Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grumpy With Kids

A recent Grumpy column based on true events. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. My magazine copy has gone missing in action, so here's the draft copy.


From time to time the question of kids comes up. “Grumpy,” people will say to me, “do you think you'll ever have kids?” The answer is an unequivocal no. NO. Nononononono. Nope. Absolutely not. No way. Not ever. No. Fortunately Mrs Grumpy (aka The Dreaded One) feels the same way.

Sometimes, if my interrogator is particularly stupid, they might assure me in a sagacious tone that one day I will change my mind. If they say this, it's probably a safe bet they they themselves have recently become a breeder. Suddenly they have access to the true meaning of life. They have been enlightened, and I am merely yet to see the light. Not all breeders are so annoyingly sanctimonious; many react with an each-to-their-own shrug. Non-breeders with procreation on their life-timetable might ask why no Little Grumpies are on the horizon, and my reasons have nothing to do with overpopulation and the relentless and ruthless destruction humans are wreaking upon an otherwise paradisiacal planet. No, it's not that.

Recently at a family get-together. The adults are catching up on what's been going on in each others lives while the kids (lets call them Domestic Terrorist 1 and Domestic Terrorist 2) occupy themselves as they see fit. Basically this involves pulling stuff from out of cupboards and converting apparently harmless objects into potentially lethal missiles whilst hijacking the adult conversation by remote control and holding it hostage until their demands are met.

Mum and Dad's sentences become slightly surreal: “So how have you been? Are you still working at what are you doing with that? PutthatdownIsaidputdownrightnow that place you were working at? How is Mummy said no! What did Mummy say? No that going for you?”

DT 1 tells me, “Uncle Grumpy, I play golf,” and I appreciate the heads-up because a split second later a hard plastic ball zings past my head and ricochets off three walls before rolling under the couch. No relief, however, as he has an arsenal of hard plastic balls which keep us on our toes as they fly about unpredictably, whizzing through the air and conking off walls and furniture.

Meanwhile, DT 2 has been sating her voracious appetite for chips. I watch in fascination as fistful after fistful of chips are pushed into her mouth until eventually the entire family sized box has been consumed. She eyes me levelly as she methodically makes her way through the box, like she's thinking, “Yeah, I know, you wanted some of this didn't you, wanted it badly, but you ain't getting' none of it.” I look at the brie and am about to make a move for it when DT 1 moves in. He gouges a fistful of the cheese out and packs it down into a satisfying slab on a water cracker and suddenly the gouge marks render the cheese just that little less appetising.

Sometimes the chaos and carnage dies down a little, but the silence only arouses suspicion, the alarm goes up and conversation is interrupted again as search parties scatter in all directions: “Where are you? What are you doing? Whatever you're doing you'd better stop it at once!”

At one point DT 2, having run out of chips to put into her mouth, pops one of the blue golf balls into her mouth. Her mouth is so tiny and petite that she can't close her lips over the ball completely. She pops the ball back out. This has amused her so she pops the ball back in like she's one of those carnival clown games. The ball pops back out with a little more force and her shoulders shudder this time. A faint look of confusion and fear flashes across her pretty features as she gags again, and suddenly she is Reagan and we're in the vomit scene from The Exorcist. The family-sized packet of chips makes a reappearance (probably as astonished to see us again as we are to see it) and lands mostly on the mother who appears disgusted and resigned in equal parts. The father whisks DT 2 off to the bathroom (later to emerge stating, “Great. Bonus points – I get to change her nappy too.”) while the mother sits with cupped hands of vomit and trying to figure out what to do next.

What's that? Am I ever going to have kids? Um – no. Nononono.

Grumpy is Lee Bemrose, freelance writer,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ruben Jane

Ruben Jane

(C) Lee Bemrose

Ruben Jane

When you walked into the room, something changed. I felt like I’d known you my entire life. Your gaze swept the room and came to rest on me. You had me from that moment. You looked at me and looked away, then made your languid way through drunk ones dancing. Your image lingered, burned into my mind. I didn’t follow you, not straight away. There was no need.

It was later that same night that we properly met. I was listening to some self-indulgent woes, some manufactured drama, when you sat down next to me. I was being attentive to this other one, but I knew it was you sitting down next to me even before I looked.

When finally the other one realised she was not going to get the desired response, she stood up to leave, pausing briefly to look at you. She called you Ruby, said it with a soulless smile. You replied with a similar smile, calling her by name, told her she was looking well.

When she was gone you leaned towards me, so slightly but without looking directly at me, and you told me that if I want to be your friend, never call you Ruby because your name is Ruben Jane.

