“Curse of the Anti-Santa”: Chapter 1 – Oot

It was two days before Christmas, and William walked out his cell for the last time. A cell he had occupied for the last three years.

Walking down the hard, cold corridors of HM Prison Barlinnie, he looked his last on his ex-inmates. This was one of the hardest prisons in the world. Situated in Glasgow, it housed some of the most dangerous men in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.

He had it fairly easy in here though, compared to some of the others who had braved these halls over the years. William cast his mind back a couple of years. Back to a small boy, no more than seventeen, who had been brought in. He was a small, skinny kid with bad hair and a face that looked like a lost puppy. He lasted three weeks before Stainless, an eighteen stone bank robber with a face only a mother could love, took a dislike to him and threw him off the balcony, smashing his skull on to the concrete floor twenty feet below, and breaking both legs. After that, they started putting up nets, to catch anyone who ‘slipped’.

There was always something going on in this place. Nobody was going to take on William though. Not unless they wanted a shorter life expectancy. His father was Billy Matheson, a local “businessman” in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow, and had a number of pubs and restaurants in the city. One of Scotland’s most notorious criminal kingpins, Matheson had risen from poverty in the east end of Glasgow, to being one of the wealthiest men in Scotland. He commanded thousands of committed gang members and workers alike. If you upset Matheson at lunch, you’d be under the dirt by dinner. 

Everyone said William took after his father. They both had the same build and facial structure and they both had more entrepreneurial skills than Bill Gates and Richard Branson thrown together.

As he passed the main reception, William stopped and turned to look at a large, bald man, sitting on the chair behind the desk.

“Well Mr Andrews Sir, I guess this is it then.” 

“It had better be!” Mr Andrews replied. “I don’t want to see you walking these halls again.” 

“So you want me to wait till you have that second heart attack then?” William replied, bouncing up and down on his toes. 

“Very funny Matheson.” He reached under his desk and pulled up a box. It was battered and office regulated brown. “This here’s your effects.” 

Not even looking at William as he continued. “One watch, broken. One cigarette, stubbed out. One pair of handcuffs, pink.” He looked up at this point. “You brought your own handcuffs?”

“Yeah, and don’t you just wanna life as exciting as mine.”

“Watch your mouth Matheson.”

“You could always unscrew that leg of yours, that’ll bring the ladies swarming.”

“You’re not out of here yet Matheson.” He put his face right up against William’s. “I could stick you in the hole now, and nobody would find you. You’ve been released, you see.”

William cleared his throat. “Good point, well made.”

“Right. Let’s see.” Mr Andrews continued. “Oh yes. One Pair of white briefs, a toy gun and a sombrero.” A smile came to Mr Andrews face. “And don’t forget, all prison clothes must be returned at he end of each visit.”

“You expect me to go out there in nothing but my boxers?”

If that’s how they come in, that’s how they go out.” He replied, as if reading an invisible rulebook. “Here’s your twenty quid. Now sod off!”

***

William walked out the main gate, in his old white briefs and sombrero, clutching onto the handcuffs and the toy gun. He stood still, looking out into Glasgow. Well, he was back, and back to stay. He turned right and continued on his way, back home.

..

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Virgil Killed the Radio Star

Virgil climbed the cold concrete steps, of the new flat he had just leased, namely number eight, Kenley Way, Birmingham, Alabama.

The last few weeks had not been his best and he was not in his regular state of mind.

 Three weeks ago, Virgil had returned home, from the horrors of Korea. He was bright eyed and delirious with anticipation, as he packed his kit with his comrades, the evening before. They had been ecstatic when they heard that their last tour was over and that they were now able to go back to their home towns; back to their families; back to an ordinary life.

The journey home which was long had been made longer still, by the eager anticipation of the lonely soldiers. They told stories and japed and fooled. The battles were over. Never again would they have to look down on a corpse and recognise the face. Before long they would be home again and everything would be good again.

His fiancé met him off the boat and had hugged and kissed him in ostensible joy. They took a cab back to their home, just across the water from where he found himself now.

Things had gone well, for the first week, until Virgil started to notice strangities in his fiancé’s behaviour. She would go out at the oddest of times; hang up the phone when he entered the room; and took the dog out for some extremely long walks.

To Virgil, who had been trained in how to spot lies, this was not the hardest nut to crack. It was clear to him that his fiancé had met someone else while he was away fighting to save their freedom.

This angered him beyond belief and, when she had returned one night from one of her dog walking stories, he confronted her, causing her to relent and tell all. She admitted that she was having an affair with a man whom she had met a few months before but refused to reveal his identity. She concluded the conversation by breaking down crying.

Not being a man to watch a woman cry he grabbed his bag which he had pre-packed along with his coat and left, slamming the door behind him so hard that a picture came off its hook and slammed into the glass table, below.

 After storming out, Virgil spent a long time with his own thoughts and in the company of a comforting Captain (straight-up, no ice). He thought long and hard about how he had first felt when he heard that he would be coming home and how he was feeling, right at this very minute.

