwook’ on the other.

 

Unfortunately, at some point, promo is necessary. With my latest release, On The Seventh Day, I accepted the inevitable need to promo, and sat down to have a think about how I could make the process more tolerable for me, engaging for potential readers, able to generate somewhat of a buzz, and perhaps even enjoyable.

I wanted to engage people, not panhandle the fuck out of them.

 

Having recently launched the book (on 15th November 2015), with a two month pre-order period, I feel the most positive I ever have about the promo process and had a tremendous amount of fun during it.

 

For the first time, I feel I’ve succeeded in making readers part of the process without selling to them and have generated more interest in the book than I would have with a more conventional promo process, eg, blurb, quote-tweet/Fb repeat. Press releases, review chasing, advertising etc.

Has it had a significant impact on sales? Ask me in a few days for a yes or no (I don’t share sales numbers publicly, mainly because I think it’s crass as fuck to do so). So far, I’ve had better first day sales, and I’ve had a lot worse, but I’ve never enjoyed the promo and launch experience more.

 

Below are some of the steps and strategies I took and employed:

 

 

Marketing:

Marketing on this novel had been a bit of a no-brainer. As the novel is essentially a split between a comedic plotline (second coming of Jesus) and a more theological plotline (Satan relaying the history of creation and evolution and being mankind’s representative in Heaven), I had a firm idea of how to market and whom to early on.

 

7th day was always going to be a love/hate book, simply because the strong language, religious irreverence (and sometimes disdain), mixed with fairly in-depth evolution and theological discussion isn’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea.

 

I placed it in the satire, dark comedy, religious fiction, mashups, alternative history and parody sections. And then wrote a product description that was deliberately inflammatory (to certain people) and reflective of the novel’s plot, whilst containing keywords I hope will bring in readers searching for similar works. Time will tell on the effectiveness of this.

 

Blurb:

“God hates you. Regardless of religion, race, sex, sexuality or nationality. He hates all of you. Basically, you are fucked.”

Irreverent dark humour from the author of Lanarkshire Strays and the dEaDINBURGH series.

God is pissed off.

He has run out of patience with humans and decided that our time is over. We’ve had our chance and it’s back to the drawing board. “Fuck the lot of them” is his newest gospel.

Mo, and Jay, best friends who’ve fucked up in the past, beg him for one more chance to get the humans back on track. Alongside Mr Saluzar, the head of a global charity foundation, and Nick, The Fallen Angel, they hurtle towards Armageddon and their one chance to prove God wrong.

They have seven days to save us.

On The Seventh Day contains strong language and religious irreverence which some may find offensive.

Praise for On The Seventh Day:

“If Irvine Welsh’s ‘Glue’ got The Bible up the duff, you’d have On The Seventh Day.”

“Seventh Day is the book that John Niven’s ‘The Second Coming’ desperately wanted to be and failed.”

 

I figured that the language and (apparent) blasphemy in the blurb would keep away the kind of reader who wouldn’t enjoy the book, or piss them off enough to leave a shitty review without having read the book, which for me is promo gold.

 

Cover and images for marketing and for promo came next.

I designed a few different covers using images from stock image sites. Here’s a few examples and the final cover:

 

 

I brought in my usual beta-readers but invited some readers who were religiously-minded as well as those who would enjoy the more comedic elements.

I had a proper mixed bag of comments, which was to be expected and no doubt will reflect reviews to come.

Normally I engage half a dozen or so beta-readers who I know will give me brutal and constructive feedback. With 7th Day, I had fifteen people beta-read. As always some did not make a return, but only three failed to do so, not a bad return. As a result I’m two days after launch with 12 honest reviews already live for the book.

 

8 of these were up whilst the book was still on pre-order. To do this, you need to have the paperback available, pre-order kindle books cannot be reviewed.

 

I’m still undecided on whether having the book on pre-order helps or harms launch sales. With this book I enjoyed the process and most of it wouldn’t have been possible without the pre-order in place, so I guess it paid off this time in terms of building engagement and enjoyment. I’ll try a future release without the pre-order for comparison.

 

As I always do, I ran a few ideas by my writing-wife, Bracha, as well as including links to his book in the rear matter of mine. We do this as a standard cross-promo. Does it help? See how closely we are linked on amazon for your answer.

 

The lad Bracha and I have also been waiting for a while to put together a Double A-Side type project. Bracha’s The Switched and my, On The Seventh Day have mated and are available as a collected edition titled Parental Guidance: A Transgressive Double A-Side.

81IfqGCYBnL._SL1500_

Cover by Ryan Bracha

 

Will the extra exposure affect sales in a positive or negative way? Time will tell. For the meantime we’ve a happy coupling of novels, producing a demented bastard child to hopefully help drive traffic to each other’s work.

 

Promo:

 At the beginning of the writing process I had a good idea of the overall plot of the

Novel. This isn’t always the case, more often than not I sit down with a vague concept and see where it goes. The advantage in having a better idea of the overall story allowed me to plan ahead and begin engaging readers early in the process.

 

I’ve made a habit over the years of using (with permission) real people’s names for characters. I feel it makes the books more meaningful to me and gives friends and families a connection to the book, that personally I love, and in the market place means they assist in an honest and enthusiastic manner when promo time comes.

 

An important plot mechanism for the novel is the reaction to events on social media.

I wanted these reactions to feel real and asked reads and friends to allow me to use their twitter handles in the novel to compose ‘fake’ tweets that appear in the book.

On launch day I asked these people to tweet their ‘fictional’ tweet to my fictional character (Jesus), who I’d named after a real person (Garry Crawford). Each tweet was directed to Gaz’s twitter account as he is the main character in the book.

 

The tweet team also tweeted some outraged comments about the book to organisations like Westboro Baptist, just for the fuck of it.

 

I really enjoyed taking the fictional tweets and seeing them tweeted in reality and the readers emailed me many times saying how thrilled they were to be part of the process and have their tweets appear in as such a significant plot point in the novel also. I think it gives the reader an ownership of the book, which is great, all readers should feel that way to an extent when reading, but to have a personal attachment to a book, took it to another, more personal place. Business-wise this gives me a team of people who are invested in helping promote my book I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Better still, they have an honest love for the book, which is fucking priceless.

 

As always, I wove a few short-stories, featuring people I know, into the overall plot and narrative also.

 

Essentially, I’ve been able to take a back seat and allow other people’s excitement at the project form a more natural buzz about the book than would normally be accomplished.

 

During the writing process I also created a few promo images with quotes from the book and some blog posts with early extracts. Standard stuff for me when I’m in the writing phase. Occasionally I’d make a trailer also, but not for this book.

 

As always, I ran a giveaway on Goodreads. In the past, these have ranged from 2500 entrants to 250 for my books.

Why bother?

Mainly to raise the book’s visibility whilst it is on pre-order, but also so that I can then contact around 50% of the entrants (those most likely to enjoy the book and review it, based on their reading history) after the giveaway has ended and offer them a free kindle or pdf copy of the book as a consolation prize.

This is not something I would do on Goodreads in the normal run of things, but after a giveaway I have a list of people who were interested in my book, so I’d be a fool not to use that information.

Typical uptake is around 40% with around a 60% actual return from that pool in terms of reviews.

 

I also research and approach readers who have read similar books to mine, but am very careful to select only those readers that I genuinely believe will enjoy the book, based on their reading habits. General I find a book that I like and is a similar read.

 

This strategy has been key to review building on my dEaDINBURGH series, but I use it only on specific books and carefully targeted readers. A scattergun approach is futile and annoying to readers. Do not piss off Goodreads reviewers.

 

As well as this, I set up an event page for an online launch on FB.

Uptake was pretty good, but I was careful to never actually try to sell the book on the event page.

Instead I shared daily pictures and stories and memes, all poking fun at religion. Lots of comments and engagement came, and those involved were into the satire, having never been sold to.

Every person commenting or liking these posts in the event, was helping me promo across their newsfeed as the likes and comments, obviously popped up in their newsfeeds.

Here’s a selection of images I used and people posted in the event page:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I also ran a competition to win a Kindle fire HD7, some signed paperbacks and kindle editions of the novel. I took a FB Ad for this (£20), a ‘Like and Share’ deal. Engagement was good and clicks (and subsequent sales) more than covered the cost of the prizes (which I’d sourced cheaply).

 

This for me was a much more engaging and genuine way to get people to share my link around and again made those participating feel a part of the buzz that was building.

 

Overall I’m delighted with the fun I had promoting On The Seventh Day and have come out of it having generated some positive buzz, increased visibility of my back catalogue as well as the new book (definite sales bounce on my other titles despite a price increase) and most importantly, I don’t feel jaded simply because I have been having fun and not selling at people for weeks on end.

Will any of the promo or marketing actually affect sales in the short or long term?

Fuck knows. Writers don’t like to admit that a breakout novel is likely a result of bundles of cash being invested or pure blind luck combined with fortunate product placement or inking to larger works.

 

Having said that, if 7th Day is an international bestseller, I’ll be talking shit about how great my marketing and promo was and giving my own genius full credit for the ‘success’.

 

Mark is the author of eight fiction works and one non-fiction book. You can find Mark and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing or at Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Seventh Day – Chapter 5 Preview

Throughout the novel I chose to alternate between two sets of protagonists. Jay and Mo (whose chapters are written using modern, and coarse language) and Nick and Beth (whose chapters are more formal and geological in tone). Hope you enjoy. 

