Myth, Mystery and Magic


 There is a name for the car park that we drew into near the loch but I cannot now recall its name. It may be called "Firkin point" We walked along the old road, cracked and broken, beset with fissures that hand in hand we stepped across, It has not been maintained for a while now the old road. There is no need to maintain it for it is the haunt of tourists only rather than those on their way to somewhere.

For those that have not been there the shores of loch Lomond are indeed as pretty and as picturesque as those that are told of in the song. The waters are not always calm but mostly and at times even colder than the seas that surround Scotland. The seas are warmed by the gulf stream, inland fresh water lochs of course are not. In the winters that play across this still wild land at the edge of civilisation the fresh water can freeze in the winter though in my life time that has been long now I cannot remember loch Lomond ever freezing over except in the bays and even then only very occasionally. Parts of it have but I think by its sheer size it never fully has. It is the largest loch in Britain, though I think if you include Ireland then the Shannon is bigger. I cannot say that this is true but my memory tells me that someone smarter or better educated than I told me so and with no reason to disbelieve them I have always accepted it then as truth.

I remember walking along the old road round loch Lomond the tarmac raised and warped with the heat and rain telling her to avoid the potholes that had inevitably appeared over the years. This road, not available to the traffic these days had become rather the worse for wear but of course that was not important then for it was fun avoiding the pot holes and fissures. We were not together but got on rather well and so we could save one another by grabbing onto each other holding the other to stop them stumbling. I remember her being quite able for a girl which I know sounds rather sexist but is not meant to be as most of the girls I had known unto this time had been more concerned with their looks than their abilities. She was a welcome change. a welcome change and a beautiful woman as well.

We went onto the shingle beach at one point and went towards the loch itself. It was far too cold but she asked me if I wished to go for a swim. Oh it really was far to cold for I had swam there before and even in the high summer sun even so rare as we have it here I had done so and come out a shivering wreck. Loch Lomond is not so deep as loch ness or loch dubh but it is deep enough to stay cold all year round.

It has its own species of fish as well, I remember telling her of a species of mackerel that had swam in during the ice age when it was still a sea loch but that had adapted and become freshwater fish when the world changed and the receding ice changed the nature of the loch and they still survive apparently but only in this loch. I cannot remember their name but I remember checking this out and finding out that it was true though in all the times that I had fished there I do not think i ever caught any any.

An epiphany; they may be called pollen (the fish involved) though I cannot say for sure and though I caught a silver fish one dreech day sitting on a shingle beach on loch Lomond side I really cannot say that it was one of them. I really doubt that it was.

She chided me for not being willing to go swimming with her and I made a joke of it but I really did not wish to there for the water is very cold indeed even in summer and this was April. As yet we were still nothing more than friends and I am pretty sure we would have remained so was the thought in my mind but had we gone swimming in the freezing cold waters of loch Lomond. In fact I am pretty sure that my manhood would have disappeared completely within seconds. I remember going for a swim in loch Lomond in mid summer on a lovely sunny day and though I did not swim far I came out of the water shivering.

I told her a story. A true story as far as I had heard it, and that is that there was every possibility of there being the equivalent of a fresh water shark in there (Loch Lomond). The rumour is that the there may be a pike of eighty five pounds in there. There have even been documentaries made on the subject. I have no personal knowledge towards the truth of such a beast existing but I can easily see it as possible, it is such a huge loch but anyway I used this as an excuse not to go swimming but really it was the chill that worried me for though we were nothing more than friends she had hinted a couple of times that she could have been interested in something more.

Much happened on that day not the least of which was the change in my feelings toward her. I considered her a friend as I have said but I had already started thinking of her as more than a friend. She was beautiful, of that there was no doubt. She was also a challenge for she was awkward and defiant and she had a thought style like a man even though she was so obviously a woman. Still I liked her very much. I think that she may have intimidated some men though not because she was tough but rather that despite her beauty she was not lady like but rather a different beast altogether. That was just my opinion and there is every chance that I could be wrong. Still no matter what the truth of the matter, I found myself falling in love with this beautiful wonderful and exciting girl.

8. Ken. Jasmine flies home.

But the time came as times must and Jasmine had to return to her home to her daughter and her other life. The long flight to Canada awaited her. Todd must return to his life of hard work and trial, he must return to Mary and he did so with nothing upon his conscience other than a kiss.

But Todd knows that this is not true for all he has told himself that it is, for though nothing did happen other than a kiss Todd knew that deep down that he wished it had went further. He suspected that Jasmine wished the same though having married young Todd was unsure of the ways of women.

And so guilt swept through him though he had little to feel guilty about, yet it did in a way that consumed him as thoughts do that are unwelcome or unexpected and he worked all his thoughts out, analysed them again and again and he knew that he was falling in love.

Sheila and I went round to his house one Friday night for a drink or two or ten and unusually the girls went out into the garden. Later I was to find out from Shiela that they had wished to be alone so they could discuss Todd and his trip away for the day with this unusual girl. It was lucky in a way for it gave me the chance to ask him freely and not in front of his wife what he really had thought of her. I am a good listener much as Todd himself is until he gets caught up in his subject. When he does there is no stopping him, he will interrupt anyone and anything clinging tenaciously to his story no matter how much sidetracking that you have to go through until he has got his message across.

He started talking about the girl straight away with little urging which is really not like him as Todd knows exactly what he is like and that he can monopolise a conversation for hours lecturing you on a subject he knows of. Knowing this he is usually quiet until prodded into getting going but once he starts, there is really no stopping him until at some point or another in his narrative he sees the faces of the others gathered there and there is a spark of recognition when he realises that he has just overridden everyone else to tell them all about the campaigns of Hannibal or the merits of Melville's "Moby Dick" or something equally as dull to most people other than him.

As he realises though that he has just been rattling on he always apologises and then shuts up and rarely says anything of note there after. He somehow seems always embarrassed to have taken over the conversation. It is true that occasionally it would be dull but usually his enthusiasm for the subject would carry the day and most people did not mind as much as he thought that they did.

Even when they knew little of the subject or for that matter if the subject was of little interest to them his sheer exuberance in explaining it usually carried the day. Additionally he would throw in a few small facts that had since entered every day parlance that started when his story was taking place.

Occasionally I would know them but mostly the origins came as news to me and I loved these wee facts and often memorised them for later use.

But this time as I said he just launched into telling me about the girl and their day together without the usual prompting and prodding. He was telling me of where they had gone and seeing the standing stones at Kilmartin a place that I knew he had always loved and he spoke so longingly and descriptively about the place though I personally had never been there.

To me a standing stone is simply that, a stone that someone in the past has stuck in the ground for whatever reason and yes they are old but i see them as nothing other than rocks stood on end. Todd saw them as markers to the past and would think of why they were put there and the peoples that put them there, in a strange way they brought the very ancient past alive for him.

He told me of their walk round loch Lomond side and of stopping at the top of the "Rest and be Thankful. He told me of the views down the valley from the stopping point and how impressed the girl had been. He told me of the mist on the mountains and the drizzle at Kilmartin but there was so much about the girl, Jasmine that I realised very quickly what was happening.

Todd might be the genius but I am not so stupid myself and am relatively good at reading people. I could tell that he was besotted with the girl. I don't think that he was in love with her at this time, or perhaps I should say that I don't think that he knew that he was in love with her at this time. And perhaps I thought to myself that it didn't matter for she would soon be flying home to Canada, back to her own life and at that point perhaps he would forget her or with absence his feelings would change but I already suspected that they would not. I knew what Todd was like and some things he would obsess upon until he knew everything about them, anything that caught his attention or imagination would then become something that was of paramount importance to him to learn about, to know inside out. It was just the way that he was made.

 

I did not know it at the time but while Todd and I were discussing jasmines visit, Mary and shiela were also discussing her, sitting on an a-frame bench round the side of the house. I also had a bench at the back door but Todd would go out there to sit when his nicotine craving grew to much for him and I suppose that they did not want to be overhead. This does not surprise me as I can imagine what they were saying. Men, after all can be bitchy too when the occasion arises.

9. Mary and Shiela. A warm spring night.

We are going to take advantage of the warmer night air, Mary said with a flourish as both she and Shiela stood, anyway I want a cigarette.

Todd stood also, I'll come with you, if you don't mind I could do with a puff anyway. You don't mind he said turning back to look at Ken. Ken just shrugged and stood also; I could do with checking my mail anyway. I'll just be two minutes Todd said as he closed the door behind him. Partially to avoid the house getting chilly but also to keep the smoke out as Ken hated it. Ken headed out and up to his bedroom where his computer was to check his mail.

Todd sat on the bench at the back door and pulling his cigarettes from his pocket lit one with a petrol lighter that he closed with a flourish as he hit it against his leg snapping it shut and extinguishing the flame.

Oh don't worry, I will just finish my fag and go back inside and leave you girls to what you really want to talk about. Its probably a sex thing knowing you two.

Don't worry you don't have to look so surprised, he continued, ix know that when you need to talk alone its probably about Ken or me. well or sex or the relative merits of contemporary opera against classical opera he said with a big smile knowing that what either of knew about opera you could write on the back of a postage stamp. and still have room for lots of other stuff

The latter of course Mary said with a grimace and then a sweet smile. We always discuss opera when you two are not around, the only reason we never do in your presence is that you would think that we are too good for you and we would not like to disappoint you in that way.

 

 

Aye that's what I would have guessed, said Todd, well you just have to put up with me for three or four minutes till I have my fag and then I'll retire to the house and leave you ladies discussing the relative merits of Puccini and well someone else more modern, you know I know nothing about opera.

Well neither do we as you well know you snob so bugger off and let us have our girly chat Shiela said with a smile and a dismissive wave of her hand.

So what is it tonight girls? who has the better six pack? who has the cutest dimples, which actor or pop star turns you on the most?

Oh you are so right Mary said with a smile and so fuck off Todd, go and talk to Ken about science or black holes or something.

Oh I see what you are doing there, trying to pretend that you want me to go away. Todd laughs, well Hint taken I shall return to the house but do keep it quiet as I don't wish to come out for a cigarette later and be greeted with argument between you to as to who has the tightest buns. Ok OK I get it, I am pissing off now. I really could do with a pee anyway.

They watch Todd walk back round the side of the house and hear the door shutting behind him before the inevitable question came.

Shiela got things started with well what happened?

Well I don't think anything happened but I am worried that something did, something bad.

He shagged her? shiela blurted out before she could stop herself, the bastard, you should wait till he's sleeping and cut his balls off.

 

 

No I don't think that, he can be a little ropy that way, what man isn't but he is really not the kind. He believes in fidelity even if I am not sure that he has always practiced it. I think though that mainly he has and maybe he always has. Maybe I am stupid to think so and maybe I am, and I am not sure but I think that he is faithful and that's what worries me.

It worries you that he's faithful? shiela asked I don't get it. It worries me with Ken when he's away working that he's unfaithful and i am pretty sure that he has been though I really don't know anything for sure.

I know what you mean, said Mary, and it worries me sometimes when Todd is away with work but you know Todd nearly as well as I do. On the odd time when I don't hear from him he'll being sitting in the pub pissed, and that's what scares me.

Mary you are being silly and I don't really understand what are you worried about.

Mary; well its the fidelity thing with Todd.

What you mean that you really don't think that he is?

No the opposite, Mary says her face reddening, I really do think that he does not get up to anything when he's away. I don't know wither he tries to but nobody wants him or he just doesn't try but I believe him when he says he is faithful.

So what's the problem then?

Well that's the scary thing with her.

Who the French girl? shiela looks confused.

Canadian, not French, French Canadian to be exact. but yes, that's what worries me. I have seen pictures of her she is a beautiful girl and if he was to shag her I would hate him for it but forgive him but I really don't want him to.

You cant mean that, Shiela asks surprised at what she is hearing.

I do, I mean every little bit of it, things would be crap for a while then we would just be back to normal and I like normal. But he is so fucking perfect that he doesn't shag around on me, he comes from the moral high ground with everything that he does and says. This to him will be another win. He will have been faithful, he will have followed all the rules but I can already tell that she has fucked with his mind.

If he wasn't so bloody perfect, if he had just shagged her he might have got it out of his system but if she goes back to Canada then all will grow worse, I am sure that he will fall in love with her I think that he already has.

Don't be stupid Mary, it really could just be a friends thing, he says that it is. There is no way that he will fall in love with her, he already loves you. I get what you mean about men and sex but Todd doesn't seem to be as bad as most.

If she goes back then I have lost him. I think that I have already. Shiela leaned over the table and taking Mary's shoulders held her.

Maybe that is a good thing, if I lose him Mary said tears on her face, we see so little of each other anymore anyway.

 

 

10. Ken. Todd is falling in love.

 

I realise now that from all that he had told me and I am sure that he did not tell me everything that Todd was falling in love with this girl, Jasmine.

Falling in love in a way that he never had with Mary, falling in love with passion, jealousy, hope and an enrichment that he knew he had wanted and hoped for. He realised that everything up until this time had been nothing other than a prelude to his love of Jasmine, perhaps even his life with jasmine.

He knew that she liked him and had fallen for him to a certain extent, I could tell, by the kiss on the grassy knoll in Ardgowan forest and yet despite all that he suspected and all that he hoped; he could not be sure that she really cared for him at all.

Did she lie awake at night thinking of him as he did of her. He doubted it, he really was not the kind of fellow to inspire girls in that way. He had never been good looking though he was not hideous, he would always have been the second choice for a woman and though he hated that fact he also quite understood it.

At the same time he knew that in a strange way things would change over time. Todd read a lot, in all genres, and had come to understand, he thought, the female species through his reading though he had little experience with them in actual fact until his late teens.

Until then it had been nothing other than groping in the cinema and extended kissing somewhere no one else would see. He, as he had told me and others, had never been good looking or attractive to the opposite sex.

Nor am I now, he would also say though he would tell us occasionally of a time long past in his teens where he was and that women were available for him. Even as he told me or us these things there was something slightly unbelievable about it though he did not tend to lie that much as far as I could tell. Yet there were things that gnawed at me for this to be true. For one he was not tactile in the slightest, he would draw away from hugs and kisses and would rather shake hands rather than any other more personal greeting. That is something I thought to myself that would not attract girls except perhaps in the old cliche, the strong silent type but then he was neither strong nor silent. Sullen perhaps and even moody sometimes but even then not silent and as far as strong goes well he was not particularly unfit and though he had a little belly I had always assumed that that was the prodigious amounts of beer that he drank. Certainly he was never sedentary in fact he was involved in something all the time. Wither it be an experiment, or reading or doing something in his garden or someone else's he never stopped even out of work. Additionally he worked long hours and often worked hard hardly stopping after he came home before getting involved with something else.

I have no real taste in men myself and so I cannot verify if he was good looking to women but I certainly know that to some he was or at least his charm made up for his looks. I do not really know what it was but I know that some women really liked him. A few even that I saw as we were at the pub during quiz nights or just for a night out were very attracted to him. I could not tell you why but it was obvious that they were. He always encouraged their attentions but it never came to more than that as far as I knew. I really suspect though that it did not come to anything more as though he would love the attention and revel in it in a way he was always wanting to get onto another topic of conversation. He would never be intentionally rude but sometimes during a girls play for him he would just start talking about something that excluded her from the conversation. The merits of Islamic architecture, the humour of mark twain, the phases of the moon or something equally as interesting to a young woman. The reason, I brought up the phases of the moon is that I remember one night a young girl, blond and pretty though not much older than half his age coming up to the bar to buy a drink. We were in a huddle at the bar as usual trying to work out the answer to a quiz question that we had three possibilities for. Todd moved aside to give her room to reach the bar with a smile and a welcoming wave of his hand directing her to the bar.

The girl stood there for a while as we talked over her head about whatever it was the question had been and Todd not knowing the answer for a change had called out to the barmaid and let the girl get served. She said thanks with a smile just as the quiz started again and the first question was what are the four phases of the moon. As Todd rhymed them off the girl stopped still holding three drinks in a triangle with her fingers. She turned very slightly and looked at him for a second or two. He had not noticed being too focused on the questions and writing in the answers on a small slip of paper that always seemed very full to me when Todd had finished. I think that he always had to offer additional information to prove that he was correct rather than just the simple answer. The girl looked up at him adoringly and said, I knew that too. He smiled down on her, perhaps it was one of the things that women found attractive; the fact that when he was enjoying something his enthusiasm would shine through. He was focused upon it, the very item and I suspect that as he spoke to her that he was imagining those phases in his mind as he talked. Cool, he said, there are so few people these days interested in astronomy. I suppose the great resurgence will come when we first set foot on Mars. Are you an Astronomy student? Physics? or even Philosophy?

The girl laughed jiggling the drinks in her hands and spilling a little over her fingers. None of the above she said with a smile in fact I am doing sociology, last year in fact.

Are you going to pass he asked with a school masters stare. I am she replied and with honours I hope. Honours no less, and what do you wish to do then. Politics (the obvious answer for a sociology student) or are you going to tag on mathematics? She started to answer and he held up his hand palm out. Tell me of Rousseau and what he means to you?

Well which she asked calmly, Jean-Jacques or Henri?

The obvious one, I don't wish for the attributes of a painter. The girl I remember beamed at him her smile luminous in the pub. I think that she fell in love with him then and there. Perhaps he would have noticed but the next question came and without even consulting us Todd scribbled down the answer.

When he looked up lifting his pint at the same time he seemed surprised to see the girl still standing there. He smiled at her, his mind now free of the question that was asked. He knew the answer and did not need to consult and so had moved on until the next question arrived.

The way I have put this, it sounds as though he was winning the quiz all by himself. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Todd knew things that Todd knew about and he knew them well. On his own subjects he was king but move even a little away from what he knows and he became useless. He knew nothing of sport. I do not mean that he knew very little here but he knew nothing, he knew nothing of soap operas which are a big thing here, in fact Coronation street and Eastenders I think (though I maybe wrong) are the most watched programs on television here. Anyway Todd was only one of the team that won us those quizzes though who the fuck wants to know about astrology, astronomy and the classics?

So how does a sociology student know the phases of the moon? he asked her. It really is not that, he seemed to search for a word and then said, Hip? almost as a question. He had a small frown on his face as though he should know the right word but did not. Oh my dad told me all about astronomy. Cool, he said, all credit to your father. He would love to hear you say that she said still beaming up at him and she was a pretty girl.

He just seemed embarrassed and went back to answering the next question. I think you met him once she said. I did? he replied with a quizzical expression on his face still trying to answer the pub quiz question; who was the goddess of retribution.

Nemesis, he said and wrote it down and returned his attention to the girl.

I think that he was trying to remember what they were taking about as he is just focused on the thought that is in his head and he misses all hints and nuances, your father? Yes he is the one in charge of Airdrie observatory. You were there and gave a talk. I could see that he looked lost for a second then it came back to him. Are you Paulo's daughter? Paulo Clark?

She beamed ever more brightly and said I am. So your father taught you about astronomy?

We had no choice she said. Astronomy or bed and you know how little kids hate to go to bed at night.

I was little at the time, she continued and so we wanted to stay up as late as possible even at three or four it made us feel like grown ups.

Todd was not the kind to take advantage of such a thing, nor do I even know if he noticed it but I saw in the girls eyes, she was there for his taking had he wished to. It was a thing that he never noticed at all he just continued on with his questions about Paulo.

Perhaps Jasmine was the same

 

11. Todd. My late teens

As a young man, or an older boy, I suppose really, I had learned to play the guitar. I was never that great at it I knew, having met a number of people in the course of my years with bands that were far better musicians than I. I started playing the guitar probably at about the age of eleven or twelve though I cannot say now for sure. With a lot of practice I improved slowly from basic chord structures and simple melodies that were mainly from the country and western genre to some more complex stuff but never was good enough to play really difficult stuff. The only reason for this is I was able to pick up a rather bad steel stringed guitar from woolworths in Campbeltown and when I went to martins, the book shop in Campbeltown looking for a book to tutor me the only one they had was a country and western songbook.

This was a small west highland town in Scotland of course and so the bookshop was small but stacked with books. Many of the authors that I first read and many that influence me still , their books came from this small and rather dank almost Dickensian bookshop in Campbeltown.

As you can imagine in a small west highland town they had many music books, the west highlands of Scotland is famed for its music and so the shop had sheave upon sheave of sheet music but all for bag pipes or accordion. I at that time could not read music except in its most basic forms, I had been taught to play the recorder, badly, at school and do not know to this day why I failed so miserably at it as I now find it easy to play as I do most instruments. Anyway, I could barely read the music never mind convert the notes used in a bagpipe or accordion into guitar notes and so I took the only guitar tutor I found there.

