“My step father grew up in Warrington, he joined the British Army. A way out. Northern Ireland. He married my mother. In Bletchley, we went to the swimming pool. Hot chocolate, in the plastic cup, from the machine. I’ll give you a pound if you go down the slide he said. In London, in the homeless hostel, a sip from his beer. Play Your Cards Right on the telly. Twisting his moustache and flexing his biceps, playing Mormon hypnotism, on Mondays, in Milton Keynes. In America, wilderness survival. Black powder rifles and shotguns. Then, snowed in. In the sleeping bag, hypothermia. Awkward bonding. I do not know how to hammer. When I worked construction, I could not find the stud. I am not a man. I am not a woman. Yet here we are. Father and son.”
From The Autobiography of Don Whiskers. My novel in progress. This except, “On Fathers,” published at European Review of Poetry, Books, and Culture.
You can read it over here:
Las Vegas, 1985, maybe August. I am a newly arrived immigrant in the United States of America. First Vallejo in a trailer park and then Las Vegas. Also, from a few years previously, a new religion, Mormonism.
I was almost 12. On the border of puberty with a funny accent from Northern Ireland. Do you want to see the strip, asked my mum. I didn’t know the strip but it was obviously something exciting. My stepdad drove the car, a secondhand Nova donated to us by the Mormon church, to the strip. Needless to say it was buzzing. I was saturated with eye candy. Las Vegas, on the strip, was hyper sexual. It is one of the sin cities in history. Maybe the premiere sin cities. Circus Circus was my favourite. We ate a very large American buffet. It was cheap, and even cheaper for us since we were Mormon. They wouldn’t make the money back from the slots. We just came for the steak. And also, sometimes, the eggs. American steak and eggs. And then a toothpick afterwards.
In the new Mormon church, everyone was brother and sister. A nice thought. But no one got our new surname right. So my mother was sister sleeze. Instead of Slease. Slease is pronounced like a leasing a car and adding an s. We got the new name when my remarried a British solider in Northern Ireland (and part of the reason for leaving the country). No one knows where the surname comes from. I have felt alienated from it. But also, it’s my name. Your name is the first fiction. Is everything a story? Maybe almost everything.
Here is a story. It is from my book Play Yr Kardz Right:
Play Yr Kardz Right is now available from Dostoyevsky Wannabe: https://dostoyevskywannabe.com/original/play_yr_kardz_right
The opening, for now, of The Autobiography of Don Whiskers.
My novel in progress (partly a memoir).
It begins in Northern Ireland and then moves to Milton Keynes, England.
And then a trailer park in Vallejo, California.
Don Whiskers is the main character.
Have a poem in Best British Poetry 2015. Inspired by Alan Watts and the earth. It’s called “The Underground.” Originally published in Lighthouse magazine.
Thanks Emily Berry.
A short excerpt From my recently finished novel NEVER MIND THE BEASTS. Will be sending it out to publishers/agents soon. Fingers crossed.
Never Mind the Beasts is a 1985 coming-of-age story of Henry, a recent immigrant from Portadown, N. Ireland. Told in the style of vignettes, we move inside the mind of Henry as he attempts to adapt to 1980’s American culture and his new religion of Mormonism. First in a trailer park in Vallejo, California and then in Las Vegas. But the past catches up with him, especially the trauma and delayed PTSD of witnessing a man being blown up by a bomb in his hometown of Portadown, N. Ireland during the height of The Troubles. At age 20, halfway through a Mormon mission, Henry has a breakdown and is diagnosed by a Mormon psychiatrist as having “a touch of schizophrenia.” He returns to a small town in the Utah desert to try again, unsuccessfully, to fit into his new culture and religion. While working with retired lesbian nuns at a bookshop in a small Utah town, he reads world mythology, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and On the Road and decides, like Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, to embark on a quest for a new vision. Accompanied by his imaginary friends Lucy and Anthony, he wanders in the Utah desert and confronts his demons as well as his supposed saviours. Didi, a Polish-American S&M star, a man with craters, and three top notch former Brazilian beauty queen winners try to fix Henry with The Treatment. But a mysterious grey man keeps transporting him into other worlds. Never Mind the Beasts is a story of the power of reconciling with the beasts of our past and allowing imagination, no matter how unconventional, to lead the way towards healing.