The Tale of the Old Man and the Maid

He stumbled into the room, roughly grasping the top of the chair by his well-worn desk and cursing each former lover in his moist and ailing breath, fell into a sorry heap upon the bed, too tired to pull off his boots and too saddened by the decline in his quality of life to remove his glasses.  Nothing, save the frothing fury of the tropical sea rising up and laying salty claim to all the beaches in the land, could save the loss of face that he had endured that day.  For in front of his red-headed daughter, who was buxom, proud and ready to marry the young military captain that had so captured her heart and stained it so openly on his own uniformed arm, he had been stripped of all power, humiliated and whipped like a cowering dog chained to a post in the yard.

The cause of his mistreatment was the maid, who had so blithely started that fateful day as gormless as she had entered this life, the daughter of a whore who had given her up at the first opportunity.  That is not to say that she, the maid, was unaware of the power that her accusation would bring to her master, as she knew from her dilapidated upbringing that the raw power of sexual lust could do strange things to a man’s heart.  It was a memory passed down in blood from her estranged mother, the one who would die empty-handed clutching helplessly at the passing shoes of the sons and daughters of her customers.  It was an ignoble end to a life lived in the shadows, but one that her daughter would not share with her mother, or so she had thought.

Instead she would carry around with her a glowing heart filled at the memories of a holiday romance, a fling that had lit a thousand nights of self-fueled passion spread across the decades following the now hazy memories of a lifetime ago.  These were the glimpses into her past that brought her body and mind onto the edge of so fantastic an experience that she temporarily blinded herself each and every time she accessed them.  Although her current life lacked little in the way of attention from the opposite sex, keeping as she had the plump and youthful looks of her mother, the willingness to partake in the tasting of the flesh was strictly divorced from the cannibalization of her own memories.  In short, it was these that she feasted on instead of the current attention that she attracted and returned to again and again in the silence of the night.

Time passed silently, the moon forever chasing the sun as the weeks leaped into months and the seasons dictated the passing of the years.  By chance work had found her employed as a maid for an owner of a large tract of land, which included numerous rented apartments and holiday villas for tourists that visited this small Caribbean nation alongside the owner’s main housing complex, hidden in a corner behind a curving perimeter wall.  The owner coveted his private life and communicated with both his retinue and his staff by way of paper notes, dotted across the working surfaces of a life he had little known intimately but instead managed from afar.  The practice worked as if by magic though, the newer members of staff at first baffled by the notes left in green ink each morning, documenting the previous day’s stock figures, both incoming and outgoing, and dictating the actions of the next.  The older staff however were well used to this method and blithely accepted whatever the writer of the note wanted, trusting as they did the path ahead as an apparition of the successful path behind.

The persistent rumours of the sightings of the owner were frequent among the staff, with wild recollections of a golden-haired Lothario prowling the grounds at night or that he was actually a hunchback man who had been seen howling at the moon in rage and despair.  Lucinda, the young slip of a girl who worked in the granary, had once caught a slender grey-haired gentlemen helping himself to the kitchen stores but he had pranced off into the night before she had a chance to shout his name.  No sightings were confirmed although that did not stop the rumours being mulled over and created late into the night by the staff at the end of their long shifts; instead the owner preferred always to communicate by his spidery flowing script rather than by sight and sound.

The maid had seen his notes and was taken by the veracity of the green ink on the faded, golden papers.  The twirls of the P’s and the L’s satisfied some small section of her stomach, pleasingly looped as they were.  In time she started to collect a number of the notes once the older ones had been discarded, their actions carried out by the ever observant and trusting staff.  It was late one springs night, in her provided for one bed-roomed cleaners cottage, that the maid noticed the odd word or phrase that silently rung a long-dormant bell within her memory.

Surely the owner could not be the very flame that had burnt for eternity within her chest, ever since that fleeting coastal romance?  She gathered up the dozen or so notes spread across the duvet and held them close to her tight chest, breathing in the vapors of the ink as her pupils dilated and the clothes fell from her body of their own volition.  When she woke she noted the cold sweat of her body, the notes plastered on the inside of her thigh, on top of her belly and her breasts, a love intent on the recreation of the physical and the spiritual.  She knew then that the owner was indeed her former lover.