As luck would have it, it was a really good tutor to start on and I practiced and practiced these songs that I had never even heard night after night progressing from the easiest of them to the more difficult over time. In the end it made no difference that I never actually had listened to them as I became proficient with them in my own mind. I was aware that there was every chance that if I ever heard the actual recordings that they could well be very different from the way I was playing them. In a way this was probably the best thing that could have happened though it certainly did not seem so at the time. As i did not know the songs i learned early to improvise adding an extra beat where it may be needed or adjusting the key to suit the way i thought that the song should go.

When my friends and I got together my ten pound guitar from woolworths was rather tinny compared to their better instruments but at the time I could afford no more and my mother and father were struggling just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table never mind buying me a new guitar. Anyway my dad thought that I was really bad, He asked me to stop playing chords and play a piece of classical music.

I remember being quite ashamed that I could not but then all I had was my country and western chords (and country and western guitar) and that is all I had learned. I disappointed him again but I think that as men of his time would do he still had a thought in his head that a guitar would not save your life. He had been to war and his father had died of wounds gained in the first world war. I cannot say this for sure but I think I was told that his grandfather had died in yet another, earlier, war.

I, however was not dismayed in the way that I might have been for I practiced more and more and I had that basic country and western chords down pat. I can still play some of those songs nearly forty years later and still play them well. Anyway as I was growing better and better at the guitar but still not that good if you see what I mean I miserably failed all of my prelims. Prelims are mock exams that are held in Scotland to prepare you for the actual exams that are your O'levels and allow you entry to college, university, et al. I was to busy learning my guitar, i was to busy earning money doing my milk run in the morning and working in a freezer shop in the afternoon after school to work that hard at school and it showed. of the seven prelims that I sat I had passed only two; English and modern studies (politics and sociology).

Oh yes I wanted to be a rock star at this time, what young boy of my didn't wish for that, I was fifteen, fit, healthy and knew my wee bit of country and western but I also knew that to fail my O'levels would consign me to a job in the shipyard or the clothing factory, both of which have long since closed down. When I think back on this now it was such a good thing that I had made an arse of everything as it shook me from my malaise. At the time it seemed such a disaster but knowing that I could not just cruise my way through life was a good lesson learned and i learned it earlier than most.

I started paying attention in class and started studying. I was struggling with mathematics in particular. Anyway I had made changes and started studying for real by the time that I found that almost everyone in the math's class was failing. The teacher was moved else where or to do something else I know not which and another teacher brought in.

Normally you could never imagine such a thing as possible but i am here to attest that it is, however, true. That a complete class that was pretty much failing as a group suddenly did great in their exams, myself included. Just the removal of a bad teacher and the addition of a good one along with a little studying turned the tide. It makes you wonder if it was the teacher and not just me that was too busy enjoying life, meeting girls, learning the guitar.

I know that I went from bottom marks for math's in my prelim to top marks at my O'levels. I think a little of both is the answer. I was accepted into college and though still fifteen (though only for a month) I left the relative security of my family for the thundering halls of Edinburgh. I do not deny that it was difficult but in my own way I grew to love it. At first it was incredibly lonely, I knew no one in the whole city.

Imagine then a boy from earlier years whose hormones are about ready to kick in and his face erupts with spots, though he was not as bad as some still he was not a treat to look at. Imagine the same boy also hesitant for he was neither tough nor self assured.

He now lived in the country when he had been brought up near the city as his father and mother moved to Campbeltown, the small seaside town I mentioned earlier to give them a better lifestyle, a promotion for my father and a change was as good as a rest as the old saying goes for my mother.

Despite the bullying or perhaps because of it I began to read more and more.

It was rare that I slept the authors thoughts unravelling in my mind. I learned through the words of greater minds than mine to forgive, though I never really did so, I understood the advantage of doing so. I visited the small Campbeltown bookshop I mentioned more and more and it became almost a place of pilgrimage for me. I can still smell it now, the dustiness of the books crammed in floor to ceiling in the small shop, a slight smell of dampness over that. The brilliance of the covers on the paperbacks assaulting my senses, their covers depicting monsters and daemons, lovers, stars, and every place that you could imagine and some that you could not. I found the place intoxicating in all ways and my passion for books grew and grew.

By the time my exams had arrived I was better read than many adults and so I should have done well at my prelims but my wish to be a rock star, working too hard at my part time jobs and bad teachers had taken their toll, but I made up for it and headed to the bright lights and college.

 

12. Todd. returning home and thinking.

And so he returned home and recommenced his former life, a life that was already jaded for him. A life of work and more work and his friends on the net, going to Ken and Sheila's on a Friday night for a drink and a chat. Occasionally some astronomy but even that was growing less frequent now. His children were growing older and though they still depended upon him to a certain extent they were beginning to form their own lives and understand their own places in the world and so had less need for him anymore. Mary really had no need for him anymore other than being a provider of money. This was not her fault, he always knew just a thing where they through necessity and circumstance spent so much time apart that they were getting used to the idea.

Jasmine had gone home to her own life, her own daughter and work and though he would not admit to himself yet that he loved her the seed was there and with only a little cultivation it would grow into something more. But his days passed far from home and were centred around a girl on the other side of the world, much of his happiness derived from the odd email or phone call he would get from her yet he still continued on with his life. He went home when he could and still saw little of Mary who had worked out her own routine for all the times that he was gone. He missed Jasmine far more than he had imagined that he would and missed Mary less than he remembered.

Even his own children had little need of him anymore. He had worked long and hard to provide for Mary and them and he loved them but he knew himself he was becoming worn out. There was something missing not just in their relationship but in him.

A change was coming.

13. Ken and shiela. Poor fools.

I am just nipping to the toilet. You jump into bed and get it warmed up before I come back. I am bloody exhausted. You know what he's like you can hardly get him to shut up at the best of times. And this, this is the worst of times; he is ten times worse. Just be thankful that we don't have the same problems.

The bedroom door opens and shiela is startled by the brightness of the hall light. Perhaps i have had a little to much to drink she thinks as he pulls the covers back and flops into the bed his pale skin blotted in the the moonlight.

I fucking hate the bastard she thinks as she lies back staring at the ceiling. She glimpsed his pale and mottled back, studded here and there with melanomas as he passed through the door. His waist had grown even thicker than it once was his skin riddled with curves where they should not have been, His flabby buttocks as he walked away made her want to be sick. He wasn't so bad she tried to think to herself but could not bring herself to think this to be so no matter how much she tried. He disgusted her.

 

I heard the running water and the toilet flushing as I lay there the duvet pulled up to my neck dreaming though awake, of love. I had never loved Ken but I was glad that he loved me when he said that he did and asked to marry me, or so I thought at the time but I should have known better he wanted some one available for sex when he wished it. Had it not been me then it would have been some other poor soul. Though I suspect that it rarely happened for him with others.

Ken still had a full head of hair, something that seemed to run in his family but he rarely exercised and would not work on the house or garden and so had become something awful to me when I saw him naked, I felt abused yet he would still expect me to indulge him in his strange sexual games.

I always accommodated him, I was older than him and knew that he was the bread winner and so I had to do all that he asked. I never enjoyed it. I had grown to dislike sex though I always remembered a time when I had enjoyed it, looked forward to it, anticipated it. I had been younger then and nothing had seemed as painful or forbidding as it seemed to involve now. I suppose that for everyone it becomes everyday and less than it once was. I understand that but yearn for the days when it was just kissing and fumbling foreplay before he spilled his seed into me. Along the way he gave me a daughter, Rhona. She is an echo of me though luckily her father supplied her ears for mine stick out horrendously and I was made fun of in school for so long over them that I hate them so much and even now often think of slicing them off.

Rhona is high strung and difficult but I love her and so in a way I got what I wanted.

I did not really want children but Ken did. He came from a large family and was happy being from such. I think he expected me to produce a brood of children but I am older and frailer than he is. I have something wrong with me, I do not know what it is but I feel bad most of the time. unwell, but other than feeling bad there is no diagnosis for it.

My mother was taken in to care when she tried to commit suicide. I say taken in but what I really mean is sectioned under the mental health act, she was a danger to herself they said and I think I have a bit of that in me. Actually there are times when I think that I have a lot of her in me. I wished for some of the things that Ken saw in life but I could not see them for myself. I was desperate to gain that, a bit of real life, a bit of happiness. I could not find it for myself.

Until I heard the news of Todd and Mary splitting up, this was the slice of luck that had always evaded me and now I could gain it.

Get a little piece of heaven for myself. I had always wished for what they had, that easy love where nothing was disputed, or little was.

I wished it was me that would be the one to share his bed on a night even growing older and a little thicker around the middle as he is I still saw him as so handsome and athletic. Mary just didn't know what she had, foolish bitch, I would have committed murder for a decent man, someone that was good and kind and did not hurt me.

He was more than just that, he was smart and thoughtful, he cared even about things that mattered little and for that I just loved him more. For him I would have done anything, Anything, I would have killed children, sentenced people to die or would have killed myself. Once I wished that he asked me to kill myself to prove my love to him and I would have followed his every instruction.

I would have hurt or maimed myself or someone else had he only asked me to but he did not.

I am not sure that he even really noticed me.

13. (part 2) Ken and shiela. Poor Fools.

She seemed immune to his charms, The bitch. Didn't she realise that he is important, doesn't she know that peoples lives stand and fall by his ideas, by his decision and his action. I do not think that she ever realised that despite the stories that he told. I don't think that she listened silly bitch.

He would tell us tales of having to sack people and about his worries over that, his worries of them and their lives afterwards. You could tell that he hated it, one fellow that he gave a warning to tried to take his own life and he hated himself for that.

I could tell at times that he just hated himself full stop.

Mary just listened as he said these things and never cared. I don't think that she knew him at all. I did, even when I had not seen him in weeks I could feel him, taste him and feel his touch inside of me.

I cannot believe that for someone so good that he could hate himself. You know she was the luckiest bitch and was fucking stupid for even allowing him to go. I would have killed her. I would have killed my children. I would have killed the world just to have him but he was not mine to have.

 

I flushed the toilet and picked up the air freshener can and gave it a spray before I went out. I wandered back through to the bedroom. I did not have to cover myself as my daughter was away at a sleep over. I wandered in naked and knew that she must be impressed. Yes I have put on a little weight and am thick round the middle but I am not too bad for my age. In fact she's a lucky bitch to have me, she knows it but pretends not to just to heat me up. I pull back the duvet and climb in beside her. 

Oh Todd make me drink to much talking about all his shit, I am not getting so hard, it will have to be the back way. Lube yourself up girl. I will just wank till I am hard enough and shoot it up your arse, if I get hard enough. If I don't you'll just have to suck me off till I fall asleep.

He's a bastard, Todd. He is going to leave her you know. What a cunt he is. Turn round The stupid bitch thinks I want her cunny when I am pissed, "Its tighter in your arse"

I watch her smear the lubricant over her hole before I enter her. I have had to much to drink and have to force it into her but she moves with me her pale skin looks like an eel at midnight but I feel myself becoming rigid and after what seems quite a long time spill my seed into her. I cant understand why Todd has left Mary. She is Such a great girl what the fuck is he playing at? Much better looking than this insipid eel that I have just fucked. I hope she is grateful, lucky bitch that I could be bothered to stick my cock into her.

I fall sleep naked and on top of the covers for though it is late in the year it is warmer than expected. I dream of Mary. Her breasts lie large and heavy upon her ribcage as I enter her and she starts to moan as my cock fills her, stretches her and makes her feel good. She moans beneath me as I push in to her. She whimpers like a child as she pushes her nails into my back. she wants me and only me. She will have me no matter what she has to do to get me.

 

Ken. Stars. 14

What the fuck is going on with you Todd?

the problem is fucking obvious, its all going to go to shit.

What?

Look at this and keep an open mind.

He pushed his arm out and swept everything that was on our kitchen table onto the floor. It was not such a big deal, a couple of candle holders and a bowl of fruit, that had only one rather brown spotted banana in it and a rather dimpled peach that burst when it hit the floor.

He produced a star chart covered with constellations on a blue background with orange high lighters marked here and there.

Look for fuck sake he almost shouted and when I stood back he said, sorry, my apologies but I cant believe it either.

I know as much as most people do about the stars, horoscopes, black holes and astronomical terms but I was never going to be in his ball park.

He had been studying the stars since he was a teenager and for that matter for a long time he had mainlined on science fiction and being Todd he had to know what every term meant, had to know how each hypothesis worked, had to know fucking everything. Whereas I had done the little that you did in school about the planets and stars and I occasionally read the new scientist on line.

But just to generally keep up with events and advances in the science world. Never did I come close to having his monstrous knowledge of mathematics and astrophysics plus though I was fine with astronomy, astrology to me was just rubbish made up for weak minded fools. To a certain extent Todd agreed with me there but also thought that we were just missing the key that would solve the equation, the astronomical Rosetta stone.

He had explained to me one night how there had to be something to it. He did not understand exactly what yet but told me of convergence's that had occurred that foretold of events that had come to pass. He explained in rather long winded terms about how the heavens worked and how earlier civilisations had studied the stars and what they had meant to them. This took ages and though mildly interesting as I say it was rather long winded and came to no conclusion other than there must be something. But all the evidence that he presented to prove that "something" was all circumstantial as far as I could tell though i am a lightweight scientist compared to him.

Todd was a nice guy and could often be fascinating to listen to. Sometimes and I could not tell you what it was but there was something in him that just cut through the fluff around a problem so he could see to the heart of it and reason it out.

But sometimes like that night many months ago you just wanted him to shut up so you could get onto something that he was not the only person in the room that was interested in.

Yes despite all I have said on his good points at other times he could be a boring bugger and bloody annoying.

It looked as though tonight was going to be one of those nights but I could tell that his blood was up and he thought he had found a revelation.

This was obvious not just in his manner but in the fact I had poured him a large glass of a very tasty and rich red wine (that tended to be his favourite) but he had barely sipped before slipping into his tirade. I had to keep my own mind about me otherwise I would struggle to see what his meanings were.

He never ever said it but I could tell that Todd just did not like his intellectual inferiors. Which i suppose to him meant almost everyone. I told shiela that I thought that one night but she shot me down in flames. Well he still loves Mary she had said and do you think she is his intellectual equal?

No, I thought I know why he likes Mary, beautiful, big tits, sexy. Who cares if she thinks at all.

Todd had since our first meeting always looked upon me intellectually as an equal and I was glad that such was the case however I personally doubted it. So often even when I was struggling to follow his reasoning he assumed I was being modest and so would not wait for me to catch up- something I needed time for quite badly on occasion. I sat my own wine glass down, making sure I placed it upon the kitchen work top so that it also did not get swept onto the floor and resolved to pay attention to whatever he was saying. He was excited, animated and full of what ever he was full of. It was usually red wine or lager but tonight he was supplying himself with stimulants and needed nothing else. He had still not touched his glass.

At this point on another couple of lucky nights when he had found something that he just had to inform us of I was always grateful that Mary and Shiela had been there both to calm him down for he was rarely as demonstrative around women and to make things easier to understand. For some reason he always thought that I understood without an explanation but needed to add it for the girls sake. Often I needed the explanation as much as they did.

His upbringing I think had made him calmer around women but of course now that they had split up Mary was not there and Shiela had gone out to the pub with her friends that night. I don't think it was to avoid Todd, I think it was only coincidence but I may have been wrong. She seemed to have a real downer on him since the break up but then Mary was her friend.

Look he said pointing to a small blip on his chart of the solar system.

Yes?

You know what this is don't you?

I did not, but I suppose that was one of the things about Todd that he always thought that everyone was as smart as him, knew all the things that he would know. He never ever thought you were stupid even when you knew that you were. That is 200324 one of the plutoids that has not been given a name yet .

plutoids?

Well yes, remember I told you about the large rock masses that still orbit the sun but come from the belt that sits just to the outer edge of the solar system. Well to be honest we don't know that it is the edge of the system but it seems likely. Well some of them are really large and should be classified as planets under what was our definition of a planet up until a couple of years ago.

I think that you did tell me about it.

Well you know that when they started to discover all the planetoid masses astronomers had to reclassify the nature of a planet. They did so last year when we realised that there were so many big rocks out there after Neptune. Some were moons and others asteroids and by our definition of a planet as it then stood some were planets. But really they were mainly just big icy rocks floating in emptiness.

So they reclassified what made up a planet. The other large rocks were renamed plutoids though there are also likely to be another one or two gas giants out there, that would be the obvious answer to why there is another and much larger asteroid belt even farther out there. There should be at least one other large gas giant exerting quite a large gravitational force to stop the larger asteroids spinning away though the force that the sun exerts is really rather strong in the way of things. But remember at that distance the sun is pretty far away and so the gravitational force is lessened but still able to hold them in orbit.

Yes they are way out there, though we cannot say for sure yet, there could be another closer to the edge of the solar system probably a pretty large gas giant the size of Neptune or Saturn. Though it has not been discovered yet we are still arguing over a name for it.

We?

Ah sorry, he said looking up from the charts at at me for a change. Every word he had so far uttered apart from a quick sideways glance had been directed at the charts in front of him. I know I am not a real astronomer or a real Astro physicist for that matter but look at this.

He pulled out another map of the solar system with the plutoids marked on it and looked directly at me. He had drawn the phases of the zodiac upon it.

You see he said and continued and I am sure that you are doubting everything that you have ever learned at the moment but don't be worried as I was too.

Actually at this moment I was not doubting anything for I had barely understood a word of what he was talking about. The only thing that I was possibly doubting was his sanity.

But now look at this and he pulled out another astrological map and he added the plutoids into it. He had plotted their trajectory of orbit round the sun with a faint yellow line but he had added in a large red line father from the sun than the plutoids and he said "if this is where that other gas giant is" and he plotted this possibly non existent planets path round the sun and through the heavens. To be perfectly honest with you I had no idea what he was talking about by this time having been overwhelmed both by to much information and a lack of relevant information that he just expected me to know as usual.

This lasted until he produced a large tracery With all of the planets trajectories plotted as well as those of the plutoids and this unknown and undiscovered gas giant that he had theorised. He had even given it a trajectory and orbital phase though we do not even know if it exists.

There are many marks upon this star glyph small white crosses with writing beside them far to small to see. I see that every pattern comes close to them but does not really intersect. But this proves nothing I say, I can see everything comes close to a line or intersection but few are right on it anyway what does the little white writing say.

Well those are the astrological signs for great events that have happened and if they intersected with the conjunctions lines and patterns it would really show us that the stars do predict our future.

But obviously they do not I sputtered and tried to stop myself laughing. Is that what you have come to me with that there is a possible but random correlation between great events and star patterns but that they are all wrong? He beams at me. It is rare that I have seen a smile so broad upon his face even though as he states these days he is desperately in love. Weirdly the last time I can recall such a broad and open smile upon his face was when he was telling me of his new found love. Jasmine.

Todd, tell if I'm wrong here? but from what I see this proves nothing at all as far as astrology goes. You have put on these major events yet none of them even seem to mach with the conjunctions that you present, yes I said pointing at one, some of them are close, but others are miles away.

Todd bursts out laughing and says. "Well yes some are miles away but many others are millions of miles out.

So what here are you proving to me that astrology even with new information added in is rubbish well then you are preaching to the converted.

And so I thought too said Todd still with the smile plastered across his face. When I have looked at astrological maps I have always used those first produced by John Dee the astronomer, visionary and very learned man who was the first queen Elizabeth's astronomer and scientist. I have always been fascinated with him and his ideas. I have read a great deal about him though much of it has been fiction. The possibility of alchemy oh and lots of other things about him are just things that amaze me and for his time he seemed such a visionary. I always always thought as well that his "Magic", that he considered science came from many sources but particularly one Hermes Trisgamesestus who was.....

 

I have always been a fan of Dee who I thought had rarely got at the truth but had tried. My thoughts being that I always thought that astrology is shit, we have to look again for enlightenment. I am always drawn back from that by the charlatans that purport to know our futures. I swallow this rubbish too easily I think to myself. I am a man of science but my love of history perverts me and such applied with Dr Dee who I now know to be a fool at least in this respect though I do not doubt him still a seeker for knowledge.

So that's it? I asked pissed off that I still have not got a piece of kitchen roll to scoop up the over ripe peach that lies at the side of the table whilst I wait upon a revelation. All you have to tell me with all this drama is that astrology is not true. Something that pretty much every kid in the land over the age of nine knows.

Ah That is the assumption I made and I am now going to tell you now that I am a fool he said and performed a full bow before me. I am going to tell you, he said with a flourish that astronomy and the telling of the future is not only possible but it is a fact and more than that.

I looked at him amazed thinking that he had drank to much but my gaze drew in the half finished glass of red wine and the almost full bottle.

