My BMX friends carve summer into a WD40 smell. The spray can fix anything. I start using deodorant. I don’t have a BMX, I just use the smallest bike in our garage.
We hang at a park every evening. One time, a girl on a swing asks why I keep one of my eyes closed. I tell her it’s because of her face, when really, it’s because the sun is falling at the wrong angle. She doesn’t talk to me again, until she remembers I’m the boy who threw up through my trumpet in assembly in Year 4.
We get rusty from talking about kissing too much, stop at Steve’s for a can. We sit on the driveway, imagining ourselves in years to come, clad in motorbike leather. Steve’s younger brother calls me a faggot for having lights on my bike as he zips past us. The other’s laugh. I shrug. My eyesight’s not great at night.
On my way home, I find him curled in his inner tube, bike spokes where his voice box should be. I don’t have WD40 on me. I tell the ambulance driver this as the blue lights filter in. Paramedic says the spray wouldn’t fix anything and once he’s happy I didn’t see anything, he tells me to go. I place my bike lights in the boy’s hands so he can get home too.
‘Please speak clearly.’
‘Hello. How can we be of assistance?’
‘I need to pay for parking.’
‘Please repeat your registration number into the phone.’
‘We need words, sir.’
‘But I gave you the letters?’
‘Letters make words.’
‘So… you need words?’
‘Words containing letters, yes.’
‘We don’t understand your accent, sir.’
‘I don’t have an accent.’
‘Your accent is the problem, sir.’
‘How is saying more going to help then?’
‘IT IS A WORD. HY07LHT!’
‘Wrong spelling, sir. Please repeat.
*various stifled screams and hitting sounds*
‘FINE. Hiroshima… Yankee… Zero… Seven… Lambourghini… Hitler.’
‘Thank you, sir. Your registration plate is H…Y…Z…S…L…H…T, correct?’
‘Wrong. It’s HY07LHT.’
‘I said Zero for 0 and Seven for 7.’
‘Zero and Seven are words, sir.’
‘I KNOW! You asked for words.’
‘But you just gave us numbers, sir.’
*muffled screams as phone is placed in pocket*
‘Sir? Sir? Can we assist at all, sir?
‘Hi. Forget it. I missed my train. I want to register a complaint.’
‘Absolutely, sir. In order to be directed to the Complaints Department, please repeat the word ‘complaint’ into your phone.’
‘Apologies, sir. We can’t understand your accent. Please try again.’
The first major step I took in my career as a writer (other than choosing Creative Writing as a degree) was starting up a flash fiction blog with some of my fellow writers at university. We became The Flashnificents, a collective who tackled a new prompt every week to write stories under that theme. We have been doing this for two and a half years! Every story can be found here: http://theflashnificents.tumblr.com/
Our initial inspiration came from one of the fathers of flash fiction writing, Calum Kerr, who was a lecturer on my course and a leading writer in the growing genre. He has coordinated every National Flash Fiction Day after he developed the idea three years ago. Now, as Director of NFFD, he is responsible for publishing two anthologies of flash fiction that celebrate the talents of all writers engaged with this form.
Next week, I will be performing alongside some of my poetry heroes and friends at Glastonbury, Poetry&Words Stage. I’m currently gathering my words and camping equipment for the welly-clad stumblers on poetry pilgrimages. If you are at the festival and want to catch my set, I will be performing on the Friday at 14:05 and on the Sunday at 12:00. I can’t wait to get there and share the festival with everyone!
A video of my performance of ‘Catching Hand’ at University Winchester during a showcase of my work to a group of Third Year Creative Writing students. Thanks to Ian Roberts for posting/administrative support over my degree and to Rob Hicks for filming/editing.