Dolores O’Riordan … The Cranberries

The sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan has shocked people worldwide… myself included. Though an Irish band, people may be shocked to know that they were the voice of a generation of teenagers in the nineties in this little Caribbean island. I listened to the Cranberries every night throughout my years in high school and their music is ultimately some of the greatest of all time from that era. I still have the cassette tapes I listened to back then for sentimental value…

The loss of such a unique, beautiful and heart wrenching voice is a blow to not only the music industry but people on the whole. There are scant few musicians who are able to touch a generation the way that The Cranberries were able to and decades later their music can be played and still seem relevant and just as soul baring.

I spent some time playing some of my favourite songs from them earlier … all of which I still remember the words to… and I wondered how did more than two decades go by since I first began listening to their music. I recalled the teenage angst and just wanting to find myself at that age and having the whole world ahead of me still and not knowing what life would bring my way after high school. It is safe to say The Cranberries were the soundtrack to my teenage years.

I loved their music and continue to love their music. I hope that Dolores finds peace and know that she was loved by millions around the world and we thank her for sharing her unmatched talent with us.

Rest In Peace.

“Oh my life, is changing everyday

In every possible way

And oh my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems

Cause you’re a dream to me

Dream to me”

– ‘Dreams’ – The Cranberries

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Dahlia

The fierce humidity of the afternoon drove beads of perspiration down her forehead as she trudged from the from the corner of her street toward her house. Although it was just a few yards trek after being dropped off by her driver, she always dreaded those final few steps before she got home. She shifted the straps of her heavy backpack uneasily from one shoulder to the next, lost in her thoughts about her unfinished physics lab, whether she made the debate team and just how to tell her mother that she had decided she wanted to live with her father after their divorce was final.

Dahlia, at fifteen, was already a long legged stunner with dark eyes which seemed weighed down by a seemingly unnatural amount of eyelashes. She had acquired her name due to her father’s obsession with researching well known unsolved cases, especially ‘The Black Dahlia’ , as well as having been born with a full head of jet black hair. She had an easy gracefulness and maturity that made her stand out from her peers but also made her very lonely. Boys were quickly intimidated by her ability to cower them with one look over her shoulder and girls were jealous of her supposed aloofness to the many issues that bombarded teenage girls. However Dahlia’s loneliness amongst her peers only served to amplify her teenage angst and the added stress of the disintegration of her parents’ marriage. To a casual onlooker Dahlia in passing was a look of perfection, until you caught her eye and saw the sadness that dwelled within them.

Dahlia had long deliberated on who she would choose to live with… not because it was a hard choice – she knew she chose her father from the moment the decision needed to be made. It was the oppressive weight of her mother’s annoyance that she could not bear to take. Carmen Devoe could never be satisfied – not by her quiet bookish husband nor their offspring. James Devoe had easily won Carmen over when she realized the plush condition of his many bank accounts, however keeping her enthralled was quite another story. Dahlia didn’t believe that Carmen wanted her now within the construct of mother/ daughter but what Carmen DID want was to win… and if winning meant hurting James by separating him from Dahlia, despite her distaste for being a mother, that is what she would do.

By now Dahlia had opened her front gate, entered her yard and turned to replace the latch of the gate. Her muddled thoughts of the afternoon along with the intense desire to just get home and shower and wash of the afternoon heat had caused her to neglect her surroundings. She never noticed the silver-grey car that cruised along behind her since she had been dropped off at the corner. As she turned she finally noticed the car as it was now parked just outside the gate and it was the fraction of a second that she paused to look at it that was her mistake. Two hooded figures darted from the car and ran toward the gate. Dahlia, shocked, stood with mouth agape and only when they had closed half the distance to her gate did she attempt to struggle with the bolt but it was too late. One slammed his body weight straight into the gate and it flung against her, hitting her square in the face and she fell backwards against the concrete. By the time she registered that she hit the ground the two were standing over her, one grabbing her legs and the other her upper body.

She began to kick her legs furiously and scream out, but it was no use as the two pinned her legs and arms tightly as they carted her from the front yard and thrust her into the waiting vehicle. She was shoved in tightly with the two men in the backseat and a long strip of tape slapped over her mouth and a black cloth of some kind thrown roughly over her head and pulled tightly shut around her neck. She couldn’t utter a sound and her mind was racing as she tried to recall what she had learnt in the self-defense type courses that her father had made her take as a child. James may have spent too much of his time working but he was aware of the dangers that someone with his wealth faced, and he had tried to encourage Dahlia at a young age to learn some basic defensive strategies in the event of some unlikely need for it… like now.

