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Short Fiction

Night flight from Lincolnshire to Nuremberg

It was black, really black. He couldn’t see his hand six inches in front of his face. The dials of the control panel were such a dim red that they would only render up information if squinted at. Years ago and on the other side of the world Mullins had learned photography while in school. The profound blackness of the cockpit reminded him of the darkroom; the barely visible red dials of the safe light.

They hadn’t taught incredible, horrible teeth aching cold at school though and if they had Mullins would have left; they simply didn’t do cold in Molong N.S.W, not cold like this. Back home cold was sitting around a fire, probably in shorts and a singlet. Here, a tray of photo chemicals (if you were crazy enough to have such a thing) would freeze solid, into a poisonous ice block probably in under minute.

Mullins pushed the control yoke ten degrees forward into a shallow dive, stomped the port rudder pedal. The Lancaster went into a shallow dive and veered left. In a moment he would reverse the sequence, and in this way the huge bomber would maintain a gentle corkscrew motion as it followed a straight course across Belgium towards Nuremberg. The corkscrew was a manoeuvre that he had been assured would confuse the enemy night fighters that stalked the night, their pilots apparently gifted with the ability to see in the dark. Mullins doubted that the manoeuvre accomplished anything other than giving him something to do with his hands that would keep him awake, other than the ongoing terror of night-fighters of course. At any instant, completely without warning, his whole comparatively peaceful world of the plane and the night, could dissolve without warning into blood and fire. In a worst case scenario an attack might detonate the bomb load without warning and, in an instant, he and his crew would simply cease to exist.

Or, and it was not the first time the thought had occurred to him, that eventuality might actually be quite far from the worst, travelling along at eighteen thousand feet above the earth in a fragile tube of aluminium, magnesium, perspex and several thousand gallons of aviation fuel and explosives left the door wide open to many possibilities far worse than instantaneous death. One could crash into the ground have most of your bones broken so you couldn’t run, and be cooked alive by burning fuel. One could be very damaged in some sort of nasty encounter, but not die, and live for months under the care of the Nazi Army doctors – who had no love of terrorfliegers. Possibly worse even than that, one could parachute into a burning city during a raid and probably be pushed into the flames alive by the angry citizenry.

The plane droned on forcing its blunt nose ever deeper into the freezing black air. Mullins kept corkscrewing even though he knew in his heart that if a night fighter was sleazing up behind them, they were almost undoubtedly quite fucked, and indeed they had probably entered that state when their wheels had left the tarmac at Warley Fen back behind them in the relative quiet of England. In point of fact, there was no exact point when “not too bad” had degenerated into “fucked” but if he tried hard enough, fighting his way through the clinging spiderweb layers of memory, it had probably been during a lunch discussion on world events at school.

It was brutally hot in the playground; too hot to move, certainly too hot to run, so they’ taken to congregating in the stairwell of the brick building and talking, and back then, there’d been nothing else to talk of. War was coming! There was no exact point where he’d decided to sign up, it was more of a foregone conclusion. He was moved inexorably in the current which he could not fight away from the life he had been sure of, out to sea, far from the sunny beach, out into the cold open embrace of the ocean, to drown.

LOUD! over the intercom, a scream. Wordless, conveying no information except utter terror and pain. The big plane lurched as Mullins’ body spasmed at the controls. In shock and instant sympathy.

The was a procedure for even this, especially this. He pushed the throttles hard forward and simultaneously forced the nose down into a dive, while stomping hard on the starboard rudder pedal; but all the time thinking that he should have seen the flash of tracer, either from the fighter or from the return fire from whichever of the crew had screamed a warning, and from the sound – either died or been mortally wounded. And, as for everything, there was a procedure for this too. He had to shout to make himself heard over the pandemonium caused by recent events. He tried to sound calm but even as he heard his own words he knew that he didn’t do a very good job of it.

”All right you lot, shut the fuck up! Sound off one at a time if you’re O.K.”
The thing was that the person who’d made that noise was definitely not O.K., in fact the person who had made that noise was probably already dead.
“Bomb-Aimer, O.K Skipper” Mitchy sounded quite startled by definitely alive.
“Mid-Upper Gunner Ok” “Radio-operator alright sur.” Both spoke at the same time, their voices garbling over the circuit, but both somehow remaining recognisable.
“Navigator – it wasn’t me Skipper, I’m alright” Pruett sounded aggrieved, probably shocked into making a mistake in his sums. Silence; well aside from the all – encompassing roar of the engines.
“Co-pilot, I’m fine too.” It’d have been funny if it wasn’t strict procedure. Staples was sitting next to him , their opposing biceps inches apart. Surely if Staples had been the source of that scream he would have known? Would have heard it above the engines? On the other hand, perhaps not. He twisted his head as far as it would go to the right without dragging his oxygen mask off his face. Staples had turned toward him too, his masked and goggled face was practically invisible in the gloom, misshapen, insectoid, faint red reflections from the instrument panel adding to an aura of evil. Mullins knew was reflected in his own shape.

