April – Charlie

*Features adult language and themes.*


He turned the key in the lock and entered his home for the first time in a week.

A two bedroom flat shouldn’t feel empty when one person is in it.

It was a small two bedroom flat as well. It had never felt empty in all the time he’d lived there alone. It had started only started feeling empty once she’d spent a few nights with him.

In reality, the flat was far from empty. It was bursting with ‘stuff.’ Charlie loved his ‘stuff,’ he had spent a lot of time collecting it in this place. He began walking from room to room making a note of all the ‘things’ he had.

Charlie stood in the doorway of his bedroom. He couldn’t help picturing the night Chloe had laid on his bed waiting for him. He shook the memory away and concentrated on the task at hand. The bedroom was kept quite sparse. The walls we’re painted a neutral colour to help the artwork he’d hanged stand out. He had the movie posters of his favourite Japanese anime films. Of course there was a flatscreen TV on the wall at the foot of the bed. The bed itself was rather dull but expensive. Before a few months ago its purpose was to get a good nights sleep. If he bought a new bed tomorrow he might well consider a few new aspects that hadn’t previously been important. Either side of the bed he had Ikea tables with matching lava lamps and of course his Star Wars alarm clock.

He turned around and looked in on the second bedroom that he used as an office. It was bursting at the seams. He couldn’t be bothered to count how many computers littered the surfaces. Most of them were operational and a handful were in mid-repair or build. His main computer was surrounded by geeky nik-naks; superhero figurines and replica movie props. Things he hadn’t touched since he’d removed them from their postage parcels. Tools and computer parts were everywhere in between. It looked like chaos, but Charlie knew where everything was down to the last screw.

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April – Daisy

*Features adult language and themes.*


Her fingers slid over his skin; the oil making it slick. His fat seeped up between her digits as she pressed harder. He moaned in appreciation of her touch. She used the balls of her hands to push harder, trying to find muscle under the blubber. It was a vain attempt.

The man grunted and tried to turn over onto his back. He managed it with some effort, but almost fell off the table three times. The towel around his middle slid to the floor. A smile spread across his big face, displaying uneven yellow teeth below a big red nose and small black piggy eyes.

Daisy slid her hands over his enormous belly and slowly worked down to his groin.

Time for the big finish.

 

* * *

 

Rehab hadn’t worked out.

It didn’t take Miranda very long to spot that Daisy had been less than sincere in her desire to get sober. The drug tests kept coming back positive and the counselling kept running into walls.

It was less than two weeks into the treatment when Miranda informed Daisy she would be going before the Judge again. That night she had fled.

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April – Evie

*Features adult language and themes.*


Scrape. Scrape. Scrape.

Urrrhghhhh. This is impossible. I scrape away at this filthy mould and I know for certain it’ll be back in less than a week and I’ll have to do it again.

The flat had become a disaster area.

It was like the ‘perfect storm’ of crappy rental flats. Spring had most certainly sprung in recent weeks. There would be a few bright and humid days followed by spells of heavy rain and moist air. Evie’s basement flat had always been a little prone to surface mould in places, but this year it was dire.

For the last few weeks the mould would appear on at least one wall in every room. Being a basement flat each room had an exterior wall that was in contact with the ground soil outside. Evie had trouble keeping up with the growth. As soon as she had wiped it away in one place it would surge back in another.

Eventually she resorted to chemical weapons. The flat reeked of bleach. Evie worried that the fumes might, in fact, be more harmful than the mould spores.

No matter what she tried, she simply couldn’t keep on top of it. Jon was at his wits end too. He had been calling the letting agent on a daily basis. It took them a full week to send someone out to inspect it. Evie couldn’t stand to let the mould spread and paint the worst possible picture for the agent to see. They had already lost too many possessions to the infestation. The mould had gotten into their cheap wooden furniture and turned it green, they found the mouldy dust on their clothes when they dressed, and the overpowering musty aroma blighted their entire lives. Somehow the smell followed them out of the house wherever they went.

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April – Jon

*Features adult language and themes.*


Moving house should be stressful but ultimately rewarding. As it turned out this isn’t the case if you are being forced to move back in with your parents. There’s no sense of renewal or achievement.

I feel like it’s a massive step backwards.

The fact he was dragging his family along behind him made it even worse.

On reflection he was surprised that Evie even considered it, let alone agreed. Jon had underestimated just how far the mouldy flat had pushed her.