‘You can’t see anything… take deep breaths… try to calm down and LISTEN’ she told herself although it seemed as if every pore of her body was screaming in panic. She tried to listen keenly to anything that was said by the men in the car, when she felt a sharp sting in her shoulder and she immediately felt herself going unconscious so that she only heard three words spoken before she blacked out… “Make the call.”

Interlude / Musing on writing

At first I was not sure how the writing one paragraph a day challenge would go… I figured I might just churn out some disjointed paragraphs unrelated to each other over a couple days and there would be no real set story.

Strangely enough… I was able to write more than a paragraph a day and for the first 13 days of the year, I had a running short story that I think was pretty good for a first attempt of writing of this kind.

The story of Sandy and Guppy definitely morphed into something much bigger than I expected it to be and even though I think it’s at its end for now I’m not entirely sure… I still have some ideas of where their lives went after the demise of Jerry.

Their story just sort of came every night… and every night that passed it grew longer and longer, far surpassing one paragraph a day. I have no idea what my next story would be starting tomorrow … writing something usually comes with something small but definitive that I can’t shake from my mind until I write about it (like the peeling of a grape which you’ve read about before).

I must say I enjoyed the writing process though. I felt that I had something to look forward to doing every evening as well. I also had some support from the friends I would let read the stories daily and some of them grew very invested in Sandy and Guppy and were genuinely interested in how things would go for them. I have one friend who has done some writing as well (short story and otherwise) and I found his comments / critiques quite helpful.

I am going to try to keep up with the writing and / or blogging in between and see how it goes and hopefully I can find another story that is dying to be told.

Strange Acquaintances #13

Guppy spent the rest of the night cleaning the kitchen floor and removing any sign of Jerry’s last bloody stand. Sandy collapsed onto the couch and didn’t wake till mid morning of the next day.

She woke to see a pile of clothes neatly perched on the table nearby – the mermaids had survived the epic battle – and she knew at once that they had have once belonged to Ella… they were very… festive. After a long hot shower, Sandy put on the least ‘bright’ outfit she could detect in the bunch – a royal blue leggings and a teal, white and purple top – and she made her way out back.

Guppy was sitting next to the boat he has been working on but he looked more contemplative now than anything.

“I don’t know how to thank you…” Sandy began but Guppy waved his hand cutting her off. “Some people wonder what their purpose is in this world… some never get to know. For a long time I thought mine was to take care of Ella … then she got her own life and had kids and it seemed like she began to take care of me instead. I… I’m glad I met you Sandy, albeit the circumstances probably could have been better,” he smiled ruefully, “but I know now that there was something left for me to do in this world when I met you…”

Sandy moved in and sat next to Gups. “So what now?…” she asked. “Well… when your feet are healed properly it’s up to you. You can stay as long as you want here… Ella needs some help down at the restaurant I mean, if you’re interested, I’m sure she would take you on. She’d like some female company… all she gets are fishermen coming in and workmen from the farms in the area really,” answered Guppy tentatively.

“I’d like that,” Sandy responded and Guppy exhaled a breath he didn’t know he has been holding. “But… on one condition”‘she added looking over at him. He looked at her quizzically and asked ,”what’s that?”

“The beard has got to go,” she said looking at him seriously, and he threw back his head and laughed. She began laughing as well and finally Guppy answered, “How about we start with a trim?” “Ok deal” she replied and they shook on it.

“What’s the deal?! Can I be in on the deal too?” asked a voice and they turned to see Ella coming around the side of the house holding what was likely containers of food, with two excited little heads bobbing alongside her, both with two pigtails each.

“Uncle Guppy!!!!!!” the girls yelled and raced toward Guppy and he stood to pick them both up and swing them high in the air, much to their enjoyment and their mothers feigned astonishment. After Sandy was introduced to Glitter Fairy and Princess Angel (Aka Jolene and Bella) Ella made her way into the house and Guppy pretended to run behind the girls as Sandy sat observing them. She cast her eyes out to the sea and its horizon and she dared to smile. She didn’t know how long it would last but she was finally in a place that felt like home.