Some days later a note went up on the main noticeboard: ‘To wit: My Daughter to Marry the Captain, Two Days Hence – Staff Welcome’.

The owner’s daughter was most unlike her father in that she was well-known in the community, haughty but well-known.  Little did she communicate directly with the staff, she was instead seen and not heard.  Two days until the wedding!  Some of the staff, the kitchen women and the mucker outers especially, expressed surprise that they were invited to view the proceedings, but all were excited by the prospect of finally seeing with their own eyes the owner of the land.  Much was made of the brevity of the note in comparison to the usual notes but none could argue that the next 48 hours were to pass in a state of increasing frenzy and intrigue.

Today was the day that she was going to proclaim that this stored fountain of love was directly transferable to the object of her affections, the owner.  In her fevered night-long dreams she could foresee a double marriage taking place, father and daughter pleased and pressed into unions of love, her simple maid’s status raised to the title of owner’s wife!  Oh, what pleasure awaited them both!  Dressing in her finest clothes and smartening up her shoes, she went to join the rest of the workers gathered outside in the courtyard, ready to proceed to the wedding venue – an outdoor folly that took into its expansive view the bay and the mountains in the background and the luscious greens in the foreground.

The crowd waited with bated breath as the procession of the captain and his bride, and assembled groomsmen and bride’s maids of honor, sorted themselves within the folly.  A minute or two later the owner strode into view, each booted foot planted with firm resolution, his tight thin-lipped mouth curled up into the slightest imitation of a sneer, framed by golden-greying hair.  A complete hush fell over the crowd of workers and some swore they could see green ink stains on his fingertips, a visual clue that this was who they suspected that he was.

It was at this moment that the maid, her breasts almost bursting out of her tight white top, lunged forward, one foot unsteadily following the other as a faint scream of ecstasy escaped her lips and the faint light of terror entered the owner’s eyes.

‘Matías!  Matías!  My love, it is me, Natalia!’

It was later recalled it was at this moment that the owner’s heart sunk fully into the very bowels of his body.

What for her had been an unforgettable romance by the sea, had been instead for him a desultory sink in status, one that he had revelled in at the time for its feeling of desperation but had since been forced into the very back of his mind.  Instead, and ever since that long weekend spent entwined in both the arms and breasts of Natalia, he had made love to women only on par with his social standing, determined to remove the grit that he had felt instilled itself in him from sinking so low that one time.

In short, there could be no worse time for his past to haunt the owner then at the very moment he chose to show himself for the first time to his staff at his daughter’s wedding.

His eyes sunk into their sockets, and continued to join his heart, whilst his cheeks became maroon curtains of the richest silk.

He ran and he did not look back as Natalia stumbled onto her knees and tried clasping onto his fleeing heels, just as her mother had once done in the street where she lay dying …

Photograph by the author using a Pentax S1a and Lomography Lady Grey film. If reproduced please credit as appropriate.

Farming the Battleground

Please my feathered friends, take a seat and join me at my table.  I have put out extra plates, cutlery and cups so that we may drink to our health and continued friendship.  It is true that I have partaken in eating your brethren, please let us raise our glasses to your forgone cousins, brothers and sisters, but I shall dare say that if you had the chance to peck at my deceased body you would too, would you not?  Ah ha, a shifting of the eyes and a quick nod of the beak!

But we are not here to debate such a delicate ethical matter are we!  No, no, such matters of the higher order can be cast aside for today, for this is instead a more mundane meeting of the species.  An exchange of information no more and no less.  Please, have another glass of wine, let your fingers wrap around the stem and your nose smell the lush fruit of warmer climes.  Isn’t it funny how our senses can move us so quickly, how our imagination can cast aside reality for the landscapes of our dreams?  Ah good, you are all enjoying the wine!

I am ahead of myself, please forgive me, eat some of the home-baked bread, baked by my wife, no less, just yesterday!  Can you see how moist the crumb is and how it crumbles at the slightest provocation?  It is a most delightful treat when jam has been spread across a thick slice, goes down a cinch with a warm cup of coffee you know!

Yes, yes, we shall have coffees after our main course and after a few more bottles of wine or so.  There is no rush to complete today’s meeting and, as you know, I have already talked to the head raven.  He is fine in realizing the deal that we have, that I shall pass on what I can as and when I come across it.  You know, of course, that this may be some time as the wars of men are fought differently to the battles of survival that we ourselves fight.  Ho!  Those beastly metallic traps clunking across the soil, those wooden fire sticks bursting forth nothing but pain and death . . .  What a world we have inherited, make no mistake!