The crew was not complete, ”Cookie?”
“Rear Gunner? Did anyone hear Cookie sound off?”
”No Skip; No.” A series of denials and “Mid upper skip. I’ll check on him if you like.”
“Thanks, Les- I know your arse hurts but I’d be happier knowing you were keeping a look-out. Pruett, you’re closest – go and check on Cookie.”
“OK Skip” he didn’t sound happy about it, but he’d be less likely to have an attack of the vapours than Les. Silence, if the roaring and rattling could be called silence.
“Les? Did you see any thing outside that might’ve done it?” That was Staples, pulling rank to chat on the intercom; Mullins said nothing.
J-Jane quivered as she passed through a small patch of turbulence and Mullins felt the airframe flex slightly under his feet.
“Fuck! Shit!”
It was Pruett’s voice and the lack of solid information contained in it was irritating. Given the situation, doubly so.
Mullins, “Fucking What?” Blended with input from everyone else that sound like the arrival of a fox at a duck farm.
“Sorry skipper, I’m up the back, just at the turret, I’m plugged into the port here. I wish I had a fucking light, It’s horrible!”
Mullins was terrified, and judging by the noise, so was everyone else.
“Sal! No lights! Are you fucking mad? You want to attract every Night fighter in Belgium?”
“No Skip – but it’s Cookie. The doors to the turret were open, and he was half out and I think the back of his neck is missing.”
“It’s been shot out?”
“No, the turret looks fine. It’s just; I put my hand – his head…” Pruett made a wet noise in the back of his throat.
Mullins jumped slightly as he remembered that he was not weaving the plane in the sky, felt the plane quiver in sympathy, resettled himself on his profoundly uncomfortable seat, and stomped the port rudder pedal into a comparatively brisk left turn and pulled the control column back into something of a climb. In the excitement it seemed they’d lost nearly five hundred feet of altitude and that was dangerous. The bomber stream they’re part of had an assigned altitude of eighteen thousand feet and altering height and course massively increased the chance of colliding with one of the seven – hundred and-fifty other planes on the same mission. Mullins squinted furtively out the panels of the cockpit bubble and saw nothing except a few faint stars; it seemed that the high grey haze of cloud was clearing. That was good, it meant that they could not be silhouetted on it by searchlights. His mind went back to the minute of the mission with something like relief:
“Navigator, time to target!”
Nothing. “He hasn’t come back yet Skipper, people usually bump into me on the way past.”
That was Les.
“You poor thing. I’ll tell you what, if you’d like to stretch your legs, you can pop back there and tell him to get back to work” Mullins said this with the air of bestowing a great favour.

”Right away mate.” Les didn’t sound thrilled about his new mission and his Australian twang reflected it.
“Don’t call me mate.”
Silence. Apparently “right away” had meant just that.

“He’s not here Skipper.” There was no preamble; it was Les’ voice.
“Whattaya mean? Pruett isn’t there? Could he have fallen out?”

Les was breathing quite hard. ”No; the turret is rotated and the doors are closed, but there’s blood everywhere, so much blood. My feet are sticking to the floor, its trying to pull my flying boots off!” Les was breathing rapidly, starting to come ugly gulps.

“Get a fucking grip Les,” cut in Mitchell’s voice. “Its just fucking blood mate. It can’t hurt you.”

Les breathed in, a big gasping whoop of air and Mullins reflected that people like Mitchy were beyond any price.

“Alright for you, fucker, right up the other end, lying on an escape hatch; there’s something back here that kills people! It killed Cookie, then it killed Pruett and now I think it’s after me!”

“Something? What do you mean Something; you daft cunt?”

Les’ scream stopped suddenly, mid-scream. It sounded as if his intercom wire had been pulled out of its socket.
“Fuck. That didn’t sound good.” Mitch’s normal optimism seemed to have been worn thin.
“Fucking Fuck you’re fucking right! I’m fucking closer to it than you you colonial bastard!” As radio operator, Symthe, a welshman was closest to the rear of the plane his station being just forward of the main spar.
“Smythe! Stop stalling and come up to the cockpit, but before you do have a squid at The Nav stuff and see if you can work out where we are; it’s important.”
“I can tell you that Skipper.” It was Mitch. He was very sure of himself.
“Care to enlighten me?” They were functioning less as a crew and more as a collection of disparate individuals.
“We’re more or less on course for the target about ten miles out.”
“You can see it?”
“Hell yes! Massive fire, one set of marker flares still going down. They’re really catching shit! “ It wasn’t really a giggle, not really.
“Correct course to target.” It was an order.

