The Garden

Step out through the patio door.An unused chair,covered in cut grass,dust & empty snail shells.A long lawn stretches to the top of the garden;small trees & big trees provide shade,where the bench stands.A hanging bird feeder & an empty bird box,attached to one of the bigger trees.The cats next door put the birds off,I think.A high wall blocks off the public field and children’s play area,behind the house;3 swings,a slide,a climbing frame,a rocket ship,a pirate ship,a horse,2 rocking aeroplanes & a small group of truanting teens,taking advantage of the hot day.A small patch of untended soil,where rhubarb grows around the compost bin.An uninhabited bat box,nailed to the shed wall.The bats flitter & swoop on an evening,but I don’t know where they live.Washing hangs to dry on the line.A pair of my jeans & one of my tops are the only items on the line which don’t have lace,ribbons or sparkles on them.The rest belong to my fiance & her teenage daughter.A tall hedge runs along one lenght of the lawn.The 3 dogs we own,run up & down the gap,between the hedge & a wall,chasing one another,barking & disturbing the grumpier neighbors.The paved area,where I sit & write,when the weather permits;a round table with 4 chairs,2 water features,pots & containers;a cacophany of colour,attracting the all too rare butterflies & bees.An unused greenhouse,with 4 broken panes of glass & plenty of cobwebs.The garden,a haven.

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1000 Words.

I write long-hand;the old fashioned way,with pen & paper.1000 words is approximately 4 single sides of A4 paper & almost as many hours making things up in my head.Today I’m listening to the nagging idea I can’t shake off.Maybe if I listen,it will shut up,eventualy.The idea examines the big consequences of the smallest decisions we make.It questions our ability to decide our fate & the way in which we can’t function in isolation;our lives are determined as much by the decisions of others,as they are by our own actions.How many decisions (those we make ourselves & those made by others) lead up to the major turning points & events in our lives?

Writing A Mini Opera

I can’t remember how I discovered the E.N.O. Mini Opera competition.I assume it was via a Neil Gaiman tweet,or from his facebook page,or through one of his blogs.I certainly wouldn’t have been looking,or googling,for anything to do with opera.Opera wasn’t something I was interested in;at all.My only experience of opera was the rock variety,& a 70’s “Gilbert & Sullivan” drag act called “Hinge & Bracket”.What I CAN remember thinking was,”if Neil Gaiman is going to be judging entries,he might actually read something I’ve written!”.How often does an opportunity like that arrrive? where a literary hero of yours,will actually read something you’ve written.If,by some freak of luck,I was successful,I’d know he liked something I’d created.If I was unsuccessful,I could sugar coat my defeat,with the simple fact that someone had been better than me;and I could easily live with that knowledge,and do,each & every day.It was an opportunity too good to let slip,and so I decided to enter.That’s when the mini opera took over.

The Sweeper Of Dreams

This mini opera is for 8 soloist and 2 choruses. There is a chorus on either side of the stage: creating a tunnel affect, to the back of the stage. Whoever produces this has carte blanche to go crazy with the costumes. The choruses represent Dreams. But they must include: a clown, a shrouded figure, a beast/dragon, a “maiden”, a soldier (of any era) a male and  female lover (who need to be in separate choruses). The remaining soloist is The Sweeper Of Dreams. The audience are our dreamers and we’re going to take them for a trip to the Graveyard Of Dreams.

Chorus

“Moonscapes and Madness,

Splinters and fragments,

Dust motes and cobwebs,

Infinite numbers,

Deathwatch and cradle,

Firefly and fable.

Numbers and letters,

And languages lost.

In the mists.

Fragile and deadly,

Tread carefully.

Dear dreamer.

Fairy tales,

Lusty nights,

Lofty heights,

And endless flights of stairs.

corridors,

Opening doors,

Spinning webs,

And off with your head.

Slip silently,

Through eternity,

And infinity,

Infinity,

Infinity.”

The chorus fades out.

Chorus

“Enough!

Don’t scare them off;

It gets lonely down here,

In this tomb:

This forgotten room.

They shouldn’t be here .

But we want them to stay.

And now it;s too late;

Too late to hide,

Here he comes!”

Chorus

“With his brush!”

Chorus

“Here he comes!”

Chorus

“With his cough!”

Chorus

“Now your stuck!”

Chorus

“It’s too late”

The Sweeper Of Dreams dances onto the stage, from the side. His dance partner is his brush.

The Sweeper

“The Sweeper Of Dreams is here.

Step in,

through my ivory gate.

Welcome to the Dreamscape.”