  
The following excerpt is un-proofed and in-edited and is taken from the forthcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available to pre-order now at Amazon:

5 

Nick and Beth

 

Beth reached over the bar, placing a hand on top of Nick’s. “Is it painful? Telling me your history?” She asked.

Nick narrowed his eyes, thinking about the question. Finally he said,” no. It’s not, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve vented to a stranger.”

“Why me?” asked Beth.

Nick shrugged. Mostly timing and circumstance. Right place, right time,” he said.

“Mostly?” She asked.

“We’ll get to that later, Bethany,” Nick said softly. “I have a story to tell first.”

Beth’s eyes flashed fear, but she hid it quickly behind a sip of her vodka and a smile.

 

“Where was I?” Nick asked.

Beth drained her drink before answering. She felt like she’d been drinking for days. Exhaustion crept on her.

“Water,” she said, “Water and life.”

Nick nodded once in thanks.

“Yes. Water and Life. The moment when everything in Heaven and in the material universe was irretrievable altered.”

Nick smiled warmly at her before continuing.

“Water, lightning and some chemicals, that’s all it took.”

“It was random?” Beth asked.

“Yes and no,” Nick replied.

“The lightning, the spark was intentional. He meant to begin the process. What came after, He left to chance…no not chance, nature.” A shadow of sadness passed over Nick’s face as he spoke.

“God made the atoms and molecules form into nucleic acid, DNA. Proteins formed, membranes, organelles. Cells combined, proliferated. Others went extinct. This simple snuffing of a cell shocked Angels whose lives were unlimited by time, or health or predatory chance. That a spark of life, even one so small, could be snuffed out was abhorrent to us in our eternal lifespans. God reassured us that it was all in nature. Part of life.

Billions upon billions of identical cells emerged from one common ancestor. Some adapted, some disappeared from the gene pool forever. Groups of cells formed bonds or fused together, forming tissues, or other structures. The single-celled inhabitants of a pool of water adapted into a myriad of multicellular creatures. Simple organisms. Some photosynthesised food. Some didn’t. Some hunted. Most perished.

All who survived adapted in some way. Muscle, teeth, fins, gills. Some became simple worm-like creatures, or fish-like organisms. Others adapted to become plants. Hundreds of millions of years passed. Billions of organisms, whole species lived short lives and died.

Angels wept for their brief existence.

Adaptations, evolution continued. Rudimentary life found a way to survive, to adapt, to become complex life. Animals with eyes and mouths…faces emerged. Simple things, who fed and bred and not much else, but they had faces.”

Nick looked deep into Beth’s eyes, causing her to shrink back a little.

“You cannot fathom the clamour that this simple development-a creature with a face- sparked in Heaven. Angels flocked to God. ‘What does it mean? They have faces? Is it blasphemy? Does the existence of creatures with faces mock you my lord?’

It seems an absurd reaction I’m sure, Beth but consider this. We were God’s only creations, made in His own likeness by His own hand. We looked like Him. We had faces.

That nature, evolution had created an organisms with a structure so closely resembling one of our own, by random chance, seemed a heresy.”

Beth grinned.

“Yes,” Nick said. “Seems ridiculous to you, I agree, but you were born into a world where a face was the first thing you saw. In all of Heaven and God’s good universe until that moment, only God’s creations, His Angels, had faces. That these random mutations of nature had produced a creature with such a structure was truly terrifying to us.”

“Yeah, I suppose I can get that. Faces…terrifying,” Beth said, sarcasm lacing her tone.

Nick rolled his eyes.

“God- calm as he’d been since our creation- spoke to us, His Angels, gently, reassuring us that all was as he intended, part of nature. ‘Observe, my Angels. See what nature does next. Trust in me.’ Of course, we did trust in God and followed his advice. We witnessed the development of brains, simple but entirely functional. Ears, limbs skeletons, nervous systems, kidneys, hearts, livers pulsed and beat their way into existence. The rate of development was astonishing to us. You must understand, Beth, time is…different in Heaven. We existed for many millions, perhaps billions of years, before God created the universe. Time passed for us, but didn’t. Things changed, adapted I suppose, but nothing was diminished, only magnified by its passing.

Change occurred in Heaven but only as we willed it, not at the mercy of nature and not on the scale that life was adapting in the Universe. It seemed to us that time passing in the material universe simply meant death. Once an unnoticed companion to us in Heaven, time now seemed to stalk the material world. To us, the evolution present in the universe and the death that drove it was truly shocking.

I’ve been talking about evolution of creatures on earth, but this was happening on countless planets, throughout the universe.” Nick had spread his arms in a broad gesture.

“The unrelenting speed; the efficiency of nature in stimulating these frighteningly effective adaptations in animals and plants, shook us. We returned to God once more, in greater numbers than before. ‘Lord. Look what matter, what nature has done. Fish have grown legs and lungs and crawl the earth. Faces look to the skies. When will it stop?’

God’s patience with us in our ignorance seemed eternal at that time. He merely smiled kindly and allayed our fears.

As his first Creation, his closest companion, I was hurt in another manner by what unfolded in nature, so I asked God. ‘There is a spark of life in them, a light, not unlike our own ethereal light. When they die, does it come home to you, my Lord?’

I had witnessed God create matter and I had witnessed it change and evolve from basic chemicals, to the first cells and into a myriad of living animals and plants. The light inside each of the billions of cells was so familiar to me that it may as well have been part of my own self. I was in conflict. Where did this light go upon their deaths? Did their consciousness reside in the spiritual part of themselves and if so how can God suffer them to die and this light to just dissipate? If that’s what truly happened.

I didn’t really believe that He would allow these organisms to suffer such brief lives and their light to dissipate. That would be cruel. God was not cruel, He was the source of all love and warmth in Heaven and the universe. He was the Creator. But the questions remained as thorns in my subconscious.

Did God in creating this abundance of life, share his own light amongst them? He hadn’t seemed diminished in any way by the act of Creation. If anything he’d seemed magnified. Was he receiving the light of these creatures back into himself upon their death? I knew for a fact that he wasn’t, we would have witnessed the entry of such light in Heaven. Despite this knowledge, I was also certain that he must have a plan, a destiny for this light of life; otherwise the whole experiment of the universe, life, was the cruellest punishment imaginable.

Consider a brief life in the material universe followed by just… nothing? I couldn’t abide the thought. In hindsight, that moment was when I began to lose my trust in God and became his Accuser.

I recall Him looking into my eyes. ‘You must trust in me, my Angel. There is a plan.’ I nodded and prayed and made all the right noises, Beth, but something crucial and irreparable had broken inside me. Despite this, it would take many years, uncountable trillions of deaths and the evolution of humankind to set me firmly on my course.

 

God, of course, reassured time and again that all was in nature. All was intended. Many Angels made a choice to trust God and merely observe. Other turned away from watching nature’s progress altogether, returning to those concerns in Heaven that had busied them before God had created the universe. I resolved to be and remain The Watcher.

End Of Excerpt

On The Seventh Day is available to pre-order now at Amazon

Mary Magdalene – Twelve Mad Men Excerpt

I’m not sure how Bracha talks me into these things. When he proposed the Mad Men project I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘that’s an impossible project’ luckily for me I’d had beer, lots of beer and my mouth ignored my brain, telling him, “sounds magic, I’m in.” I’m fairly certain he times his approach deliberately.

Taking twelve very different writer’s stories and merging them into a coherent narrative is an immensely difficult task and one that most writers wouldn’t consider approaching.

Ryan Bracha, in Twelve Mad Men, has taken the differing personalities, voices, morals, madness and writing styles and formed not only a coherent novel from them but an utterly original and compelling piece of fiction.

Without a doubt the maddest of the twelve, Bracha (the bastard), took each of us involved out of our comfort zone and gave us permission to indulge ourselves in a way we wouldn’t normally do in our own books. He brought the worst and the best out in my writing and pulled off his ridiculous project with gusto. Dick.

Here’s my contribution:

Suggested for over 18s only. Contains very strong language and very graphic violence.

IMG_2342.JPG

Mary Magdalene

By Mark Wilson

“Hello? I’m here to fix the lights. Can you get in the corner, please?” I press my ear up against the door, listening for shuffling to confirm that he’s done as I asked. All I hear is a rhythmic slurping, slap sound. I listen a little closer. The meaty slurp sounds like it’s coming from a distance away so I slip my key in the door, turn and push gently, keeping a firm hold of the handle, in case I have to slam it closed again.

Peeking my face through the grate, I see Wilson in the corner. More precisely, I see the back of him. He’s sitting in the corner like I asked, but I get the distinct impression that he was already there before I came knocking. He’s not that tall, and only lightly built but even from behind it’s clear that he’s powerful. He has that wiry, coiled spring musculature, I can see it in the movement of his shoulder. I can see his body quite clearly as there’s nothing covering it.

His right arm is moving with some force, repeatedly hammering away at something as he sits. He’s talking to himself, but I can’t quite make out what he’s saying. It’s not the accent, it’s his voice, so gentle. Like he’s talking to a lover. He’s facing the wall to his right, staring at a photograph. I move a little closer, just close enough to hear better and get a look at the image. It’s a tattered photo from some sort of boarding school. There are about a hundred kids, half a dozen nuns and maybe twenty priests, all standing in rows posing for the camera. I peer in a little closer and start counting.

Fourteen of the priests and two nuns have a very thick, very bold tick made with a red marker on their faces.

I cock my ear to the left and hold my breath. Wilson hasn’t made a move, just that piston he has for a right arm pumping up and down in a decidedly masturbatory manner. So long as he’s happy. I take another step closer, finally I can hear that gentle voice.