But still, we can farm our own foods from this mess, we can survive and I believe that we can indeed thrive in this matter.  It will take some tricks, yes it will, but we can do it.

Don’t give me that look old coop master!  I have seen that look before and I have vanquished it too, so be aware of old man Kerensky!  Sure I may lecture you from the pulpit, but I have been on my share of the battlegrounds as and I will again serve my feathered friends whilst the great nations who rule over us become mired in their bog of war!  Now, let me get my maps to show you where I think it is best to hunt for our treasure.

There is life in the old dog yet you know . . .

Dreaming in the Winter

Taking turns to sleep, taking turns to keep watch.  I wonder what my life could have been like if I changed just one of a thousand choices.  Would I still be alive?  Would I be living in a different country?  Would I still be as thankful as I am now for what I have got, or would I be hungry for more, oh so much more.

Taking turns to keep watch, taking turns to sleep.  Does she know just what I’ve done for her, even as I keep scanning the horizon, searching for the ever present threat of a life in the balance.  Would he still be dead?  Would I still be living in this country?  I’ll keep my watch, I’ll keep my silence.

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Photograph by the author using a Pentax Super ME camera and Lomography Lady Grey film. If used elsewhere please credit as appropriate.

The Fly: A Short Story

Peering at it he saw translucent wings that could be seen against the screen which, in turn, were attached to a fat round body with pinprick legs.  Looking more carefully he could just about focus onto the fly’s multi-lensed eyes and searching feeding tube, flickering as it was here and there.  The folded first pair of legs rubbed against each other seemingly in pure joy at the location that it had found itself in.

A flicker of disgust rose in his belly on seeing all of this.

To top it off that incessant buzzing noise was so annoying!

‘Hey there, do you mind not staring at me as I try to feed please!’, politely opined the insect under view.

Jumping back slightly and slowly rocking in his seat Joseph sensed that this was not quite right, flies did not normally respond in such a manner to human inspection.

‘I… well I beg your pardon Mr Fly!  It seems as i you have chose a rather inconsiderate position, upon my computer screen where you currently reside, to settle yourself’, he stammered with half empty lungs still gulping down air in mid shock.

‘Well be that as it may but give me some peace please!  I am more than half way through my life cycle and my weary wings need a rest!’ replied the fly curtly.

‘Also, could you please stop spraying that awful chemical around your house!  You have already killed my brothers and sisters willingly, at least let me give your screen a quick clean’.

At this the fly gently patted his first few limbs against the screen’s surface and shook his head slowly to express his disappointment.

‘Well yes of course, please make yourself at home’.

His default manner in shock was one of prime consideration to his fellow man and, in this instance, insectoid.  If the fly really did make itself at home and start to feed in such a manner flies are known to feed in, well then he felt that he really wouldn’t be able to keep the rising bile contained within his throat and would have to let rip in full bodily disgust.

‘So… how did you come to be able to speak?’, his question contained mild awe at the somewhat deep voice that the fly had spoken in.

‘Well sir, you are really asking but two questions there and I shall have to go into them on a granular level’, counted the fly in reply.

He started to regale the fellow as to how he first noticed he could talk to these upright lumbering beasts…

‘Since my answer is granular on a most profound scale, could I ask of you that you lay out some bread crumbs first so that I may feast before I tell my tale?’

‘Yes, why of course I shall be back in a moment’.

In the kitchen Joseph couldn’t quite believe he was rubbing pieces of bread together to collect a small surfeit of crumbs for his winged guest.  Winged speaking guest no less!  A dab of water was needed to cool his forehead but he did as Mr Fly suggested and brought the crumbs through to the office room and lay them out on a small dish.

Choking back the sickness that had welled in his throat he watched Mr Fly saunter from screen to saucer, hop onto a large crumb and attach his sucker.  Presumably he digested it there and then, but his human audience did not care to look upon this part.

‘Just the ticket!’ squealed the fly in sheer delight.  A small leg pad rubbed his belly and Joseph almost swore he could see a smile on his little insectoid face.  He had to admit he was growing quite accustomed to his winged guest and admired his good behaviour.

