A Still-Beating Heart

In much the same way alchemists tried to convert base metal to gold, I can’t resist trying to turn basic ingredients into something exotic. Give me a quantity of braising steak and I’ll attempt an Indonesian beef rendang before a humble casserole.

 (A flash essay for Book Week Scotland 2017)

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Left or Right?

Think about it.

What if she doesn’t like you? What if she does like you? What if she likes you and you go out on a date and you have a great time and you never see her again? What if you see her again and you end up back at her place? What then?

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Seemed like everyone in Edinburgh had a Sean Connery story. Seemed like everyone knew him before. Before he was Commander Bond. Before he parted Ursula Andress from that bikini. Before he was shaken and not stirred. Before Gert Fröbe expected him to die. When he was just one of us. When he still went by ‘Tam’.

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We’d got in by squeezing through a hole in the fence. We hang back, under the house, watching the pool guy as he wades through the lake of newly-poured concrete. It sucks at his white rubber boots, like a girlfriend that won’t let go. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve got your head tilted in that fuck you way, arms folded across your skinny chest. An untipped French cigarette burns, unsmoked, between your fingers. Blueberry spikes where there used to be a strawberry-blonde ponytail, the skin-art, the metal—you look quite the rebel now.

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She was late for something more important and left her phone on the dresser. It was my own fault; I shouldn’t have looked. A single picture. When I saw the tenderness in their eyes, their unalloyed joy at just being together, I knew we were finished.

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