Chorus

“The graveyard”

Chorus

“The lime pit”

Chorus

“The cesspool”

The Sweeper

“The next one who speaks,

Feels the wrath of my brush!

So hush,

My dear phantoms;

Can’t you see,

We have guests;

And we’ve always got time,

To entertain.”

A clown tumbles out of the chorus. The Sweeper and the clown entertain the audience.

The Sweeper

“Were you their first dream?”

Clown

“I wonder”

The Sweeper

“Were you their first nightmare?”

Clown

“With my grin;

With my sin.

Licking my lips,

And inviting them in.”

The Sweeper

“You might have made them laugh.”


Clown

“Falling down flat;

Flat on my back.

Tumbling round;

A bumbling,

drowning man;

Drowning in tears.

Chorus

“Crocodile tears”

Both choruses start to laugh. The clown and the Sweeper cut them off, with a glare. The Sweeper brushes the clown back to his place in the chorus. As this is happening, the other chorus is slipping into darkness, untill they can hardly be seen.

Chorus

“Was it the shadow?”

Chorus

“The phantom”.

The Sweeper

“The shadow you know,

Shouldn’t be there.

The eyes in the darkness;

vacantly staring,

Patiently waiting,

stealthy stalking,

Their warm breath.

A whisper.

There’s dread in that thought,

That you dare not let loose,

In your head.

That secret remains there,

Until you are dead;

Like a noose around your neck.

Yes I know your unspoken dreams;

The ones you keep,

deep inside your head.

Hidden.

Which do you fear more?

The despair?

Or is it the desire.

That destroys you?”

The lights come back up on the chorus and as it does, the other chorus starts to snarl, howl, shriek, wail; a nightmare, bestial cacophony.

The Sweeper

“Silence!

Forgive them;

They’re angry

Because you forgot them.

Those poor, hungry beasts,

With your blood,

Dripping from their teeth.

All those years,

Under your bed;

Neglected,

Starving,

ravenous,

Ready to rip you to shreds;

Tear you to pieces,

Gobble you up,

fatten you up first,

With promises,

Treasures,

Feasts,

Pleasures.

Dazzling days,

Kisses in the starlight.

See!

It’s six of one,

Or a baker,s dozen.

There’s no saying,

Where a dream might lead.”

Chorus

“Sweeper, please,

Someone is weeping”.

A maiden steps out of the chorus and comes to the front of the stage. The sweeper starts to dance.

Maiden

“I weep with joy.

These are happy tears;

Memories,

Salad days,

Summers’ haze,

Dazzling,

Melodies,

Wandering and wondering.

Cuddles and kisses,

and wishes and

A sly smile.

A smile before we

Fondle and fumble,

And touch and taste,

And not waste a moment,

More than we have to.

Steal away with me”.

Sweeper

“See,

It’s all so very nice,

Here,

In paradise,

Don’t hesitate,

Your dreams won’t wait,

They’ll fade away”.

The Sweeper brushes the maiden back into her chorus.As he does so, a soldier marches out of the other chorus. He’s struggling though, because he is wounded and dying. As the soldier sings, his life is slipping away, but no one on the stage will help him.

Soldier

“I believed in what I killed for.

I am not afraid to die.”

The Sweeper

“And the man who put the gun there,

Can he look you in the eye?”

The Soldier

“I uphold the dreams of others,

It is not my place,

To wonder why.

It is my choice to kill,

Or die for you.

You must hate me,

As much as you hate

Your own enemy.

Sending me off,

I understand.

But it’s then that both battles begin:

Mine,

And the reason why”

The soldier falls to the floor. The sweeper shoves him back to his chorus and points at a couple of the dreams, who pick up the soldier.

Sweeper

“would you forsake,

This fallen hero;

This warrior,

This broken dream?

Could you leave him here,

All alone,

With these vapours?

With me?”

A man has stepped out of a chorus. A woman has stepped out of the other.

Man


“Why didn’t I?”

 Woman

“Why couldn’t I?”

Man

“I should have known”

Woman


“better off “

Man

“Without her love”

Woman

“Without his love,

I’m nothing.

but I’m tongue tied,

gagged and bound to turn away.

What would I say to him?”

 Man

“Without her love,

I’m empty.

I cry for the times,

I know I should have said,

Something,

At least.

Fear is a ferocious beast.”

Sweeper

“We get the picture,

See what I mean,

If you don’t dare act,

 on that dream,

You’ll only live,

to see the end,

With nothing there,

To remember you by.

So why not come along,

Right now.

I’ve got prophets,

making profits out of fools.

I’ve got users fooling losers,

Finders,

Takers and keepers.