That I can foretell the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a name for the car park that we drew into near the loch but I cannot now recall its name. It may be called "Firkin point" We walked along the old road, cracked and broken, beset with fissures that hand in hand we stepped across, It has not been maintained for a while now the old road. There is no need to maintain it for it is the haunt of tourists only rather than those on their way to somewhere.

For those that have not been there the shores of loch Lomond are indeed as pretty and as picturesque as those that are told of in the song. The waters are not always calm but mostly and at times even colder than the seas that surround Scotland. The seas are warmed by the gulf stream, inland fresh water lochs of course are not. In the winters that play across this still wild land at the edge of civilisation the fresh water can freeze in the winter though in my life time that has been long now I cannot remember loch Lomond ever freezing over except in the bays and even then only very occasionally. Parts of it have but I think by its sheer size it never fully has. It is the largest loch in Britain, though I think if you include Ireland then the Shannon is bigger. I cannot say that this is true but my memory tells me that someone smarter or better educated than I told me so and with no reason to disbelieve them I have always accepted it then as truth.

I remember walking along the old road round loch Lomond the tarmac raised and warped with the heat and rain telling her to avoid the potholes that had inevitably appeared over the years. This road, not available to the traffic these days had become rather the worse for wear but of course that was not important then for it was fun avoiding the pot holes and fissures. We were not together but got on rather well and so we could save one another by grabbing onto each other holding the other to stop them stumbling. I remember her being quite able for a girl which I know sounds rather sexist but is not meant to be as most of the girls I had known unto this time had been more concerned with their looks than their abilities. She was a welcome change. a welcome change and a beautiful woman as well.

We went onto the shingle beach at one point and went towards the loch itself. It was far too cold but she asked me if I wished to go for a swim. Oh it really was far to cold for I had swam there before and even in the high summer sun even so rare as we have it here I had done so and come out a shivering wreck. Loch Lomond is not so deep as loch ness or loch dubh but it is deep enough to stay cold all year round.

It has its own species of fish as well, I remember telling her of a species of mackerel that had swam in during the ice age when it was still a sea loch but that had adapted and become freshwater fish when the world changed and the receding ice changed the nature of the loch and they still survive apparently but only in this loch. I cannot remember their name but I remember checking this out and finding out that it was true though in all the times that I had fished there I do not think i ever caught any any.

An epiphany; they may be called pollen (the fish involved) though I cannot say for sure and though I caught a silver fish one dreech day sitting on a shingle beach on loch Lomond side I really cannot say that it was one of them. I really doubt that it was.

She chided me for not being willing to go swimming with her and I made a joke of it but I really did not wish to there for the water is very cold indeed even in summer and this was April. As yet we were still nothing more than friends and I am pretty sure we would have remained so was the thought in my mind but had we gone swimming in the freezing cold waters of loch Lomond. In fact I am pretty sure that my manhood would have disappeared completely within seconds. I remember going for a swim in loch Lomond in mid summer on a lovely sunny day and though I did not swim far I came out of the water shivering.

I told her a story. A true story as far as I had heard it, and that is that there was every possibility of there being the equivalent of a fresh water shark in there (Loch Lomond). The rumour is that the there may be a pike of eighty five pounds in there. There have even been documentaries made on the subject. I have no personal knowledge towards the truth of such a beast existing but I can easily see it as possible, it is such a huge loch but anyway I used this as an excuse not to go swimming but really it was the chill that worried me for though we were nothing more than friends she had hinted a couple of times that she could have been interested in something more.

Much happened on that day not the least of which was the change in my feelings toward her. I considered her a friend as I have said but I had already started thinking of her as more than a friend. She was beautiful, of that there was no doubt. She was also a challenge for she was awkward and defiant and she had a thought style like a man even though she was so obviously a woman. Still I liked her very much. I think that she may have intimidated some men though not because she was tough but rather that despite her beauty she was not lady like but rather a different beast altogether. That was just my opinion and there is every chance that I could be wrong. Still no matter what the truth of the matter, I found myself falling in love with this beautiful wonderful and exciting girl.

8. Ken. Jasmine flies home.

But the time came as times must and Jasmine had to return to her home to her daughter and her other life. The long flight to Canada awaited her. Todd must return to his life of hard work and trial, he must return to Mary and he did so with nothing upon his conscience other than a kiss.

But Todd knows that this is not true for all he has told himself that it is, for though nothing did happen other than a kiss Todd knew that deep down that he wished it had went further. He suspected that Jasmine wished the same though having married young Todd was unsure of the ways of women.

And so guilt swept through him though he had little to feel guilty about, yet it did in a way that consumed him as thoughts do that are unwelcome or unexpected and he worked all his thoughts out, analysed them again and again and he knew that he was falling in love.

Sheila and I went round to his house one Friday night for a drink or two or ten and unusually the girls went out into the garden. Later I was to find out from Shiela that they had wished to be alone so they could discuss Todd and his trip away for the day with this unusual girl. It was lucky in a way for it gave me the chance to ask him freely and not in front of his wife what he really had thought of her. I am a good listener much as Todd himself is until he gets caught up in his subject. When he does there is no stopping him, he will interrupt anyone and anything clinging tenaciously to his story no matter how much sidetracking that you have to go through until he has got his message across.

He started talking about the girl straight away with little urging which is really not like him as Todd knows exactly what he is like and that he can monopolise a conversation for hours lecturing you on a subject he knows of. Knowing this he is usually quiet until prodded into getting going but once he starts, there is really no stopping him until at some point or another in his narrative he sees the faces of the others gathered there and there is a spark of recognition when he realises that he has just overridden everyone else to tell them all about the campaigns of Hannibal or the merits of Melville's "Moby Dick" or something equally as dull to most people other than him.

As he realises though that he has just been rattling on he always apologises and then shuts up and rarely says anything of note there after. He somehow seems always embarrassed to have taken over the conversation. It is true that occasionally it would be dull but usually his enthusiasm for the subject would carry the day and most people did not mind as much as he thought that they did.

Even when they knew little of the subject or for that matter if the subject was of little interest to them his sheer exuberance in explaining it usually carried the day. Additionally he would throw in a few small facts that had since entered every day parlance that started when his story was taking place.

Occasionally I would know them but mostly the origins came as news to me and I loved these wee facts and often memorised them for later use.

But this time as I said he just launched into telling me about the girl and their day together without the usual prompting and prodding. He was telling me of where they had gone and seeing the standing stones at Kilmartin a place that I knew he had always loved and he spoke so longingly and descriptively about the place though I personally had never been there.

To me a standing stone is simply that, a stone that someone in the past has stuck in the ground for whatever reason and yes they are old but i see them as nothing other than rocks stood on end. Todd saw them as markers to the past and would think of why they were put there and the peoples that put them there, in a strange way they brought the very ancient past alive for him.

He told me of their walk round loch Lomond side and of stopping at the top of the "Rest and be Thankful. He told me of the views down the valley from the stopping point and how impressed the girl had been. He told me of the mist on the mountains and the drizzle at Kilmartin but there was so much about the girl, Jasmine that I realised very quickly what was happening.

Todd might be the genius but I am not so stupid myself and am relatively good at reading people. I could tell that he was besotted with the girl. I don't think that he was in love with her at this time, or perhaps I should say that I don't think that he knew that he was in love with her at this time. And perhaps I thought to myself that it didn't matter for she would soon be flying home to Canada, back to her own life and at that point perhaps he would forget her or with absence his feelings would change but I already suspected that they would not. I knew what Todd was like and some things he would obsess upon until he knew everything about them, anything that caught his attention or imagination would then become something that was of paramount importance to him to learn about, to know inside out. It was just the way that he was made.

 

I did not know it at the time but while Todd and I were discussing jasmines visit, Mary and shiela were also discussing her, sitting on an a-frame bench round the side of the house. I also had a bench at the back door but Todd would go out there to sit when his nicotine craving grew to much for him and I suppose that they did not want to be overhead. This does not surprise me as I can imagine what they were saying. Men, after all can be bitchy too when the occasion arises.

9. Mary and Shiela. A warm spring night.

We are going to take advantage of the warmer night air, Mary said with a flourish as both she and Shiela stood, anyway I want a cigarette.

Todd stood also, I'll come with you, if you don't mind I could do with a puff anyway. You don't mind he said turning back to look at Ken. Ken just shrugged and stood also; I could do with checking my mail anyway. I'll just be two minutes Todd said as he closed the door behind him. Partially to avoid the house getting chilly but also to keep the smoke out as Ken hated it. Ken headed out and up to his bedroom where his computer was to check his mail.

Todd sat on the bench at the back door and pulling his cigarettes from his pocket lit one with a petrol lighter that he closed with a flourish as he hit it against his leg snapping it shut and extinguishing the flame.

Oh don't worry, I will just finish my fag and go back inside and leave you girls to what you really want to talk about. Its probably a sex thing knowing you two.

Don't worry you don't have to look so surprised, he continued, ix know that when you need to talk alone its probably about Ken or me. well or sex or the relative merits of contemporary opera against classical opera he said with a big smile knowing that what either of knew about opera you could write on the back of a postage stamp. and still have room for lots of other stuff

The latter of course Mary said with a grimace and then a sweet smile. We always discuss opera when you two are not around, the only reason we never do in your presence is that you would think that we are too good for you and we would not like to disappoint you in that way.

 

 

Aye that's what I would have guessed, said Todd, well you just have to put up with me for three or four minutes till I have my fag and then I'll retire to the house and leave you ladies discussing the relative merits of Puccini and well someone else more modern, you know I know nothing about opera.

Well neither do we as you well know you snob so bugger off and let us have our girly chat Shiela said with a smile and a dismissive wave of her hand.

So what is it tonight girls? who has the better six pack? who has the cutest dimples, which actor or pop star turns you on the most?

Oh you are so right Mary said with a smile and so fuck off Todd, go and talk to Ken about science or black holes or something.

Oh I see what you are doing there, trying to pretend that you want me to go away. Todd laughs, well Hint taken I shall return to the house but do keep it quiet as I don't wish to come out for a cigarette later and be greeted with argument between you to as to who has the tightest buns. Ok OK I get it, I am pissing off now. I really could do with a pee anyway.

They watch Todd walk back round the side of the house and hear the door shutting behind him before the inevitable question came.

Shiela got things started with well what happened?

Well I don't think anything happened but I am worried that something did, something bad.

He shagged her? shiela blurted out before she could stop herself, the bastard, you should wait till he's sleeping and cut his balls off.

 

 

No I don't think that, he can be a little ropy that way, what man isn't but he is really not the kind. He believes in fidelity even if I am not sure that he has always practiced it. I think though that mainly he has and maybe he always has. Maybe I am stupid to think so and maybe I am, and I am not sure but I think that he is faithful and that's what worries me.

It worries you that he's faithful? shiela asked I don't get it. It worries me with Ken when he's away working that he's unfaithful and i am pretty sure that he has been though I really don't know anything for sure.

I know what you mean, said Mary, and it worries me sometimes when Todd is away with work but you know Todd nearly as well as I do. On the odd time when I don't hear from him he'll being sitting in the pub pissed, and that's what scares me.

Mary you are being silly and I don't really understand what are you worried about.

Mary; well its the fidelity thing with Todd.

What you mean that you really don't think that he is?

No the opposite, Mary says her face reddening, I really do think that he does not get up to anything when he's away. I don't know wither he tries to but nobody wants him or he just doesn't try but I believe him when he says he is faithful.

So what's the problem then?

Well that's the scary thing with her.

Who the French girl? shiela looks confused.

Canadian, not French, French Canadian to be exact. but yes, that's what worries me. I have seen pictures of her she is a beautiful girl and if he was to shag her I would hate him for it but forgive him but I really don't want him to.

You cant mean that, Shiela asks surprised at what she is hearing.

I do, I mean every little bit of it, things would be crap for a while then we would just be back to normal and I like normal. But he is so fucking perfect that he doesn't shag around on me, he comes from the moral high ground with everything that he does and says. This to him will be another win. He will have been faithful, he will have followed all the rules but I can already tell that she has fucked with his mind.

If he wasn't so bloody perfect, if he had just shagged her he might have got it out of his system but if she goes back to Canada then all will grow worse, I am sure that he will fall in love with her I think that he already has.

Don't be stupid Mary, it really could just be a friends thing, he says that it is. There is no way that he will fall in love with her, he already loves you. I get what you mean about men and sex but Todd doesn't seem to be as bad as most.

If she goes back then I have lost him. I think that I have already. Shiela leaned over the table and taking Mary's shoulders held her.

Maybe that is a good thing, if I lose him Mary said tears on her face, we see so little of each other anymore anyway.

 

 

10. Ken. Todd is falling in love.

 

I realise now that from all that he had told me and I am sure that he did not tell me everything that Todd was falling in love with this girl, Jasmine.

Falling in love in a way that he never had with Mary, falling in love with passion, jealousy, hope and an enrichment that he knew he had wanted and hoped for. He realised that everything up until this time had been nothing other than a prelude to his love of Jasmine, perhaps even his life with jasmine.

He knew that she liked him and had fallen for him to a certain extent, I could tell, by the kiss on the grassy knoll in Ardgowan forest and yet despite all that he suspected and all that he hoped; he could not be sure that she really cared for him at all.

Did she lie awake at night thinking of him as he did of her. He doubted it, he really was not the kind of fellow to inspire girls in that way. He had never been good looking though he was not hideous, he would always have been the second choice for a woman and though he hated that fact he also quite understood it.

At the same time he knew that in a strange way things would change over time. Todd read a lot, in all genres, and had come to understand, he thought, the female species through his reading though he had little experience with them in actual fact until his late teens.

Until then it had been nothing other than groping in the cinema and extended kissing somewhere no one else would see. He, as he had told me and others, had never been good looking or attractive to the opposite sex.

Nor am I now, he would also say though he would tell us occasionally of a time long past in his teens where he was and that women were available for him. Even as he told me or us these things there was something slightly unbelievable about it though he did not tend to lie that much as far as I could tell. Yet there were things that gnawed at me for this to be true. For one he was not tactile in the slightest, he would draw away from hugs and kisses and would rather shake hands rather than any other more personal greeting. That is something I thought to myself that would not attract girls except perhaps in the old cliche, the strong silent type but then he was neither strong nor silent. Sullen perhaps and even moody sometimes but even then not silent and as far as strong goes well he was not particularly unfit and though he had a little belly I had always assumed that that was the prodigious amounts of beer that he drank. Certainly he was never sedentary in fact he was involved in something all the time. Wither it be an experiment, or reading or doing something in his garden or someone else's he never stopped even out of work. Additionally he worked long hours and often worked hard hardly stopping after he came home before getting involved with something else.

I have no real taste in men myself and so I cannot verify if he was good looking to women but I certainly know that to some he was or at least his charm made up for his looks. I do not really know what it was but I know that some women really liked him. A few even that I saw as we were at the pub during quiz nights or just for a night out were very attracted to him. I could not tell you why but it was obvious that they were. He always encouraged their attentions but it never came to more than that as far as I knew. I really suspect though that it did not come to anything more as though he would love the attention and revel in it in a way he was always wanting to get onto another topic of conversation. He would never be intentionally rude but sometimes during a girls play for him he would just start talking about something that excluded her from the conversation. The merits of Islamic architecture, the humour of mark twain, the phases of the moon or something equally as interesting to a young woman. The reason, I brought up the phases of the moon is that I remember one night a young girl, blond and pretty though not much older than half his age coming up to the bar to buy a drink. We were in a huddle at the bar as usual trying to work out the answer to a quiz question that we had three possibilities for. Todd moved aside to give her room to reach the bar with a smile and a welcoming wave of his hand directing her to the bar.

The girl stood there for a while as we talked over her head about whatever it was the question had been and Todd not knowing the answer for a change had called out to the barmaid and let the girl get served. She said thanks with a smile just as the quiz started again and the first question was what are the four phases of the moon. As Todd rhymed them off the girl stopped still holding three drinks in a triangle with her fingers. She turned very slightly and looked at him for a second or two. He had not noticed being too focused on the questions and writing in the answers on a small slip of paper that always seemed very full to me when Todd had finished. I think that he always had to offer additional information to prove that he was correct rather than just the simple answer. The girl looked up at him adoringly and said, I knew that too. He smiled down on her, perhaps it was one of the things that women found attractive; the fact that when he was enjoying something his enthusiasm would shine through. He was focused upon it, the very item and I suspect that as he spoke to her that he was imagining those phases in his mind as he talked. Cool, he said, there are so few people these days interested in astronomy. I suppose the great resurgence will come when we first set foot on Mars. Are you an Astronomy student? Physics? or even Philosophy?

The girl laughed jiggling the drinks in her hands and spilling a little over her fingers. None of the above she said with a smile in fact I am doing sociology, last year in fact.

Are you going to pass he asked with a school masters stare. I am she replied and with honours I hope. Honours no less, and what do you wish to do then. Politics (the obvious answer for a sociology student) or are you going to tag on mathematics? She started to answer and he held up his hand palm out. Tell me of Rousseau and what he means to you?

Well which she asked calmly, Jean-Jacques or Henri?

The obvious one, I don't wish for the attributes of a painter. The girl I remember beamed at him her smile luminous in the pub. I think that she fell in love with him then and there. Perhaps he would have noticed but the next question came and without even consulting us Todd scribbled down the answer.

When he looked up lifting his pint at the same time he seemed surprised to see the girl still standing there. He smiled at her, his mind now free of the question that was asked. He knew the answer and did not need to consult and so had moved on until the next question arrived.

The way I have put this, it sounds as though he was winning the quiz all by himself. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Todd knew things that Todd knew about and he knew them well. On his own subjects he was king but move even a little away from what he knows and he became useless. He knew nothing of sport. I do not mean that he knew very little here but he knew nothing, he knew nothing of soap operas which are a big thing here, in fact Coronation street and Eastenders I think (though I maybe wrong) are the most watched programs on television here. Anyway Todd was only one of the team that won us those quizzes though who the fuck wants to know about astrology, astronomy and the classics?

So how does a sociology student know the phases of the moon? he asked her. It really is not that, he seemed to search for a word and then said, Hip? almost as a question. He had a small frown on his face as though he should know the right word but did not. Oh my dad told me all about astronomy. Cool, he said, all credit to your father. He would love to hear you say that she said still beaming up at him and she was a pretty girl.

He just seemed embarrassed and went back to answering the next question. I think you met him once she said. I did? he replied with a quizzical expression on his face still trying to answer the pub quiz question; who was the goddess of retribution.

Nemesis, he said and wrote it down and returned his attention to the girl.

I think that he was trying to remember what they were taking about as he is just focused on the thought that is in his head and he misses all hints and nuances, your father? Yes he is the one in charge of Airdrie observatory. You were there and gave a talk. I could see that he looked lost for a second then it came back to him. Are you Paulo's daughter? Paulo Clark?

She beamed ever more brightly and said I am. So your father taught you about astronomy?

We had no choice she said. Astronomy or bed and you know how little kids hate to go to bed at night.

I was little at the time, she continued and so we wanted to stay up as late as possible even at three or four it made us feel like grown ups.

Todd was not the kind to take advantage of such a thing, nor do I even know if he noticed it but I saw in the girls eyes, she was there for his taking had he wished to. It was a thing that he never noticed at all he just continued on with his questions about Paulo.

Perhaps Jasmine was the same

 

11. Todd. My late teens

As a young man, or an older boy, I suppose really, I had learned to play the guitar. I was never that great at it I knew, having met a number of people in the course of my years with bands that were far better musicians than I. I started playing the guitar probably at about the age of eleven or twelve though I cannot say now for sure. With a lot of practice I improved slowly from basic chord structures and simple melodies that were mainly from the country and western genre to some more complex stuff but never was good enough to play really difficult stuff. The only reason for this is I was able to pick up a rather bad steel stringed guitar from woolworths in Campbeltown and when I went to martins, the book shop in Campbeltown looking for a book to tutor me the only one they had was a country and western songbook.

This was a small west highland town in Scotland of course and so the bookshop was small but stacked with books. Many of the authors that I first read and many that influence me still , their books came from this small and rather dank almost Dickensian bookshop in Campbeltown.

As you can imagine in a small west highland town they had many music books, the west highlands of Scotland is famed for its music and so the shop had sheave upon sheave of sheet music but all for bag pipes or accordion. I at that time could not read music except in its most basic forms, I had been taught to play the recorder, badly, at school and do not know to this day why I failed so miserably at it as I now find it easy to play as I do most instruments. Anyway, I could barely read the music never mind convert the notes used in a bagpipe or accordion into guitar notes and so I took the only guitar tutor I found there.

