HEP – Short Echoes 5 – Hard Time by B.T. Joy

Hard Time 

by B.T. Joy

He closes his eyes. The light flashes. 

Somewhere west. Wyoming. Montana. Little Hallmark across the street. Hanging lilacs. Next door along. A picture house showing the matinees. His eyes, getting old, can’t see the listings. 

May as well cross. Look what’s on. Halfway over. An Asian guy in an immaculate suit passes. He feels the familiar repulsive burn of electric between them. The Asian guy thinks they’ve brushed bodies and makes something of it. 

“Hey fella! Watch where you’re going, huh!?”

He doesn’t respond. 

You’re wondering how he can be so calm? It wasn’t always that way. Not always that way at all. 
His shuddering feet reach the other curb like tiny boats coming into shore and he shuffles to the doors of the picture house. He doesn’t have time to watch the movies. He’ll never have time to watch a full movie again. But sometimes he likes to read the advertisements. 

Schindler’s List. Jurassic Park. Sleepless in Seattle.

Must be the early 90s now. Christ the world was getting old. 

He closes his eyes. The light flashes. 

Sidewalk bench. Sitting. Early morning and no folk around. The Deep South by the look of the trees all shining in the muggy wind and the French Colonial facades, blue and peach, that line the good-sides of the streets like Hollywood sets of pinewood and plaster. 1970, by the cars.  

But what were you asking? Oh, yes, so calm. 

He wasn’t always so calm. It wasn’t always that way. For the first ten years he’d run around from place to place- from time to time- like a devil on speed. Trying to grab at people. Shouting. Screaming his name. 

Saying he was lost and he wanted to go home now. 

Nothing ever changed. He couldn’t make anything change at any rate.   

Nothing ever stayed the same long enough for anyone to understand. 

He looks down at his hands. Resting on his legs that rest on that little sky-blue bench in Louisiana or Mississippi; or wherever the fuck he is. Old hands. With delves deep as canyons and the little lilac rivers of veins rushing everywhere; eroding the skin. 

So old. Getting so… so… old. 

He closes his eyes. The light flashes.

Chase Field. On the grass. Fuck. Chase Field again. On the grass. Strewn with shirtless bodies, old and young. Brown porpoises lolling in the Phoenix summer. Pittsburgh Pirates win. Arizona Diamondbacks lose. Ten runs to three. 

He sits on the wall. The lawn is emptying. Gingham. Striped. Checker. Tartan. Calico. White. The blankets are being skinned from the lawn. Folded between semi-naked bodies glossed with sweat. The grass is littered with cartons and discarded chili-dogs. The march is being played. 

Not again. Not again with the fucking march. Must times be recycled. Isn’t it bad enough. Isn’t it torture enough. Isn’t it hell enough. 

The march. The march. The triumphant peppy march. Pittsburgh Pirates win. Arizona Diamondbacks lose. Ten runs to three.

The people are swarming like a chain of coffee-coloured ants. They bear insufferably close. The repulsive electric stabs at him. A thousand stinging tentacles. 

He falls off the wall and wails when he hits the earth. Mothers pull their children into shawls of towels and blankets. 

“Just a drunk.” They whisper to each other. 

From the flat of his back he stares up at the painful Arizona sun. 

He closes his eyes. The light flashes.

Dark place. Perhaps by the sea. Because he can hear it lolling on the shore. Cooler night. Still on his back. Faint wisps of air up there. In all that blackness. Faint green. Radiation green. Perhaps it’s thicker than it looks because there are no stars. 

But the sea. The sea out there. In the dark. Still lolling on the shore. 

What were you asking? 



Calm now. Calm now. Like the sea. Like the sea. Out there. In the dark. Still lolling on the shore. 
Not always like this. Not at all always like this. Ran frantic once. Devil on speed. Grab people. Shout. Scream name. 

Lost. Lost. Lost.  

Want to go home!  

Want to go home!

Sea now. Dark. Lolling on shore. 

What were you asking? 


Does he remember? 

Of course he remembers. 

Who could forget? Done with her. Blood on privates. Hers. His. Jimmy’s. Jimmy’s knife. Pulled it out. No. Put it back. Pulled it out. More blood. Throat this time. Not from below. Not from where they’d forced themselves inside. 

Throat this time. Welling up. Red. Like the sea. In the dark. Lolling on the shore. Tongue lolling. On the grass. Sea on the shore. Tongue on the grass. Lolling. Lolling. 

He closes his eyes. The light flashes.

Chase Field. On the grass. Fuck. Chase Field again. On the grass. Old and young. Brown porpoises. Lolling. Lolling. Lolling. Pittsburgh Pirates win. Arizona Diamondbacks lose. Ten runs to three. 

He sits on the wall. Gingham. Striped. Checker. Tartan. Calico. White. Red. Like the sea. Welling up. Lolling. Lolling. Blankets. Skinned from the lawn. Not again. Not again. Fucking march. Recycled. Bad enough. Torture enough. Hell enough. 

The march. The march. Pittsburgh Pirates. Arizona Diamondbacks. Ten runs to three.

Swarming ants. Insufferably close. The repulsive electric.

He falls. 

Mothers pull children. 

“Just a drunk.”

“Just a drunk.”  

  Painful Arizona sun.

He closes his eyes. The light flashes. 

No. No. 

Interstate 44. Lebanon. Missouri. June 14th. Cover of cypress trees. Old Harley store closed for business. Almost transparent moon. Dark clouds and gold-dust of dawn. 

No. No. No.  

He looks to the trees. To the murmuring sounds not leaves but men are making under the anonymity of shade. No. Old now. Weak now. No. 

In the dark a hand. His hand. Her mouth. His jeans. Her blood. Jimmy puts back his cock. Pulls out his knife. 

She dies. And here, they didn’t know, they knew too well, folk are placed in pods of iron; and fed to eternity. 

He closes is eyes. The light flashes. 

B.T. Joy is a Glaswegian poet who currently lives in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, where he teaches High School English. Between 2006 and 2009 he lived in London where he studied and mentored at London Metropolitan University; gaining a First Class Honours degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies. Since then he has had poetry and fiction published in American, Australian, Irish, Japanese, Hongkongese and British magazines, journals and anthologies. In 2012 he was nominated for The Ravenglass Poetry Press Competition; judged by the Dundonian poet Don Paterson. B.T. Joy’s website can be accessed via the following link: http://btj0005uk.wix.com/btjoypoet 

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