“Cotter, Docherty, McNally, O’Donnell, McGuire…”

He lists surnames, maybe ten, maybe twenty and starts again, tugging at his cock with each name whispered. I’ve somehow forgotten why I’m here or the danger present and lean in for a closer look.

Wilson stands and turns quite gracefully as my foot scuffs the stone floor a little louder than intended. The cock-bashing hasn’t stopped, or even slowed, it hasn’t changed pace, I’m suddenly very grateful that it hasn’t sped up. He tilts his head very slightly. His shaved head glints in the moonlight and his eyes widen as he takes me in. There are scars on his chest, low down just above the abdomen. They look nasty.

“Lalley, O’Malley, Foley..” His head straightens and the chanting stops, although the arm keeps perfect time.

“Are you fixing the lights or not,” he asks, never missing a stroke. His voice is softer than any man’s, he sounds like a woman, a pretty woman. I search for words, but my capacity to speak has been taken away by the sight of this very slight man with a cock like two cans of Red Bull stacked on end, wanking at me.

His arm starts to slow, so I start talking. “Yes, sorry Mr Wilson, if you could just stay in the corner, I’ll..”

“What’s your name?” He asks gently. His eyes are curious, but something else, there’s excitement there, and maybe fear as well.

I tell him my name.

His face softened, and he tilts his head again, throwing me a seductive look.

“Are you a religious man?” he asks, with a giggle.

Involuntarily, my eyes dart to the faded image on the wall and back to his quickly. Not quick enough though, he saw it. His eyes narrow, all friendliness gone.

“My sister asked you a fuckin’ question, cunt!” he roars at me in a booming baritone.

The change in him is staggering. The softness is gone, so has the curiosity. His whole posture has changed, all playfulness and grace has vanished and pure predatory aggression glares from him.

Fuck knows what the right answer to his question is but his arm has started pulling at that two-can cock with such ferocity that I’m genuinely frightened for its well-being despite the danger I’m in.

I blurt out, “No, I’m not. Used to be, but..”

“Shut the fuck up, ya dick.” He spits at me.

I do. I watch him transform again in front of me. The face softens, the eyes widen and the body becomes a graceful swan in movement once again as she returns.

Something’s changed in her though, she’s no longer throwing me admiring, curious looks. She’s looks friendly enough, and her wanking has returned to normal pace, but something’s shifted.

She moves beside me to get a good look at my face. I use my peripheral vision to make sure that I have an egress.

“I’m sorry about my brother. He’s a little overprotective,” she says gently. “I’m glad you’re not religious, I like the religious type, but Paul, my brother, does not.”

“Okay,” I sing, with false cheeriness as the lean man with the woman’s demeanour and voice wanks serenely in my direction. “Best get on then. Would you mind going back to the corner, don’t let me interrupt…” I nod down at her… his reddened cock.

“I’d like you to stay for a few minutes. I so rarely get to talk to anyone.” Her face darkened a little, the threat of Paul behind her eyes. “Paul gets angry if I’m not happy. Let’s talk, just for a little while.” I nod and watch her walk back to her corner and resume her previous position, only this time she’s facing me.

I sit a few metres away and ask. “So what’s a nice girl like you doing here?”

Her face drops. “I’m not a nice girl,” she says.

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out, it was just a joke, y’know, cos that’s what people say.”

She nods, but I can tell that I hurt her feelings because her cock twitched at me in response.

“Why don’t you tell me how you came to be here, you and your brother,” I suggest. “if you don’t mind, that is….” I suddenly feel ridiculous, but have to ask.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

The wiry little, very scary man with the huge dick, blushes, he actually blushes and pauses his wankery for a second in surprise.

“Nobody ever asks me that, not in all my time here. They just call us both Wilson.” She smiles with genuine warmth before resuming her stroking at a more leisurely pace than I’d seen her do so far.

“My name’s Mary. Pleased to meet you.”

“And you,” I say with a ridiculous little bow that makes me feel stupid, but it makes her laugh and the cell lights up when she laughs.

“Would you like to hear about how I came here? She asks

I shrug, “Only if you’re happy to tell me.”

She gives me a little bow of her own, mirroring mine in a gentle mock, making me laugh. Her eyes dance with light and she drinks in my happiness as she starts to tell her story. I sit and stare into the face of the scariest, most beautiful man I’ve ever seen as he-she, as Paul-Mary speaks.

***

My sibling and I had been in St Margaret Mary’s for around six months. We’d been to other schools, loads actually. We were good kids, but dad moved around a lot. Army officer. Came from money and gentry, couldn’t be bothered being a parent after Mum died. It was an alright school and was close to Edinburgh city centre which was awesome for a couple of fourteen year olds with time to kill and no parents around.

On our first day, the head teacher, Father Connelly, introduced us to our peers at the house assembly. He made a big deal of us being twins, we were the first twins to attend St Mags’. Father Connelly was a lovely man, I really looked up to him, to all of the staff, to be honest. That’s probably why I have a thing for the religious type, especially Catholics. Never works out though.

Paul played rugby, Mary studied hard. Friends were difficult to come by, most of the kids our age seemed withdrawn, sullen. We didn’t particularly care, we had each other after all, but it would’ve been nice to have some more friends.

Eventually we were invited along to one of Fr Connelly’s private dinners. He’d been telling us for months how special being twins was. He really liked that about us.

Mary wore a very white dress, one that father Connelly had remarked on at an assembly some months before. Paul looked as scruffy as always, but at least he’d had a shower. When we entered Fr Connelly’s quarters, a huge table filled the room. On it was a large white sheet, covering the food and around it sat sixteen of the school’s priests and four nuns. I remember our eyes fixing on the sheet. Paul took Mary’s hand and began to drag her back towards the oak doors we’d entered by, but Mary pulled free of his grasp. This was Mary’s big night, and Paul wasn’t going to spoil it.

I remember rushing to Fr Connelly and apologising. He smelled strongly of wine, they all looked a little drunk, even the nuns. Paul grabbed Mary from out of Fr Connelly’s hands, she let him this time. The elderly priest we had so admired smiled at us as we backed up to the doors. Doors that had already been locked.

Paul rushed at Father Connelly and rugby tackled the head teacher to the floor, clattering the old man’s head against a strong wooden chair leg as they fell. The room erupted, in laughter. Strong hands grabbed at Paul, grabbed at Mary also. Strong hands tore off our clothes and bound us and violated our bodies.

They passed us round. The tore our bodies as well as our clothes. They fucked the nuns, they pulled the sheet from the table and fucked each other with the implements of sex that lay there. They pushed them into us as well, those toys.

Hours passed I came and went. Some minutes passed torturously as years of pain and humiliation. Some hours passed in seconds of unconsciousness when I blacked out. Mary, Mary Magdalene. Fuck Mary Magdalene, they chanted as they passed us around.

I woke many miles from St Mags on a rocky shore of the Firth of Forth. I’d been tied in a mail sack, along with my sibling. I’d freed my head and breathed. My sibling had not. It was a mercy. I climbed out of the sack and onto the smooth, cold pebbles of North Queensferry, a wretched creature. I kicked the body of my twin, still inside the sack back into the water and blew it a kiss.

I didn’t go back to Edinburgh, instead I went home to Dundee and emptied my father’s safe at home. I went online with the black book full of passwords I found in his safe and emptied every one of his accounts too. The bastard deserved us for putting us in St Mags’.

I disappeared. I got a new identity, I travelled, I grew up. I came back to Edinburgh, but I’d changed. I’d grown, become a man. A strong man, younger and more capable than the elderly, filthy men who’d violated Mary and Paul. The first one, I took whilst he crossed Charlotte Square. It was pathetic how old he had become. The hands I remembered clawing at my thighs and pants, were sparrow’s claws, ineffectually pulling at my grip as I dragged the old cunt into the back of my van. I bestowed upon him every torture my sibling and I had suffered at his hands and the hands of his brethren.

I went so much further with him than even they had with Paul and Mary. I cut his eyelids and placed him in a room full of mirrors to watch as I sliced and pierced and fucked and ripped and gouged every ounce of fucking pain I could drag from the evil bastard. I did things to that creature that some would say makes me worse than all of them. It doesn’t though, because he wasn’t a child. That’s the bare truth of it. He and his brothers of the cloth, men of God, betrayed children. I tortured and fucked an evil old man into a bloody puddle, then I hunted some of his fellow holy men. I still have some to find, to punish. For me and for my brother.

***

My eyes are stinging and I become aware that I hadn’t blinked the entire time Wilson had been speaking. He’s still sitting in Buddha position wanking away in the corner.

“Your brother?” I ask.

“Yes, Paul, my brother.” She makes a sort of ‘duh’ face at me. Standing, she continues tugging on her cock and extends a hand for me.

“Thanks for listening. You should go now, Paul will be back soon. He doesn’t like you much. Go.”

I reach out and give the offered hand a little squeeze, similar to the one Benny had offered me earlier. As I let go my eyes go for a wander to Wilson’s feet. They are small, maybe a size four or five. The legs are lean and strong but long and slender also. Whilst Wilson’s torso is scarred the scars screamed a familiarity. I’ve seen scars like those on she wears on his-her chest somewhere else before. Maybe a TV show.

Wilson catches me scanning his body. That smile lights up the room again.