“Fifteen degrees starboard. We’re a bit low too.” Mullins pressed the right rudder pedal, watched the compass rotate. “O.K. I’ve got her.” Mullins watched a one degree course change further starboard, and a river back to Port.
“There’s a dark patch in the middle of the fires- I’ll try to hit that.”
He’d have his work cut out for him; the thermals from the fires beneath were already making “Jane” jump like a crazy horse, the control column was wild in his hands.
“Wait for it, wait for it,” ‘Jane’ rocked so hard that his head banged hardback on his headrest.

The cockpit was flooded with the light of the orange fires of hell beneath them. Something burst into the cockpit, grabbed at him, faintly, over the noise of the engines. The roar of the fire beneath and the incessant concussion of the bombs, he could hear that it was screaming. It was Smythe; he was evidently crazy, he was waving his large service revolver, pointing it down the narrow companionway towards the rear of the plane, firing twice. Through the thick baffle plates of his headphones the shots were muted, subsumed into the generalised roar of the engines, the bombs and the flak barrage that surrounded them. For a single horrible second the cockpit was incandescently bright as a searchlight passed over them.

Smythe fired again and something black, the size of a dog, that looked like a spider, pounced on him, grabbed his hand and bit all his fingers off. The gun fell to the floor, the port wing fuel tank exploded, and the wing folded in onto itself near the root. The fuselage rotated port longitudinally with terrifying rapidity and Mullins was thrown hard against the canopy.

He awoke several thousand feet lower in freefall to discover that his parachute had been irreparably torn on his progress through the canopy. He landed, long seconds later in the burning ruin of an apartment building, and died instantly on impact.Mitchell’s parachute did open but the immense column of heated air from the fires carried him to the border of the main conflagration where he broke an ankle on landing in a back kitchen garden where he was captured by a detachment of middle- agedVolksturm anti aircraft gunners who took it upon themselves to douse him in diesel fuel and ignite him where he lay. He died when one of them took pity on him and cracked his head with a hoe.

Smythe was still inside the ‘Jane’ when she landed in what had once been a municipal park, travelling at some four hundred miles an hour, at the moment of impact he was struggling to access the bomb-aimer’s escape hatch while fighting with the thing, whatever it was, that had eaten his fingers.

(C) Copyright Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights reserved.

Pavarotti

The most recent in a glut of “famous musician” biopics, “Pavarotti” is the story of Luciano Pavarotti, arguably the most recognisable of the “Three Tenors” and arguably the greatest singer of the twentieth century. A man blessed with a truly supernatural voice. I say blessed because the man in question appears to have been the rarest breed of towering artistic talents. His great voice made everybody happy – his audiences and just as importantly, him.

Make no mistake, this is no “tortured artistic genius” biopic. Pavarotti made no bones about trying to make everyone around him happy. And by and large he seems to have succeeded. In fact through the entire film, I don’t think he ever stopped smiling – except once, while singing “Pagliacci” – which he did so well that in a phrase of notes less than ten seconds long I was moved to cry and feel a great ebullient joy at his talent – both emotions at the same time.

To greater or lesser extent, “music star films” are usually rather sad films. Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” was an undeniably tortured genius who by some quirk of fate, had the knack of using his talent to mutate his personal pain into mass joy. Maria Callas was far from being a happy person. Please don’t ask me for my opinion of Elton John or the film “Rocketman” instead if you want a great experience at the movies, see “Pavarotti”.

Its been a very long time since I’ve seen a film about such a major talent, and since before Pavarotti, there was only Caruso some eighty years earlier, we may have to wait some time and I can only say that whoever they are, I hope the vicissitudes of genetics and life allow them as much happiness as Pavarotti. Highly recommended.