I’ve got the lazy hand of karma.

There’s unburied treasures here.

I’ve got magic beans,

Spun gold,

Untold ways to please yourself.

So what if you deceive yourself,

With a little lie,

Now and then.

They all love it here,

With the Sweeper.

Come join us.

We all float,

We all win.

We’re all first across the line;

Captain of the team,

So!

Time to choose.

Oh!

Did I mention?”

All

“The sweeper of Dreams,

Hates to lose.”

The Sweeper of Dreams starts to dance to the back of the stage, turning every so often to the audience; beckoning. He interacts with the dreams on both sides too; laughing with some, angry with others, disappointed; it;s an inspection if you like, mingling with his minions.

The Sweeper Of Dreams

The Sweeper Of Dreams

We are in a one roomed apartment. A man is packing to leave.

The Thief

“What kind of monster,
Could steal from his best friend,
And then twist the knife in,
By taking his wife from him too?
That would be me.
If the fool is so blind,
To believe all our lies,
He deserves all he gets.
Once he’s signed on the line,
All he’s worked for is mine.
But here he comes now,
With my prizes in hand.”

A man and woman enter the apartment, holding hands. The woman is carrying a file of paper; the man carries a bottle of wine. The men approach and greet one another. The husband goes to a table, with 3 empty glasses on it. He starts to pour the wine into the glasses

The Husband

“My sweetness holds our contract, friend.
Let me provide the wine.”

The Wife

“With his money and your mind,
A solid investment awaits us”.

The Thief

“Has he done all we need,
For the plan to proceed?”

The Wife

“All the i’s have been dotted.

The Husband
“I’ve crossed all the t’s”

The Thief

“And it’s signed?”

The Wife

“At the bottom.”

The Husband
“And witnessed there too”

The Thief

“Then yes,
Let the future begin.”

The husband approaches and passes his wife and her lover a glass of wine. He then returns to the table and collects his own glass.

The Wife

“Shall we start with a toast.?
To the future.”

The Husband

“To friendship”

The Thief

“To business”

The Wife

“To us.”

All

“To us!”

Suddenly the woman starts to sway and stagger.

The Wife

“I feel wrong,
I am blinded.
I feel time flowing by,
Way too fast.
I have glass,
In my blood.
I feel misunderstood.
There is pain in my veins,
And my mind…”

She collapses onto the bed, unconscious. Her lover rushes over to her, while the husband simply stands and watches.

The Thief

“What’s wrong with her?”

He turns to the husband.

The Thief

“Why do you stand there?
What’s wrong with you?”

The Husband

“The problem is this;
The poison,
I placed in her drink.”

The lover starts towards the husband.

The Thief

“What have you done?”
The Husband

“I might ask the same thing.
But don’t fear,
I have the cure,
And it’s near.”

The Thief

“Then fetch it,
And give it to her”

The Husband

“Not so fast,
Not just yet,
There’s a price you must pay.
I wonder If your love,
Is just as weak,
As your deception.
Confess to your crime,
You can have what was mine,
If she’ll wait for you;
She’ll be penniless too.
I’ll return in the morning,
And then you must tell me,
What you plan to do.”

The Husband leaves the apartment. The Thief goes over to the bed again and checks on the woman.

The Thief

“She still lives,
But for how long?
At least until dawn.”

He starts to pace backwards and forwards across the room.

The Thief

“The clock still ticks,
While her heart still beats.
The choice is mine,
So should I retreat?
If I remain,
Then my freedom dies.
But if I leave,
Then who knows,
What he will do.
Maybe sleep ,
Will inspire my choice.”

The man climbs onto the bed and falls asleep. The chorus enters.

Chorus

“One, two, three, four,
Night comes knocking,
At your door.
Five, six, seven, eight,
Step on through,
The Ivory Gate.
Here comes The Keeper Of Dreams;
He is bleeding.
The war in your head,
Leaves him battered,
And beaten.
Here comes The Sweeper Of Dreams,
He is breathless,
And watch out,
Poor sleeper,
His dreams are deceiving.”

The Keeper and The Sweeper of Dreams enter. The thief gets off the bed and looks at the 2 presences in his room.

The Sweeper

“I’ve got a rag pile,
In the alley,
With a needle,
In its’ eye,
And a baby,
Blue with bruises,
Where the sun will never shine.
Why should you care,
If you’re not there?”

The Keeper

“I’ve got a good man,
Sends a good man off to war,
So he can kill.
I’ve got silent lovers dying,
All alone, their tongues tied still:
But you should care,
‘though you’re not there”

The Sweeper

“I’ve got Midas on my fingers.”