You asked me what I thought of the party. You paused at the end of the question, then added my name. Letting me know that you had asked. You had pointed me out and asked. How strange that we had friends in common yet I had never met you, had never heard of you.

I told you that I was not a party person, not really much of a people person. You asked why, then, I was here. I said it’s because it’s what we do. We talk to people we don’t necessarily like. We go to parties when maybe we want to be alone, it’s just what we do.

You should do whatever you want to do, you told me. There are no rules, we just think there are.

And with that you stood up to leave.

Coming? You asked looking down at me, knowing the answer. I stood up and came with you, nothing else I could do.

You asked me where I lived and you took me back to mine. Something too funny about this to laugh at. Just struck me as pure you. Maybe I smiled. Maybe you saw my smile reflected in the taxi’s interior windows. Perhaps you smiled yourself, knowing that this was always how it was going to go.

Back at mine, drugs spilled out onto a glass tabletop. Vodka from the freezer and I knew what music to play. Rapid-fire crunchy electric guitar, throbbing bass and banshee scream. I wanted you to be surprised or at least pleased, but you simply took your place, took your pill, took in that I knew the right music to play.

We should go to Dawnfire sometime, you said when my warmth was kicking in and I’d wanted to say something stupid. You said it at just the right moment because it snapped me and I said instead yeah, we should go. I’ve been there before, but yeah, we should definitely go.

We didn’t fuck on that first night. I didn’t care. We were going to go to Dawnfire. We were going to be we. This was good enough for me. Much better than a fuck.

When we did fuck, it was like thunder. It was insane. It was rapidfirecrunchelectricthrob and I always wanted you to be surprised. But you were never surprised, just quietly pleased, in your way.

Hold me, you said one time as we fucked, and I held you.

No you stupid fuck! Hold me. Properly! Hold me down!

So I took your wrists and I held you down. You fought back and I held you down. My hands around your wrists, sharp tendons, deep guttural grunt, but I held you down. One hand slipped and it found your throat and grunt became a hesitant choke-laugh. You bit me. I kissed you. You kissed then bit me again. We kissed and we fucked. And you were happy. It was the first time I felt I’d made you happy.


Almost a year of yours-and-mine and we agreed on yours. You picked up some thing of mine you’d always liked. You paused at the door on your way out and asked if I was coming, as though you and this thing were leaving me and it was entirely up to me if I wanted to come along. I nodded and you turned and left like you always knew this was how it was going to be. And with that, yours became ours. We became a proper we. Much better than the stormy, the exhilarating fucking.

But the fucking was good.


Every time we were asked how we met, the story changed. We’d tell them we met on the banks of the Nile. In a Scottish Highland Village. In the ruins of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or a cobblestone street in Monte Matre. You would take the lead and I would follow and a scenario would come to life, a conversation imagined into reality. At a point our eyes would lock and we were two actors without scripts, inventing memories, living another time now.

Invariably they would think we were joking. They would think we were a little strange or simply in love. They didn’t understand, just didn’t get it at all.

Don’t leave me, you’d tell me from time to time, don’t ever leave me. Promise me that.

And I’d hold you in that other gentler way and tell you, I’ll never leave you Ruben Jane.


The cracks were there a long time before I saw them. That’s the nature of cracks. But I forced myself to see them that time on Turtle Beach. Remember that time on Turtle Beach? You’d gone for a swim and I buried your things and while you swam below the surface, I imagined you were not there.

Later you asked why I had done it, why I’d buried your things and imagined you weren’t there. I shrugged; I don’t know. In the twilight you rocked back and forth, tears welling in those eyes as we looked out to sea, a water spout writhing in the distance. I’d seen your tears before; I’d kissed away their saltiness. I’d seen your clenched fists and I’d uncurled your fingers and kissed your palms. But I’d never seen you rock back and forth before, like a dark and broken angel, and I didn’t know what to do.

The thing is, you told me in a voice fighting back a tremble, it’s no good here. It’s no good and it’s not ever going to work.

But we’re on holidays, I replied, it’s just us in some clean, nice place. We’ll go back to the city where everything is all right.

No, you said, that’s not it. That won’t fix things. It’s... it’s this that won’t work.

Your hand swept at this perfect vista, at all this peace, and that’s when I forced myself to see the cracks. Fine and delicate things, like fractures in the glaze of a favourite tea cup.


As the blade slid beneath your skin your grip on my hand tightened. I gripped you hard too. The blue vein above your eye pushed against your pale skin as you held back from crying out. I leaned over and watched this stranger slowly slice your skin. He dabbed professionally at the blood. There was a lot of blood. Your grip eased, then tightened again as the blade went back in. I wanted him to stop, but it was what you wanted so I held on and watched and was moved by what we were doing.