(C) Alex Rieneck, 2019

Hustlers

Hustlers is one of those films that seems to have “pricked” a nerve. (Hee hee)
On one Hand (! The makers seem to have bent over backwards!) to make their film based on the New York Magazine article as fair as possible, but of course controversy has been aroused anyway. With allegations that the film portrays sex workers in an unflattering light, specifically as criminals. Knowing the kind of malignant bilge the the U.S can produce, I went to this film with some trepidation. Happily I was pleasantly surprised; with the sex workers guild have very thin skins or I have a comfortably thick one.
In any event this retired veteran was not offended, instead, I revisited a few long-vanished friends (or their stereotyped acted equivalents anyway). There is the altruistically minded girl who is working the industry only to earn enough to keep her grandmother alive, not to mention feeding her cute child because the “straight” job market is (as always) nastily rigged against people who actually need a job. The choice for those in dire straits is, as always, crime or sex work. In my experience, this means that most, but by no means all, sex workers are honest decent people interested in doing only what they have to do (no matter how distasteful) to keep up their side of the employment contract. On the other hand, while working I have seen disgruntled workers steal and cheat and as a customer I have been robbed and cheated. (One of each – once in Sydney, once in London). Having done the work myself, I found it hard to hold a grudge.
“Hustlers” is a bit vanilla, the characters are not out-and-out prostitutes (or should that be ‘In-and- out’ prostitutes?) Instead they are strippers and lap and pole dancers, but of course for Bible Belt USA these girls (and this film are the sexist double standard personified. Each and every girl is pure US porn -industry sex droid, siliconed and plasticised to the point of inhumanity; It is to the actor’s credit that their ability brings their personalities to the fore, making the “real” people as opposed to cookie-cut tits-& ass paraded and jiggled for our delectation, before our hypocritical censure and contrition. “Hustlers” makes great use of its stars; pole dancing crotch shots abound and the last frame is pure black with stark white text listing the length of the prison sentence doled out to one woman. Itsdifficult to understand when it seems to me that a fairer sentence would have been a spanking for the male “victim”- although that is very likely to be another ugly double standard creeping its way out of the subconscious. “Hustlers is a good, thought-provoking film about a minefield of knee-jerk reactions. It handles itself adroitly and with moments of real panache. Recommended.

(C) Copyright Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved

Ad Astra review

I would have thought it was almost impossible for me to dislike a film so much influenced by “2001:A Space Odyssey,” but “Ad Astra” managed it. Indeed, while “Ad Astra could contains so many visual references to “001” that it could almost be described as fan fiction; However, For the purist, “Ad Astra is “2001” but written by Robert Heinlein when he was drunker than usual-but the early, pre”stranger in a Strange land” writer. “Ad Astra” is rather like watching a film of say “Space Family Stone”, without the cute kids, with a big ladleful of Clarkian bombast mistakenly stirred into the soup tp Spice things up” The “tourist arrival on the moon scene from 2001 is repeated with a modern slant, but perhaps just slightly less biting Kubrickian satire Almost before you can credit it, the film stops being Kubrick , and starts channeling one of the more idiotic scenes in “Moon Zero 2”(“The first space Western”) a sub-standard sci-fi action film from Hammer(1969); A film which shows a similar contempt for scientific realism and commonsense.”Moon zero2 has Catherie Schell in a skin-tight brown leotard. “Ad Astra has Brad Pitt, and enough of the cast of “Space Cowboys” for it almost to be possible to consider it to be a sequel to that film.(And jeez but I like Donald Sutherland!)

I hope I’m getting the point across here; “Ad Astra” keeps referencing “2001” and demanding to be seen as period science fiction, while rocket engines roar in the vacuum of space, just before the moon-buggy car chase and gunfight Brad Pitt hiJacks a rocket at takeoff with it still being quite unclear to me exactly how he does it. He’s the only one inside wearing a spacesuit which is lucky for him because this is an American space rocket & some batshit crazy are member has a gun.

The quick review:”Ad Astra is shit. Kinda fun but too schizophrenic to be able to be laughed at all the way through with an entirely clear conscience. Like- I’m sure there’s worse stuff around

Mac Blog

It is a rule generally acknowledged, yet rarely spoken aloud, that Apple is showing no sign of recovering from the passing of Steve Jobs. In fact, I found myself wondering this morning how I’d be coping trying to maintain a stiff upper lip, a sunny disposition and a positive outlook if I was still working for “Australian MacWorld.” 

Back then. I’ll be blunt, shit mostly worked, and Mac Users gave a rip. Not any more. Nowadays my new iPhone Xs has face recognition, which works *probably* 20% as well as the fingerprint system in the iPhone7. I actually miss my old phone. Then, since I’m here, there is simply no fucking way Steve Jobs would have signed off on “Ear” Pods – I put the word “ear” in quotes because the longest those damned gorgeously sculptural objects stayed in my ears was maybe five seconds before they jumped out of my ears like rats jumping out of the portholes of a torpedoed freighter. With a third party add-on, specifically little silicone sleeves that would fit on the ear-pods they would stay in of course, but the silicone things wouldn’t fit into the iPod charging case and would immediately clutter up anywhere they were likely to be kept. They weren’t cheap and they got lost as often as the ear-pods themselves. Simply put *ear-pods* looked really great and technically worked well but when they wouldn’t stay in my ears they were useless.