In fact, the stress of the whole thing wasn’t down to moving their possessions from one place to another. The stress came from realising that most of their possessions would have to be dumped. The amount of things they actually took to his parents house was depressingly small.

Jon couldn’t help feeling as though he’d failed in some way. It should never have come to this. We’ve lost almost everything, and now we’re stuck in the same house as my parents. I have no idea when we’ll be able to find another place.

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April – Simone

*Features adult language and themes.*


Is there any point getting out of bed?

For almost twenty years Simone had got up at the same time in the morning. 5.30am without fail. She would get out of bed, drink a glass of water and hop onto her exercise bike for 40 minutes while watching the news. Then she would shower, check her emails and look over her schedule for the day while eating her breakfast. After that she would take her time getting dressed and leave for the office to arrive at 7.30am, at least an hour before anyone else.

After so long sticking to the same routine her body was set to wake up at 5.30am no matter what.

Even if she didn’t have anything to get up for.

Strictly speaking she hadn’t been fired.

I have not been sacked. I have never lost a job in my life. I’ve quit a few so I could move onto bigger things, but no employer I have worked for has asked me to leave. Ever.

Simone was on, what her bosses called, an ‘enforced career break.’ One of them even held up his hands and bent his fingers to make ‘quotation marks’ in the air. She’d never seen anyone do that in real life without irony.

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April – Kurt

*Features adult language and themes.*


“Oi, mate. You alright?”

Kurt felt a hand on his shoulder; it was gently rocking him. The longer he ignored it the more vigorously he was shaken.

“I think he’s dead.”

“No, he ain’t dead. He’s breathing. Maybe he’s in a coma or something.”

“We should probably call the medical staff.”

“Yeah, get on the walkie.”

Kurt heard the crackle of static and a far away voice asking what was wrong. He had no intention of moving, he was very comfortable; no idea where he was. The ground beneath him seemed firm, like a mattress that you could sink into. It shaped itself to where he was laying. The only bit of discomfort was on his shin. His trousers had ridden up exposing his leg to the cold air, he felt a rough surface beneath it.

“Hi, Maureen. We need a member of the medical staff over to the 9th green. We’ve got a bloke passed out in one of the bunkers. We can’t wake him up.”

Crackle.

“Right. Is he breathing?”

Crackle.

“Looks like it.”

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May – How to be Happy

*Features adult language and themes.*


“The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible.”
– Bertrand Russell

 

* * *

 

This is the penultimate feature in our monthly series from self-help guru Kurt Sampson.

 

* * *

 

I’ve been getting plenty of excellent responses to this series of articles. The best part of my job is knowing that I’ve managed to help other people, in any way, no matter how small.

While the feedback is very gratifying I have to remind myself that my job doesn’t end there. This column will end next month, but that doesn’t mean that you will be a complete and polished person by then. I’m sorry if that shatters any illusions.

By the end of next months article I will have armed you with all of the tools I believe are necessary to turn your life around and find happiness.

The one constant in this process is choice. We all have freewill. We all choose how we live our lives. You can choose to be happy, but have you ever thought about how you make your choices?

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May – Kurt

*Features adult language and themes.*


Why did he have to wear steel toe-caps?

The thug kicked him again. Kurt was laying on the floor of the alley behind the bookshop where he’d just finished a signing.

When he spotted the two guys in line he’d thought it was odd. His audience didn’t usually extend to people that had neck tattoos. They waited patiently and each had a book for him to sign. The one with the neck tattoo was very quiet while the other was scarily enthusiastic.

He’d got through the signing with his fake smile and easy manner. There wasn’t a spot of trouble but by the end he’d started to get the shakes. It had been a real challenge to keep sober and his body was protesting. By the time he left the shop by the rear exit his mind was firmly fixed on finding a bar and giving himself precisely what he needed.

The two men emerged from the shadows and without a word, attacked him. One of them pinned his arms while the other punched him in the stomach. He tried to curl over, he tensed his stomach, but the impacts took his breath away, he couldn’t shout for help. He took a shot in the face and fell to the ground. Then the guy that had held him took his turn by kicking him.

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May – Charlie

*Features adult language and themes.*


Charlie sat in his favourite coffee shop. It had actually become his favourite now. He made a point of going out each day to sit for 20 minutes or so with a drink and enjoy the company of strangers. He never sat with others but he liked to sit in the corner and people watch. It was interesting to see people interact with one another. He took note of the smiles and frowns. The overheard snippets of conversation always amused him. The things people discussed were just as random and entertaining as anything he’d chatted about on the internet. He found himself looking at strangers and making assumptions about their character and life by how they looked and acted.