The Keeper

“I’ve got carpenter’s blues.”

The Sweeper

“I’m the lazy hand of karma.”

The Keeper

“I’m the one you’ll fear to choose.”

The Sweeper

“I’m the trip trip trapping troll.”

The Keeper

“I am lost in the woods.”

The Sweeper

“I could spin you some gold.”

The Keeper

“I would help you,
If I could.
It‘s up to you.
Will you stay and pay the price?”
What will you do?”

The Sweeper

“Yes that’s all very nice.
But if you stay,
You’ll lose the day.
So come with me,
What do you say?”

The Thief

“Show me treasures,
So I’m dazzled.
Give me freedom,
Give me pleasures.”

The Sweeper

“And the woman?”

The Thief

“That’s his problem.
Shall we leave?”

The Chorus

“There goes the sweeper.,
The dreamer falls deeper.
The keeper is sighing.
The dying lies sleeping.
Will there be a widower,
Born in the morning?”

Dawn arrives. The husband enters; sees the thief has left and his wife still lies on the bed. He holds the antidote to the poison in his hands. He looks at his wife.

The Husband

“He’s gone!
But she is here.
What now?
Should I leave her here to die?
But what will I do then?
Should I do what must be done?
But what will we do then?
What have I done?”

The Sweeper Of Dreams

The Sweeper Of Dreams

We open in an street. Standing in the street, there is a man dressed in rags; everything he owns is in a bag at his feet. He is surrounded by people. They don’t look at him; it’s as though he doesn’t exist.

Homeless Man
“Please, will you help me?

I’m all alone.”

Chorus
“I’ve got problems of my own.”

Homeless Man
“I had a life once,
Like you;
Sheltered,
Secure,
The love of a woman,
The chance,
Of an opening door.”

Chorus
“I’ve got things to do;
Things to buy,
Crocodile tears to cry”

Homeless Man
“We had our dreams;
Not too much in life,
Enough to get by on,
For me and my wife.”

Chorus
“I’ve no time for this.
There’s something I can’t miss;
That I must do.”

Homeless man
“Then came redundancy,
Then came the beast,
Then came the curses,
And shattering screams.
Accusations,
and lies,
Have severed the ties.”

The man takes a roll up from a tin and lights it. As he strikes the match, a woman enters the street and walks up to him.

The Homeless Man
“Here she comes now.
Venus of the broken vow”

The Woman
“Damn your foolish schemes.”

The Homeless man
“But I had no choice.”

The Woman
“You promised me the world.”

The Homeless Man
“They took away my voice.
What could I say?”

The Woman
“You went from sweet nothings,
To nothing at all,
And this is the price,
You must pay.”

The Woman walks off stage.

The Homeless Man
“I hit the street;
The needle, the bottle.
I bit the dust,
More times,
Than I care to remember.”

He relights his rollup, which has gone out. As he strikes the match, A man tries to walk past him.

The Man
“You’re in my way.
You’re spoiling my day.”

The homeless Man
“I am poor,
In so many ways.”

The Man
“I needn’t care,
If you’re not there”

The Homeless Man
“Why should I try,
When I could so easily die,
And be done with it all?”

The Man
“Why bother fighting?
Why bother me?”

The Homeless Man
“True;
When the battle’s been fought,
And I’ve already lost.”

The Man
“Give up;
Surrender,
Just leave me be.”

The Homeless Man
“I’m empty, you see;
Nothing remains of me.”

The Man leaves the alley.

The Homeless Man
“Pity me,
Judge me;
The least you can do is,
Look at me.”

The Homeless man takes the last match from his matchbox, to relight his rollup, which has gone out again, then lays down on the ground.

A Road Sweeper enters the alley.

The Crowd
“Dreams are dust,
Floating in sunbeams.
Dreams are names,
Written in sand.
Dreams are clouds,
Snowflakes and earthquakes.
Dreams,
Can slip through your hands.”

The chorus exits and the road sweeper approaches the man, shoving him with his boot.

The Sweeper
“Shift it!
You’re making the street look untidy.”

He checks the man’s pulse.

The Sweeper
“Left the ivory gate, have you?

Time for the pearly one now.

I’ll stay and talk a while.

Did you see the game last night?
No, I don’t suppose you did.
We were robbed;
I sat in my chair and I sobbed.
My lawn could do with a spot of rain.
See, there’s a bright side;
At least you needn’t care,
About the weather anymore.

What was your name?

What colour are your eyes?

Isn’t it a crying shame,

When a lonely stranger dies”