“You like it?” She asks. “I paid a fortune for it. Tits out and sewed up, vagina closed and this,” She jerks that cock. “This I’m delighted with. Nice and big, plenty of damage done tae a hole wi’ this big bastard, I can tell ye. Three piece titanium rod inside, hard whenever I want for however long I need it.”

I gape at the scars.

“Only problem is that I’m a dry-shagger. They cannae give ye baws, well wee rubber wans, but not working ones full of spunk.” Her eyes mist for a second as she loses herself in a rapey-reverie. “Och I’d have loved it if I could’ve had spunk tae splash over thae bastards,” she says, wistfully.

Suddenly her face begins to darken once more and her voice deepens. Half way between Paul and Mary he-she roars. “Get fuckin’ oot!”

She doesn’t have to tell me twice. I rocket through the door and lock it shut behind me. Peering in through the little trap, I watch Mary kneel back into the corner and her back straighten. Paul’s voice comes.

“Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. She’s fuckin’ coming fur ye, ya basturts.”

End of Excerpt

IMG_2382.JPG

Twelve Mad Men features contributions from:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

and is available now at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

 

Free Kindle copy of The Man Who Sold His Son

The Man Who Sold His Son is Free on kindle from 30th June – 4th July, 2014. You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

The following excerpt is from The Man Who Sold His Son by Mark Wilson. Copyright, 2014 Paddy’s Daddy Publishing Ltd

Garth felt an impulse rack his little body, sending another spasm of intense pain through his neurones. He felt the pain travel along his chest and down his spine. Unable to respond to it, the ten-year old merely observed as it travelled to his toes and left as quickly as it had come. He felt a pang of regret as it left him. He experienced so little of anything physically these days; these spikes of intense pain were becoming old and welcome friends. They reminded him he still existed. The only other things that tied him to the world were the voices he heard. People moving around his bed, talking, discussing him. Wondering aloud if he could hear them. He certainly couldn’t respond.

Doctors, nurses, his father; they discussed his future, or lack of it. They argued over treatment, whether to continue or if the time had come to turn off the motors and pumps that kept his lings inflating and his blood circulating. Part of him wished they would. Part of him was ready to go somewhere else. Not yet, though. He had his voice to cling to. His father’s voice.

 

I think it’s time to consider the removal of the viral particles from his spinal fluid.”

“That’s a very risky option at this stage. He’s unlikely to live through the procedure.”

“He’s not living now. This isn’t life. He hasn’t breathed alone in months. There are no detectable traces of brain activity. It’s over; it’s time to switch these machines off… With a sample of the virus, directly from his spinal fluid, we could make huge progress in understanding this virus. Maybe prevent what’s happened to Garth from happening to anyone else.”

“I still think that if we can give him more time, we should.”

“He’s been this way for eighteen months. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but Garth’s condition is unlikely to change. This is a totally unique, totally new virus we’re dealing with. It has properties we’ve never seen before in a pathogen of this type.”

“I know. I just wish there’s more we could do, other than keep him comfortable.”

“This young man’s contribution will change the lives of millions, maybe billions. This is the right thing.”

 

Garth Listened to them, smiling to himself. It’ll be over soon. At least I’ll get to help other kids. Other people. He took his mind elsewhere, to happier times, years before, when Mum was still alive. Before her illness, before dad lost himself in his work and put Garth into a boarding school. Garth watched images of his mother and father flashing across his mind’s-eye. Happy smiles, hot chocolate, racing through long grass in meadows filled with summer flowers and love. His family.

Would mum be waiting for him? Would his dad be alright alone, or would his son’s passing make him even more detached, more fixated on his business. He couldn’t know.

 

He was being moved along a corridor. The lights overhead flashed through his eyelids. Suddenly the gurney stopped and the metallic sounds of surgery began. A mask was pressed to his mouth. He tasted rubber and unfamiliar gasses. Garth focused on the voices again.

 

“How long until he goes under?”

“Seconds. He’s probably under already. If you’ve anything to say, do it now. He won’t hear you, but if you don’t, you’ll regret saying nothing to him before he’s totally gone.”

 

Garth felt a warm fluid flow over him. All pain was gone. He could move again, he could think again. He was free of the dulling effect of the morphine. He was free, period. As he moved into his mother’s arms he heard his father’s voice whispering into the ear of what used to be his body.

 

“You’re going to make me a lot of money. Goodbye, Son.”

 

————————–

 

 

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr Ennis. He’s gone.”

“Right. Get me that sample, Doctor. I’ve got work to do.”

 

The veteran surgeon pushed back his dislike for the man beside him and made the incision into Garth Ennis’ spine. Ten minutes later he watched, sickened, as the businessman’s eyes brightened when he handed him the small vial of spinal fluid.

“He could’ve had another few months, you know.”

Ennis held the vial of his son’s fluid up to the light and stared into it.

“My son’s contributed more to medicine with this sample than you have in your entire little career, Doctor. This…” Ennis held the vial up for him. “This, will change the world.”

The surgeon bored holes into Ennis with his eyes. He’d made allowances for Ennis, these last few months. He’d ignored the man’s clinical manner, his coldness towards the comatose boy. At times it had felt like he’d been protecting the boy from his own father. Since succumbing to the virus, this new virus, and slipping into his vegetative state, Garth had lain in the same bed, in the same room, in his care. Garth’s father visited every day, but said nothing to the boy. He didn’t kiss or hold him. He barely looked at the boy’s face. Gavin Ennis would just sit there for hours, tapping away at his handheld computer; working. Making plans for the genome of the virus that was killing his son.

The surgeon made excuses for Ennis’ demeanour. He knew the family history well. Ennis’ wife had died from meningitis three years back. His small business was in trouble. Having created synthetic gametes that nobody wanted, Ennis Company looked to be going into liquidation. Simply, no-one wanted to have children conceived using synthetic sperm. Ennis had expected single, career women who’d left it too late or couldn’t find a partner to jump at the chance. Or married gay couples, but there just wasn’t the interest. People had chosen to use the DNA of a stranger or relative rather than Ennis’, lab creations.

The man was on his knees. Dead wife so young, his son dying so very young. The surgeon had found plenty of reasons to excuse Ennis’ behaviour, until now. The callousness of Ennis’ actions today clawed at the surgeon’s conscience. He felt a fool for having made allowances for this man, who had effectively used his dead son for profit.

Injecting all the venom he could muster into his voice, the surgeon spat out,

“You sold out your son to get it. I hope it was worth it.”

Ennis had already turned and begun to walk towards the exit.

The surgeon headed in the opposite direction, his next task, the disposal of little Garth Ennis’ remains.

 

End of Excerpt

The Man Who Sold His Son is Free on kindle from 30th June – 4th July, 2014. You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

20140630-184548-67548672.jpg

The Man Who Sold His Son – Preview

The following passage is an excerpt from my upcoming 5th novel, The Man Who Sold His Son. I’d previously placed this on the back-burner after writing the first third of the book, as dEaDINBURGH: Book 1 was itching my head. At present, I’m writing this as my main project whilst working on dEaDINBURGH: Book 2

The Man Who Sold His Son is a welcome return to my native Bellshill. The following excerpt is pre-edit.

20131202-145428.jpg

Bellshill, Lanarkshire

 

Scotland

 

2055

 

1

 Alex sped the along Bellshill Main Street on his vintage Kawasaki Ninja enjoying the freedom of being on his bike. It was past midnight and a warm July night so he had the roads to himself. Hardly anyone drove these days, most choosing to use The Tubes, and those who did invariably drove those soulless hydrogen-powered cart monstrosities. Alex couldn’t imagine being without his bike. Riding his Kawasaki was more or less the only freedom he had these days, but that was ok. Life was good in so many ways. Continuing along the long road, he glanced up at the windows of his duplex noting the living room’s light flickering and that the light in Tommy’s room was on. Damn it, Sarah!

At the end of a long shift in the hospital the last thing Alex needed was another argument with his wife. Why couldn’t she just be a little kinder to the boy?

Disappearing down his building’s ramp, he noticed the underground garage doors sliding up in response to his bikes’ approach and gunned it, ducking slightly as he impatiently sped under the ascending metal. Riding the elevator to their duplex apartment on the twentieth floor of the Sir Matt Busby building, Alex removed his helmet and steeled himself for the inevitable confrontation that awaited him two hundred feet above. Forcing himself to breathe deeply, Alex thought of his grand-father.

Tom Kinsella had been a Bellshill resident but had moved to New York in adulthood. Tom had fathered twin girls, Natalie and Patricia. Patricia was Alex’s Mother and currently on vacation in Cornwall. In her fifties the relative warmth suited her and the beautiful scenery aided in her day job. Like her father, Tom, Patricia was a writer and had returned to live in her father’s home country whilst pregnant with Alex.

Alex had been lucky enough to spend his younger years splitting his time between Scotland and his grandfather’s home in New York City. Of course this was when people still travelled to other countries relatively cheaply and freely. These days, only the very rich could afford overseas travel and as a consequence, almost no-one left their country of birth anymore. Alex hadn’t seen his Grandfather in years, although they spoke often over the Holo-Net.

Tom Kinsella was the calmest, most composed man Alex had ever known. Having lost his wife in his twenties, Tom had raised the twin girls in New York and seemed completely incapable of getting angry or flustered. He was a terrific Grandfather and entirely Alex’ hero; which is why he’d named his son for the man. Speaking to, or even thinking of, his Granda Tom always helped Alex to compose himself.