Strange Acquaintances #12

Mo tied off the boat on the spit of a jetty that led to Guppys backyard just beyond the boat he has been working on. Guppy greeted the short barrel of a man warmly.

“I’ll just walk on back home Gups. You can bring her back in anytime…” he spoke easily, but even though there was clear curiousity in his expression, he asked no questions. Sandy vaguely remembered Ella’s comment about Guppy not going out on the water anymore because of ‘that thing that happened’ but the thought flew out of my mind when Mo asked Guppy if he could use the bathroom before he started off back home. Sandy immediately pictured Mo stepping over Jerry’s coagulated blood and grew pale but Gups mildly replied, “You’re gonna have to check Sykes on down the road Mo. I gotta get moving.” It was then that Mo noticed Sandy sitting on the back step to the kitchen and with a nod and quickening of his step he replied, “Right on Gups, take it easy, a squall may be coming in a bit later.”

Mo’s departure left Guppy and Sandy with the business at hand, though Sandy still was not exactly sure what that was. Earlier on after Guppy had called Mo, he had gone out back and seemed to be rummaging around in a shed but in the growing darkness of the evening Sandy could only see his outline lumbering around. Now, Gups brought out a folded tarpaulin from the boat he had been working on and a long coil of rope and made his way to the kitchen.

Jerry still lay there, his one eye gaping at nothing and his mouth frozen in a slack jawed howl. His limbs were stiffening into an unnatural position and the pool of blood seeping from him had grown a dank black colour. Gups lay the tarpaulin down beside Jerry in the little space of the kitchen and Sandy hurried to the other side and without speaking she pushed, panting heavily, while Guppy pulled until Jerry was rolled onto the tarpaulin. Once they wrapped him up in it, Gups used the rope to tie Jerry tightly so he appeared a blue mummy.

Since Guppy and Sandy were dealing with total dead weight, it was no easy task to get Jerry from the kitchen to the couple hundred yards to the waiting boat. Gups hoisted Jerry as best he could over his shoulder and Sandy tried to help pick up the slack until they half dumped/ half positioned him into the boat. Gups went back and brought, one by one, what he had been looking for in the shed – four large sort of round concrete block type stones. Sandy had noticed that he had been using similar blocks to these to help prop up the boat on whose hull he had been working. After depositing the blocks into the boat he stood on the jetty looking out at sea. Then, taking a breath, he stepped gingerly into the boat and held out his hand to Sandy.

After untying the boat from the jetty, they both settled in on either side of the craft with Jerry lodged between them. Gups then throttled the engine and they pulled away from the jetty and cut a course out into open water.

They cruised far out till Sandy could no longer see and land nor the glow of ambient light that would depict a tell tale coast line. Eventually Gups killed the engine and they sat drifting in the dark with only lapping of the oceans slight waves against the sides of the boat. “It’s been over 25 years since I been out on the water,” Gups said finally breaking the silence. Sandy looked over at Guppy but he wasn’t looking at her, he was staring out over the water.

“I was always out at sea, loved it since I was a born. Learnt to swim before I could walk, learnt to fish before I could talk is what they always said. That’s how I got the name Guppy. Ella came long after me, one of those “unexpected accidents” my father said. By then he was already heavy on the bottle and our mother didn’t last long after that, she died two years after Ella was born… they say it was pneumonia but… I think she just gave up on living.

I was already working on a small fishing boat then and wasn’t home much as I had to be the one to make money to try to pay the bills. I hated leaving Ella behind, alone in that house with him. Sometimes she would just be alone, he’d go out for hours and leave her by herself talking to her dolls. She was always so lonely, it’s like she stored up words till she saw someone and it would just stream out like busted dam… Seems like she never got out of the habit.” Gups shifted slightly in the boat and Sandy could hear  the lilt in his voice as if he was holding back tears.