We dressed the wound. We dressed you. You looked pale. You looked at me and smiled and said, now your turn.

I think my fingers trembled as I undid my buttons. I dropped my shirt to the floor and climbed onto the bench. I was determined not to squeeze your hand. It would prove something now meaningless to you, but as the searing pain set in it took over everything and I squeezed your hand so tightly. I remember looking up through a red haze of pain, and I remember seeing you smile. Not smiling at my pain, smiling at how tightly I was holding you. I forgot that smile at the time, but it would come back to me later on. Such a gentle, peaceful smile.

It took return visits, but eventually it was done. No wedding rings for us, no tattoos, no swapped vows. Scar tissue, you said, was real.

And our friends, they thought we were strange or kooky or simply in love. They didn’t get us at all.

Do you get us, you’d sometimes ask, do you really?

Yeah, I’d reply, I think I do.

Does it scare you?

Yeah, I think it does. Does it scare you?

Not really, you’d say with a shrug and that distant look.

But I’d see you sway and rock and gaze away into nothing as you absently fingered your scar, and I’d wonder about that.


At Dawnfire I sometimes liked to stand back and watch you, try to see you the way others saw you. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of how you must appear to others. They were energy, body spasms shooting at every beat. But you were still, compared to them. You were grace. You were elegance in this sweaty maelstrom. While they reacted to the auditory carnage of the surface, you found the melody, and you moved that body to the melody. You found the melody in the most jangled music, and you danced to the swirls. I thought that was some small miracle, the first time I saw it, and it comforted me every time after that.

Sometimes at Dawnfire, you’d look across and see me smiling. Well, that’s what I was smiling at.


All the others saw were the light times. They saw the laughter and the dancing and that special thing we had. They didn’t see the dark times, curtains drawn against the light for days at a time. They didn’t see the fear. You wouldn’t let me leave you for days on end, not even for food. We must stay together, you’d implore, and what could I do? I held you nights and days as you trembled. I gave up asking you what it was because you never knew, just knew that it was real. Sleep was an ugly hallucination. Our darkened home would become a silent nightmare of untidiness. We’d wander the rooms in search of some uncluttered space and we’d bed down there in our dank blankets and pillows and our clothes that reeked of us, and we’d wait for your fear and darkness to slowly pass.

No, they didn’t see the dark times. They didn’t see how scared you were and how much it broke my heart. All those times we’d vanish, all they saw was the eventual re-emergence into the light. They thought it was so romantic, how all we needed was each other and our love. They imagined sex and laughter and good times, just you and me.

They’d smile at how cute we were. They’d smile and admire us, maybe they’d envy us. But they didn’t understand at all.


One time, coming down through a cocktail of euphoria, coming down for a smooth landing in our home with chilled sounds in the air, coming down to some piece of Earthly perfection, you asked me the very last question I wanted to hear.

If I wanted to leave, you began in a way that ended the peace, would you do it for me?

My thoughts went from silver to shit in moments. I couldn’t process this.

What do you mean, I asked. Would I let you go?

No, if I wanted to leave all this, would you do it for me? I’d want you to do it for me.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want you to say anything. I wished you hadn’t said anything. And yet, I knew. I knew by then that it’s what you wanted. The late night talks when peaceful minds slept, the trouble inside that found its way to the surface in little ways, the constant flow of it all. The reaction from others, I knew, would be dismissive: get over it, get on with it, get help.

We lay there coming down, silent for so long that I thought you must have fallen asleep. I turned and expected closed eyes, but you were staring at me, waiting for my answer. I turned away and thought of other times, the banks of The Nile, a Highland Village, the streets of Paris.

Don’t get me wrong, you whispered when the music had stopped, I want you to come with me. You want to come with me, don’t you?

Looking away from you, I nodded, resigned to the way of things. It was not such a bad thing. It was inevitable. Things end. An end is a beginning. To end a person’s unhappiness is a good thing.

You must come, you said as you ran fingertips lazily across my skin. The sensation was exquisite.

Of course I’ll come, Ruben Jane, you know that. Followed with a hug, two bodies together, breath merging with breath, two heartbeats colliding. Sleep. Dreams of other times, other places.


The time came. No words. Few thoughts. One limb here, another there. Wrists bound. Ankles bound. There would be struggle in spite of everything. I had suggested taking drugs together but that’s not how you wanted to do it. I was to send you first and then I would follow. It just wasn’t right any other way, you said. It was a test of my commitment to you, a test of my love for you.