As luck would have it, it was a really good tutor to start on and I practiced and practiced these songs that I had never even heard night after night progressing from the easiest of them to the more difficult over time. In the end it made no difference that I never actually had listened to them as I became proficient with them in my own mind. I was aware that there was every chance that if I ever heard the actual recordings that they could well be very different from the way I was playing them. In a way this was probably the best thing that could have happened though it certainly did not seem so at the time. As i did not know the songs i learned early to improvise adding an extra beat where it may be needed or adjusting the key to suit the way i thought that the song should go.

When my friends and I got together my ten pound guitar from woolworths was rather tinny compared to their better instruments but at the time I could afford no more and my mother and father were struggling just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table never mind buying me a new guitar. Anyway my dad thought that I was really bad, He asked me to stop playing chords and play a piece of classical music.

I remember being quite ashamed that I could not but then all I had was my country and western chords (and country and western guitar) and that is all I had learned. I disappointed him again but I think that as men of his time would do he still had a thought in his head that a guitar would not save your life. He had been to war and his father had died of wounds gained in the first world war. I cannot say this for sure but I think I was told that his grandfather had died in yet another, earlier, war.

I, however was not dismayed in the way that I might have been for I practiced more and more and I had that basic country and western chords down pat. I can still play some of those songs nearly forty years later and still play them well. Anyway as I was growing better and better at the guitar but still not that good if you see what I mean I miserably failed all of my prelims. Prelims are mock exams that are held in Scotland to prepare you for the actual exams that are your O'levels and allow you entry to college, university, et al. I was to busy learning my guitar, i was to busy earning money doing my milk run in the morning and working in a freezer shop in the afternoon after school to work that hard at school and it showed. of the seven prelims that I sat I had passed only two; English and modern studies (politics and sociology).

Oh yes I wanted to be a rock star at this time, what young boy of my didn't wish for that, I was fifteen, fit, healthy and knew my wee bit of country and western but I also knew that to fail my O'levels would consign me to a job in the shipyard or the clothing factory, both of which have long since closed down. When I think back on this now it was such a good thing that I had made an arse of everything as it shook me from my malaise. At the time it seemed such a disaster but knowing that I could not just cruise my way through life was a good lesson learned and i learned it earlier than most.

I started paying attention in class and started studying. I was struggling with mathematics in particular. Anyway I had made changes and started studying for real by the time that I found that almost everyone in the math's class was failing. The teacher was moved else where or to do something else I know not which and another teacher brought in.

Normally you could never imagine such a thing as possible but i am here to attest that it is, however, true. That a complete class that was pretty much failing as a group suddenly did great in their exams, myself included. Just the removal of a bad teacher and the addition of a good one along with a little studying turned the tide. It makes you wonder if it was the teacher and not just me that was too busy enjoying life, meeting girls, learning the guitar.

I know that I went from bottom marks for math's in my prelim to top marks at my O'levels. I think a little of both is the answer. I was accepted into college and though still fifteen (though only for a month) I left the relative security of my family for the thundering halls of Edinburgh. I do not deny that it was difficult but in my own way I grew to love it. At first it was incredibly lonely, I knew no one in the whole city.

Imagine then a boy from earlier years whose hormones are about ready to kick in and his face erupts with spots, though he was not as bad as some still he was not a treat to look at. Imagine the same boy also hesitant for he was neither tough nor self assured.

He now lived in the country when he had been brought up near the city as his father and mother moved to Campbeltown, the small seaside town I mentioned earlier to give them a better lifestyle, a promotion for my father and a change was as good as a rest as the old saying goes for my mother.

Despite the bullying or perhaps because of it I began to read more and more.

It was rare that I slept the authors thoughts unravelling in my mind. I learned through the words of greater minds than mine to forgive, though I never really did so, I understood the advantage of doing so. I visited the small Campbeltown bookshop I mentioned more and more and it became almost a place of pilgrimage for me. I can still smell it now, the dustiness of the books crammed in floor to ceiling in the small shop, a slight smell of dampness over that. The brilliance of the covers on the paperbacks assaulting my senses, their covers depicting monsters and daemons, lovers, stars, and every place that you could imagine and some that you could not. I found the place intoxicating in all ways and my passion for books grew and grew.

By the time my exams had arrived I was better read than many adults and so I should have done well at my prelims but my wish to be a rock star, working too hard at my part time jobs and bad teachers had taken their toll, but I made up for it and headed to the bright lights and college.

 

12. Todd. returning home and thinking.

And so he returned home and recommenced his former life, a life that was already jaded for him. A life of work and more work and his friends on the net, going to Ken and Sheila's on a Friday night for a drink and a chat. Occasionally some astronomy but even that was growing less frequent now. His children were growing older and though they still depended upon him to a certain extent they were beginning to form their own lives and understand their own places in the world and so had less need for him anymore. Mary really had no need for him anymore other than being a provider of money. This was not her fault, he always knew just a thing where they through necessity and circumstance spent so much time apart that they were getting used to the idea.

Jasmine had gone home to her own life, her own daughter and work and though he would not admit to himself yet that he loved her the seed was there and with only a little cultivation it would grow into something more. But his days passed far from home and were centred around a girl on the other side of the world, much of his happiness derived from the odd email or phone call he would get from her yet he still continued on with his life. He went home when he could and still saw little of Mary who had worked out her own routine for all the times that he was gone. He missed Jasmine far more than he had imagined that he would and missed Mary less than he remembered.

Even his own children had little need of him anymore. He had worked long and hard to provide for Mary and them and he loved them but he knew himself he was becoming worn out. There was something missing not just in their relationship but in him.

A change was coming.

13. Ken and shiela. Poor fools.

I am just nipping to the toilet. You jump into bed and get it warmed up before I come back. I am bloody exhausted. You know what he's like you can hardly get him to shut up at the best of times. And this, this is the worst of times; he is ten times worse. Just be thankful that we don't have the same problems.

The bedroom door opens and shiela is startled by the brightness of the hall light. Perhaps i have had a little to much to drink she thinks as he pulls the covers back and flops into the bed his pale skin blotted in the the moonlight.

I fucking hate the bastard she thinks as she lies back staring at the ceiling. She glimpsed his pale and mottled back, studded here and there with melanomas as he passed through the door. His waist had grown even thicker than it once was his skin riddled with curves where they should not have been, His flabby buttocks as he walked away made her want to be sick. He wasn't so bad she tried to think to herself but could not bring herself to think this to be so no matter how much she tried. He disgusted her.

 

I heard the running water and the toilet flushing as I lay there the duvet pulled up to my neck dreaming though awake, of love. I had never loved Ken but I was glad that he loved me when he said that he did and asked to marry me, or so I thought at the time but I should have known better he wanted some one available for sex when he wished it. Had it not been me then it would have been some other poor soul. Though I suspect that it rarely happened for him with others.

Ken still had a full head of hair, something that seemed to run in his family but he rarely exercised and would not work on the house or garden and so had become something awful to me when I saw him naked, I felt abused yet he would still expect me to indulge him in his strange sexual games.

I always accommodated him, I was older than him and knew that he was the bread winner and so I had to do all that he asked. I never enjoyed it. I had grown to dislike sex though I always remembered a time when I had enjoyed it, looked forward to it, anticipated it. I had been younger then and nothing had seemed as painful or forbidding as it seemed to involve now. I suppose that for everyone it becomes everyday and less than it once was. I understand that but yearn for the days when it was just kissing and fumbling foreplay before he spilled his seed into me. Along the way he gave me a daughter, Rhona. She is an echo of me though luckily her father supplied her ears for mine stick out horrendously and I was made fun of in school for so long over them that I hate them so much and even now often think of slicing them off.

Rhona is high strung and difficult but I love her and so in a way I got what I wanted.

I did not really want children but Ken did. He came from a large family and was happy being from such. I think he expected me to produce a brood of children but I am older and frailer than he is. I have something wrong with me, I do not know what it is but I feel bad most of the time. unwell, but other than feeling bad there is no diagnosis for it.

My mother was taken in to care when she tried to commit suicide. I say taken in but what I really mean is sectioned under the mental health act, she was a danger to herself they said and I think I have a bit of that in me. Actually there are times when I think that I have a lot of her in me. I wished for some of the things that Ken saw in life but I could not see them for myself. I was desperate to gain that, a bit of real life, a bit of happiness. I could not find it for myself.

Until I heard the news of Todd and Mary splitting up, this was the slice of luck that had always evaded me and now I could gain it.

Get a little piece of heaven for myself. I had always wished for what they had, that easy love where nothing was disputed, or little was.

I wished it was me that would be the one to share his bed on a night even growing older and a little thicker around the middle as he is I still saw him as so handsome and athletic. Mary just didn't know what she had, foolish bitch, I would have committed murder for a decent man, someone that was good and kind and did not hurt me.

He was more than just that, he was smart and thoughtful, he cared even about things that mattered little and for that I just loved him more. For him I would have done anything, Anything, I would have killed children, sentenced people to die or would have killed myself. Once I wished that he asked me to kill myself to prove my love to him and I would have followed his every instruction.

I would have hurt or maimed myself or someone else had he only asked me to but he did not.

I am not sure that he even really noticed me.

13. (part 2) Ken and shiela. Poor Fools.

She seemed immune to his charms, The bitch. Didn't she realise that he is important, doesn't she know that peoples lives stand and fall by his ideas, by his decision and his action. I do not think that she ever realised that despite the stories that he told. I don't think that she listened silly bitch.

He would tell us tales of having to sack people and about his worries over that, his worries of them and their lives afterwards. You could tell that he hated it, one fellow that he gave a warning to tried to take his own life and he hated himself for that.

I could tell at times that he just hated himself full stop.

Mary just listened as he said these things and never cared. I don't think that she knew him at all. I did, even when I had not seen him in weeks I could feel him, taste him and feel his touch inside of me.

I cannot believe that for someone so good that he could hate himself. You know she was the luckiest bitch and was fucking stupid for even allowing him to go. I would have killed her. I would have killed my children. I would have killed the world just to have him but he was not mine to have.

 

I flushed the toilet and picked up the air freshener can and gave it a spray before I went out. I wandered back through to the bedroom. I did not have to cover myself as my daughter was away at a sleep over. I wandered in naked and knew that she must be impressed. Yes I have put on a little weight and am thick round the middle but I am not too bad for my age. In fact she's a lucky bitch to have me, she knows it but pretends not to just to heat me up. I pull back the duvet and climb in beside her. 

Oh Todd make me drink to much talking about all his shit, I am not getting so hard, it will have to be the back way. Lube yourself up girl. I will just wank till I am hard enough and shoot it up your arse, if I get hard enough. If I don't you'll just have to suck me off till I fall asleep.

He's a bastard, Todd. He is going to leave her you know. What a cunt he is. Turn round The stupid bitch thinks I want her cunny when I am pissed, "Its tighter in your arse"

I watch her smear the lubricant over her hole before I enter her. I have had to much to drink and have to force it into her but she moves with me her pale skin looks like an eel at midnight but I feel myself becoming rigid and after what seems quite a long time spill my seed into her. I cant understand why Todd has left Mary. She is Such a great girl what the fuck is he playing at? Much better looking than this insipid eel that I have just fucked. I hope she is grateful, lucky bitch that I could be bothered to stick my cock into her.

I fall sleep naked and on top of the covers for though it is late in the year it is warmer than expected. I dream of Mary. Her breasts lie large and heavy upon her ribcage as I enter her and she starts to moan as my cock fills her, stretches her and makes her feel good. She moans beneath me as I push in to her. She whimpers like a child as she pushes her nails into my back. she wants me and only me. She will have me no matter what she has to do to get me.

 

Ken. Stars. 14

What the fuck is going on with you Todd?

the problem is fucking obvious, its all going to go to shit.

What?

Look at this and keep an open mind.

He pushed his arm out and swept everything that was on our kitchen table onto the floor. It was not such a big deal, a couple of candle holders and a bowl of fruit, that had only one rather brown spotted banana in it and a rather dimpled peach that burst when it hit the floor.

He produced a star chart covered with constellations on a blue background with orange high lighters marked here and there.

Look for fuck sake he almost shouted and when I stood back he said, sorry, my apologies but I cant believe it either.

I know as much as most people do about the stars, horoscopes, black holes and astronomical terms but I was never going to be in his ball park.

He had been studying the stars since he was a teenager and for that matter for a long time he had mainlined on science fiction and being Todd he had to know what every term meant, had to know how each hypothesis worked, had to know fucking everything. Whereas I had done the little that you did in school about the planets and stars and I occasionally read the new scientist on line.

But just to generally keep up with events and advances in the science world. Never did I come close to having his monstrous knowledge of mathematics and astrophysics plus though I was fine with astronomy, astrology to me was just rubbish made up for weak minded fools. To a certain extent Todd agreed with me there but also thought that we were just missing the key that would solve the equation, the astronomical Rosetta stone.

He had explained to me one night how there had to be something to it. He did not understand exactly what yet but told me of convergence's that had occurred that foretold of events that had come to pass. He explained in rather long winded terms about how the heavens worked and how earlier civilisations had studied the stars and what they had meant to them. This took ages and though mildly interesting as I say it was rather long winded and came to no conclusion other than there must be something. But all the evidence that he presented to prove that "something" was all circumstantial as far as I could tell though i am a lightweight scientist compared to him.

Todd was a nice guy and could often be fascinating to listen to. Sometimes and I could not tell you what it was but there was something in him that just cut through the fluff around a problem so he could see to the heart of it and reason it out.

But sometimes like that night many months ago you just wanted him to shut up so you could get onto something that he was not the only person in the room that was interested in.

Yes despite all I have said on his good points at other times he could be a boring bugger and bloody annoying.

It looked as though tonight was going to be one of those nights but I could tell that his blood was up and he thought he had found a revelation.

This was obvious not just in his manner but in the fact I had poured him a large glass of a very tasty and rich red wine (that tended to be his favourite) but he had barely sipped before slipping into his tirade. I had to keep my own mind about me otherwise I would struggle to see what his meanings were.

He never ever said it but I could tell that Todd just did not like his intellectual inferiors. Which i suppose to him meant almost everyone. I told shiela that I thought that one night but she shot me down in flames. Well he still loves Mary she had said and do you think she is his intellectual equal?

No, I thought I know why he likes Mary, beautiful, big tits, sexy. Who cares if she thinks at all.

Todd had since our first meeting always looked upon me intellectually as an equal and I was glad that such was the case however I personally doubted it. So often even when I was struggling to follow his reasoning he assumed I was being modest and so would not wait for me to catch up- something I needed time for quite badly on occasion. I sat my own wine glass down, making sure I placed it upon the kitchen work top so that it also did not get swept onto the floor and resolved to pay attention to whatever he was saying. He was excited, animated and full of what ever he was full of. It was usually red wine or lager but tonight he was supplying himself with stimulants and needed nothing else. He had still not touched his glass.

At this point on another couple of lucky nights when he had found something that he just had to inform us of I was always grateful that Mary and Shiela had been there both to calm him down for he was rarely as demonstrative around women and to make things easier to understand. For some reason he always thought that I understood without an explanation but needed to add it for the girls sake. Often I needed the explanation as much as they did.

His upbringing I think had made him calmer around women but of course now that they had split up Mary was not there and Shiela had gone out to the pub with her friends that night. I don't think it was to avoid Todd, I think it was only coincidence but I may have been wrong. She seemed to have a real downer on him since the break up but then Mary was her friend.

Look he said pointing to a small blip on his chart of the solar system.

Yes?

You know what this is don't you?

I did not, but I suppose that was one of the things about Todd that he always thought that everyone was as smart as him, knew all the things that he would know. He never ever thought you were stupid even when you knew that you were. That is 200324 one of the plutoids that has not been given a name yet .

plutoids?

Well yes, remember I told you about the large rock masses that still orbit the sun but come from the belt that sits just to the outer edge of the solar system. Well to be honest we don't know that it is the edge of the system but it seems likely. Well some of them are really large and should be classified as planets under what was our definition of a planet up until a couple of years ago.

I think that you did tell me about it.

Well you know that when they started to discover all the planetoid masses astronomers had to reclassify the nature of a planet. They did so last year when we realised that there were so many big rocks out there after Neptune. Some were moons and others asteroids and by our definition of a planet as it then stood some were planets. But really they were mainly just big icy rocks floating in emptiness.

So they reclassified what made up a planet. The other large rocks were renamed plutoids though there are also likely to be another one or two gas giants out there, that would be the obvious answer to why there is another and much larger asteroid belt even farther out there. There should be at least one other large gas giant exerting quite a large gravitational force to stop the larger asteroids spinning away though the force that the sun exerts is really rather strong in the way of things. But remember at that distance the sun is pretty far away and so the gravitational force is lessened but still able to hold them in orbit.

Yes they are way out there, though we cannot say for sure yet, there could be another closer to the edge of the solar system probably a pretty large gas giant the size of Neptune or Saturn. Though it has not been discovered yet we are still arguing over a name for it.

We?

Ah sorry, he said looking up from the charts at at me for a change. Every word he had so far uttered apart from a quick sideways glance had been directed at the charts in front of him. I know I am not a real astronomer or a real Astro physicist for that matter but look at this.

He pulled out another map of the solar system with the plutoids marked on it and looked directly at me. He had drawn the phases of the zodiac upon it.

You see he said and continued and I am sure that you are doubting everything that you have ever learned at the moment but don't be worried as I was too.

Actually at this moment I was not doubting anything for I had barely understood a word of what he was talking about. The only thing that I was possibly doubting was his sanity.

But now look at this and he pulled out another astrological map and he added the plutoids into it. He had plotted their trajectory of orbit round the sun with a faint yellow line but he had added in a large red line father from the sun than the plutoids and he said "if this is where that other gas giant is" and he plotted this possibly non existent planets path round the sun and through the heavens. To be perfectly honest with you I had no idea what he was talking about by this time having been overwhelmed both by to much information and a lack of relevant information that he just expected me to know as usual.

This lasted until he produced a large tracery With all of the planets trajectories plotted as well as those of the plutoids and this unknown and undiscovered gas giant that he had theorised. He had even given it a trajectory and orbital phase though we do not even know if it exists.

There are many marks upon this star glyph small white crosses with writing beside them far to small to see. I see that every pattern comes close to them but does not really intersect. But this proves nothing I say, I can see everything comes close to a line or intersection but few are right on it anyway what does the little white writing say.

Well those are the astrological signs for great events that have happened and if they intersected with the conjunctions lines and patterns it would really show us that the stars do predict our future.

But obviously they do not I sputtered and tried to stop myself laughing. Is that what you have come to me with that there is a possible but random correlation between great events and star patterns but that they are all wrong? He beams at me. It is rare that I have seen a smile so broad upon his face even though as he states these days he is desperately in love. Weirdly the last time I can recall such a broad and open smile upon his face was when he was telling me of his new found love. Jasmine.

Todd, tell if I'm wrong here? but from what I see this proves nothing at all as far as astrology goes. You have put on these major events yet none of them even seem to mach with the conjunctions that you present, yes I said pointing at one, some of them are close, but others are miles away.

Todd bursts out laughing and says. "Well yes some are miles away but many others are millions of miles out.

So what here are you proving to me that astrology even with new information added in is rubbish well then you are preaching to the converted.

And so I thought too said Todd still with the smile plastered across his face. When I have looked at astrological maps I have always used those first produced by John Dee the astronomer, visionary and very learned man who was the first queen Elizabeth's astronomer and scientist. I have always been fascinated with him and his ideas. I have read a great deal about him though much of it has been fiction. The possibility of alchemy oh and lots of other things about him are just things that amaze me and for his time he seemed such a visionary. I always always thought as well that his "Magic", that he considered science came from many sources but particularly one Hermes Trisgamesestus who was.....

 

I have always been a fan of Dee who I thought had rarely got at the truth but had tried. My thoughts being that I always thought that astrology is shit, we have to look again for enlightenment. I am always drawn back from that by the charlatans that purport to know our futures. I swallow this rubbish too easily I think to myself. I am a man of science but my love of history perverts me and such applied with Dr Dee who I now know to be a fool at least in this respect though I do not doubt him still a seeker for knowledge.

So that's it? I asked pissed off that I still have not got a piece of kitchen roll to scoop up the over ripe peach that lies at the side of the table whilst I wait upon a revelation. All you have to tell me with all this drama is that astrology is not true. Something that pretty much every kid in the land over the age of nine knows.

Ah That is the assumption I made and I am now going to tell you now that I am a fool he said and performed a full bow before me. I am going to tell you, he said with a flourish that astronomy and the telling of the future is not only possible but it is a fact and more than that.

I looked at him amazed thinking that he had drank to much but my gaze drew in the half finished glass of red wine and the almost full bottle.