‘Thank you Joseph for the food, it is much appreciated.  Now let me start my tale of when I first knew I could speak to you humans…

On a summers day I found myself seeking shade from the blazing sun, we flies can get too hot you know and I could spy a blackbird, a hundred seagulls and more, who were all desperately trying to peck me.  So I flew and I found shade and safety in an office, the door magically opening as I followed a human in.  This human was bald, not like the rest of you haired apes (Yes Joseph, I too know my animals!).

He moved into another smaller room within this office and closed the door, but not before I snuck in and latched upon the wall, resting, tasting.  I could hear him speaking but at first I could not make out the words as to what he was saying.  This was to be expected! Fly speech is very different to human speech, our special buzzes hide all sort of sonorous tones that emit signals for how we are and what we want.  You may hear our buzzes and
think nothing of it but we are speaking Joseph, we are speaking to each other!

I was glad to be on that wall, the pesky bumble bee bastards were buzzing me earlier in the day and getting me agitated.  I knew I had to find a safe and clean place, and what is more sterile than a human office!

As I tuned in a most magical thing happened!  I could understand partly what he was saying.  I caught the odd word as he stared at his face in the mirror world.

I could hear ‘ha ha ha, haha haha haha, haaa haaaa’ and variations within.  Every once and a while the words ‘game plan’, ‘going forward, go-ing forr-wood’, ‘in this instance’ and that most special of words – ‘granular, grain ula, gran-ular’ were spoken a hundred times, each inflection more varied than the last.

I admit it Joseph, that word had a special effect on me.  I could feel the bass notes shivering through my thorax and my wings fluttered in simple delight.  I felt I must try this word, I must speak it myself!’

At this Mr Fly shivered and slumped upon the remaining breadcrumbs and remained quiet.

‘Are you alright Mr Fly?’ ventured Joseph to no apparent reply.

‘Mr Fly… ? Hello… ?’

After what seemed like an eternity Mr Fly shook his wings and re-awoke.  Joseph shook too, but with with thankfulness that his little insectoid friend had not become the late Mr Fly and instead resumed his previous courteous manner.

‘And so, when I had heard those words uttered from this humanoid form I could not help but be bewitched and in turn wanted to utter those words myself,’ he stated having not realised he had momentarily passed out.

‘But.. but how could you?  You do not have the right anatomical equipment to utter such words nor the brain to understand them!’ stammered Joseph, at a loss to explain how this fly had gone from pest to best friend within a matter of some minutes.

‘Well all you see is not what you all get my dear fellow’.

A forelimb wiped gently at his lensed right eye and a quick shake of his wings indicated Mr Fly had something rather further more to say on the matter.

‘I practiced again and again at getting the words just so, how I yearned to emulate my master in the mirror world and utter the word ‘granular’, how beautiful did it sound to my fly ears and how each letter reverberated across my thorax!  You see you humanoids all think that we insects are the same, that we cannot think individually and act instead as a mass of self denial, acknowledging only our queen or basic instincts but this is simply not true!

We lead lives just as you do!  We too have feelings, thoughts, desires and romances, our hearts, little though they are, burst forth with the beauty and decadence of this life as do your best writers, painters and actors, thinkers and do’ers.

But of course we cannot express this – we are entwined with nature in such a way as to be invisible without it whereas you humans, you create whole new worlds of meaning, locked away in sterile isolated buildings full of arbitrary rules and regulations to govern each and every action and reaction.

No, I know of your world but I am not of it.’

Mimicking a courtesy head bow Mr Fly prepared to fly off into that world once more.

‘But wait!  Why mimic human speech?  Why become fascinated by something so much that you emulate it and then cast it aside?’ questioned Joseph, an imploring look plastered across his shrew-like features.

‘Why use language, we could talk you and I, our species could talk!  Good God Mr Fly, could you think of the implications!’

At this Mr Fly shivered, cast his multi-lensed eyes across the room and wiped them once more with his tiny forelimbs.

‘No, I have seen your kind, preening in the mirror world.  Only for today are my words for your ears Joseph.

I thank you though for sharing your bread with me, it is much appreciated and it will not be forgotten.  But now I must go and join my own!’

‘Thank you, a thousand times thank you!’, cried Joseph in return.