He continued, “Anyway eventually I got my own boat, nothing big , but it was enough to get me out on the water and let me fish on my own. One day I came inland with some fish and this pesky little brown mutt ran out from under a pier and wouldn’t let me alone. Tiny little thing, but she had a face of a little old lady. I took her home and Ella called her “Lady Primrose”, she said she heard the old neighbor, Mrs. Flannery, next door taking about liking primrose tea and since the dog looked like a little old lady we should call her Lady Primrose. Lady Prim followed me everywhere and once I went to my boat, in she came, and pretty soon my Lady spent all of her dog days out on the boat while I fished.” Gups stopped talking then and for a while Sandy thought maybe he wasn’t going to continue. A slight breeze began whipping up over the waves and she shivered slightly, remembering Mo had talked about a squall coming in.

Finally, Gups began again, “One morning I was going out to fish as usual when my father staggered out into the jetty saying he wanted to come as well. I found it strange as he would never ask to come out on the water, he would just sit at home drinking and waiting to see what money he could get from me when I got back in from fishing. But I complied and sailed out to my usual spot and set up with Lady Prim by my side and my father sitting just at the bow.

At first the conversation was sparse but then he got around to what he really wanted. He wanted me to sell my boat. My boat. He wanted the money from when I sold it and said I could just go work for another bigger boat as crewman. He was trying to appear as if he knew I had a love for the water and working for a trawler for some time meant I would be out on the water longer. But then he said it … ‘Don’t you worry, I’ll take good care of Ella while you’re off’. I knew it then… he wanted me gone, long term… I guess I had seen it for a while but was hoping against everything I knew inside of me that I was wrong. But every time he called her name or would look at her with predatory longing when she moved around the room, I felt a burning uneasiness. It was Ella he wanted.”

At that point Guppy bowed his head and Sandy could see him clenching and unclenching his fists. When he began speaking again it was like he was imploring my to understand his predicament, “I was barely 20, I didn’t know what to do. I should have just left with Ella but then go where and do what… All I know is how to fish. I shouldn’t have left her alone there with him,” his voice broke with anguish but eventually after a few deep breaths he grew calmer and continued.

“I was tall then but my father was still a big man and half drunk or not he could still probably beat me within an inch of my life, he’d done it enough times before. But I didn’t care then. I told him if he dared touch Ella I would kill him and that if he didn’t listen I would put a hurt on him he would never forget. But he knew how to hurt me more.

He didn’t attempt to catch hold of me, instead he shot his hand out and grabbed a surprised Lady Primrose and slung her out into the open sea. I yelled out and tried to jump in after her but he grabbed onto me from behind and held me in a vice grip, choking me. I could see her trying to swim back to the boat, trying to bark but unable to as she bobbed in the water. I kept trying to yell but I could barely get any sound out with his arm tight around my neck. I felt the heat of my face as I struggled against his arm and I spluttered, gasping for air thinly. The last sight I remember was Lady trying her hardest to swim toward me, her little face terrified as the waves of the ocean threatened to overcome her before I blacked out…

I woke up when he kicked me hard in my ribs. We were still out at sea. He had waited till Lady had drowned then he fished her body out of the water and left it lying in the boat next to me, so that I would know that she was dead. He thought that would break me and I’d give into him. I was… I was so overcome with rage I just lunged for him and began battering his face and his chest, the boat rocked wildly, for even though he was surprised at first he began to fight back. My foot hit my tackle box and it flung open spewing its contents all over the floor of the boat as we grappled. At one point he finally pinned me down in the boat pummeling me hand in the face, I couldn’t see anything, I just scrabbled my hand in the bottom of the boat, reaching for what ever I could. I grabbed onto my knife that had fell out of my tackle box and plunged it straight into his neck. He was dead instantly. Blood spouted everywhere. I pushed him off of me and just lay there for a long time… Him on one side and Lady on the other. Poor Lady was dead… I couldn’t protect her, she trusted me, she chose me that day on the beach and I let her down.” Gups stopped again. Sandy reached out in the darkness and found his hand and just held onto it without saying a word.

Gups eventually moved his hand and began working in the dark securing the blocks around Jerry’s corpse as he finished the rest of his story. The sky had grown cloudy, there was no moonlight, and the breeze was picking up fast. Gups related that he threw the body of his father overboard where it floated for days on end. By the time a boat discovered it bloated and half eaten by fish, no one put any thought into further investigating into a drunk who had fallen off his son’s boat and drowned. Lady’s body however, Gups had taken back home and buried in the backyard.