That I can foretell the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a name for the car park that we drew into near the loch but I cannot now recall its name. It may be called "Firkin point" We walked along the old road, cracked and broken, beset with fissures that hand in hand we stepped across, It has not been maintained for a while now the old road. There is no need to maintain it for it is the haunt of tourists only rather than those on their way to somewhere.

For those that have not been there the shores of loch Lomond are indeed as pretty and as picturesque as those that are told of in the song. The waters are not always calm but mostly and at times even colder than the seas that surround Scotland. The seas are warmed by the gulf stream, inland fresh water lochs of course are not. In the winters that play across this still wild land at the edge of civilisation the fresh water can freeze in the winter though in my life time that has been long now I cannot remember loch Lomond ever freezing over except in the bays and even then only very occasionally. Parts of it have but I think by its sheer size it never fully has. It is the largest loch in Britain, though I think if you include Ireland then the Shannon is bigger. I cannot say that this is true but my memory tells me that someone smarter or better educated than I told me so and with no reason to disbelieve them I have always accepted it then as truth.

I remember walking along the old road round loch Lomond the tarmac raised and warped with the heat and rain telling her to avoid the potholes that had inevitably appeared over the years. This road, not available to the traffic these days had become rather the worse for wear but of course that was not important then for it was fun avoiding the pot holes and fissures. We were not together but got on rather well and so we could save one another by grabbing onto each other holding the other to stop them stumbling. I remember her being quite able for a girl which I know sounds rather sexist but is not meant to be as most of the girls I had known unto this time had been more concerned with their looks than their abilities. She was a welcome change. a welcome change and a beautiful woman as well.

We went onto the shingle beach at one point and went towards the loch itself. It was far too cold but she asked me if I wished to go for a swim. Oh it really was far to cold for I had swam there before and even in the high summer sun even so rare as we have it here I had done so and come out a shivering wreck. Loch Lomond is not so deep as loch ness or loch dubh but it is deep enough to stay cold all year round.

It has its own species of fish as well, I remember telling her of a species of mackerel that had swam in during the ice age when it was still a sea loch but that had adapted and become freshwater fish when the world changed and the receding ice changed the nature of the loch and they still survive apparently but only in this loch. I cannot remember their name but I remember checking this out and finding out that it was true though in all the times that I had fished there I do not think i ever caught any any.

An epiphany; they may be called pollen (the fish involved) though I cannot say for sure and though I caught a silver fish one dreech day sitting on a shingle beach on loch Lomond side I really cannot say that it was one of them. I really doubt that it was.

She chided me for not being willing to go swimming with her and I made a joke of it but I really did not wish to there for the water is very cold indeed even in summer and this was April. As yet we were still nothing more than friends and I am pretty sure we would have remained so was the thought in my mind but had we gone swimming in the freezing cold waters of loch Lomond. In fact I am pretty sure that my manhood would have disappeared completely within seconds. I remember going for a swim in loch Lomond in mid summer on a lovely sunny day and though I did not swim far I came out of the water shivering.

I told her a story. A true story as far as I had heard it, and that is that there was every possibility of there being the equivalent of a fresh water shark in there (Loch Lomond). The rumour is that the there may be a pike of eighty five pounds in there. There have even been documentaries made on the subject. I have no personal knowledge towards the truth of such a beast existing but I can easily see it as possible, it is such a huge loch but anyway I used this as an excuse not to go swimming but really it was the chill that worried me for though we were nothing more than friends she had hinted a couple of times that she could have been interested in something more.

Much happened on that day not the least of which was the change in my feelings toward her. I considered her a friend as I have said but I had already started thinking of her as more than a friend. She was beautiful, of that there was no doubt. She was also a challenge for she was awkward and defiant and she had a thought style like a man even though she was so obviously a woman. Still I liked her very much. I think that she may have intimidated some men though not because she was tough but rather that despite her beauty she was not lady like but rather a different beast altogether. That was just my opinion and there is every chance that I could be wrong. Still no matter what the truth of the matter, I found myself falling in love with this beautiful wonderful and exciting girl.

8. Ken. Jasmine flies home.

But the time came as times must and Jasmine had to return to her home to her daughter and her other life. The long flight to Canada awaited her. Todd must return to his life of hard work and trial, he must return to Mary and he did so with nothing upon his conscience other than a kiss.

But Todd knows that this is not true for all he has told himself that it is, for though nothing did happen other than a kiss Todd knew that deep down that he wished it had went further. He suspected that Jasmine wished the same though having married young Todd was unsure of the ways of women.

And so guilt swept through him though he had little to feel guilty about, yet it did in a way that consumed him as thoughts do that are unwelcome or unexpected and he worked all his thoughts out, analysed them again and again and he knew that he was falling in love.

Sheila and I went round to his house one Friday night for a drink or two or ten and unusually the girls went out into the garden. Later I was to find out from Shiela that they had wished to be alone so they could discuss Todd and his trip away for the day with this unusual girl. It was lucky in a way for it gave me the chance to ask him freely and not in front of his wife what he really had thought of her. I am a good listener much as Todd himself is until he gets caught up in his subject. When he does there is no stopping him, he will interrupt anyone and anything clinging tenaciously to his story no matter how much sidetracking that you have to go through until he has got his message across.

He started talking about the girl straight away with little urging which is really not like him as Todd knows exactly what he is like and that he can monopolise a conversation for hours lecturing you on a subject he knows of. Knowing this he is usually quiet until prodded into getting going but once he starts, there is really no stopping him until at some point or another in his narrative he sees the faces of the others gathered there and there is a spark of recognition when he realises that he has just overridden everyone else to tell them all about the campaigns of Hannibal or the merits of Melville's "Moby Dick" or something equally as dull to most people other than him.

As he realises though that he has just been rattling on he always apologises and then shuts up and rarely says anything of note there after. He somehow seems always embarrassed to have taken over the conversation. It is true that occasionally it would be dull but usually his enthusiasm for the subject would carry the day and most people did not mind as much as he thought that they did.

Even when they knew little of the subject or for that matter if the subject was of little interest to them his sheer exuberance in explaining it usually carried the day. Additionally he would throw in a few small facts that had since entered every day parlance that started when his story was taking place.

Occasionally I would know them but mostly the origins came as news to me and I loved these wee facts and often memorised them for later use.

But this time as I said he just launched into telling me about the girl and their day together without the usual prompting and prodding. He was telling me of where they had gone and seeing the standing stones at Kilmartin a place that I knew he had always loved and he spoke so longingly and descriptively about the place though I personally had never been there.

To me a standing stone is simply that, a stone that someone in the past has stuck in the ground for whatever reason and yes they are old but i see them as nothing other than rocks stood on end. Todd saw them as markers to the past and would think of why they were put there and the peoples that put them there, in a strange way they brought the very ancient past alive for him.

He told me of their walk round loch Lomond side and of stopping at the top of the "Rest and be Thankful. He told me of the views down the valley from the stopping point and how impressed the girl had been. He told me of the mist on the mountains and the drizzle at Kilmartin but there was so much about the girl, Jasmine that I realised very quickly what was happening.

Todd might be the genius but I am not so stupid myself and am relatively good at reading people. I could tell that he was besotted with the girl. I don't think that he was in love with her at this time, or perhaps I should say that I don't think that he knew that he was in love with her at this time. And perhaps I thought to myself that it didn't matter for she would soon be flying home to Canada, back to her own life and at that point perhaps he would forget her or with absence his feelings would change but I already suspected that they would not. I knew what Todd was like and some things he would obsess upon until he knew everything about them, anything that caught his attention or imagination would then become something that was of paramount importance to him to learn about, to know inside out. It was just the way that he was made.

 

I did not know it at the time but while Todd and I were discussing jasmines visit, Mary and shiela were also discussing her, sitting on an a-frame bench round the side of the house. I also had a bench at the back door but Todd would go out there to sit when his nicotine craving grew to much for him and I suppose that they did not want to be overhead. This does not surprise me as I can imagine what they were saying. Men, after all can be bitchy too when the occasion arises.

9. Mary and Shiela. A warm spring night.

We are going to take advantage of the warmer night air, Mary said with a flourish as both she and Shiela stood, anyway I want a cigarette.

Todd stood also, I'll come with you, if you don't mind I could do with a puff anyway. You don't mind he said turning back to look at Ken. Ken just shrugged and stood also; I could do with checking my mail anyway. I'll just be two minutes Todd said as he closed the door behind him. Partially to avoid the house getting chilly but also to keep the smoke out as Ken hated it. Ken headed out and up to his bedroom where his computer was to check his mail.

Todd sat on the bench at the back door and pulling his cigarettes from his pocket lit one with a petrol lighter that he closed with a flourish as he hit it against his leg snapping it shut and extinguishing the flame.

Oh don't worry, I will just finish my fag and go back inside and leave you girls to what you really want to talk about. Its probably a sex thing knowing you two.

Don't worry you don't have to look so surprised, he continued, ix know that when you need to talk alone its probably about Ken or me. well or sex or the relative merits of contemporary opera against classical opera he said with a big smile knowing that what either of knew about opera you could write on the back of a postage stamp. and still have room for lots of other stuff

The latter of course Mary said with a grimace and then a sweet smile. We always discuss opera when you two are not around, the only reason we never do in your presence is that you would think that we are too good for you and we would not like to disappoint you in that way.

 

 

Aye that's what I would have guessed, said Todd, well you just have to put up with me for three or four minutes till I have my fag and then I'll retire to the house and leave you ladies discussing the relative merits of Puccini and well someone else more modern, you know I know nothing about opera.

Well neither do we as you well know you snob so bugger off and let us have our girly chat Shiela said with a smile and a dismissive wave of her hand.

So what is it tonight girls? who has the better six pack? who has the cutest dimples, which actor or pop star turns you on the most?

Oh you are so right Mary said with a smile and so fuck off Todd, go and talk to Ken about science or black holes or something.

Oh I see what you are doing there, trying to pretend that you want me to go away. Todd laughs, well Hint taken I shall return to the house but do keep it quiet as I don't wish to come out for a cigarette later and be greeted with argument between you to as to who has the tightest buns. Ok OK I get it, I am pissing off now. I really could do with a pee anyway.

They watch Todd walk back round the side of the house and hear the door shutting behind him before the inevitable question came.

Shiela got things started with well what happened?

Well I don't think anything happened but I am worried that something did, something bad.

He shagged her? shiela blurted out before she could stop herself, the bastard, you should wait till he's sleeping and cut his balls off.

 

 

No I don't think that, he can be a little ropy that way, what man isn't but he is really not the kind. He believes in fidelity even if I am not sure that he has always practiced it. I think though that mainly he has and maybe he always has. Maybe I am stupid to think so and maybe I am, and I am not sure but I think that he is faithful and that's what worries me.

It worries you that he's faithful? shiela asked I don't get it. It worries me with Ken when he's away working that he's unfaithful and i am pretty sure that he has been though I really don't know anything for sure.

I know what you mean, said Mary, and it worries me sometimes when Todd is away with work but you know Todd nearly as well as I do. On the odd time when I don't hear from him he'll being sitting in the pub pissed, and that's what scares me.

Mary you are being silly and I don't really understand what are you worried about.

Mary; well its the fidelity thing with Todd.

What you mean that you really don't think that he is?

No the opposite, Mary says her face reddening, I really do think that he does not get up to anything when he's away. I don't know wither he tries to but nobody wants him or he just doesn't try but I believe him when he says he is faithful.

So what's the problem then?

Well that's the scary thing with her.

Who the French girl? shiela looks confused.

Canadian, not French, French Canadian to be exact. but yes, that's what worries me. I have seen pictures of her she is a beautiful girl and if he was to shag her I would hate him for it but forgive him but I really don't want him to.

You cant mean that, Shiela asks surprised at what she is hearing.

I do, I mean every little bit of it, things would be crap for a while then we would just be back to normal and I like normal. But he is so fucking perfect that he doesn't shag around on me, he comes from the moral high ground with everything that he does and says. This to him will be another win. He will have been faithful, he will have followed all the rules but I can already tell that she has fucked with his mind.

If he wasn't so bloody perfect, if he had just shagged her he might have got it out of his system but if she goes back to Canada then all will grow worse, I am sure that he will fall in love with her I think that he already has.

Don't be stupid Mary, it really could just be a friends thing, he says that it is. There is no way that he will fall in love with her, he already loves you. I get what you mean about men and sex but Todd doesn't seem to be as bad as most.

If she goes back then I have lost him. I think that I have already. Shiela leaned over the table and taking Mary's shoulders held her.

Maybe that is a good thing, if I lose him Mary said tears on her face, we see so little of each other anymore anyway.

 

 

10. Ken. Todd is falling in love.

 

I realise now that from all that he had told me and I am sure that he did not tell me everything that Todd was falling in love with this girl, Jasmine.

Falling in love in a way that he never had with Mary, falling in love with passion, jealousy, hope and an enrichment that he knew he had wanted and hoped for. He realised that everything up until this time had been nothing other than a prelude to his love of Jasmine, perhaps even his life with jasmine.

He knew that she liked him and had fallen for him to a certain extent, I could tell, by the kiss on the grassy knoll in Ardgowan forest and yet despite all that he suspected and all that he hoped; he could not be sure that she really cared for him at all.

Did she lie awake at night thinking of him as he did of her. He doubted it, he really was not the kind of fellow to inspire girls in that way. He had never been good looking though he was not hideous, he would always have been the second choice for a woman and though he hated that fact he also quite understood it.

At the same time he knew that in a strange way things would change over time. Todd read a lot, in all genres, and had come to understand, he thought, the female species through his reading though he had little experience with them in actual fact until his late teens.

Until then it had been nothing other than groping in the cinema and extended kissing somewhere no one else would see. He, as he had told me and others, had never been good looking or attractive to the opposite sex.

Nor am I now, he would also say though he would tell us occasionally of a time long past in his teens where he was and that women were available for him. Even as he told me or us these things there was something slightly unbelievable about it though he did not tend to lie that much as far as I could tell. Yet there were things that gnawed at me for this to be true. For one he was not tactile in the slightest, he would draw away from hugs and kisses and would rather shake hands rather than any other more personal greeting. That is something I thought to myself that would not attract girls except perhaps in the old cliche, the strong silent type but then he was neither strong nor silent. Sullen perhaps and even moody sometimes but even then not silent and as far as strong goes well he was not particularly unfit and though he had a little belly I had always assumed that that was the prodigious amounts of beer that he drank. Certainly he was never sedentary in fact he was involved in something all the time. Wither it be an experiment, or reading or doing something in his garden or someone else's he never stopped even out of work. Additionally he worked long hours and often worked hard hardly stopping after he came home before getting involved with something else.

I have no real taste in men myself and so I cannot verify if he was good looking to women but I certainly know that to some he was or at least his charm made up for his looks. I do not really know what it was but I know that some women really liked him. A few even that I saw as we were at the pub during quiz nights or just for a night out were very attracted to him. I could not tell you why but it was obvious that they were. He always encouraged their attentions but it never came to more than that as far as I knew. I really suspect though that it did not come to anything more as though he would love the attention and revel in it in a way he was always wanting to get onto another topic of conversation. He would never be intentionally rude but sometimes during a girls play for him he would just start talking about something that excluded her from the conversation. The merits of Islamic architecture, the humour of mark twain, the phases of the moon or something equally as interesting to a young woman. The reason, I brought up the phases of the moon is that I remember one night a young girl, blond and pretty though not much older than half his age coming up to the bar to buy a drink. We were in a huddle at the bar as usual trying to work out the answer to a quiz question that we had three possibilities for. Todd moved aside to give her room to reach the bar with a smile and a welcoming wave of his hand directing her to the bar.

The girl stood there for a while as we talked over her head about whatever it was the question had been and Todd not knowing the answer for a change had called out to the barmaid and let the girl get served. She said thanks with a smile just as the quiz started again and the first question was what are the four phases of the moon. As Todd rhymed them off the girl stopped still holding three drinks in a triangle with her fingers. She turned very slightly and looked at him for a second or two. He had not noticed being too focused on the questions and writing in the answers on a small slip of paper that always seemed very full to me when Todd had finished. I think that he always had to offer additional information to prove that he was correct rather than just the simple answer. The girl looked up at him adoringly and said, I knew that too. He smiled down on her, perhaps it was one of the things that women found attractive; the fact that when he was enjoying something his enthusiasm would shine through. He was focused upon it, the very item and I suspect that as he spoke to her that he was imagining those phases in his mind as he talked. Cool, he said, there are so few people these days interested in astronomy. I suppose the great resurgence will come when we first set foot on Mars. Are you an Astronomy student? Physics? or even Philosophy?

The girl laughed jiggling the drinks in her hands and spilling a little over her fingers. None of the above she said with a smile in fact I am doing sociology, last year in fact.

Are you going to pass he asked with a school masters stare. I am she replied and with honours I hope. Honours no less, and what do you wish to do then. Politics (the obvious answer for a sociology student) or are you going to tag on mathematics? She started to answer and he held up his hand palm out. Tell me of Rousseau and what he means to you?

Well which she asked calmly, Jean-Jacques or Henri?

The obvious one, I don't wish for the attributes of a painter. The girl I remember beamed at him her smile luminous in the pub. I think that she fell in love with him then and there. Perhaps he would have noticed but the next question came and without even consulting us Todd scribbled down the answer.

When he looked up lifting his pint at the same time he seemed surprised to see the girl still standing there. He smiled at her, his mind now free of the question that was asked. He knew the answer and did not need to consult and so had moved on until the next question arrived.

The way I have put this, it sounds as though he was winning the quiz all by himself. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Todd knew things that Todd knew about and he knew them well. On his own subjects he was king but move even a little away from what he knows and he became useless. He knew nothing of sport. I do not mean that he knew very little here but he knew nothing, he knew nothing of soap operas which are a big thing here, in fact Coronation street and Eastenders I think (though I maybe wrong) are the most watched programs on television here. Anyway Todd was only one of the team that won us those quizzes though who the fuck wants to know about astrology, astronomy and the classics?

So how does a sociology student know the phases of the moon? he asked her. It really is not that, he seemed to search for a word and then said, Hip? almost as a question. He had a small frown on his face as though he should know the right word but did not. Oh my dad told me all about astronomy. Cool, he said, all credit to your father. He would love to hear you say that she said still beaming up at him and she was a pretty girl.

He just seemed embarrassed and went back to answering the next question. I think you met him once she said. I did? he replied with a quizzical expression on his face still trying to answer the pub quiz question; who was the goddess of retribution.

Nemesis, he said and wrote it down and returned his attention to the girl.

I think that he was trying to remember what they were taking about as he is just focused on the thought that is in his head and he misses all hints and nuances, your father? Yes he is the one in charge of Airdrie observatory. You were there and gave a talk. I could see that he looked lost for a second then it came back to him. Are you Paulo's daughter? Paulo Clark?

She beamed ever more brightly and said I am. So your father taught you about astronomy?

We had no choice she said. Astronomy or bed and you know how little kids hate to go to bed at night.

I was little at the time, she continued and so we wanted to stay up as late as possible even at three or four it made us feel like grown ups.

Todd was not the kind to take advantage of such a thing, nor do I even know if he noticed it but I saw in the girls eyes, she was there for his taking had he wished to. It was a thing that he never noticed at all he just continued on with his questions about Paulo.

Perhaps Jasmine was the same

 

11. Todd. My late teens

As a young man, or an older boy, I suppose really, I had learned to play the guitar. I was never that great at it I knew, having met a number of people in the course of my years with bands that were far better musicians than I. I started playing the guitar probably at about the age of eleven or twelve though I cannot say now for sure. With a lot of practice I improved slowly from basic chord structures and simple melodies that were mainly from the country and western genre to some more complex stuff but never was good enough to play really difficult stuff. The only reason for this is I was able to pick up a rather bad steel stringed guitar from woolworths in Campbeltown and when I went to martins, the book shop in Campbeltown looking for a book to tutor me the only one they had was a country and western songbook.

This was a small west highland town in Scotland of course and so the bookshop was small but stacked with books. Many of the authors that I first read and many that influence me still , their books came from this small and rather dank almost Dickensian bookshop in Campbeltown.

As you can imagine in a small west highland town they had many music books, the west highlands of Scotland is famed for its music and so the shop had sheave upon sheave of sheet music but all for bag pipes or accordion. I at that time could not read music except in its most basic forms, I had been taught to play the recorder, badly, at school and do not know to this day why I failed so miserably at it as I now find it easy to play as I do most instruments. Anyway, I could barely read the music never mind convert the notes used in a bagpipe or accordion into guitar notes and so I took the only guitar tutor I found there.