The shudder of the elevator, followed by a ping shook Alex from his reverie and prompted him to step out onto the plush carpet of the twentieth floor. Each floor was identified by a different décor. Every time Alex stepped out onto the blue of the twentieth floor, he gave silent thanks that he didn’t live on the fifteenth, the orange floor.

 

The Sir Matt Busby Busby building was a luxury apartment complex built on the site of a long-demolished leisure centre. The building had been named for a 20th Century football manager, born in Bellshill, and was the new centre of the once-again affluent town. In years gone past Bellshill had been an impoverished, ex-mining, ex-steelworks town but had benefited from a decision to base Synthi-Inc’s global headquarters in the now resurgent town.

On the verge of being granted city status, Bellshill had expanded exponentially to become a global hub and mecca for biological and reproductive research. Research labs provided skills, education and employment for the thousands of locals and hundreds of thousands of new settlers the town had attracted. Several new hospitals had also been built in recent years, including Alex’ employer, the Ally McCoist Clinic for Reproductive Health, again named after a former footballing native. The locals had loved football at one time but with most of the population now composed of Synthi-kids and adults, the desire, passion and drive that made people follow or play for football clubs was absent and the game had died.

 

Alex breathed deeply, expelling any residual anger he’d felt on noticing the lights on in two separate rooms in his home, pressed his thumb to the doors’ scanner and gently pushed open the aluminium door. Striding past the living room on his right, Alex ignored Sarah’s half-hearted Hi and continued to the staircase at the end of the hallway. Ascending the spiral staircase, he reached the upper floor and lightened his step to approach the door to Thomas’s room. Grimacing at the noise as he creaked the door open three inches or so, Alex poked his nose in, checking if his son was asleep. Although there was a light on in the room, Thomas often fell asleep with a light on, a habit left over from infancy.

Alex eyes followed a trail of books along the floor leading towards Tommy’s bed. All titles well in advance of his ten years, the books were creased and well read. Thomas had always refused to use an E-reader or tablet, preferring real books. He took after Tom, his great-grandfather and a man he’d never met in person, in this regard. With his thick blonde hair and green eyes, Tommy looked like Tom as well. Alex smiled as he raised his eyes to see his son sitting up in his bed, back to the wall, knees bent in a makeshift book rest.

“Hey, Dad.”

Smiling broadly, Alex entered the room, closing the door behind him.

“Hey, Son. What you reading?”

Thomas lifted the hardback edition, showing his dad the cover.

“Rot and Ruin? Great book. I read that when I was a kid. Isn’t it a little younger than your usual choice?”

Tommy nodded “Yeah, but the writer’s amazing, Dad.”

Alex nodded in agreement. Propping one buttock on the bed he ruffled his son’s hair. “You been in here long tonight?”

Tommy’s eyes darted back to his book. “Na. Only for half an hour. Just wanted some quiet time, to read.” He said quietly.

Alex could tell he was lying, and Tommy knew it. Alex always saw the lies in his son’s eyes, but neither pushed the issue any further.

Tommy looked up at his father. “It’s alright, Dad. I like to read alone…..Please don’t argue with Mum again.” He pleaded.

Thomas’s eyes had filled a little.

Alex allowed the rising anger to dissipate and smiled warmly at his boy. “Tell me about your day at school.”

Tommy threw his book onto the floor and launched himself into an animated account of his school day. Alex listened carefully as his son described, his various classes, and friends and passed along some jokes from his mates. Thomas ended up with hiccoughs from laughing so much. When Tommy had finished and Alex had caught his breath from laughing, he raised an eyebrow and asked the boy. “Any arguments today?”

Thomas nodded.

“Mr Chase again?” he asked.

“Yeah, but he wouldn’t listen to me, Dad. I had a good point to make.”

Alex nodded. You know how proud I am of you, Don’t you?”

Tommy nodded back at his father.

“I love that you’ve got your own ideas that you think for yourself, but whilst you’re at school, you have to be careful not to be too…” Alex searched for the word, “…spirited.”

They’d had the same conversation dozens of times before. Thomas was such a livewire, so bright, athletic and full of life. It crushed Alex to dampen the boy, but it wasn’t good to shine too brightly in this modern world.”

Thomas’s eyes filled with hurt, the same way they always did when Alex had to reluctantly rein him in. “Alright, Dad. I’ll try harder.”

Alex winced. He hated making his son hide his talents, but what else could he do? Smiling again, he told Thomas. “I love you more than sausages.”

Tommy laughed. “Daaad.” He groaned.

Alex repeated “I love you more than sausages.”

Thomas’s cheeks flushed red. They’d played this game since Tommy had been a toddler. It was just embarrassing now. But still…

“I love you more than chips.” He replied, bringing a toothy smile form Alex.

“I love you more than cheesecake.” Alex grinned, initiating a ping pong of I love you more thans for a few minutes. After a few rounds Tommy yawned, signalling that his patience had run out.

Alex waited for him to lie down and then tucked him in. Sitting himself next to his son, he stroked his hair for a while. Tommy, with drooping, sleepy eyes, turned to face him. “Dad, I do love you, and Mum. I just wish that she…liked me a bit more.”

Anger and pain lanced Alex’ heart but he didn’t allow it to show in his eyes. “She does love you, you know that, Tommy. She’s just…got her own way of showing it.”

Alex searched his son’s face. The kid didn’t believe a word of it, but pretended to be comforted, for his Dad’s sake. It broke Alex heart to watch his son protect his feelings in this way. He reached out and tugged Tommy’s right ear.

“G’night, Bacon ears.” He laughed.

Tommy grabbed his Dad’s nose and yanked. “Night, Sausage Nose.”

With that he rolled over and Alex quietly left his room. Anger building once again, he made for the living room and another fight.

 

2

Sarah sat with her back to the door, vape-pod pressed to her mouth, immersed in whatever shitty Holo-Soap she was addicted to that month and sunken deep into the memory-foam sofa. One hand tapped the thin screen of her tablet, scanning the Holo-Net. The light he’d seen from outside the building was, as he’d guessed, the flicker from the Holo-Projector filling the room. Listening to the click-whizz of the vape-pod as she inhaled the last of its contents, he allowed his anger to rise.

Alex sat in an armchair opposite her, an old chair. The sort with springs and tears and history and flaws. It’d come from his Grandfather’s childhood house on Community Road. Covered in coffee-rings, it reeked of cigarettes and was one of his favourite things. Alex Mum had wanted to throw it out when the house was being demolished. He’d practically ripped it from the house in his eagerness to preserve that one, simple tie to Tom.

Sarah tossed the empty vape-pod onto the coffee table, where it bounced once and clattered to a rest against four other empty pods. It was a defiant gesture and she glared at Alex for a reaction as she threw it.

Alex held onto his anger, controlling and supressing the need to roar at her.

“Have a good day?” Sarah sneered at him and began laughing at her own question?”

“Not as good as you.” Alex nodded at the pile of pods on the table.

“Och that’s a shame” she giggled. “You should relax a wee bit, treat yourself to a vape.”

Alex ignored her provocation. “How long has Tommy been in his room while you’ve been sitting in here vaped out your head?”

Sarah laughed again. God, he hated her sometimes. At least he wished he hated her. The truth was that he loved her, God help him. His life would be a damn site easier if he could hate Sarah.

“It’s perfectly legal, Alexander.” She tried to look nonchalant, but the expression came across twisted and dull.

“Aye, it’s legal, but that boy in there thinks you hate him. Why can’t you spend some time with him? Show him you do care. Is this shit so important? More important than your son?” Alex lashed out with his foot, sending the table and the pile of vape-pods flying across the room.

Sarah laughed harder than ever. Rising to her feet she staggered unsteadily over to the table and gave it an exaggerated, slapstick kick, mocking Alex.

Alex felt a deep stab of shame at losing his temper, but was struggling to keep it in check again already due to her nastiness. He composed himself and sat back into his chair, leaving her to dance foolishly, kicking the vape-pods around as she went.

Suddenly Sarah stopped her horrific dance and turned to stare at him. Eyes like stone she said, “You know I never wanted him.”

Smiling once more, she continued, “We agreed if I had him, nothing had to change. I’m a young woman. I just want to enjoy myself.”

She staggered back to her sofa and retrieved another vape-pod from her handbag.

“I’m just having fun. Don’t I deserve some fun?” She’d started crying. There was no talking to her when she’d been vaping and he’d promised Thomas that he wouldn’t fight with her tonight. Alex left her to it and headed to their bedroom.

 

Lying on top of the covers freshly showered and in boxers and a white T, he sighed heavily and reached to his bedside table to pick up their wedding image. Holding the light plastic frame at its corners, Alex looked sadly at the image of him and Sarah smiling on their wedding day. Alex hated these moving Holo-images and much preferred the older, still photographs of his childhood. He hated the way the Holos captured and projected so accurately the emotions of the day. Alex’ smile was beaming from the Holo with pride and happiness. Sarah smiled broadly also, but her smile never reached her eyes. Even then she’d begun to grow colder.

 

Childhood friends, he and Sarah had lived in houses across the road from each other in an older part of Bellshill. At three years old they’d gone to nursery together. At five, primary school. At twelve, high school. Throughout their childhood and adolescence they’d been best friends, each and every life event had been marked by photos and then Holos, featuring both of them. They’d come as a pair their whole lives. Eventually, they exchanged their virginities and conceived Thomas on the first go.