Next there is fucking integration. Back in Steve Jobs’ day iTunes probably wasn’t anybody’s favourite program but at least the bastard thing worked. Then Apple decided to ‘copy’ Spotify and invented Apple Music and instead of treating the subscription service as a separate application, it was bolted into iTunes which makes it very difficult to tell where the stuff you have purchased (from the iTunes store) for actual money is and you repeatedly find yourself railroaded into buying it again from the iTunes store or pushed into Apple Music. It is a bit like trying to get an intelligent conversation out of a Salvation Army band. A simple idea had been turned into an unwieldly shamozzle for reasons of greed. 

Don’t get me started on fucking iBooks, what in the name of god have they done with that? First they squeezed book purchases into iTunes. Now they have even rendered getting the books you have already purchased just about impossible. You purchase an audiobook from the store and then when you go looking for it you can’t find it.  Click the link ‘AudioBooks” and you are back at the store.  It taken me weeks to figure out that the audiobooks I have downloaded are hidden under the ‘Collections’ menu at the top of the Library page (took a while to see that tiny arrow on the right and wonder what it was – thought the collection in question was the one listed below the word). This part of the library seems to have been organised by a wall-eyed schizophrenic. 

Jack-In-The-Box

Jack in the Box

There was no question of it, Mr Blenkinsop was irritated. He was still out of breath from the effort it had taken him to get to the park and in his overcoat on a warm morning too; and now disappointment had taken its toll on his usual enthusiasm in spite of the fine weather.

He’d taken a number 47 bus from the city to the small group of shops near the park entrance, intending to fortify himself with a mug of sweet tea and a raisin bun, but the Cafe had been closed for some sort of work involving cement dust and a lot of loud noise, so he’d gone next door to the only place that was open, a horrible American franchise convenience store where he’d purchased a “fruit bun” in an airtight plastic bag and a cup of scalding watery tea in a styrofoam receptacle from a machine operated by a thin-lipped, very dark Indian man who seemed to be hairy in unexpected places.

It was a comparatively short distance from the shops to the entrance of the park, but it was uphill and the sun was hot. By the time he passed the sandstone columns that marked the gate he was hot, out of breath and slimy with sweat inside his clothes. Still he almost jog-trotted along in the sun painfully aware that the afternoon was passing and that he would miss the sweet spot of “rush hour” in the park, and, of course the all-important main event. As a last gasp, the path curved and climbed up and past the Men’s toilets near the fence next to the main road. He hoped they were empty, Mr Blenkinsop tromped past the bed of flowering yellow (Tulips) without glancing at them. His eyes remained fixed on the toilet block ahead. So far it seemed deserted. This was good. Sometimes homosexual men met there and huddled conspiratorially at the urinals, darting suspicious looks at him that made him uncomfortable, worse than that sometimes one (or more) of them would have taken possession of one of the toilet cubicles in which case they would probably be producing noises too unappetising to be easily ignored. The toilets appeared to be empty, except for one young man at the urinal busily engaged in shaking off any remaining droplets of urine that might adhere his penis. Judging by the energy that appeared to be required, it seemed that the young man pissed glue.

The young man looked over his shoulder at Mr Blenkinsop, and instantly recoiled at the look that was returned to him; put his penis away, pulled the chain to flush the urinal and took care not to brush against Mr. Blenkinsop on his way out of the toilets. For his part Mr Blenkinsop recoiled slightly and pressed against the door post to allow more space for his passage. The young man padded down the sunny concrete steps and away down the bitumen path towards the thick shrubbery so popular with those of his kind.

The toilets were empty! Almost running, Blenkinsop crossed the floor and pirhouhretted into the first cubicle, easing the door shut behind him to avoid the sound of a slam that might announce his presence to representatives of oppressive authority who might be lurking outside, avidly listening at the ventilation holes in the pale brick walls. It was typical, the sequence of movements, so swiftly rehearsed in his mind as he crossed the floor, resulted in the knuckle of his left forefinger being caught sharply between the door and the jamb. He hissed in pain, rescued his finger and sucked at the injured knuckle only stopping when the pain had abated enough for him to gather his wits and reflect on the Freudian symbology of his activity. Wincing at the pain in his finger, he started adjusting his clothes. First he removed his belt allowing his loose poly cotton trousers to drop into a pool around his ankles. Then, fingers quivering, he hooked the black suspender belt around his waist, feeling a flash of self satisfaction that, despite his odd diet and lack of exercise, he still had a slim and girlish figure, unlike Kate, who had seemed to balloon in size almostby the day since their marriage. How like mother Kate was becoming! Even her voice was developing an all-too-familiar rasp; perhaps the snoring had damaged her in some way. He pushed the thought from his mind, gave his naked cock and balls an affectionate squeeze and sat on the toilet suppressing a flush of disgust at the feeling of his trench coat forming a layer between his naked arse and the toilet. Hereached down for his trousers draped them across his knees, took the dressmakers scissors that Kate would never miss because she never used them, and surprisingly swiftly cut both legs off the trousers at mid-thigh level. This action left him with a pair of frayed cuff shorts that any young freak would be happy to wear while skateboarding down the High Street, and two fabric tubes each of which had once been a trouser-leg. He pulled the right tube up his right leg and then fastened it in place with the clips of the suspender belt. It was quite easy, the fabric was quite thin and accomodating and he only had to cut one “buttonhole” with the scissors. When he had done both legs, he stood and was gratified to see that the cuffs of both “legs” draped convincingly over the tops of his beige loafers.