As luck would have it, it was a really good tutor to start on and I practiced and practiced these songs that I had never even heard night after night progressing from the easiest of them to the more difficult over time. In the end it made no difference that I never actually had listened to them as I became proficient with them in my own mind. I was aware that there was every chance that if I ever heard the actual recordings that they could well be very different from the way I was playing them. In a way this was probably the best thing that could have happened though it certainly did not seem so at the time. As i did not know the songs i learned early to improvise adding an extra beat where it may be needed or adjusting the key to suit the way i thought that the song should go.

When my friends and I got together my ten pound guitar from woolworths was rather tinny compared to their better instruments but at the time I could afford no more and my mother and father were struggling just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table never mind buying me a new guitar. Anyway my dad thought that I was really bad, He asked me to stop playing chords and play a piece of classical music.

I remember being quite ashamed that I could not but then all I had was my country and western chords (and country and western guitar) and that is all I had learned. I disappointed him again but I think that as men of his time would do he still had a thought in his head that a guitar would not save your life. He had been to war and his father had died of wounds gained in the first world war. I cannot say this for sure but I think I was told that his grandfather had died in yet another, earlier, war.

I, however was not dismayed in the way that I might have been for I practiced more and more and I had that basic country and western chords down pat. I can still play some of those songs nearly forty years later and still play them well. Anyway as I was growing better and better at the guitar but still not that good if you see what I mean I miserably failed all of my prelims. Prelims are mock exams that are held in Scotland to prepare you for the actual exams that are your O'levels and allow you entry to college, university, et al. I was to busy learning my guitar, i was to busy earning money doing my milk run in the morning and working in a freezer shop in the afternoon after school to work that hard at school and it showed. of the seven prelims that I sat I had passed only two; English and modern studies (politics and sociology).

Oh yes I wanted to be a rock star at this time, what young boy of my didn't wish for that, I was fifteen, fit, healthy and knew my wee bit of country and western but I also knew that to fail my O'levels would consign me to a job in the shipyard or the clothing factory, both of which have long since closed down. When I think back on this now it was such a good thing that I had made an arse of everything as it shook me from my malaise. At the time it seemed such a disaster but knowing that I could not just cruise my way through life was a good lesson learned and i learned it earlier than most.

I started paying attention in class and started studying. I was struggling with mathematics in particular. Anyway I had made changes and started studying for real by the time that I found that almost everyone in the math's class was failing. The teacher was moved else where or to do something else I know not which and another teacher brought in.

Normally you could never imagine such a thing as possible but i am here to attest that it is, however, true. That a complete class that was pretty much failing as a group suddenly did great in their exams, myself included. Just the removal of a bad teacher and the addition of a good one along with a little studying turned the tide. It makes you wonder if it was the teacher and not just me that was too busy enjoying life, meeting girls, learning the guitar.

I know that I went from bottom marks for math's in my prelim to top marks at my O'levels. I think a little of both is the answer. I was accepted into college and though still fifteen (though only for a month) I left the relative security of my family for the thundering halls of Edinburgh. I do not deny that it was difficult but in my own way I grew to love it. At first it was incredibly lonely, I knew no one in the whole city.

Imagine then a boy from earlier years whose hormones are about ready to kick in and his face erupts with spots, though he was not as bad as some still he was not a treat to look at. Imagine the same boy also hesitant for he was neither tough nor self assured.

He now lived in the country when he had been brought up near the city as his father and mother moved to Campbeltown, the small seaside town I mentioned earlier to give them a better lifestyle, a promotion for my father and a change was as good as a rest as the old saying goes for my mother.

Despite the bullying or perhaps because of it I began to read more and more.

It was rare that I slept the authors thoughts unravelling in my mind. I learned through the words of greater minds than mine to forgive, though I never really did so, I understood the advantage of doing so. I visited the small Campbeltown bookshop I mentioned more and more and it became almost a place of pilgrimage for me. I can still smell it now, the dustiness of the books crammed in floor to ceiling in the small shop, a slight smell of dampness over that. The brilliance of the covers on the paperbacks assaulting my senses, their covers depicting monsters and daemons, lovers, stars, and every place that you could imagine and some that you could not. I found the place intoxicating in all ways and my passion for books grew and grew.

By the time my exams had arrived I was better read than many adults and so I should have done well at my prelims but my wish to be a rock star, working too hard at my part time jobs and bad teachers had taken their toll, but I made up for it and headed to the bright lights and college.

 

12. Todd. returning home and thinking.

And so he returned home and recommenced his former life, a life that was already jaded for him. A life of work and more work and his friends on the net, going to Ken and Sheila's on a Friday night for a drink and a chat. Occasionally some astronomy but even that was growing less frequent now. His children were growing older and though they still depended upon him to a certain extent they were beginning to form their own lives and understand their own places in the world and so had less need for him anymore. Mary really had no need for him anymore other than being a provider of money. This was not her fault, he always knew just a thing where they through necessity and circumstance spent so much time apart that they were getting used to the idea.

Jasmine had gone home to her own life, her own daughter and work and though he would not admit to himself yet that he loved her the seed was there and with only a little cultivation it would grow into something more. But his days passed far from home and were centred around a girl on the other side of the world, much of his happiness derived from the odd email or phone call he would get from her yet he still continued on with his life. He went home when he could and still saw little of Mary who had worked out her own routine for all the times that he was gone. He missed Jasmine far more than he had imagined that he would and missed Mary less than he remembered.

Even his own children had little need of him anymore. He had worked long and hard to provide for Mary and them and he loved them but he knew himself he was becoming worn out. There was something missing not just in their relationship but in him.

A change was coming.

13. Ken and shiela. Poor fools.

I am just nipping to the toilet. You jump into bed and get it warmed up before I come back. I am bloody exhausted. You know what he's like you can hardly get him to shut up at the best of times. And this, this is the worst of times; he is ten times worse. Just be thankful that we don't have the same problems.

The bedroom door opens and shiela is startled by the brightness of the hall light. Perhaps i have had a little to much to drink she thinks as he pulls the covers back and flops into the bed his pale skin blotted in the the moonlight.

I fucking hate the bastard she thinks as she lies back staring at the ceiling. She glimpsed his pale and mottled back, studded here and there with melanomas as he passed through the door. His waist had grown even thicker than it once was his skin riddled with curves where they should not have been, His flabby buttocks as he walked away made her want to be sick. He wasn't so bad she tried to think to herself but could not bring herself to think this to be so no matter how much she tried. He disgusted her.

 

I heard the running water and the toilet flushing as I lay there the duvet pulled up to my neck dreaming though awake, of love. I had never loved Ken but I was glad that he loved me when he said that he did and asked to marry me, or so I thought at the time but I should have known better he wanted some one available for sex when he wished it. Had it not been me then it would have been some other poor soul. Though I suspect that it rarely happened for him with others.

Ken still had a full head of hair, something that seemed to run in his family but he rarely exercised and would not work on the house or garden and so had become something awful to me when I saw him naked, I felt abused yet he would still expect me to indulge him in his strange sexual games.

I always accommodated him, I was older than him and knew that he was the bread winner and so I had to do all that he asked. I never enjoyed it. I had grown to dislike sex though I always remembered a time when I had enjoyed it, looked forward to it, anticipated it. I had been younger then and nothing had seemed as painful or forbidding as it seemed to involve now. I suppose that for everyone it becomes everyday and less than it once was. I understand that but yearn for the days when it was just kissing and fumbling foreplay before he spilled his seed into me. Along the way he gave me a daughter, Rhona. She is an echo of me though luckily her father supplied her ears for mine stick out horrendously and I was made fun of in school for so long over them that I hate them so much and even now often think of slicing them off.

Rhona is high strung and difficult but I love her and so in a way I got what I wanted.

I did not really want children but Ken did. He came from a large family and was happy being from such. I think he expected me to produce a brood of children but I am older and frailer than he is. I have something wrong with me, I do not know what it is but I feel bad most of the time. unwell, but other than feeling bad there is no diagnosis for it.

My mother was taken in to care when she tried to commit suicide. I say taken in but what I really mean is sectioned under the mental health act, she was a danger to herself they said and I think I have a bit of that in me. Actually there are times when I think that I have a lot of her in me. I wished for some of the things that Ken saw in life but I could not see them for myself. I was desperate to gain that, a bit of real life, a bit of happiness. I could not find it for myself.

Until I heard the news of Todd and Mary splitting up, this was the slice of luck that had always evaded me and now I could gain it.

Get a little piece of heaven for myself. I had always wished for what they had, that easy love where nothing was disputed, or little was.

I wished it was me that would be the one to share his bed on a night even growing older and a little thicker around the middle as he is I still saw him as so handsome and athletic. Mary just didn't know what she had, foolish bitch, I would have committed murder for a decent man, someone that was good and kind and did not hurt me.

He was more than just that, he was smart and thoughtful, he cared even about things that mattered little and for that I just loved him more. For him I would have done anything, Anything, I would have killed children, sentenced people to die or would have killed myself. Once I wished that he asked me to kill myself to prove my love to him and I would have followed his every instruction.

I would have hurt or maimed myself or someone else had he only asked me to but he did not.

I am not sure that he even really noticed me.

13. (part 2) Ken and shiela. Poor Fools.

She seemed immune to his charms, The bitch. Didn't she realise that he is important, doesn't she know that peoples lives stand and fall by his ideas, by his decision and his action. I do not think that she ever realised that despite the stories that he told. I don't think that she listened silly bitch.

He would tell us tales of having to sack people and about his worries over that, his worries of them and their lives afterwards. You could tell that he hated it, one fellow that he gave a warning to tried to take his own life and he hated himself for that.

I could tell at times that he just hated himself full stop.

Mary just listened as he said these things and never cared. I don't think that she knew him at all. I did, even when I had not seen him in weeks I could feel him, taste him and feel his touch inside of me.

I cannot believe that for someone so good that he could hate himself. You know she was the luckiest bitch and was fucking stupid for even allowing him to go. I would have killed her. I would have killed my children. I would have killed the world just to have him but he was not mine to have.

 

I flushed the toilet and picked up the air freshener can and gave it a spray before I went out. I wandered back through to the bedroom. I did not have to cover myself as my daughter was away at a sleep over. I wandered in naked and knew that she must be impressed. Yes I have put on a little weight and am thick round the middle but I am not too bad for my age. In fact she's a lucky bitch to have me, she knows it but pretends not to just to heat me up. I pull back the duvet and climb in beside her. 

Oh Todd make me drink to much talking about all his shit, I am not getting so hard, it will have to be the back way. Lube yourself up girl. I will just wank till I am hard enough and shoot it up your arse, if I get hard enough. If I don't you'll just have to suck me off till I fall asleep.

He's a bastard, Todd. He is going to leave her you know. What a cunt he is. Turn round The stupid bitch thinks I want her cunny when I am pissed, "Its tighter in your arse"

I watch her smear the lubricant over her hole before I enter her. I have had to much to drink and have to force it into her but she moves with me her pale skin looks like an eel at midnight but I feel myself becoming rigid and after what seems quite a long time spill my seed into her. I cant understand why Todd has left Mary. She is Such a great girl what the fuck is he playing at? Much better looking than this insipid eel that I have just fucked. I hope she is grateful, lucky bitch that I could be bothered to stick my cock into her.

I fall sleep naked and on top of the covers for though it is late in the year it is warmer than expected. I dream of Mary. Her breasts lie large and heavy upon her ribcage as I enter her and she starts to moan as my cock fills her, stretches her and makes her feel good. She moans beneath me as I push in to her. She whimpers like a child as she pushes her nails into my back. she wants me and only me. She will have me no matter what she has to do to get me.

 

Ken. Stars. 14

What the fuck is going on with you Todd?

the problem is fucking obvious, its all going to go to shit.

What?

Look at this and keep an open mind.

He pushed his arm out and swept everything that was on our kitchen table onto the floor. It was not such a big deal, a couple of candle holders and a bowl of fruit, that had only one rather brown spotted banana in it and a rather dimpled peach that burst when it hit the floor.

He produced a star chart covered with constellations on a blue background with orange high lighters marked here and there.

Look for fuck sake he almost shouted and when I stood back he said, sorry, my apologies but I cant believe it either.

I know as much as most people do about the stars, horoscopes, black holes and astronomical terms but I was never going to be in his ball park.

He had been studying the stars since he was a teenager and for that matter for a long time he had mainlined on science fiction and being Todd he had to know what every term meant, had to know how each hypothesis worked, had to know fucking everything. Whereas I had done the little that you did in school about the planets and stars and I occasionally read the new scientist on line.

But just to generally keep up with events and advances in the science world. Never did I come close to having his monstrous knowledge of mathematics and astrophysics plus though I was fine with astronomy, astrology to me was just rubbish made up for weak minded fools. To a certain extent Todd agreed with me there but also thought that we were just missing the key that would solve the equation, the astronomical Rosetta stone.

He had explained to me one night how there had to be something to it. He did not understand exactly what yet but told me of convergence's that had occurred that foretold of events that had come to pass. He explained in rather long winded terms about how the heavens worked and how earlier civilisations had studied the stars and what they had meant to them. This took ages and though mildly interesting as I say it was rather long winded and came to no conclusion other than there must be something. But all the evidence that he presented to prove that "something" was all circumstantial as far as I could tell though i am a lightweight scientist compared to him.

Todd was a nice guy and could often be fascinating to listen to. Sometimes and I could not tell you what it was but there was something in him that just cut through the fluff around a problem so he could see to the heart of it and reason it out.

But sometimes like that night many months ago you just wanted him to shut up so you could get onto something that he was not the only person in the room that was interested in.

Yes despite all I have said on his good points at other times he could be a boring bugger and bloody annoying.

It looked as though tonight was going to be one of those nights but I could tell that his blood was up and he thought he had found a revelation.

This was obvious not just in his manner but in the fact I had poured him a large glass of a very tasty and rich red wine (that tended to be his favourite) but he had barely sipped before slipping into his tirade. I had to keep my own mind about me otherwise I would struggle to see what his meanings were.

He never ever said it but I could tell that Todd just did not like his intellectual inferiors. Which i suppose to him meant almost everyone. I told shiela that I thought that one night but she shot me down in flames. Well he still loves Mary she had said and do you think she is his intellectual equal?

No, I thought I know why he likes Mary, beautiful, big tits, sexy. Who cares if she thinks at all.

Todd had since our first meeting always looked upon me intellectually as an equal and I was glad that such was the case however I personally doubted it. So often even when I was struggling to follow his reasoning he assumed I was being modest and so would not wait for me to catch up- something I needed time for quite badly on occasion. I sat my own wine glass down, making sure I placed it upon the kitchen work top so that it also did not get swept onto the floor and resolved to pay attention to whatever he was saying. He was excited, animated and full of what ever he was full of. It was usually red wine or lager but tonight he was supplying himself with stimulants and needed nothing else. He had still not touched his glass.

At this point on another couple of lucky nights when he had found something that he just had to inform us of I was always grateful that Mary and Shiela had been there both to calm him down for he was rarely as demonstrative around women and to make things easier to understand. For some reason he always thought that I understood without an explanation but needed to add it for the girls sake. Often I needed the explanation as much as they did.

His upbringing I think had made him calmer around women but of course now that they had split up Mary was not there and Shiela had gone out to the pub with her friends that night. I don't think it was to avoid Todd, I think it was only coincidence but I may have been wrong. She seemed to have a real downer on him since the break up but then Mary was her friend.

Look he said pointing to a small blip on his chart of the solar system.

Yes?

You know what this is don't you?

I did not, but I suppose that was one of the things about Todd that he always thought that everyone was as smart as him, knew all the things that he would know. He never ever thought you were stupid even when you knew that you were. That is 200324 one of the plutoids that has not been given a name yet .

plutoids?

Well yes, remember I told you about the large rock masses that still orbit the sun but come from the belt that sits just to the outer edge of the solar system. Well to be honest we don't know that it is the edge of the system but it seems likely. Well some of them are really large and should be classified as planets under what was our definition of a planet up until a couple of years ago.

I think that you did tell me about it.

Well you know that when they started to discover all the planetoid masses astronomers had to reclassify the nature of a planet. They did so last year when we realised that there were so many big rocks out there after Neptune. Some were moons and others asteroids and by our definition of a planet as it then stood some were planets. But really they were mainly just big icy rocks floating in emptiness.

So they reclassified what made up a planet. The other large rocks were renamed plutoids though there are also likely to be another one or two gas giants out there, that would be the obvious answer to why there is another and much larger asteroid belt even farther out there. There should be at least one other large gas giant exerting quite a large gravitational force to stop the larger asteroids spinning away though the force that the sun exerts is really rather strong in the way of things. But remember at that distance the sun is pretty far away and so the gravitational force is lessened but still able to hold them in orbit.

Yes they are way out there, though we cannot say for sure yet, there could be another closer to the edge of the solar system probably a pretty large gas giant the size of Neptune or Saturn. Though it has not been discovered yet we are still arguing over a name for it.

We?

Ah sorry, he said looking up from the charts at at me for a change. Every word he had so far uttered apart from a quick sideways glance had been directed at the charts in front of him. I know I am not a real astronomer or a real Astro physicist for that matter but look at this.

He pulled out another map of the solar system with the plutoids marked on it and looked directly at me. He had drawn the phases of the zodiac upon it.

You see he said and continued and I am sure that you are doubting everything that you have ever learned at the moment but don't be worried as I was too.

Actually at this moment I was not doubting anything for I had barely understood a word of what he was talking about. The only thing that I was possibly doubting was his sanity.

But now look at this and he pulled out another astrological map and he added the plutoids into it. He had plotted their trajectory of orbit round the sun with a faint yellow line but he had added in a large red line father from the sun than the plutoids and he said "if this is where that other gas giant is" and he plotted this possibly non existent planets path round the sun and through the heavens. To be perfectly honest with you I had no idea what he was talking about by this time having been overwhelmed both by to much information and a lack of relevant information that he just expected me to know as usual.

This lasted until he produced a large tracery With all of the planets trajectories plotted as well as those of the plutoids and this unknown and undiscovered gas giant that he had theorised. He had even given it a trajectory and orbital phase though we do not even know if it exists.

There are many marks upon this star glyph small white crosses with writing beside them far to small to see. I see that every pattern comes close to them but does not really intersect. But this proves nothing I say, I can see everything comes close to a line or intersection but few are right on it anyway what does the little white writing say.

Well those are the astrological signs for great events that have happened and if they intersected with the conjunctions lines and patterns it would really show us that the stars do predict our future.

But obviously they do not I sputtered and tried to stop myself laughing. Is that what you have come to me with that there is a possible but random correlation between great events and star patterns but that they are all wrong? He beams at me. It is rare that I have seen a smile so broad upon his face even though as he states these days he is desperately in love. Weirdly the last time I can recall such a broad and open smile upon his face was when he was telling me of his new found love. Jasmine.

Todd, tell if I'm wrong here? but from what I see this proves nothing at all as far as astrology goes. You have put on these major events yet none of them even seem to mach with the conjunctions that you present, yes I said pointing at one, some of them are close, but others are miles away.

Todd bursts out laughing and says. "Well yes some are miles away but many others are millions of miles out.

So what here are you proving to me that astrology even with new information added in is rubbish well then you are preaching to the converted.

And so I thought too said Todd still with the smile plastered across his face. When I have looked at astrological maps I have always used those first produced by John Dee the astronomer, visionary and very learned man who was the first queen Elizabeth's astronomer and scientist. I have always been fascinated with him and his ideas. I have read a great deal about him though much of it has been fiction. The possibility of alchemy oh and lots of other things about him are just things that amaze me and for his time he seemed such a visionary. I always always thought as well that his "Magic", that he considered science came from many sources but particularly one Hermes Trisgamesestus who was.....

 

I have always been a fan of Dee who I thought had rarely got at the truth but had tried. My thoughts being that I always thought that astrology is shit, we have to look again for enlightenment. I am always drawn back from that by the charlatans that purport to know our futures. I swallow this rubbish too easily I think to myself. I am a man of science but my love of history perverts me and such applied with Dr Dee who I now know to be a fool at least in this respect though I do not doubt him still a seeker for knowledge.

So that's it? I asked pissed off that I still have not got a piece of kitchen roll to scoop up the over ripe peach that lies at the side of the table whilst I wait upon a revelation. All you have to tell me with all this drama is that astrology is not true. Something that pretty much every kid in the land over the age of nine knows.

Ah That is the assumption I made and I am now going to tell you now that I am a fool he said and performed a full bow before me. I am going to tell you, he said with a flourish that astronomy and the telling of the future is not only possible but it is a fact and more than that.

I looked at him amazed thinking that he had drank to much but my gaze drew in the half finished glass of red wine and the almost full bottle.