Sarah was almost three months pregnant by the time they’d realised and then accepted that they were one of the rare few. A couple who could produce offspring in the old way. Sarah felt that she’d been cursed and wondered at what she’d done to deserve such a cruel outcome to her first sexual encounter. Alex was shocked, but despite what was becoming fashionable, despite the extra work and responsibilities and perhaps persecution having their child would bring into their lives. For him, the introduction of a child into their lives felt right somehow. He felt like a father from the moment he discovered the unlikely conception.

At eighteen, Sarah had been overly concerned with what her peers and her parents’ friends thought of her pregnancy. People generally made one of two assumptions. Either that she’d planned conception and used the synthi-sperm procedure, or that she was having a random. Most assumed she’d conceived with Synthi-sperm and whilst they frowned at her having made the decision so young, most mothers were in their forties, they simply saw her as a silly wee lassie who’d been a little stupid and headstrong. Sarah was happy enough, for the most part, to let people believe that she’d gotten pregnant deliberately but it galled her to be set apart from her peers who slowly trickled away into the past and stopped calling her.

As well as her social circle depleting, her thoughts were consumed with the delivery of their baby. She was terrified at the thought and frequently had panic attacks in response to Holo-Shows about birth or during visits to the Pre-natal clinic. Alex had tried his best to put her mind at ease, but really, what could he say? He had no more idea than she did about what the delivery suite would hold for her.

Sarah had taken time to adjust, but had eventually become more positive through the course of the pregnancy. Then, along came Thomas.

Thomas’s birth had been every bit as difficult as Sarah had feared. After a very dangerous assisted delivery, she’d been left badly damaged, physically and emotionally. Her body of course, healed over the weeks and months that followed, but her mental health had deteriorated badly and had never recovered.

She seemed to blame their new son for the manner and difficulty of his arrival, and frequently referred to him as it. Alex ignored the remarks and remained positive. Sarah worked very hard at being a mother, but it was obvious that a sense of duty drove her. She took no pleasure in her baby and clearly resented him and the responsibilities he’d brought. Sarah couldn’t bond with the boy. The daily monotony of nappies, bottles, washing, cleaning, crying, screaming. Lather, rinse, repeat. It chipped away at her self-esteem and her ability to remain positive. She couldn’t see the moment for what it was; a moment. A period of hardship that wouldn’t last forever. She couldn’t see an end to the hell she found herself in and cried for her dreams of a different life. She simply wasn’t capable of loving her baby enough to keep moving forward.

Alex juggled work, his studies and spent as much time as possible at home. Eventually, they agreed that Sarah would be happier getting out to work and Alex should drop one of his jobs to stay at home and look after Thomas more often. Alex hoped that Sarah’s escape from the Groundhog Day nature of being a parent to a young, demanding baby would help her lift her spirits and appreciate the now more limited time she spent with the baby. Instead, Alex’ bond with their son grew stronger and hers disappeared altogether.

As the years had passed and their lives moved on, more and more, Sarah had sunk into depressive routines and habits. She stopped working and began vaping two years ago. Recently she’d moved from being indifferent to Thomas to being openly hostile.

Sarah rarely left their apartment and was so desperately sad and angry all of the time Alex didn’t recognise her anymore. She’d isolated herself so completely from him and from their son that the gulf between them seemed impossible to cross. Alex had tried desperately to snap her out of the blackness she was in, but caring about her, loving her, had become more and more difficult because of how she’d been treating their son. She obviously and openly blamed him for everything she perceived as absent from or wrong with her life. Alex couldn’t find a trace of his childhood friend in her eyes anymore, but was determined to keep trying to bring her back to her old self and shield Thomas form her illness.

He picked up the Holo of their wedding day and watched his former-self hug and smile the woman he loved. He smiled sadly as he recalled that they’d had a huge row the previous night. I’m only seventeen, Alex. I’m not ready to be a mother. Especially to a kid I didn’t plan. They call them Randoms now, you know.

Alex recalled every exchange from that night. In the early hours they’d argued, screamed at each other. They’d both cried and eventually he’d convinced Sarah that having their baby and getting married was the right thing to do. Not just for the baby, but for both of them also. He had it all planned; Medical school, two jobs to support them whilst he studied. He promised her that they could make it work, that they’d be happy. He’d place his hand over the barely visible bump in her abdomen where their child grew and begged her to trust him. By morning she’d agreed to try.

 

Alex placed the Holo-Frame face-down on his bedside cabinet and turned out the light. He smiled to himself in the darkness. I’ll take them to the beach tomorrow. Yellowcraigs Beach in Gullane. Granda’s beach.


3

 Thomas had found himself a couple of friends and had been playing handball at the edge of the sea. As usual, his peers’ gameplay was a little gentile for his liking and he’d been trying in vain to liven things up. The kids he was playing with didn’t have the same competitive urge and soon lost interest in the game. The group of new friends were sitting burying each other’s feet in the sand. Eventually Thomas got bored and walked off towards the sea to skim some smooth pebbles out across the still, gentle surface of the Firth of Forth. Alex watched his restless, outgoing son and smiled. He didn’t bother turning to share the moment with Sarah, experience had taught him that even if she had been watching, which she wasn’t, she didn’t feel the same swell in her heart as he when watching Tommy at play.

It didn’t matter. It was a beautiful day and Sarah looked peaceful for the first time in months. Whilst he lay on his back, propped up on his elbows, she had rested her head across his lap and was laid face-up, eyes closed soaking up the sun’s rays. Alex played absent-mindedly with her hair and sighed in satisfaction. It was the most intimate they’d been in months and warmed his core more completely then the day’s beautiful sunshine ever could. This trip had been a good idea. Days like today had been what he’d had in mind when he imagined his future as an eighteen year old new father.

 

Suddenly aware that he hadn’t seen Tommy for a minute or two Alex sat lazily, rising from his elbows carefully, so as to not disturb Sarah. Unable to see Tommy straight away, he shaded his eyes with his hand and scanned along the beachfront. In bright blue long shorts, Thomas shouldn’t have been hard to spot but Alex couldn’t see him anywhere around. Sarah groaned and rolled off him as he rose to his feet, the beginnings of panic starting to surge through him. Still more or less calm, he walked quickly to the spot he’d last seen Thomas throwing stones from and began scanning up and down the beach and along the water’s edge once more.

“Thomas!” he yelled up the beach before sprinting along the waters’ edge, splashing and pushing his way along the shore.

Alex made his way east until he reached the furthermost point of the beach, scanning the depth of the beach and fifty feet into the sea as he went before turning around and sprinting Westward. After spending thirty minutes frantically running, searching and calling for his son, Alex made his way to where Sarah still lay. Grabbing her by the arm, he shook and pulled her up onto her feet.

“Have you seen Thomas?”

“Whaaat?” she replied, groggily. She’d been vaping. Whilst he’d been searching for Thomas, she’d been getting high.

“Thomas! Have you seen him?”

Sarah waved him off dismissively and sat back down.

“He’s over there playing.” She slurred pointing to the place where he’d been playing handball an hour before.

“He’s gone, Sarah.” Alex knelt in front of her, calmed himself as much as possible and took her face in his hands forcing her to look at and focus on him.

“Sarah, I can’t find him. We need to call the police.”

Sarah blinked dumbly a few times and lay on her side before replying.

“Och, he’ll be fine.”

Alex swore loudly at her, drawing the attention of a family nearby.

Turning around, he’d decided to search the beach one more time when suddenly he spotted the blue shorts he’d spent the last hour looking for.

 

Thomas was strolling casually towards his father accompanied by a slim, middle-aged man. The man looked familiar and was dressed in a very expensive looking suit, despite the weather and location. He had his right arm around Thomas, guiding him towards his Dad. The pair of them looked relaxed and had clearly just shared a joke. Alex darted over to his son, went down on one knee and pulled him in close.

“Where the hell did you get to, Thomas? We’ve been worried sick.”

Thomas looked over his dad’s shoulder at his mother who was slumped on a beach towel, blissfully unaware of his presence. He raised an eyebrow challenging his Dad.

Alex followed the boy’s eyes and nodded, “Well, I’ve been worried sick. Where have you been?”

Tommy shrugged.

“I just took a walk along the beach. Ran into Mr Ennis and had a chat with him in the ice cream bar. He’s a nice man, Dad. I know what people I shouldn’t talk to, I’m not stupid.”

Alex was less than impressed with Tommy’s nonchalance and his decision to depart for an ice-cream with a total stranger, but he shook off the anger and turned to shake Mr Ennis’ hand.

“Alex Kinsella. Thanks for bringing my son back, Mr Ennis.”

“Gavin, please. And it’s no trouble. He’s a very clever boy, Dr Kinsella. You must be very proud of him.” Gavin still had a hold of Alex hand.

Alex eye twitched involuntarily but he managed to force a smile onto his face.

“Thanks, Gavin. We are.”

Ennis stood smiling at him in silence, until Alex cleared his throat, pulled his hand from Gavin’s and took Tommy by the hand.

“Well, thanks again Gavin. Good to meet you.”

“And you, Dr Kinsella.” He bent to ruffle Tommy’s hair.

“Nice to meet you too, young man.”

Thomas laughed and asked Gavin “See you again sometime? Next time we’re at the beach?”

Alex bristled at the stranger’s easy familiarity and obvious rapport with his son. “Sure.” Gavin replied. “Bye folks.”

With that, Gavin made his way from the beach back up towards the ice-cream bar.

Alex looked down at his son. “Did this guy just come over and ask you to go for an ice-cream?”

Thomas shook his head. No, Dad. I saw him reading a Jonathan Maberry book and went over to talk to him. I told you, I’m not stupid.” Thomas said defensively.