He was studying an old man a few tables away. He was sitting alone with a cup of black coffee steaming in front of him. He sat up so straight, you could have used his spine as a ruler. He wore a brown tweed jacket and corduroy trousers. He had hitched his trousers half way up his calves, sitting with his legs crossed. Charlie couldn’t see a hint of leg because his socks were pulled up straight and tight.

I bet he wears sock suspenders.

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May – Daisy

*Features adult language and themes.*


I want to stay in Oz.

It was her favourite part. The few seconds right after the intensity of the hit slackened off a little. It was a small come down, but the start of at least four hours of feeling invincible.

She wiped her hand across her mouth, it came away with a smear of scarlet that looked bright against her pale skin.

The pain had been knocked back to a pleasant hum. It made her body feel active, alive. She could feel the blood flowing to her bruises, it beat against them rhythmically. The music she had on in the room synced up with her heartbeat. It was fast.

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May – Jon

*Features adult language and themes.*


“Why can’t I buy more than two packets of pain killers?”

“Because that’s the law, sir.”

“What’s to stop me buying two packs of paracetamol from you then coming back into the store and buying two packs of ibuprofen through another checkout?”

“Nothing.”

“So isn’t it a little redundant?”

“I guess it’s a small deterrent. You’d have to really want to do that to get more painkillers.”

“So there’s nothing to stop me from going to a different shop and buying painkillers? I could go to every shop in town and stock pile pills if I wanted to.”

“Yes, sir. You could choose to do that.”

“So what’s the point in limiting how many pills I can buy in a single transaction, if I can buy as many as I like in multiple transactions?”

“Because that’s the law, sir,” said Jon.

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May – Evie

*Features adult language and themes.*


The small airways, called bronchioles, carry air in and out of your lungs. When they get irritated by something, it could be a whole range of things, these airways get inflamed. They swell up and constrict the passage making it harder for the air to travel through, and your body produces a load of excess mucus to try and deal with it. This in turn makes it even harder for the air to get where it needs to be.

That’s asthma.

And those are the words, near enough, that the doctor used to explain what happened to Robbie. He was out of danger by the time I got to the hospital, but nobody had told us anything up to that point.

The doctor said they treated him with a nebuliser. I’d never heard that word before, it sounded like some sci- fi torture instrument. Apparently it’s a piece of special breathing equipment, a way of getting a drug into the lungs to make the airways relax and open up.

We didn’t stay at the hospital long. The doctors said Robbie was never in any real danger, once the paramedics were there he was perfectly safe, but I find that very difficult to believe. In my opinion any time your child has difficulty breathing is pretty dangerous. They sent us home with an emergency inhaler, in case the same thing happened again, and we were told to follow up with the GP to discuss a course of action on how to handle his treatment in the future.

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May – Simone

*Features adult language and themes.*


“Simone, it’s great to see you.” Her bosses grasped her hand and shook it lightly. “I hope you enjoyed your time off.”

Simone sighed. “Not particularly. You know me, my mind is always on the job.”

“Yes, quite.” He clapped his hands together making the other two men jump in their seats. “Well, like I said, it’s good to see you. Please take a seat.”

Simone sat. She was alone again on one side of the massive boardroom table facing her three bosses. Exactly where they had all sat the day she had been suspended.

“Well, first of all I want to say thank you for bearing with us for the last few weeks while we’ve looked into your activities concerning the Wilkinson claim. Under no circumstances were we trying to accuse you of wrong-doing. That was why you were given time off fully paid. I just want to make that clear.”

“Understood.”

“We’ve had a panel of people look into the claim and… er… well, it turns out that they agree with your assessment.”

“Yes.”

“You don’t seem surprised?”

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Epilogue

*Features adult language and themes.*


“Everyone smiles in the same language.”
– George Carlin

* * *

 

The exclusive response from disgraced self-help guru Kurt Sampson.

 

* * *

 

I am so, very, sorry.

It’s something I’ve wanted to say to you all for a long time now. My apology may seem trite and insincere. If it does, I guess I can’t blame you for taking it that way. I have to keep all of the blame for myself.

I’d like to thank ‘Self Magazine’ for giving me a platform to try and explain myself. They were well within their rights to refuse me. The events that have unfolded have embarrassed them as publishers, but also the entire sector they work within. It was never my intention to undermine the self-help industry and the many good, honest people that populate it.

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