That I can foretell the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a name for the car park that we drew into near the loch but I cannot now recall its name. It may be called "Firkin point" We walked along the old road, cracked and broken, beset with fissures that hand in hand we stepped across, It has not been maintained for a while now the old road. There is no need to maintain it for it is the haunt of tourists only rather than those on their way to somewhere.

For those that have not been there the shores of loch Lomond are indeed as pretty and as picturesque as those that are told of in the song. The waters are not always calm but mostly and at times even colder than the seas that surround Scotland. The seas are warmed by the gulf stream, inland fresh water lochs of course are not. In the winters that play across this still wild land at the edge of civilisation the fresh water can freeze in the winter though in my life time that has been long now I cannot remember loch Lomond ever freezing over except in the bays and even then only very occasionally. Parts of it have but I think by its sheer size it never fully has. It is the largest loch in Britain, though I think if you include Ireland then the Shannon is bigger. I cannot say that this is true but my memory tells me that someone smarter or better educated than I told me so and with no reason to disbelieve them I have always accepted it then as truth.

I remember walking along the old road round loch Lomond the tarmac raised and warped with the heat and rain telling her to avoid the potholes that had inevitably appeared over the years. This road, not available to the traffic these days had become rather the worse for wear but of course that was not important then for it was fun avoiding the pot holes and fissures. We were not together but got on rather well and so we could save one another by grabbing onto each other holding the other to stop them stumbling. I remember her being quite able for a girl which I know sounds rather sexist but is not meant to be as most of the girls I had known unto this time had been more concerned with their looks than their abilities. She was a welcome change. a welcome change and a beautiful woman as well.

We went onto the shingle beach at one point and went towards the loch itself. It was far too cold but she asked me if I wished to go for a swim. Oh it really was far to cold for I had swam there before and even in the high summer sun even so rare as we have it here I had done so and come out a shivering wreck. Loch Lomond is not so deep as loch ness or loch dubh but it is deep enough to stay cold all year round.

It has its own species of fish as well, I remember telling her of a species of mackerel that had swam in during the ice age when it was still a sea loch but that had adapted and become freshwater fish when the world changed and the receding ice changed the nature of the loch and they still survive apparently but only in this loch. I cannot remember their name but I remember checking this out and finding out that it was true though in all the times that I had fished there I do not think i ever caught any any.

An epiphany; they may be called pollen (the fish involved) though I cannot say for sure and though I caught a silver fish one dreech day sitting on a shingle beach on loch Lomond side I really cannot say that it was one of them. I really doubt that it was.

She chided me for not being willing to go swimming with her and I made a joke of it but I really did not wish to there for the water is very cold indeed even in summer and this was April. As yet we were still nothing more than friends and I am pretty sure we would have remained so was the thought in my mind but had we gone swimming in the freezing cold waters of loch Lomond. In fact I am pretty sure that my manhood would have disappeared completely within seconds. I remember going for a swim in loch Lomond in mid summer on a lovely sunny day and though I did not swim far I came out of the water shivering.

I told her a story. A true story as far as I had heard it, and that is that there was every possibility of there being the equivalent of a fresh water shark in there (Loch Lomond). The rumour is that the there may be a pike of eighty five pounds in there. There have even been documentaries made on the subject. I have no personal knowledge towards the truth of such a beast existing but I can easily see it as possible, it is such a huge loch but anyway I used this as an excuse not to go swimming but really it was the chill that worried me for though we were nothing more than friends she had hinted a couple of times that she could have been interested in something more.

Much happened on that day not the least of which was the change in my feelings toward her. I considered her a friend as I have said but I had already started thinking of her as more than a friend. She was beautiful, of that there was no doubt. She was also a challenge for she was awkward and defiant and she had a thought style like a man even though she was so obviously a woman. Still I liked her very much. I think that she may have intimidated some men though not because she was tough but rather that despite her beauty she was not lady like but rather a different beast altogether. That was just my opinion and there is every chance that I could be wrong. Still no matter what the truth of the matter, I found myself falling in love with this beautiful wonderful and exciting girl.

8. Ken. Jasmine flies home.

But the time came as times must and Jasmine had to return to her home to her daughter and her other life. The long flight to Canada awaited her. Todd must return to his life of hard work and trial, he must return to Mary and he did so with nothing upon his conscience other than a kiss.

But Todd knows that this is not true for all he has told himself that it is, for though nothing did happen other than a kiss Todd knew that deep down that he wished it had went further. He suspected that Jasmine wished the same though having married young Todd was unsure of the ways of women.

And so guilt swept through him though he had little to feel guilty about, yet it did in a way that consumed him as thoughts do that are unwelcome or unexpected and he worked all his thoughts out, analysed them again and again and he knew that he was falling in love.

Sheila and I went round to his house one Friday night for a drink or two or ten and unusually the girls went out into the garden. Later I was to find out from Shiela that they had wished to be alone so they could discuss Todd and his trip away for the day with this unusual girl. It was lucky in a way for it gave me the chance to ask him freely and not in front of his wife what he really had thought of her. I am a good listener much as Todd himself is until he gets caught up in his subject. When he does there is no stopping him, he will interrupt anyone and anything clinging tenaciously to his story no matter how much sidetracking that you have to go through until he has got his message across.

He started talking about the girl straight away with little urging which is really not like him as Todd knows exactly what he is like and that he can monopolise a conversation for hours lecturing you on a subject he knows of. Knowing this he is usually quiet until prodded into getting going but once he starts, there is really no stopping him until at some point or another in his narrative he sees the faces of the others gathered there and there is a spark of recognition when he realises that he has just overridden everyone else to tell them all about the campaigns of Hannibal or the merits of Melville's "Moby Dick" or something equally as dull to most people other than him.

As he realises though that he has just been rattling on he always apologises and then shuts up and rarely says anything of note there after. He somehow seems always embarrassed to have taken over the conversation. It is true that occasionally it would be dull but usually his enthusiasm for the subject would carry the day and most people did not mind as much as he thought that they did.

Even when they knew little of the subject or for that matter if the subject was of little interest to them his sheer exuberance in explaining it usually carried the day. Additionally he would throw in a few small facts that had since entered every day parlance that started when his story was taking place.

Occasionally I would know them but mostly the origins came as news to me and I loved these wee facts and often memorised them for later use.

But this time as I said he just launched into telling me about the girl and their day together without the usual prompting and prodding. He was telling me of where they had gone and seeing the standing stones at Kilmartin a place that I knew he had always loved and he spoke so longingly and descriptively about the place though I personally had never been there.

To me a standing stone is simply that, a stone that someone in the past has stuck in the ground for whatever reason and yes they are old but i see them as nothing other than rocks stood on end. Todd saw them as markers to the past and would think of why they were put there and the peoples that put them there, in a strange way they brought the very ancient past alive for him.

He told me of their walk round loch Lomond side and of stopping at the top of the "Rest and be Thankful. He told me of the views down the valley from the stopping point and how impressed the girl had been. He told me of the mist on the mountains and the drizzle at Kilmartin but there was so much about the girl, Jasmine that I realised very quickly what was happening.

Todd might be the genius but I am not so stupid myself and am relatively good at reading people. I could tell that he was besotted with the girl. I don't think that he was in love with her at this time, or perhaps I should say that I don't think that he knew that he was in love with her at this time. And perhaps I thought to myself that it didn't matter for she would soon be flying home to Canada, back to her own life and at that point perhaps he would forget her or with absence his feelings would change but I already suspected that they would not. I knew what Todd was like and some things he would obsess upon until he knew everything about them, anything that caught his attention or imagination would then become something that was of paramount importance to him to learn about, to know inside out. It was just the way that he was made.

 

I did not know it at the time but while Todd and I were discussing jasmines visit, Mary and shiela were also discussing her, sitting on an a-frame bench round the side of the house. I also had a bench at the back door but Todd would go out there to sit when his nicotine craving grew to much for him and I suppose that they did not want to be overhead. This does not surprise me as I can imagine what they were saying. Men, after all can be bitchy too when the occasion arises.

9. Mary and Shiela. A warm spring night.

We are going to take advantage of the warmer night air, Mary said with a flourish as both she and Shiela stood, anyway I want a cigarette.

Todd stood also, I'll come with you, if you don't mind I could do with a puff anyway. You don't mind he said turning back to look at Ken. Ken just shrugged and stood also; I could do with checking my mail anyway. I'll just be two minutes Todd said as he closed the door behind him. Partially to avoid the house getting chilly but also to keep the smoke out as Ken hated it. Ken headed out and up to his bedroom where his computer was to check his mail.

Todd sat on the bench at the back door and pulling his cigarettes from his pocket lit one with a petrol lighter that he closed with a flourish as he hit it against his leg snapping it shut and extinguishing the flame.

Oh don't worry, I will just finish my fag and go back inside and leave you girls to what you really want to talk about. Its probably a sex thing knowing you two.

Don't worry you don't have to look so surprised, he continued, ix know that when you need to talk alone its probably about Ken or me. well or sex or the relative merits of contemporary opera against classical opera he said with a big smile knowing that what either of knew about opera you could write on the back of a postage stamp. and still have room for lots of other stuff

The latter of course Mary said with a grimace and then a sweet smile. We always discuss opera when you two are not around, the only reason we never do in your presence is that you would think that we are too good for you and we would not like to disappoint you in that way.

 

 

Aye that's what I would have guessed, said Todd, well you just have to put up with me for three or four minutes till I have my fag and then I'll retire to the house and leave you ladies discussing the relative merits of Puccini and well someone else more modern, you know I know nothing about opera.

Well neither do we as you well know you snob so bugger off and let us have our girly chat Shiela said with a smile and a dismissive wave of her hand.

So what is it tonight girls? who has the better six pack? who has the cutest dimples, which actor or pop star turns you on the most?

Oh you are so right Mary said with a smile and so fuck off Todd, go and talk to Ken about science or black holes or something.

Oh I see what you are doing there, trying to pretend that you want me to go away. Todd laughs, well Hint taken I shall return to the house but do keep it quiet as I don't wish to come out for a cigarette later and be greeted with argument between you to as to who has the tightest buns. Ok OK I get it, I am pissing off now. I really could do with a pee anyway.

They watch Todd walk back round the side of the house and hear the door shutting behind him before the inevitable question came.

Shiela got things started with well what happened?

Well I don't think anything happened but I am worried that something did, something bad.

He shagged her? shiela blurted out before she could stop herself, the bastard, you should wait till he's sleeping and cut his balls off.

 

 

No I don't think that, he can be a little ropy that way, what man isn't but he is really not the kind. He believes in fidelity even if I am not sure that he has always practiced it. I think though that mainly he has and maybe he always has. Maybe I am stupid to think so and maybe I am, and I am not sure but I think that he is faithful and that's what worries me.

It worries you that he's faithful? shiela asked I don't get it. It worries me with Ken when he's away working that he's unfaithful and i am pretty sure that he has been though I really don't know anything for sure.

I know what you mean, said Mary, and it worries me sometimes when Todd is away with work but you know Todd nearly as well as I do. On the odd time when I don't hear from him he'll being sitting in the pub pissed, and that's what scares me.

Mary you are being silly and I don't really understand what are you worried about.

Mary; well its the fidelity thing with Todd.

What you mean that you really don't think that he is?

No the opposite, Mary says her face reddening, I really do think that he does not get up to anything when he's away. I don't know wither he tries to but nobody wants him or he just doesn't try but I believe him when he says he is faithful.

So what's the problem then?

Well that's the scary thing with her.

Who the French girl? shiela looks confused.

Canadian, not French, French Canadian to be exact. but yes, that's what worries me. I have seen pictures of her she is a beautiful girl and if he was to shag her I would hate him for it but forgive him but I really don't want him to.

You cant mean that, Shiela asks surprised at what she is hearing.

I do, I mean every little bit of it, things would be crap for a while then we would just be back to normal and I like normal. But he is so fucking perfect that he doesn't shag around on me, he comes from the moral high ground with everything that he does and says. This to him will be another win. He will have been faithful, he will have followed all the rules but I can already tell that she has fucked with his mind.

If he wasn't so bloody perfect, if he had just shagged her he might have got it out of his system but if she goes back to Canada then all will grow worse, I am sure that he will fall in love with her I think that he already has.

Don't be stupid Mary, it really could just be a friends thing, he says that it is. There is no way that he will fall in love with her, he already loves you. I get what you mean about men and sex but Todd doesn't seem to be as bad as most.

If she goes back then I have lost him. I think that I have already. Shiela leaned over the table and taking Mary's shoulders held her.

Maybe that is a good thing, if I lose him Mary said tears on her face, we see so little of each other anymore anyway.

 

 

10. Ken. Todd is falling in love.

 

I realise now that from all that he had told me and I am sure that he did not tell me everything that Todd was falling in love with this girl, Jasmine.

Falling in love in a way that he never had with Mary, falling in love with passion, jealousy, hope and an enrichment that he knew he had wanted and hoped for. He realised that everything up until this time had been nothing other than a prelude to his love of Jasmine, perhaps even his life with jasmine.

He knew that she liked him and had fallen for him to a certain extent, I could tell, by the kiss on the grassy knoll in Ardgowan forest and yet despite all that he suspected and all that he hoped; he could not be sure that she really cared for him at all.

Did she lie awake at night thinking of him as he did of her. He doubted it, he really was not the kind of fellow to inspire girls in that way. He had never been good looking though he was not hideous, he would always have been the second choice for a woman and though he hated that fact he also quite understood it.

At the same time he knew that in a strange way things would change over time. Todd read a lot, in all genres, and had come to understand, he thought, the female species through his reading though he had little experience with them in actual fact until his late teens.

Until then it had been nothing other than groping in the cinema and extended kissing somewhere no one else would see. He, as he had told me and others, had never been good looking or attractive to the opposite sex.

Nor am I now, he would also say though he would tell us occasionally of a time long past in his teens where he was and that women were available for him. Even as he told me or us these things there was something slightly unbelievable about it though he did not tend to lie that much as far as I could tell. Yet there were things that gnawed at me for this to be true. For one he was not tactile in the slightest, he would draw away from hugs and kisses and would rather shake hands rather than any other more personal greeting. That is something I thought to myself that would not attract girls except perhaps in the old cliche, the strong silent type but then he was neither strong nor silent. Sullen perhaps and even moody sometimes but even then not silent and as far as strong goes well he was not particularly unfit and though he had a little belly I had always assumed that that was the prodigious amounts of beer that he drank. Certainly he was never sedentary in fact he was involved in something all the time. Wither it be an experiment, or reading or doing something in his garden or someone else's he never stopped even out of work. Additionally he worked long hours and often worked hard hardly stopping after he came home before getting involved with something else.

I have no real taste in men myself and so I cannot verify if he was good looking to women but I certainly know that to some he was or at least his charm made up for his looks. I do not really know what it was but I know that some women really liked him. A few even that I saw as we were at the pub during quiz nights or just for a night out were very attracted to him. I could not tell you why but it was obvious that they were. He always encouraged their attentions but it never came to more than that as far as I knew. I really suspect though that it did not come to anything more as though he would love the attention and revel in it in a way he was always wanting to get onto another topic of conversation. He would never be intentionally rude but sometimes during a girls play for him he would just start talking about something that excluded her from the conversation. The merits of Islamic architecture, the humour of mark twain, the phases of the moon or something equally as interesting to a young woman. The reason, I brought up the phases of the moon is that I remember one night a young girl, blond and pretty though not much older than half his age coming up to the bar to buy a drink. We were in a huddle at the bar as usual trying to work out the answer to a quiz question that we had three possibilities for. Todd moved aside to give her room to reach the bar with a smile and a welcoming wave of his hand directing her to the bar.

The girl stood there for a while as we talked over her head about whatever it was the question had been and Todd not knowing the answer for a change had called out to the barmaid and let the girl get served. She said thanks with a smile just as the quiz started again and the first question was what are the four phases of the moon. As Todd rhymed them off the girl stopped still holding three drinks in a triangle with her fingers. She turned very slightly and looked at him for a second or two. He had not noticed being too focused on the questions and writing in the answers on a small slip of paper that always seemed very full to me when Todd had finished. I think that he always had to offer additional information to prove that he was correct rather than just the simple answer. The girl looked up at him adoringly and said, I knew that too. He smiled down on her, perhaps it was one of the things that women found attractive; the fact that when he was enjoying something his enthusiasm would shine through. He was focused upon it, the very item and I suspect that as he spoke to her that he was imagining those phases in his mind as he talked. Cool, he said, there are so few people these days interested in astronomy. I suppose the great resurgence will come when we first set foot on Mars. Are you an Astronomy student? Physics? or even Philosophy?

The girl laughed jiggling the drinks in her hands and spilling a little over her fingers. None of the above she said with a smile in fact I am doing sociology, last year in fact.

Are you going to pass he asked with a school masters stare. I am she replied and with honours I hope. Honours no less, and what do you wish to do then. Politics (the obvious answer for a sociology student) or are you going to tag on mathematics? She started to answer and he held up his hand palm out. Tell me of Rousseau and what he means to you?

Well which she asked calmly, Jean-Jacques or Henri?

The obvious one, I don't wish for the attributes of a painter. The girl I remember beamed at him her smile luminous in the pub. I think that she fell in love with him then and there. Perhaps he would have noticed but the next question came and without even consulting us Todd scribbled down the answer.

When he looked up lifting his pint at the same time he seemed surprised to see the girl still standing there. He smiled at her, his mind now free of the question that was asked. He knew the answer and did not need to consult and so had moved on until the next question arrived.

The way I have put this, it sounds as though he was winning the quiz all by himself. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Todd knew things that Todd knew about and he knew them well. On his own subjects he was king but move even a little away from what he knows and he became useless. He knew nothing of sport. I do not mean that he knew very little here but he knew nothing, he knew nothing of soap operas which are a big thing here, in fact Coronation street and Eastenders I think (though I maybe wrong) are the most watched programs on television here. Anyway Todd was only one of the team that won us those quizzes though who the fuck wants to know about astrology, astronomy and the classics?

So how does a sociology student know the phases of the moon? he asked her. It really is not that, he seemed to search for a word and then said, Hip? almost as a question. He had a small frown on his face as though he should know the right word but did not. Oh my dad told me all about astronomy. Cool, he said, all credit to your father. He would love to hear you say that she said still beaming up at him and she was a pretty girl.

He just seemed embarrassed and went back to answering the next question. I think you met him once she said. I did? he replied with a quizzical expression on his face still trying to answer the pub quiz question; who was the goddess of retribution.

Nemesis, he said and wrote it down and returned his attention to the girl.

I think that he was trying to remember what they were taking about as he is just focused on the thought that is in his head and he misses all hints and nuances, your father? Yes he is the one in charge of Airdrie observatory. You were there and gave a talk. I could see that he looked lost for a second then it came back to him. Are you Paulo's daughter? Paulo Clark?

She beamed ever more brightly and said I am. So your father taught you about astronomy?

We had no choice she said. Astronomy or bed and you know how little kids hate to go to bed at night.

I was little at the time, she continued and so we wanted to stay up as late as possible even at three or four it made us feel like grown ups.

Todd was not the kind to take advantage of such a thing, nor do I even know if he noticed it but I saw in the girls eyes, she was there for his taking had he wished to. It was a thing that he never noticed at all he just continued on with his questions about Paulo.

Perhaps Jasmine was the same

 

11. Todd. My late teens

As a young man, or an older boy, I suppose really, I had learned to play the guitar. I was never that great at it I knew, having met a number of people in the course of my years with bands that were far better musicians than I. I started playing the guitar probably at about the age of eleven or twelve though I cannot say now for sure. With a lot of practice I improved slowly from basic chord structures and simple melodies that were mainly from the country and western genre to some more complex stuff but never was good enough to play really difficult stuff. The only reason for this is I was able to pick up a rather bad steel stringed guitar from woolworths in Campbeltown and when I went to martins, the book shop in Campbeltown looking for a book to tutor me the only one they had was a country and western songbook.

This was a small west highland town in Scotland of course and so the bookshop was small but stacked with books. Many of the authors that I first read and many that influence me still , their books came from this small and rather dank almost Dickensian bookshop in Campbeltown.

As you can imagine in a small west highland town they had many music books, the west highlands of Scotland is famed for its music and so the shop had sheave upon sheave of sheet music but all for bag pipes or accordion. I at that time could not read music except in its most basic forms, I had been taught to play the recorder, badly, at school and do not know to this day why I failed so miserably at it as I now find it easy to play as I do most instruments. Anyway, I could barely read the music never mind convert the notes used in a bagpipe or accordion into guitar notes and so I took the only guitar tutor I found there.