The fly raised its head as if to sniff the air and then flew off, out of Joseph’s home office and back into the world of the living.

Meanwhile, in the work office in which the fly had learnt to use the language of humans but briefly, the balded man sat at his desk staring into his computer screen.

First his arm spasmed, then his left leg jerked uncontrollably.  He tried to speak, to shout out in mounting horror but no words emanated forth from his now twitching mouth.  Instead, only a series of low buzzes poured out which attracted each and every fly around to dance around his shoulders and atop the crown of his head.

The staff, not quite used to seeing the spectacle of winged insects invading their office, quickly shrieked and shirked in primal horror and abandoned their workstations en masse.

Mr Fly, at the centre of it all, landed on the computer screen observing each and every movement made by the now crowned man and his flailing colleagues.  Yes, he thought, they may run now but in time each will respond as did Joseph, with warmth, kindness and compassion.

He flicked his wings, clicked his forelimbs and took flight.

The Contract

How could I possibly tell her that I had thought we had a future together when these thoughts alone were just the remanent of fragmented dreams, and that those dreams were recalled by the half light ecstasy of sexual mores that only I could gain personal satisfaction in?  No, these feelings and lust-filled thoughts were just that.  They were simply a morning temptation before the creeping light of dawn awoke me fully to the realities of the day ahead.  I held the phone in my right hand, her number displayed on the screen with a text half-finished underneath.  I reread the message and cringed in shame, the liquid warm against my belly whilst I drew deep breaths.  Deleted.  For the betterment of us both.

Besides I had double English to attend and I still needed to scrub the sleep from my eyes, shower and dress.  The walk to the college alone would take twenty minutes and I had an hour at the most to get ready, prepare for the class and to arrive on time.  Timekeeping was never a strong point for me, the lack of punctuality ran in the family and infuriated my mother continually throughout her children’s adolescence.  My eldest brother, for I was one of four and the second youngest of our parent’s brood, would drive my mother crazy by getting up late, sometimes comically late and especially so if we had to be somewhere on time. This would then cascade a chain of fury from my mother to my father, who got annoyed on her behalf before the fury finally found us, his younger brothers.  Once we were out of the house however we were fine and I think Dad sensed this when he saw the frustration spreading and urged us out as fast as was humanely possible.

The house was empty this morning though so I could blast the music, keep the bedroom door open and move about freely as naked as the day my poor mother had pushed me out.  I loved it – the feeling of an empty house where my favourite music reverberated from wall to wall; where I could eat quickly before I jumped into the shower, laughing as I did so as the water followed and flowed over the contours of my limbs and ran down my thighs.  They were where the thick surgical scars outlined the orthopaedic surgeon’s fixation.  I was proud of these scars, they were my personal tattoos of a specific time and place, my memories of pain and pleasure entwined to produce a better me (or so the hope went).

The first lesson passed without incidence, we learnt of the black ram tupping the white ewe and the lecturer expounded on what this meant for the play, for the deft characterisation and turn of phrase the author was so well-known for.  I wondered of his contemporaries, of his hopes and dreams.  I wondered what became of his loves and hungers, what his reaction would be if he knew that his plays would be enacted out four centuries hence whilst his fellow playwrights would lie largely forgotten in the lands that birthed them.  But still, I had the break to look forward to where I would see her and think ashamedly back to my morning scene.  I wanted to hold her hair in my hands and look deep into the blues of her eyes.  This was a fantasy, the girl who I would later call my partner had brown eyes and curly hair, she wasn’t the person who I had dreamt of whilst I had lain in bed, regretting the passing of the minutes that I was powerless to stop.

This was the contract, signed by us both.  Remaining friends but no more, the blushes of a late teenage crush hidden by a mop of hair.  Instead I put aside my fantasy of my cheek against hers, my lips kissing hers, my body entwined with hers, and put our friendship on a higher plane. There was no underlying hidden moral heroism driving this, it was purely the shame of not trying and never asking for her hand.  The joy of seeing her and sharing stories over drinks replaced this erotic dream of mine, one that I had subconsciously harboured since school and let blossom fully at college.  Instead I focused on the give and take of friendship. The unsaid declaration of the fact that she and I were always willing to be there for one another, at the end of a text, a phone call or in person, that it remained hanging in the air never needing to be vocalised.