He was already starting to become erect in anticipation.

His original plan – the one he had lain in bed and thought up night after night as Kate practised her sleep apnoea in her sunken into a hammock bed in the next room, keeping him awake through two doors – had been that he’d stake out a spot in the “homosexual shrubbery” since it had seemed safe enough when viewed at a distance through the lens of his imagination, but now that it lay the in stark focus in front of him, definitely containing at least one amorous homosexual, the idea filled him with trepidation that seemed to be insurmountable. How like Mother Kate was becoming! Even her voice was developing the same rasp! The familiar thought made him huddle in its headlights

He looked around, ravening for another diversion before the main event. There. Ten metres from where he stood, on the edge of the grass beside the path to the side of the path, stood a group of four bright plastic litter bins prominently labelled with the kind of trash that was supposed to be deposited in them. As usual throughout the park the bins were full to overflowing despite the fact that the “bin-Chicken” birds had done their best to empty them onto the ground, eating that which appealed to them and shitting on the rest preparatory to emitting large numbers of foul smelling lice-infested, yellow-grey feathers as they flew off to repeat their activities at the next overflowing bin.

Mr Blenkinsop to scuttled to the bins at a nonchalant trot that was almost an all out sprint, feeling the silky lining of his trench coat rub on his naked loins. The sensation drove him mad with an emotion that was far beyond simple arousal. He squatted behind the bins so that they formed a wall between him and the path. The spilled rubbish stank. It seemed as if a barbecue chicken was rotting under the piles of rancid sugary drink cans, bird shit and feathers. Away to his left, in the park, he heard approaching footsteps and low voices. He rose slightly and peeked down the path through a triangular chink between a twisted can that had contained orange drink and a Pizza box. A fly politely moved to allow him to see a young mother, a bundle of joy and a little princess in a fairy dress heading along the path toward him. The princess carried a pinwheel which she swiped through the air to make the propellors twinkle. Her mother beamed maternally at her princess.

It was all Mr.Blenkinsop could do to restrain himself from springing his trap just then, but his predatory instinct restrained him -let the tension mount! To pass the fateful last seconds of this phase of his evolution, he masturbated. It was all he could do not to orgasm, to slow himself down, he thought of the gangrenous spree on his mother’s feet. Rubbing the ointment in after school hadn’t helped, the diabetes had killed her anyway.

Closer. Another fly flew into his peeking hole and busied itself with the syrupy dregs of orange drink. Its activities in the can were surprisingly loud. The sun beat down, almost hot today after three days of drizzle. In a moment of silence from the can he caught the little girls voice, ”Are you sure we’ll see them Mum?”
“I think so sweetie, they aren’t due for 30 minutes and the crowds don’t seem too thick.”
The Princess nodded, she seemed satisfied with this answer.
Wait for it, wait for it..
“*AVENGER!!” * “
Mr Blenkinsop burst from behind the bins as the little family passed, less than three metres away, his trench coat was held wide open and his turgid manhood bobbed like an arrow that had just found its mark.
The woman levitated approximately half a metre in the air and screamed. When she landed the high heel of her white sandal turned underneath her and she fell in a tangle of legs to the bitumen path. Mr Blenkinsop wallowed in his unimpeded view of the crotch of her white cotton knickers.
“What the Fucking fuck do you think you’re fucking doing you Fuckwit?” The young mother screamed at the Avenger – who was prepared to make allowances – the woman was obviously hysterical.
The tiny princess took over she had a voice like a bandsaw cutting clock springs
“Yeah! Ya fucking pervert. Fuck off or I’ll call the cops!- There’s a car just there!” She pointed up the rise to the steel bar fence that separated the park from the road.

The Avenger saw the crowds had thickened and some incurious faces were indeed turned their way In the jumble of bodies. He could make out the shape of a police motorbike, leaning against the fence. His resolve wilted. Return to Plan A. He stood up, squared his shoulders and stepped back, turned and mustering as much dignity as he could manage, walked up the path towards the Park Gate and the crowds gathered at the road. The crowds were thinner at the back and it was still early.