Your eyes didn’t leave my face as I went about securing you. No expression. What were you thinking? Were you scared? Did you want this to stop? Did you doubt I would go through with it? It’s what you wanted.

I laid down beside you. I caressed your skin, your beautiful skin. I conjured goosebumps, ran my lips over them. I could feel the thud of your heart through skin and bone, could feel the warmth of your blood as it raced through your body. We kissed one last time, so softly, so gently.

You wanted me to look into your eyes, so that’s what I did. I looked into your eyes as you started to struggle. You resisted the struggle at first, but then something took over. Some primal thing possessed us both. It was like it wasn’t me. I became something darker, something greater, something savage. My tears on your skin. Eyes, so wide. And then as it wore on a change, an expression I couldn’t make out. A shake of the head? Stop? Don’t stop? That look. That look in your eyes as you left me – what did it mean?

And you were gone. Just gone. I fell back and a howl came from somewhere deep within. I felt like my entire body would to crack. I wanted it to break.

Then numbness. An acute sense of time. Never before have I been so aware of the utterly blinding speed of time. You were gone, moving further away with each flicker of time. Not coming back. Gone.

Now my turn.

I poured bitter liquid into sweet and drank it. I sank down beside you, unbound your wrists and held you in that gentle way. Still warm. Your hair against my skin. Your scent.


I tried to follow you, Ruben Jane. They don’t understand. They don’t understand us at all.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Grumpy's Open House Inspection Party


When you have an open house inspection at Midday on Saturday, it's probably a good idea to have the place buffed and polished and in sparkling condition the day before. It's probably a good idea to have a quiet night in. What's probably not the best idea is to go out clubbing on Friday night and invite everyone back to your place for an after party. That would be a ridiculous thing to do.

"It's okay to come back to ours and get messy," I tell everyone, "you just have to promise to do it neatly."

The Dreaded One didn't look so sure about this little plan, and I knew where she was coming from. We want to sell our home so we can travel, first stop Boom festival in Portugal. We have to be responsible about our dance festival travel plans, so you know, really, this after party back at ours was probably not my finest idea. But I liked to think it was all a bit rock 'n roll. The Dreaded One looked at me like she thought it was all a bit bloody stupid. Still, she didn't exactly say no. She just did that eyes-rolling-under-closed-lids-accompanied-by-shake-of-the-head thing she does so often.

I think the neighbours must be very happy with the For Sale sign for our cosy little apartment. I especially thought about this as the music thundered through my Musical Fidelity amp and out of my JM Lab floor speakers as the new day dawned. There was booze and crazy talk and dancing and some mystery guy sprawled on the couch for the duration... it was a lovely after party.

Still, it never quite left my mind that Warren the Real Estate Agent would be here at 11.45am to pick up the keys and show our home to prospective buyers. I looked around with growing concern, wondering how this was all going to pan out. Maybe, I started to think, this wasn't the best thing to do after all. Maybe we should have had the after party at someone else's place. Someone who wasn't having an open house inspection in a few short hours. Holy crap - what have we done? Also, we're almost out of booze!

Someone went for booze so that was one less thing to worry about. But what was the other thing? Oh yeah, the small matter of Warren.

"I'm not going to be here for Warren," The Dreaded One told me at a random point.

"What do you mean you're not going to be here for Warren? We're all going to be here for Warren."

"I'm not. Got a hair appointment. I told you. You're going to have to deal with Warren by yourself."

"But I can't deal with Warren by myself... we're all in this together... even Mystery Couch Guy... does anyone actually know who that guy is?

"Relax, Grumpy, we'll help you with Warren. In fact I really want to meet Warren."

That was good enough for me. The Dreaded One could go get her fluro dreads tended to, and I would take care of Warren all by myself... with my after party flotsam.

At 11.30 the buzzer screeched. The Dreaded One got the hell out of there. I picked up the handset. It was a normal person here to inspect the flat.

"You'll have to wait 15 minutes,"I told them. "Warren isn't here yet."

I hung up and looked at the others. What the hell do we do now? There are normal people banging on the door and Warren's not here and can some body please turn the music down please?

Fortunately, just in the nick of time, the buzzer went off again, and Warren had arrived. Thank fuck for that, I thought, and wondered if I said that out loud down the handset to Warren.

I passed Warren in the stairwell and tossed the keys to him, feeling very fucking rock 'n roll. The Dreaded One? She just thinks I'm very fucking naughty.

Grumpy is Lee Bemrose, a very naughty freelance writer. You can ask him to write normal stuff for you at