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Taken by the author with a Pentax S1a camera using Lomography Lady Grey film. If reproduced elsewhere please credit as appropriate.

Bodies Broke

Standing there on the twisting stairs,
legs wrapped around the banister
The cocked head leaning back,
throwing out your lonely stare.

A thousand bored nights wrapped
in your tight shawl of love and despair
Oh the pity just seeps off you, the
cold skin of a thousand frustrations.

It just makes it worse than I could care
But I still stand fixed with a potent glare.

Lips like fat potato chips, the body
dysmorphia can’t do more for you,
than I think that I thought we could
together, riding this wave of gigantic…

This wave of gigantic love that truly
fucked us up, spit and spat us out,
until we couldn’t give what was demanded
We were remanded, deported and resorted
to the horrors of the night.

The golden hair clumped in my right hand,
served as a fine reminder of a fairer time
Cast against the natural light, we dreamt
it could last always, but DSM-5 taught
me who was really alive.

(It was you and not I)

Caged room, the small ceilings always
find us kneeling, giving way on bended knees
Our deserved regression an assigned session
despite our former air of a passion kindled,
heated to intense temperatures.

Stepping up the stairs, I can see your green eyes
that silken purple dress which makes me quiver
against the oak and how I wish I’d had a toke,
but we crashed and careened as one, bodies broke.

Lips To Kiss

A half finished painting that sits in my room, ready to be completed some day soon.  I am an amateur artist at best, rarely dedicating time to painting and thus rarely improving.  I do however enjoy the freedom to partake in it when I feel that urge to the push paint across canvas, to see what shapes appear and what ideas formulate before me.  This painting sprang forth one day in the garden whilst I was absently scraped paint and, using a brush, picked out the lines of the lips.  Lips seem, to me, so human in the variety of the ways that we use them.  That simple delicate touch of a kiss, which can be intimate and playful or formal and curt.  That these lips also represent another pair found on the human body is, of course, pure chance but they fit within the theme of love and all of the lust, romance and passion that this involves and entails across a life well lived.

Whatever you are doing today and whatever you are up to tonight, know that you are loved in some way by some one in this beautiful and harsh world of ours.

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Acrylic on canvas, painted by the author. Lips are meant for kissing and for loving. If the photograph is shared please attribute as appropriate.

To Pity the Fool in Love

No-one ever expects that they will walk around a corner and find the person that will become their significant other lingering there on the street before them.  How we meet our partners, our lovers and confidantes, becomes a personal legend shared between only ourselves in truth, embellished by time and by the ebb and flow of emotion.  Love can be a hard emotion to describe, to quantify or to qualify, to articulate to each other and to one another.  That drunken and passionate kiss goodbye, the result of a haphazard opportunity presented in all of its glory, sits side by side with the memory of a slow burning romance experienced in our youths when we fumbled anew under covers soaked in teenage sweat.  Experiments of connection and of lust, of two pieces of lego mixing and matching to form one.  As time recedes the flashes of faces become a Rolodex of past conquests and imagined hurt, often sitting uncomfortably close to one another.

Lust, as a rapid fire launchpad to the past, operates on much the same lines as those random encounters experienced during the vicissitudes of youth.  In moments of relaxation you are comfortably entertaining yourself, your thoughts ensconced on a particular moment and how it would play out in your mind, perhaps how you would make the move and seal the return of the love and physical intimacy as given in your affections.

Yet still, how the mind can shock and shake the very foundations of your core!

No longer are you in the throes of doubled or singled passion, your senses are startled and your hands are instead given to fumbling lamely against the body of skin and flesh before you.  No more thought is given to reaching the apex of sexual arousal.

You are instead seeing the failures of your past mount even as you have failed to.  The chances lost of forming romantic entangles in the freshly cut grass, of bridging the gap between brief fumbles on the sofa and maintaining long-term relationships.  The thought is half formed, it ghosts across the mind but briefly as you lie there on your bed, shivering in the warm night air.

To walk around the corner of the street you inhabit, to cross the road at just the right time, to be there to answer that question and to form that connection as the eyes meet, the pupils dilate, and the lips curl into a smile.  The heart that jumps a beat and resets into a rhythm of two.  To miss those opportunities.  To wait upon a table where the food of life will never be placed.  It can be a hard thing to think about in the moment of your greatest conquest, of a solo ascent.