It was easy to sidle through the crowd until it thickened up and became more truculent about two metres from the kerb, but he managed to insert himself through the throng, suppressing shivers of disgust at bodily contact until he had completey crossed the broad nature strip and balanced on the concrete kerb between a thin woman with remarkable halitosis and dry, brittle, red hair tied back in a simple ponytail and on his left, a man in his thirties, who gave the impression of having taken the afternoon off work on the pretext of an appointment with his cardiologist and who fumbled with a large camera that seemed very new. From where he stood Mr Blenkinsop was elevated perhaps twenty centimetres higher than the crowd in front of him which completely filled the left hand of four lanes of road, up to the barriers that kept the cordoned off the lanes that the motorcade would use.

Mr Blenkinsop was infuriated. While the view he was furnished with was very fine for a normal parade participant he was anything but that, and the fact that he was functionally invisible from the front from the chest down was a problem that required immediate remediation. Time passed. To confirm this, many people in the crowd consulted their portable timepieces, of whatever type. As the magic time approached, the level of excitement increased palpably. Children cried and were duly shushed, old people complained and sheltered under souvenir copies of the newspaper. Here and there they collapsed out of the hot sun into the shade and comparative cool between the crowds legs. One older man collapsed midway between Mr Blenkinsop and the crowd barrier. The surface of heads adjusted themselves like a lake accepting the arrival of a thrown rock. After several minutes a paramedic arrived and removed the owner of a sunburnt bald head who should have worn a hat. The lake adjusted itself to this too, and by some amazing chance Mr Blenkinsop found himself pushed and swirled by the current until he stood in the very front row of the crowd only slightly flustered, waiting for nothing to stand between him and his moment of transfiguration.

Away to his right, the crowd was roaring. The volume was growing as the wave rolled down the street toward him, as fast as a horse could trot. Around him the crowd became animate, making spasmodic movements that accomplished nothing. People put bags down to rest their hands, other people picked up bags to protect the bags from the blind feet of the crows. Phones were held aloft like periscopes and then lowered and re-pocketed when it was agreed that, despite the noise, there was nothing to see yet aside from a forest of arms holding mobile phones. Mr Blenkinsop swayed slightly on his perch on the kerb, fixated on a highway patrolman who seemed to consider the niceness of the day and the festival atmosphere as some kind of personal insult, his gimlet eyes mowed down the front row of the crowd. The cold blue-grey eyes stopped. Mr Blenkinsop quailed inwardly but the Avenger stood firm.

A young child, a boy of at most four or five forced himself through the narrow space between Mr Blenkinsop’s right leg and the scrawny buck-toothed woman next to him. The child ducked under the crowd barrier and out into the parade route where he stopped in the middle of the deserted asphalt and looked up the street in the direction of the approaching parade. After a second he used the flat of his right hand to shade his eyes, a second after that his hand magically transformed itself into a telescope into which he squinted. A further second passed, he shouted “Mum! I think I can see them!” At the same moment that his mother shouted “Joshua come back here, where its safe!” A bare split second before the patrolman started walking towards little Joshua and saying, “Get back with your mother, kid, you aren’t allowed on the road.” His eyes flicked off Joshua and back onto Mr. Blenkinsop but the momentary distraction seemed to have sapped them of suspicion and rendered them bland. “Go-on kid, your mother’s waiting” his voice had become kinder, placatory, to still the tears and probable hysterics that seemed likely.

The wave of crowd-roar topped the hill to the right Mr.Blenkinsop and grew suddenly louder. In sympathy, the crowd around him grew more excited, more animated – the periscope phones and a man within metres of Blenkinsop wearing a black baseball cap embroidered with the word “Ford” told his very pale and very sunburnt wife, “ I can see them, they just topped the rise!”
She replied; ”plenty of time left then.”
Laying the workings of their relationship open to anyone who could be bothered observing.

The excitement in the crowd increased, manifesting itself in a large number of isolated movements that resulted in a general pressing forward of the herd. Mr Blenkinsop was spared most of the forward motion and managed to precariously maintain his perch on the kerb, but many didn’t, stepping down into the gutter but keeping their position there, heeding the warning shouts of the police. It was a dangerous moment. Had anyone actually fallen they would most likely have been trampled by the crush of people, a possibility everyone, especially the Police, seemed aware of.