It came to him, in a flash. He would hunt down this mystery man and express his disappointment, in no uncertain terms.

 He had spent the next week, peering down the lenses of a pair of binoculars. Every move of his ex-fiancé was his to record. He followed her to work; to the gymn; and to whatever restaurant she happened to dine in. Everywhere she went, he went. He would find his mystery man if it were the last thing he did.

It seemed, however that she had expected this of him and so they had rested their little love trists, until they believed that they were safe. On the eve of his third week home, it happened. He was sitting in his car as she slipped out of the front door, wearing a long black coat and big hat, to match.

She climbed into a cab, which had pulled up moments before and they took off in persuit. Virgil made sure that the cabbie followed at a safe distance, ensuring that she couldn’t see them him behind her.

Before long, within five minutes as it occurred, they arrived at their destination, number ten, Kenley Way.

Once she had entered, he had crept up to the apartment door and peered through the keyhole. They were both there, in the hall, their arms wrapped tightly around each other and their lips adjoined, in the throes of wanton passion. As they released each other and the man’s face became clear, Virgil saw that he recognised him. His face was up on banners and advertising boards all around the city. This was the Radio Dj, Billy-Boy Williams.

Virgil turned, put his back up against the wall of the building and slowly slid down, until he was seated in the mud, below.

This was awful. Where did this Bastard, excuse the French, get off taking another man’s fiancé? How did he have the nerve? Virgil had been out in the hell that was Korea for more time than was good for him; he had seen the horrors of war and come back again; he had done all this… and some smug radio star thinks that he can saunter along and steal another man’s girl, while he’s away.

No. It shouldn’t be. Men like that should be made to pay. They should not be allowed to carry on. It was on that day that he had made the decision and that was why he was climbing the steps of number eight, today. 

When he reached the top, he walked over to the door and opened it with his newly acquired key and entered the apartment. He walked straight into the sitting room and strode directly to the window, which faced the building to its side, dropping the bag he was carrying with him. It was a long thin bag, with different compartments and pockets.

Leaving the lights off, he looked through his small telescope at the building opposite him. From where he was, he could see straight into the bedroom of number ten. This Weasel was going to pay and nothing was going to stop him. This was where Virgil was most comfortable. He knelt down and opened the bag, pulling out a long nosed rifle, with a telescopic sight. He set it up, on the tripod, which he also pulled out of the bag and got into a good position, where he could see down the sights.

As he looked he saw the man himself, standing there, glass of whisky in one hand. He seemed to be staring at something on the wall. As Virgil watched, however, the man slowly raised the glass to his lips and turned away from what he had been so intently staring at. As he moved, Virgil saw that it had been a portrait of the Lord Christ, in all his Glory.

Not even the Jesus can help you now, Virgil said to himself, as he aimed his sights on the man, waiting for him to get into the right position. While he was waiting, the doorbell must have rung because the man had moved eagerly to the door, opening it quickly.

His ex-fiancé entered and they began to have a heated argument about something. She seemed to want to calm things down, as she kept trying to hold him, but every time she did, he moved away, crossing his arms high on his chest and shaking his head.

Well, thought Virgil, at least he’s got a conscience. No matter, he still has to pay for what he’s done. He waited patiently for her to leave and stared down the sights once more as he stood again at the portrait of Christ.

That’s right, pray, Virgil thought. It was to be his last opportunity. Nothing was to stop events, now. As Virgil peered down the sights and adjusted the scope, he pressed ever so slightly on the trigger, to get the biting point… breathed in… paused for half a second… and fired. As he did, the man took the opportunity to pray. As Virgil’s finger pulled the trigger, the man knelt down. The bullet grazed the top of the man’s head and went straight into the portrait.

Virgil was stunned. He suddenly remembered an old Army Pastor saying to him that Jesus Christ would take a bullet for him, if he would only bow down before him in prayer. Virgil had never given religion much thought but what he saw before him was a little too creepy even for him. He didn’t know if he was just losing his touch; or if it was a coincidence; or even if the Lord Christ had just spared the man’s life but one thing he did know was that he didn’t want to be around when the police arrived.

He quickly packed up his gear and left the apartments, before escaping Kenley Way and subsequently Alabama, to the sounds of the Police sirens, and fled to Mississippi. This was all something that he was going to have to put down to experience.

… 

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Understanding the Construct

I have recently come up with an idea to come to grips with the basics of a story and understand the underlying elements. Sometimes we as writers need to understand how other writers go about constructing a story, in order that we might learn to do the same or similar.

One of the things that I like to do is to take a classic story and, removing all the plumping, reduce the story to fifty words or less. This helps to see what elements are the basis for the story and, most likely, what the author had in mind when writing the piece.

As an example, I will give you one of mine. This is “Sleeping Beauty” in fifty words (exactly fifty).

“In the beginning, there was a boy. There was also a girl. She got into trouble. He had to pull her out. He fought through a lot of bad things to get there. When he did arrive, she was having a nap. He kissed her. She awoke. They got married.”