Alex looked his son in the eye. “I’m really angry at you, Thomas. You had me worried.”

Looking at his bare feet, the boy shuffled. “Sorry.”

It was grudged, he clearly felt that he hadn’t done anything wrong and this worried Alex.

“C’mon, son. Let’s go take Mum home.” As they walked towards their spot on the beach where Sarah lay, Thomas asked his father, “Can we go for a burger on the way home, Dad? I’ll pay.” Thomas fished a note from his pocket and waved it as his father.

Alex snatched the unfamiliarly-coloured note from him. Unfolding it he realised his son had a one thousand pound note.

“Did he give you this?” he asked sounding angrier than he’d meant to.

Thomas’s eyes had begun to tear up. “Yes. It was a gift.”

“Right.” Alex said.

Grabbing Thomas by his wrist he marched towards the ice-cream bar, trailing the boy behind him and holding the note out in a fist. Storming into the bar, his eyes tore around the room, searching for Ennis. With no sign of him, Alex approached the vendor, still clutching Tommy’s wrist.

“’Scuse me?” he barked at the vendor. “Have you seen a guy in a suit?”

“Oh, aye. Mr Ennis. He was having a chat with the wee man there a wee while ago.”

“And you didn’t think that was a bit weird?” He asked the man.

Looking puzzled and a little defensive the guy replied.

“What? A guy and a wee laddie sitting laughing together over an ice-cream? Not really, pal. Besides, Mr Ennis is a lovely man, he’s in here all the time.”

Alex was exasperated. “Where is he?”

The vendor shrugged. “You just missed him. His driver just picked him up two minutes ago.”

“Driver?”

“Aye.” Replied the vendor.

“He’s got one of those big Mayback jobs. None of your hydrogen powered nonsense, a real petrol engine.”

Alex shook off his confusion. “Who is this guy exactly?”

The vendor pointed at a Holo-Ad that was playing on the projector in the corner. The Ad was for Synthi-Sperm’s largest manufacturer, Synthi-Co.

“He owns that company. Lovely man, down to earth. You’d never know he had billions in the bank….Except for the car.”

 

4

Alex closed Thomas’ room door and leaned against it for a second. He’d spoken over and over again to his son about how worried he’d been for him when Thomas had disappeared with Gavin Ennis that afternoon. Tommy said all the right things to assure his dad that it wouldn’t happen again, but Alex could tell from his body language that his son thought that he hadn’t done anything wrong and was just telling his father what he wanted to hear. This meant that Thomas would likely make the same choice gain given a similar situation and this made Alex nervous. There was little point in pushing him further, Tommy had made his mind up and Alex would just have to trust that he’d listen to him.

Continuing along the hallway, Alex gently pushed the door to his and Sarah’s room open and peeked inside. She was sprawled across the entire bed, fully clothed and in a deep vape-induced sleep. One less thing to worry about tonight. Alex thought to himself, before descending the stairs to the kitchen.

After making a coffee, he perched himself on the nearest stool. An infrequent coffee-drinker, the intense hit refreshed his weary mind almost instantly. Alex enjoyed the new clarity for a second before reaching for his Holo-Net tablet. Propping the tablet on the breakfast bar, Alex pressed a soft key on the edge of the device. The tablet resembled a very thin picture frame but with an empty space where the glass and photograph would normally sit. Very light, the frame was designed to fold to credit-card size.

Upon pressing the soft key the frame immediately flashed into life, a vivid High Definition Holo-image of the family filling the empty space of the frame. Alex pressed softly at the corner of the image and it changed to a traditional looking desktop, which is what Alex liked to work from. Selecting the Holo-Net icon, Alex watched a Holo-Keyboard slide out from the bottom of the frame and began searching the Holo-Net for information on Gavin Ennis. Hours later, he’d selected a dozen or so blogs, news articles, opinion pieces and company reports from the hundreds of articles he’d found on Mr Gavin Ennis. Alex was determined to find something to justify the unease he’d felt when Gavin placed his arm around Thomas.

 

Business Insider

 

Gavin Ennis today issued a share option to his five hundred thousand staff. The generous package rewards staff at all levels, from janitorial to boardroom, a quarterly bonus in shares in return for their hard work and contribution to the company. The effectiveness of the employee’s service within the company will determine how many shares each employee is rewarded with.

 

In a statement announcing the scheme, Mr Ennis stated,

 

“We want every lab technician, Scientist, executive, mailroom operative and accountant in our firm to be valued equally and have equal opportunity to receive equal shares issued. With this in mind, these bonuses will be decided by a sliding scale which takes into account the effectiveness, efficiency and loyalty of each individuals’ specific role. Simply put; if our janitor works his ass off and one of our executives under-achieves, our janitor will go home with more shares than the exec.”

 

The scheme is yet another example of why Mr Ennis has been our Business person of the Year three years in a row and Europe’s’ Employer of the Year for the last five years. Mr Ennis’ proactive approach to business management and investment in his staff at all levels is impressive.

 

Alex tapped the corner of the article and brought the next few articles to the front of the Holo-Screen.

 

Time Magazine

 

“Gavin Ennis is our kinda guy!”

 

Daily China Gazette

 

“Ennis continues to forge global links, driving forward his mission to bring low-priced, high quality reproductive health care to citizens of every country.”

 

The Scotsman

 

“Gavin Ennis continues to fly the Saltire.”

 

New Scientist Magazine

 

“Ennis contribution to and continued developments in reproductive health place him in the upper echelons of the scientific elite. That he shares his ideas so freely and his services so cheaply, is to his credit.”

 

 Tiring of reading, Alex brought up a Holo-Tube documentary that nicely summarised Ennis’ contribution to the Synthi-Sperm sector and gestured a command to start the presenter speaking.

 

“In 2025 the World Health Organisation published a report on the diminishing reproductive capabilities of the world’s male population. Sperm quality and quantity in the ‘of breeding age’ demographic had fallen to previously unseen levels. The WHO report presented convincing evidence which suggested that the drastic and irreversible decline in reproductive function was most likely the result of an accumulation of three generations use of hormone-based contraception as well as some other unknown elements. The report suggested that the effects on our physiology and genetics of high levels of progesterone and oestrogen in our drinking water had instigated a permanent change in human physiology.

By 2040 only one in a hundred thousand couples globally could reproduce without medical assistance. Quality sperm had rapidly become the most expensive substance in the history of humankind; until a small lab named Synthi-Co in Wales, founded by Mr Gavin Ennis perfected the technique for producing, healthy artificial sperm.

By 2050, most babies were the result of IVF using the now ubiquitous synthi-sperm. Whilst children conceived by the synthetic method demonstrated a slightly reduced capacity for learning and were significantly more docile than the much rarer, Randoms, the choice of physical characteristics available to the parents when designing the synthi-sperm which would become their child, offset any worries they may have had about their child being a little mild-mannered.

It had become fashionable to use synthi-sperm and a significant portion of the small minority who could conceive ‘naturally’ frequently chose to use synthi-sperm anyway, rather than take a gamble on which characteristics their offspring might inherit. Very few children remained in the population who’d been conceived by ‘traditional means’, and were generally referred to as Randoms; a reference to their relatively random conception and the formation of their physical characteristics.

Whilst a generation of more desirable designer children now existed, ambition, competition and will to succeed seemed mostly absent in the synthi-kids and this new generation was much more content and much less aggressive than any that had come before. The world of 2050 is a much more peaceful place to live in, but discrimination and prejudices do still exist.

The Randoms have become somewhat of an underclass. Parents of Randoms worry about their child’s career prospects and take care to hide their child’s status from their peers. Many have begun to purchase illegal documents to falsely validate their child; to certify them as being of the new breed of children. The parents of synthi-kids take comfort in knowing that they’ve given their offspring the best possible start in life.

Recently there have been rumours of defects in the synthi-kid genome, but most parents have faith that the governments will provide their local geneticists with the new skills and techniques to iron out any flaws. They believe that they are in good hands and trust their Reproductive Health Professionals.

Mr Ennis has been quick to reassure his patients that Synthi-Kids are indeed the healthiest and most advantaged children our society has ever produced. He has also dedicated his vast resources to founding community assistance for the so called Randoms, stating that ‘No British child, no matter how deficient their start in life, should ever be discriminated against.’ His outlook and defence of human rights proved popular with the British public leading to a call for a government position to be created for Mr Ennis. The Scottish government moved quickly, making Mr Ennis a national tsar of sorts for reproductive and mental health in Scotland. The British government is widely expected to match the offer.

 The report went on for another hour but Alex had gotten what he needed. Frowning, he closed all of his active screens. Seems our Mr Ennis, pardon me, Gavin, is a bit of a saint. A super-wealthy saint, but a saint none the less.

END OF EXCERPT

The Man Who Sold His Son is scheduled for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late Summer 2014

Mark is the author of Bobby’s Boy, Head Boy, Naebody’s Hero and the dEaDINBURGH Series.

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon UK and Amazon US

Ronnie the Rooster

Ronnie the Rooster is the first short-story I wrote. I’ve no idea who Ronnie is based on or where his story came from. I couldn’t find another place to use it so I crowbarred it into my debut novel, Bobby’s Boy.

 Since It’s my birthday, I’m indulging myself. This is one of my favourite stories to have written. Enjoy.

Over 18s only (or those who enjoy tales of bionic fuckery at least).

20131120-104712.jpg

Never trust an OAP from Caldercruix with a glint in his eye and a bulge in his trousers.