As luck would have it, it was a really good tutor to start on and I practiced and practiced these songs that I had never even heard night after night progressing from the easiest of them to the more difficult over time. In the end it made no difference that I never actually had listened to them as I became proficient with them in my own mind. I was aware that there was every chance that if I ever heard the actual recordings that they could well be very different from the way I was playing them. In a way this was probably the best thing that could have happened though it certainly did not seem so at the time. As i did not know the songs i learned early to improvise adding an extra beat where it may be needed or adjusting the key to suit the way i thought that the song should go.

When my friends and I got together my ten pound guitar from woolworths was rather tinny compared to their better instruments but at the time I could afford no more and my mother and father were struggling just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table never mind buying me a new guitar. Anyway my dad thought that I was really bad, He asked me to stop playing chords and play a piece of classical music.

I remember being quite ashamed that I could not but then all I had was my country and western chords (and country and western guitar) and that is all I had learned. I disappointed him again but I think that as men of his time would do he still had a thought in his head that a guitar would not save your life. He had been to war and his father had died of wounds gained in the first world war. I cannot say this for sure but I think I was told that his grandfather had died in yet another, earlier, war.

I, however was not dismayed in the way that I might have been for I practiced more and more and I had that basic country and western chords down pat. I can still play some of those songs nearly forty years later and still play them well. Anyway as I was growing better and better at the guitar but still not that good if you see what I mean I miserably failed all of my prelims. Prelims are mock exams that are held in Scotland to prepare you for the actual exams that are your O'levels and allow you entry to college, university, et al. I was to busy learning my guitar, i was to busy earning money doing my milk run in the morning and working in a freezer shop in the afternoon after school to work that hard at school and it showed. of the seven prelims that I sat I had passed only two; English and modern studies (politics and sociology).

Oh yes I wanted to be a rock star at this time, what young boy of my didn't wish for that, I was fifteen, fit, healthy and knew my wee bit of country and western but I also knew that to fail my O'levels would consign me to a job in the shipyard or the clothing factory, both of which have long since closed down. When I think back on this now it was such a good thing that I had made an arse of everything as it shook me from my malaise. At the time it seemed such a disaster but knowing that I could not just cruise my way through life was a good lesson learned and i learned it earlier than most.

I started paying attention in class and started studying. I was struggling with mathematics in particular. Anyway I had made changes and started studying for real by the time that I found that almost everyone in the math's class was failing. The teacher was moved else where or to do something else I know not which and another teacher brought in.

Normally you could never imagine such a thing as possible but i am here to attest that it is, however, true. That a complete class that was pretty much failing as a group suddenly did great in their exams, myself included. Just the removal of a bad teacher and the addition of a good one along with a little studying turned the tide. It makes you wonder if it was the teacher and not just me that was too busy enjoying life, meeting girls, learning the guitar.

I know that I went from bottom marks for math's in my prelim to top marks at my O'levels. I think a little of both is the answer. I was accepted into college and though still fifteen (though only for a month) I left the relative security of my family for the thundering halls of Edinburgh. I do not deny that it was difficult but in my own way I grew to love it. At first it was incredibly lonely, I knew no one in the whole city.

Imagine then a boy from earlier years whose hormones are about ready to kick in and his face erupts with spots, though he was not as bad as some still he was not a treat to look at. Imagine the same boy also hesitant for he was neither tough nor self assured.

He now lived in the country when he had been brought up near the city as his father and mother moved to Campbeltown, the small seaside town I mentioned earlier to give them a better lifestyle, a promotion for my father and a change was as good as a rest as the old saying goes for my mother.

Despite the bullying or perhaps because of it I began to read more and more.

It was rare that I slept the authors thoughts unravelling in my mind. I learned through the words of greater minds than mine to forgive, though I never really did so, I understood the advantage of doing so. I visited the small Campbeltown bookshop I mentioned more and more and it became almost a place of pilgrimage for me. I can still smell it now, the dustiness of the books crammed in floor to ceiling in the small shop, a slight smell of dampness over that. The brilliance of the covers on the paperbacks assaulting my senses, their covers depicting monsters and daemons, lovers, stars, and every place that you could imagine and some that you could not. I found the place intoxicating in all ways and my passion for books grew and grew.

By the time my exams had arrived I was better read than many adults and so I should have done well at my prelims but my wish to be a rock star, working too hard at my part time jobs and bad teachers had taken their toll, but I made up for it and headed to the bright lights and college.

 

12. Todd. returning home and thinking.

And so he returned home and recommenced his former life, a life that was already jaded for him. A life of work and more work and his friends on the net, going to Ken and Sheila's on a Friday night for a drink and a chat. Occasionally some astronomy but even that was growing less frequent now. His children were growing older and though they still depended upon him to a certain extent they were beginning to form their own lives and understand their own places in the world and so had less need for him anymore. Mary really had no need for him anymore other than being a provider of money. This was not her fault, he always knew just a thing where they through necessity and circumstance spent so much time apart that they were getting used to the idea.

Jasmine had gone home to her own life, her own daughter and work and though he would not admit to himself yet that he loved her the seed was there and with only a little cultivation it would grow into something more. But his days passed far from home and were centred around a girl on the other side of the world, much of his happiness derived from the odd email or phone call he would get from her yet he still continued on with his life. He went home when he could and still saw little of Mary who had worked out her own routine for all the times that he was gone. He missed Jasmine far more than he had imagined that he would and missed Mary less than he remembered.

Even his own children had little need of him anymore. He had worked long and hard to provide for Mary and them and he loved them but he knew himself he was becoming worn out. There was something missing not just in their relationship but in him.

A change was coming.

13. Ken and shiela. Poor fools.

I am just nipping to the toilet. You jump into bed and get it warmed up before I come back. I am bloody exhausted. You know what he's like you can hardly get him to shut up at the best of times. And this, this is the worst of times; he is ten times worse. Just be thankful that we don't have the same problems.

The bedroom door opens and shiela is startled by the brightness of the hall light. Perhaps i have had a little to much to drink she thinks as he pulls the covers back and flops into the bed his pale skin blotted in the the moonlight.

I fucking hate the bastard she thinks as she lies back staring at the ceiling. She glimpsed his pale and mottled back, studded here and there with melanomas as he passed through the door. His waist had grown even thicker than it once was his skin riddled with curves where they should not have been, His flabby buttocks as he walked away made her want to be sick. He wasn't so bad she tried to think to herself but could not bring herself to think this to be so no matter how much she tried. He disgusted her.

 

I heard the running water and the toilet flushing as I lay there the duvet pulled up to my neck dreaming though awake, of love. I had never loved Ken but I was glad that he loved me when he said that he did and asked to marry me, or so I thought at the time but I should have known better he wanted some one available for sex when he wished it. Had it not been me then it would have been some other poor soul. Though I suspect that it rarely happened for him with others.

Ken still had a full head of hair, something that seemed to run in his family but he rarely exercised and would not work on the house or garden and so had become something awful to me when I saw him naked, I felt abused yet he would still expect me to indulge him in his strange sexual games.

I always accommodated him, I was older than him and knew that he was the bread winner and so I had to do all that he asked. I never enjoyed it. I had grown to dislike sex though I always remembered a time when I had enjoyed it, looked forward to it, anticipated it. I had been younger then and nothing had seemed as painful or forbidding as it seemed to involve now. I suppose that for everyone it becomes everyday and less than it once was. I understand that but yearn for the days when it was just kissing and fumbling foreplay before he spilled his seed into me. Along the way he gave me a daughter, Rhona. She is an echo of me though luckily her father supplied her ears for mine stick out horrendously and I was made fun of in school for so long over them that I hate them so much and even now often think of slicing them off.

Rhona is high strung and difficult but I love her and so in a way I got what I wanted.

I did not really want children but Ken did. He came from a large family and was happy being from such. I think he expected me to produce a brood of children but I am older and frailer than he is. I have something wrong with me, I do not know what it is but I feel bad most of the time. unwell, but other than feeling bad there is no diagnosis for it.

My mother was taken in to care when she tried to commit suicide. I say taken in but what I really mean is sectioned under the mental health act, she was a danger to herself they said and I think I have a bit of that in me. Actually there are times when I think that I have a lot of her in me. I wished for some of the things that Ken saw in life but I could not see them for myself. I was desperate to gain that, a bit of real life, a bit of happiness. I could not find it for myself.

Until I heard the news of Todd and Mary splitting up, this was the slice of luck that had always evaded me and now I could gain it.

Get a little piece of heaven for myself. I had always wished for what they had, that easy love where nothing was disputed, or little was.

I wished it was me that would be the one to share his bed on a night even growing older and a little thicker around the middle as he is I still saw him as so handsome and athletic. Mary just didn't know what she had, foolish bitch, I would have committed murder for a decent man, someone that was good and kind and did not hurt me.

He was more than just that, he was smart and thoughtful, he cared even about things that mattered little and for that I just loved him more. For him I would have done anything, Anything, I would have killed children, sentenced people to die or would have killed myself. Once I wished that he asked me to kill myself to prove my love to him and I would have followed his every instruction.

I would have hurt or maimed myself or someone else had he only asked me to but he did not.

I am not sure that he even really noticed me.

13. (part 2) Ken and shiela. Poor Fools.

She seemed immune to his charms, The bitch. Didn't she realise that he is important, doesn't she know that peoples lives stand and fall by his ideas, by his decision and his action. I do not think that she ever realised that despite the stories that he told. I don't think that she listened silly bitch.

He would tell us tales of having to sack people and about his worries over that, his worries of them and their lives afterwards. You could tell that he hated it, one fellow that he gave a warning to tried to take his own life and he hated himself for that.

I could tell at times that he just hated himself full stop.

Mary just listened as he said these things and never cared. I don't think that she knew him at all. I did, even when I had not seen him in weeks I could feel him, taste him and feel his touch inside of me.

I cannot believe that for someone so good that he could hate himself. You know she was the luckiest bitch and was fucking stupid for even allowing him to go. I would have killed her. I would have killed my children. I would have killed the world just to have him but he was not mine to have.

 

I flushed the toilet and picked up the air freshener can and gave it a spray before I went out. I wandered back through to the bedroom. I did not have to cover myself as my daughter was away at a sleep over. I wandered in naked and knew that she must be impressed. Yes I have put on a little weight and am thick round the middle but I am not too bad for my age. In fact she's a lucky bitch to have me, she knows it but pretends not to just to heat me up. I pull back the duvet and climb in beside her. 

Oh Todd make me drink to much talking about all his shit, I am not getting so hard, it will have to be the back way. Lube yourself up girl. I will just wank till I am hard enough and shoot it up your arse, if I get hard enough. If I don't you'll just have to suck me off till I fall asleep.

He's a bastard, Todd. He is going to leave her you know. What a cunt he is. Turn round The stupid bitch thinks I want her cunny when I am pissed, "Its tighter in your arse"

I watch her smear the lubricant over her hole before I enter her. I have had to much to drink and have to force it into her but she moves with me her pale skin looks like an eel at midnight but I feel myself becoming rigid and after what seems quite a long time spill my seed into her. I cant understand why Todd has left Mary. She is Such a great girl what the fuck is he playing at? Much better looking than this insipid eel that I have just fucked. I hope she is grateful, lucky bitch that I could be bothered to stick my cock into her.

I fall sleep naked and on top of the covers for though it is late in the year it is warmer than expected. I dream of Mary. Her breasts lie large and heavy upon her ribcage as I enter her and she starts to moan as my cock fills her, stretches her and makes her feel good. She moans beneath me as I push in to her. She whimpers like a child as she pushes her nails into my back. she wants me and only me. She will have me no matter what she has to do to get me.

 

Ken. Stars. 14

What the fuck is going on with you Todd?

the problem is fucking obvious, its all going to go to shit.

What?

Look at this and keep an open mind.

He pushed his arm out and swept everything that was on our kitchen table onto the floor. It was not such a big deal, a couple of candle holders and a bowl of fruit, that had only one rather brown spotted banana in it and a rather dimpled peach that burst when it hit the floor.

He produced a star chart covered with constellations on a blue background with orange high lighters marked here and there.

Look for fuck sake he almost shouted and when I stood back he said, sorry, my apologies but I cant believe it either.

I know as much as most people do about the stars, horoscopes, black holes and astronomical terms but I was never going to be in his ball park.

He had been studying the stars since he was a teenager and for that matter for a long time he had mainlined on science fiction and being Todd he had to know what every term meant, had to know how each hypothesis worked, had to know fucking everything. Whereas I had done the little that you did in school about the planets and stars and I occasionally read the new scientist on line.

But just to generally keep up with events and advances in the science world. Never did I come close to having his monstrous knowledge of mathematics and astrophysics plus though I was fine with astronomy, astrology to me was just rubbish made up for weak minded fools. To a certain extent Todd agreed with me there but also thought that we were just missing the key that would solve the equation, the astronomical Rosetta stone.

He had explained to me one night how there had to be something to it. He did not understand exactly what yet but told me of convergence's that had occurred that foretold of events that had come to pass. He explained in rather long winded terms about how the heavens worked and how earlier civilisations had studied the stars and what they had meant to them. This took ages and though mildly interesting as I say it was rather long winded and came to no conclusion other than there must be something. But all the evidence that he presented to prove that "something" was all circumstantial as far as I could tell though i am a lightweight scientist compared to him.

Todd was a nice guy and could often be fascinating to listen to. Sometimes and I could not tell you what it was but there was something in him that just cut through the fluff around a problem so he could see to the heart of it and reason it out.

But sometimes like that night many months ago you just wanted him to shut up so you could get onto something that he was not the only person in the room that was interested in.

Yes despite all I have said on his good points at other times he could be a boring bugger and bloody annoying.

It looked as though tonight was going to be one of those nights but I could tell that his blood was up and he thought he had found a revelation.

This was obvious not just in his manner but in the fact I had poured him a large glass of a very tasty and rich red wine (that tended to be his favourite) but he had barely sipped before slipping into his tirade. I had to keep my own mind about me otherwise I would struggle to see what his meanings were.

He never ever said it but I could tell that Todd just did not like his intellectual inferiors. Which i suppose to him meant almost everyone. I told shiela that I thought that one night but she shot me down in flames. Well he still loves Mary she had said and do you think she is his intellectual equal?

No, I thought I know why he likes Mary, beautiful, big tits, sexy. Who cares if she thinks at all.

Todd had since our first meeting always looked upon me intellectually as an equal and I was glad that such was the case however I personally doubted it. So often even when I was struggling to follow his reasoning he assumed I was being modest and so would not wait for me to catch up- something I needed time for quite badly on occasion. I sat my own wine glass down, making sure I placed it upon the kitchen work top so that it also did not get swept onto the floor and resolved to pay attention to whatever he was saying. He was excited, animated and full of what ever he was full of. It was usually red wine or lager but tonight he was supplying himself with stimulants and needed nothing else. He had still not touched his glass.

At this point on another couple of lucky nights when he had found something that he just had to inform us of I was always grateful that Mary and Shiela had been there both to calm him down for he was rarely as demonstrative around women and to make things easier to understand. For some reason he always thought that I understood without an explanation but needed to add it for the girls sake. Often I needed the explanation as much as they did.

His upbringing I think had made him calmer around women but of course now that they had split up Mary was not there and Shiela had gone out to the pub with her friends that night. I don't think it was to avoid Todd, I think it was only coincidence but I may have been wrong. She seemed to have a real downer on him since the break up but then Mary was her friend.

Look he said pointing to a small blip on his chart of the solar system.

Yes?

You know what this is don't you?

I did not, but I suppose that was one of the things about Todd that he always thought that everyone was as smart as him, knew all the things that he would know. He never ever thought you were stupid even when you knew that you were. That is 200324 one of the plutoids that has not been given a name yet .

plutoids?

Well yes, remember I told you about the large rock masses that still orbit the sun but come from the belt that sits just to the outer edge of the solar system. Well to be honest we don't know that it is the edge of the system but it seems likely. Well some of them are really large and should be classified as planets under what was our definition of a planet up until a couple of years ago.

I think that you did tell me about it.

Well you know that when they started to discover all the planetoid masses astronomers had to reclassify the nature of a planet. They did so last year when we realised that there were so many big rocks out there after Neptune. Some were moons and others asteroids and by our definition of a planet as it then stood some were planets. But really they were mainly just big icy rocks floating in emptiness.

So they reclassified what made up a planet. The other large rocks were renamed plutoids though there are also likely to be another one or two gas giants out there, that would be the obvious answer to why there is another and much larger asteroid belt even farther out there. There should be at least one other large gas giant exerting quite a large gravitational force to stop the larger asteroids spinning away though the force that the sun exerts is really rather strong in the way of things. But remember at that distance the sun is pretty far away and so the gravitational force is lessened but still able to hold them in orbit.

Yes they are way out there, though we cannot say for sure yet, there could be another closer to the edge of the solar system probably a pretty large gas giant the size of Neptune or Saturn. Though it has not been discovered yet we are still arguing over a name for it.

We?

Ah sorry, he said looking up from the charts at at me for a change. Every word he had so far uttered apart from a quick sideways glance had been directed at the charts in front of him. I know I am not a real astronomer or a real Astro physicist for that matter but look at this.

He pulled out another map of the solar system with the plutoids marked on it and looked directly at me. He had drawn the phases of the zodiac upon it.

You see he said and continued and I am sure that you are doubting everything that you have ever learned at the moment but don't be worried as I was too.

Actually at this moment I was not doubting anything for I had barely understood a word of what he was talking about. The only thing that I was possibly doubting was his sanity.

But now look at this and he pulled out another astrological map and he added the plutoids into it. He had plotted their trajectory of orbit round the sun with a faint yellow line but he had added in a large red line father from the sun than the plutoids and he said "if this is where that other gas giant is" and he plotted this possibly non existent planets path round the sun and through the heavens. To be perfectly honest with you I had no idea what he was talking about by this time having been overwhelmed both by to much information and a lack of relevant information that he just expected me to know as usual.

This lasted until he produced a large tracery With all of the planets trajectories plotted as well as those of the plutoids and this unknown and undiscovered gas giant that he had theorised. He had even given it a trajectory and orbital phase though we do not even know if it exists.

There are many marks upon this star glyph small white crosses with writing beside them far to small to see. I see that every pattern comes close to them but does not really intersect. But this proves nothing I say, I can see everything comes close to a line or intersection but few are right on it anyway what does the little white writing say.

Well those are the astrological signs for great events that have happened and if they intersected with the conjunctions lines and patterns it would really show us that the stars do predict our future.

But obviously they do not I sputtered and tried to stop myself laughing. Is that what you have come to me with that there is a possible but random correlation between great events and star patterns but that they are all wrong? He beams at me. It is rare that I have seen a smile so broad upon his face even though as he states these days he is desperately in love. Weirdly the last time I can recall such a broad and open smile upon his face was when he was telling me of his new found love. Jasmine.

Todd, tell if I'm wrong here? but from what I see this proves nothing at all as far as astrology goes. You have put on these major events yet none of them even seem to mach with the conjunctions that you present, yes I said pointing at one, some of them are close, but others are miles away.

Todd bursts out laughing and says. "Well yes some are miles away but many others are millions of miles out.

So what here are you proving to me that astrology even with new information added in is rubbish well then you are preaching to the converted.

And so I thought too said Todd still with the smile plastered across his face. When I have looked at astrological maps I have always used those first produced by John Dee the astronomer, visionary and very learned man who was the first queen Elizabeth's astronomer and scientist. I have always been fascinated with him and his ideas. I have read a great deal about him though much of it has been fiction. The possibility of alchemy oh and lots of other things about him are just things that amaze me and for his time he seemed such a visionary. I always always thought as well that his "Magic", that he considered science came from many sources but particularly one Hermes Trisgamesestus who was.....

 

I have always been a fan of Dee who I thought had rarely got at the truth but had tried. My thoughts being that I always thought that astrology is shit, we have to look again for enlightenment. I am always drawn back from that by the charlatans that purport to know our futures. I swallow this rubbish too easily I think to myself. I am a man of science but my love of history perverts me and such applied with Dr Dee who I now know to be a fool at least in this respect though I do not doubt him still a seeker for knowledge.

So that's it? I asked pissed off that I still have not got a piece of kitchen roll to scoop up the over ripe peach that lies at the side of the table whilst I wait upon a revelation. All you have to tell me with all this drama is that astrology is not true. Something that pretty much every kid in the land over the age of nine knows.

Ah That is the assumption I made and I am now going to tell you now that I am a fool he said and performed a full bow before me. I am going to tell you, he said with a flourish that astronomy and the telling of the future is not only possible but it is a fact and more than that.

I looked at him amazed thinking that he had drank to much but my gaze drew in the half finished glass of red wine and the almost full bottle.

That I can foretell the future.