I hope you found this interesting and even give it a try for yourself. Feel free to post your own efforts below in the comments section. You can scroll down to read some of my more in-depth articles, poems and stories.

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Lyricism in Hip-Hop

This week I would like to discuss something that a lot of people do not think on. Hip-Hop has had a lot of bad press over the years whether good or bad. For many people, Hip-Hop is considered a crude form of music and others do not even consider it that. I however have been listening to Hip-Hop for a couple of decades now and, although I agree that there are many rappers out there who cannot write a lick, there are some who hold to a higher standard and can be very poignant and informative if we give them the chance.

 

A Brief History

In the 1970’s Jamaican born DJ Clive ‘Kool Herc’ Campbell helped to pioneer the genre that is known today as Hip-Hop. Through the medium of House Parties and later Street Parties, he borrowed from the Jamaican tradition of ‘impromptu toasting, boastful poetry and the use of speech over music.’ This then became widely coined as ‘MCing’, words and wordplay, put to a relevant rhythm. He also made use of the African style ‘Capping’ when men of the villages would try to out-do each other for the amusement of the onlookers. Melle Mel is often thought of being the one to be the first person to give himself the title of MC.

DJ Kool Herc’s house parties grew and grew and became very inspirational. Expanding in order to accommodate more and more people, the parties became a place for young people of the streets to go, in order to get away from the violence of the streets themselves.

Even N.W.A., considered the worst of the worst at the time, were trying to tell the story of what was going on in their neighbourhoods; trying to get people to see that America wasn’t this great happy smiley place that everyone wanted it to be. They wanted to let people understand that there were a great many places in the country where is wasn’t safe to walk down certain streets in daylight, never mind after dark. These rappers were the ones who brought it all to our attention and the emphatic language and lyrics were their way of showing the hurt and the strength of their will even after living in the areas where guns, drugs and more were slowly breaking down their society.

 

So, Lyricism?

Now to the point of this week’s blog, lyricism in Hip-Hop. Most people, if asked, would probably describe rapping as obscene and not think on it further. This is the case in many modern rappers who are after money and fans and little else but there are many others who are fighting the good fight.

Notorious B.I.G. once rapped, “Sky is the limit and you know that you keep on / Just keep on pressing on / Shy is the limit and you know that you can have / What you want. Be what you want.” In this statement, he is talking to all the youngsters who felt like their life wasn’t going to go anywhere; thinking “What chances do I have?”, a big problem, and let them know that they could have that chance of escaping the dangerous neighbourhoods, they just needed to be pro-active and fight the stigmas that were being pressed onto them; keep on keeping on, as they say.

In one of her songs, Lauryn Hill said, “Everything is everything / What is meant to be, will be / After winter must come spring / Change, it comes eventually.” Very poignant, yes? Hip-Hop has not been given a good name but there are people, like Lauryn, that still have something to say; advice, if you will.

Nas is another who speaks out against the stigmas of street life, saying, “If the truth be told, the youth can grow / Then learn to survive till they gain control / Nobody says that you have to be gangstas, hoes / Read more, learn more, change the globe.” I love these lyrics. I have always felt that the best rappers have always been the ones who speak out on the issues relating to their home areas and Nas does just that, in this.

 

The Rappers Themselves

Lastly, I would like to mention a few of the greats. Biggie and 2Pac will always be considered to be two of the greatest rappers of all time. They, along with DJ Kool Herc, Flava Flav, N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, Ice T, LL Cool J and others, were the backbone for the creation of Hip-Hop and the new expressive use of poetic language, for that is what is it is whether we can appreciate the form or not.

I myself am a huge lover of O’Shea ‘Ice Cube’ Jackson. He is a poet and has always spoken out on real issues. He uses words to express his emotions and the emotions of the people who grew up where he did. His life had been eventful to say the least and his careful and intellectual lyricism is great to hear. Even when speaking in interviews, you can tell that he is really thinking and not just rolling off the first thing that comes to him, in an attempt to gain followers. No, he speaks from the heart and addresses the issues that concern him, instead of the more usual derogatory use of language. When he does curse or use abrasive language, it is (most often) used as a way to enforce a point and make people listen. This works more with some than others but the point is that he is making the effort to speak on the issues surrounding America today and do that in a lyrical and intelligent way.

Just wakin up in the mornin gotta thank God,
I don’t know but today seems kinda odd.
No barkin from the dog, no smog,
And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog.
I got my grub on, but didn’t pig out.
Finally got a call from a girl I wanna take out.
Hooked it up for later as I hit the door,
Thinkin will I live, another twenty-four.
I gotta go cause I got me a drop top,
And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop.
Had to stop, at a red light,
Lookin in my mirror and not a jacker in sight,
And everything is alright.”

 

Some people will agree with me on all this and other will not, I have no delusions but, from what I have heard over the years, lyricism in Hip-Hop is really there and, if we give it a chance then sometimes we can find some real gems of wisdom.

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