Mr. Blenkinsop could see them now, less than fifty metres away, six huge white horses, each arrayed with a white feather plume, pulling an ornate white, four-wheel open-top carriage of pearlescent wood and gold rococo trim. The coachman in a white satin tailcoat and shining white top-hat; all elements together combining into a vision of profound opulence and unattainable fairytale splendour, and reclining inside the vision, in each other’s arms, the bride and groom. The only way that the crowd could deal with the excitement the vision caused in them was to cheer, ecstatically. The red head mother of Joshua rather lacking in inspiration shouted repeatedly “Best wishes to the bride and groom”, repeatedly and each time she did it, she threw a single white long-stemmed rose at the objects of her affection, like a dart. The man in the “Ford” cap shouted “Huzzah” repeatedly until his face was doubly red from sunburn and exertion. His wife stayed mostly silent except for a thin reedy squeal not unlike an over-filled kettle reaching the boil.

The Avenger revealed himself at the moment the carriage was parallel. His rampant power throbbed, ready to explode of its own accord. Joshua looked up then looked away. The young bride was gently kissing her new husband who, as luck would have it, was facing away from the Avenger. The bride’s bright blue right eye singled The Avenger out of the crowd, gazed like a cornered deer into his blazing eyes, and glanced down at his full glory, gave a single great guttural guffaw directly into her husband’s face; and pointed.
As long as the crowd remained ignorant of his true identity, he was safe enough.

(C) Alex Rieneck, 2019

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Right off the top, for clarities sake – I’ve never been a fan of Quentin Tarantino. I saw “Pulp Fiction” within the first couple of days of its release and I’m forever grateful for being introduced to Amanda Plummer (“Honey Bunny”) but overall the film didn’t really bang my bongos and the endless hosannas of the fan club went quite some way towards properly alienating me, to the point that I missed or avoided a lot which followed. And since you ask, I hated “Resevoir Dogs”. I found it to be sadistic, malicious, and simply violence porn. I felt the same way about “Inglorious Basterds” – the long scene of a captive German waiting to be murdered made me really angry. I never saw the end of that one.

I have no idea why I was at the first session, opening day for this effort, but I was – and to quote “Oddball” in “Kelly’s Heroes” the film is ultimately some kind of “weird sandwich” – but a tasty one, and one that is interesting to examine the workings of, because ultimately “Hollywood” does work, and work well, but for the majority of its running length it is rather like listening to someone trying to start a fucked tank engine – occasional moments of hope when the bloody thing actually works and long periods of embarrassed forbearance listening to the starter-motor grinding away and the driver swearing until finally the thing bursts into respectable life and drives off, up the driveway into the night and unexpectedly pleasant memory-land. In my case anyway, it completely redeems itself in the last minute or so of running time.

This is no mean feat. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is pretty easy going, and it is not short either being 161 minutes long; but while those desperate for a blizzard of action may be disappointed, it is worth pointing out too, that prior knowledge and understanding of the Manson “Family” and their activities and subsequent place in the American subconscious is essential for any real appreciation of this film. And before you scoff and say that “everyone would have to know of them”; I have been asked by quite a few people (all born since 1990) whether they would like this film – they had no idea at all. Neither did my carer who saw it with me, she didn’t like it and was illuminated by my explanation in the foyer after the film had finished.

“Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” fits squarely in Quentin Tarantino’s mini-genre of what could probably best be called “shallow alternative histories”, where the stupider possibilities of alternative history are considered. Unlike Len Deighton’s “SS-GB” which examined the long term effects on Britain of a loss to Nazi Germany, or Phillip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”, examining the U.S after a loss to Japan. Tarantino has never run much deeper than the Goodies arriving at a crux point in history, with guns, and slaughtering all the “Nazi Rat-Fuck Bastards” that need Slaughtering. His interest in history goes little deeper than getting to watch Hitler’s body writhing under the impact of a magazine’s worth of machine-gun bullets in gory, pornographic slow motion. Strictly primary school masturbation material, which of course finds rich fertile soil in the hearts and minds of the American Gun-Nut brigade, and the hearts and minds of people who rather like the idea if Hitler being turned into cat food with a machine gun. Of course that happens at the end of “Inglorious Basterds”.

In “Once upon a Time in Hollywood” there is no Hitler, instead Tarantino takes on the Manson “Family” who quite arguably did more damage to the US than Hitler ever did. Tarantino’s intercession of good into that fateful night is more sure, more mature than “Inglorious Basterds” and altogether more worth seeing. I found that it lost a fair bit of its excitement and shock value on a second viewing three days after the first, but if anything I found it to be a more worthwhile matter film than anything Tarantino has done before. In fact I found the absolute ending, including Sharon Tate’s last words to be more heart-rending and poetic than I had the first time. A fitting death knell to the joyous innocence of the 1960’s.

Recommended.
( If you know the story of Charles Manson)