Guppy ended by saying, “I still sold the boat. And I didn’t go to work out at sea anymore. I started working on boats instead… painting, building, fixing… you name it. I used to love the sea but I couldn’t bear going back out and seeing Lady Prim swimming toward me every time I went out. It wasn’t about him. I still think he got what he deserved, but I failed Lady and I couldn’t afford to fail Ella too. When I got back home I lied to Ella about what happened… she never found out the truth about that day. I’ve never told anyone what happened until now…”

By this time Guppy and Sandy heaved Jerry’s body overboard and with a loud splash it sank into the darkness. Sandy sank back into the boat, breathing hard from the exertion and looking at the roiling mass of clouds in the sky.

“Let’s go home,” said Guppy quietly and he started the engine and they headed back inland as Jerry sank to the depths below and the rain began to pour.

Strange Acquaintances #11

Everything in the kitchen seemed brighter than it did before, with almost a preternatural glow that made her experience seem even more surreal. She felt as if she were moving in slow motion… caught in some sticky web that she was fighting to escape from but only entangling herself more. She did not dare look behind her for fear of seeing Jerry’s snarling face half-plastered with the gelatinous ooze from one eye bearing down on her.

She almost made it to the back door and could painfully imagine the open beach just beyond it when Jerry’s hand found her left shoulder, digging into it, dragging her back. Her hands flailed out fleetingly at the door but to no avail and she instead made contact with the plastic dish rack next to the sink. Rack, plates and cutlery clattered down in loud abandon around her as she collapsed on the floor.

She rolled to the one side just in time to escape Jerry’s foot landing in one of her ribs and she grabbed onto something glinting on the floor beside her. As he attempted to stamp at her a second time she swerved away again till she was crouched almost under the same table she had been eating at mere hours before. Jerry’s foot missed her by mere inches and instead skid on a broken plate as it came down, toppling him down on his knees beside her. Without even thinking she swung up and imbedded the object she held in her hand deep into Jerry’s side. It was one of Guppy’s stainless steel knives.

He howled in pain and clutched at his side in disbelief as the blood began to pour ready and hot from the wound. He reached out for her savagely, trying to utter words but all that came out was a gargle of what she assumed was obscenities. She looked around frantically for something else to attack him with, but without warning Jerry gave a lurch and teetered back and forth before slumping onto his back.

Sandy backed up against the kitchen cupboard confusedly clinging on to one of Guppy’s forks that she found under the table, unsure of what to do. A part of her still felt that Jerry was trying to trick her.. that at any moment he would lunge toward her and she would once again be fighting for her life. But he didn’t move. She buried her head in her hands, too tired and shocked to even cry as her brain fought to process what she had done, when she heard a creaking sound. Her head snapped up and she raised the fork over her head to see Guppy standing bewildered in the kitchen doorway holding a large bag in one hand and customary styrofoam lunch boxes in the other.

Sandy dropped the fork and lunged sobbing into Guppy’s arms, he in turn dropping bag and boxes just in time to catch her against his chest. Before Guppy could even begin to speak, Sandy spilled it all. It was as if she had the gaping hole in her chest, not Jerry. She went on and on without even realizing they had somehow sunk to the floor in the doorway, Jerry’s body lying mere feet away from them.

“… and then I stabbed him I didn’t even know what I had in my hand I just did it and he fell and then there was blood… all this blood, I didn’t know what to do and then you came,” she finished finally. Throughout her retelling of the grotesque, sadistic, violent relationship that she had had with Jerry, Guppy had remained quiet and even now as she was finished he still said nothing. They sat in silence for a long time. Sandy didn’t want to dare break the silence because then it would mean she would have to face the reality of Guppy calling the authorities and she heading off to spend the rest of her life in prison. The more she thought of it the more she felt that Jerry had won. She would never have a life with or without him.

Sandy finally said, “well… I guess you should call them,” as she kept her head lowered unable to look Guppy in the face. She wondered what he must even think of her. There was a loud sigh from Guppy as he eased himself slowly up from the floor and he responded,”yes… yes I guess I should.” Sandy’s eyes followed his shadow as it travelled the short distance from the doorway to an old cordless phone on a stand lurking in the corner that she had never even noticed. It had certainly not rung in all the time she was there. She heard him dialing what seemed a painstakingly long time and then pause before he spoke.

“Mo? … It’s Gups. I’m gonna need your boat…”