Ronnie the Rooster

 

Ronnie was a chicken farmer from Caldercruix  who had grafted for decades, rearing chickens and supplying excellent quality eggs and meat to the local farmers’ markets on weekends. Ronnie loved his life. In his mid-fifties, he had been happily married for nearly thirty years to his beloved Agnes. Together, they’d worked hard, built a profitable business and raised three kids, sending each in turn out into the world to make their way.

Their eldest, Ronald Jnr, had moved to Surrey and was running a successful legal practice. He specialised in family law, mainly divorces, which Ronnie Senior found a little sad. The old man often wondered if Ronnie Junior was really happy in what could be such a demanding and sometimes heartbreaking role. Young Ronnie still called his dad three or four times a week to talk about the football, the horses, or just to catch up. Old Ronnie appreciated that as he knew how tight the lad’s time was.

Senga, their daughter, was an experienced emergency room doctor and was well through her training to become a general surgeon. She worked in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, which was a forty-minute drive east along the M8 motorway, and she’d found a home nearby the hospital in the city centre. Ronnie and Agnes saw her often thanks to her living within commutable distance. Senga had that rare gift of being hugely intelligent, but utterly inclusive and sweet to everyone around her, whilst still being no one’s fool. Ronnie Senior honestly couldn’t remember the girl getting upset about anything or saying a bad word about anyone. Everyone loved Senga. She was a born “fixer” and a natural doctor as a result of her accepting and caring attitude.

Their youngest boy, Steven, named after his grandfather on his mother’s side, was a different breed. Steven was sugar and shite in that you could see Steven on one occasion and he would be everyone’s pal, lighting up the room and bringing a carnival of fun with him. The next time you saw him he’d be a moody, angry wee fanny. He was an artist and while old Ronnie loved his unpredictable, tornado of a personality, young Ronnie had little time for him when his younger sibling was in shite mode, asserting on more than one occasion that his brother was “A lazy wee bastard, sorry Dad.”

Young Ronnie just didn’t understand his brother. Steven wasn’t interested in the academic or career-driven path to what others perceived as success. Rather, he just wanted to create things that excited him and was happy with the basics in life. So long as he could empty the many ideas and projects that cluttered his brain onto a canvas or image, the boy was content.

Steven had recently produced photographs of places and people bathed in “light graffiti”. The process of producing these images involved young Steven preparing a location at night, pitch black, opening his camera lens and “painting” the empty air with lights which were captured in the camera lens like the trail of a sparkler moved in the air by a child. These scenes amazed old Ronnie but left him baffled as to where the originality of the “paintings” had sprung from in Steven’s mind.

Ronnie took some stick regularly from the lads in the pub for Steven’s choice of vocation, but laughed it off easily. He was in awe of Steven’s talent and could never have dreamed he’d have such a creative child. Ronnie had no doubt that Steven was by far the happiest and most content of his children but he still shared with his siblings the energy and drive to add something of worth to the world.

Ronnie never compared his children to each other, or to anyone else’s for that matter, but enjoyed each of their achievements equally with pride. “We’ve done not bad for a couple of auld chicken farmers,” he repeated to Agnes often, in reference to their happy and successful children, during a cuddle on the sofa on many an evening. Life had rewarded his hard-working family and Ronnie was looking forward to retiring later that year, having negotiated a very good sale of the farm and surrounding land to a young businessman. The deal would give him and Agnes the financial security to travel for most of their remaining years.

That had been the plan anyway, until Ronnie started having health problems.

It happened infrequently at first. One time, written off as tiredness. Weeks would then pass and again the problem would come. It soon became that more often than not that he would be compelled to leave their bedroom and go downstairs to sit smoking in his armchair until the sting of embarrassment from the latest humiliating episode had subsided and he could face her again. Ronnie had very suddenly and unfortunately become impotent.

He just couldn’t understand it. Ronnie had never had any problems in that department before. Old age, he supposed, absent-mindedly flicking through a men’s magazine to see if he could get his member stirring at the women in its pages. Alas, no response. Far from feeling lust towards the naked and posing girls quite literally spread across the magazine’s pages, Ronnie found himself worrying.

-That lassie could dae wi’ a jumper on. She’s freezin’ judging by thon nipples… Och well. At my time in life it doesn’t matter so much. I’ve got my health, my children and my Agnes. She’s always been the understanding type, and we hardly bother in that department these days anyway. It might have been a big loss ten years ago, but I can live with it now.-

As Ronnie thought it, he relaxed into his seat, relieved that he had found it so easy to accept the newly-dormant nature of his penis. Unfortunately for him, Agnes found it much more difficult to accept his condition. His wife of thirty years left him within three months of his member retiring, and exactly two days before he himself retired.

In the weeks and months that followed, the newly retired Ronnie found himself rattling round the once-family home. Too much time on his hands and too quiet a house. It seemed that the house and Ronnie both missed its former occupants and previously busy rooms. He sold up within a few weeks of Agnes moving out. She had moved into a flat down in Durham with a younger man, forty years old, he’d heard.

Ronnie too, found himself a small flat in nearby Hamilton, and started slowly rebuilding his social life. Snooker with old friends, book clubs, swimming, visiting his kids, his days began to fill and happiness re-entered his newly expanding world again. One thing kept nagging at Ronnie though. He missed having a female companion. It wasn’t the sexual side of the relationship especially, but the intimacy that came with hand-holding and cuddling was a great absence in his life. Climbing into an empty bed also left him empty inside. He couldn’t envisage being able to offer any of his female friends a proper relationship due to his impotence and began cursing the condition he’d once been ambivalent about.

After a great deal of research, visits to a London cosmetic clinic and some soul-searching, Ronnie decided upon a course of action. He used a significant portion of his retirement money and shared profits from the sale of the family home to finance a new, innovative and incredibly effective treatment for impotence.

A penile shaft graft.

The operation sounded brutal. The penis was first lengthened by effectively pulling the internal part through to the outside world, as would happen during the normal erection. It was then sliced lengthways, like a hot-dog bun, and a three-part steel rod inserted. Then it would be stitched back up. The three sections of the rod were joined by a locking hinge at each section, giving the owner the option of click-twisting the hinges in place, straightening and hardening the penis. The operation offered the safety of an instant and unfailing, steel-hard erection. After sex, the wearer would simply twist-pop the steel rod into the at-rest position.

In this rest position it would hang like a normal penis, admittedly a slightly longer and heavier penis than he’d previously possessed, but hey ho. It could be snapped up and out into the ready position with a few quick twists. Easy; even with the wee bit of arthritis in Ronnie’s hands earned from years of handling chicken eggs.

It took four long months to fully heal but Ronnie couldn’t have been happier with the results. The newly-equipped Ronnie wasted no time inviting a lady friend round to his to try out his new boaby. He found it a joy to be able to satisfy a woman again, if a bit strange to be having sex with someone other than Agnes after so many decades. Still, it didn’t bother him for long. Within a month word of Ronnie’s cyborghood had spread and a steady stream of over-fifties widows, divorcees and bored wives began calling on him daily. He’d only ever wanted one lady’s hand but as she’d fucked off and left him, well, he thought that he deserved to indulge himself a wee bit. Never with the married ones though.

Within a year Ronnie and his ever-ready steel penis had become famous from Lanarkshire to the Highlands, and even as far south as Carlisle. Women from all over were contacting him with invitations to come “visit” them at their homes, all expenses paid.

“What can you do?” he’d ask mates in the pub when relaying his stories.

“Snap the auld cock into place and get going Ronnie,” was the standard reply. And so he did.

All in all Ronnie spent ten years, his final ten years as it turned out, travelling the length and breadth of the UK. He spent these trips forming friendships, enjoying food, wine, long walks in the countryside, and many, many women. His exploits earned him the nickname “Ronnie the Rooster”, which paid tribute to his chicken-farming past, and sexually hyper-active present.

No one knows if he visited Agnes in Durham.

Bobby’s Boy and Mark’s other books, Naebody’s Hero, Head Boy and dEaDINBURGH are available now on Amazon

………………………………….

dEaDINBURGH: Cover reveal and blurb

20140218-105234.jpg

Here is the final blurb and cover image for my upcoming fourth novel, dEaDINBURGH:

Edinburgh, 1645:
The bubonic plague rages. In a desperate attempt to quarantine the infected, the city leaders seal the residents of Mary King’s Close in their underground homes.

2015:
Mary King’s Close is reopened, unleashing a mutated plague upon the city residents.
The UK government seals the entire city. Declaring it a dead zone they seal the survivors inside alongside the infected. dEaDINBURGH is declared a no man’s land, its residents left for dead and to the dead.

2050:
Joseph MacLeod, born onto the cobbles of the Royal Mile and stolen from the clutches of the infected is determined to escape the quarantined city. Under the guidance of former marine Padre Jock, he leaves the confines of the city centre and hones his archery and free-running skills.
Alys Shephard, born into an all-women farming community believes a cure lies in the south of the quarantined zone. The finest combatant in the dead city, Alys burns with anger. The anger of an abandoned child.

Something much worse than the infected waits for them in the south, in the form of a religious cult led by a madman named Somna who collects gruesome trophies and worships the dead body of a former celebrity. Added to this the enigmatic Bracha, a supreme survivalist and sadistic former Royal with his own agenda, stalks the teenagers.

A self-contained story, dEaDINBURGH is a character-driven Young Adult/Dystopian novel exploring the human capacity for good, evil and for survival.

Released on March 31st 2014 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.