These six short stories were channelled by Candy Ray from a non-human chaos muse called Ino.
Each one creates a vivid and enchanting world. The tales are a showcase for Ino’s unique views about human beings- her observation of people is very sharp, yet with a motherly quality.
Excerpt from URBAN MYTH:
At the fairground, the children were spiking their candyfloss with ginger pills made to pep up their life force. Maire did not know where her children had gone; she could not seem to keep a tab on them however hard she tried. They had escaped her control like a snake slithering from her grasp, to engage in various activities of its own of a snaky kind, somewhere else in the metropolis where they all lived.
There they were at last with lollipops and candy, standing in front of the coconut shy and licking their lips at the rich taste of the sweet syrups used to make these confections by those who exploit the young and their taste for sweet things.
The helter-skelter which stood to one side formed a thick, solid column that took itself very seriously in this atmosphere of tinsel and fluff. Maire almost expected to see her precious children halfway down it and hanging in mid-air off the rug. There was always some danger like this to worry about when transient glitter like the fair shed itself on their grey town and lured away all the children within reach like the Pied Piper, and it wasn’t fair, the way she couldn’t compete with the fair.
She kicked up her legs in their long, brown stockings and set off into the crowd, a lone rebellious Mum among so many who were like automatons, and her approach would be the one to prevail here in her hometown if she got her way at any time soon. She collared and appropriated the children, and they went with her with many backward glances at the fair and their friends; and her daughter Tina’s hair was piled up on top in a way she would never have allowed her to do it, as it looked too grown-up and sophisticated and might attract perverts.
Maire had a cake waiting at home with pink icing and cherries piled high on it, and she knew this would distract them sufficiently to forget the fair completely. Its artificial glitzy pleasures were far inferior to home lore and home cooking, and Melvin the eldest was starting to appreciate what was important in life. She meant to tell him to be other: other than the herd, though you can hardly call making a comfortable home a rebellion against the herd. It’s more a case of bringing them to a decorated water hole with lion traps to keep it clear, and painted, cushioned grass.
As Maire put her key in the door, with Melvin, Tina and little Shirley straggling behind, their Jack Russell terrier bounded over from the garden and licked and shoved everyone. He rolled over on the lawn and rubbed his face, incongruously, on the spiked doormat. Tina turned as she was about to go into the house and came back to play with the family dog, stroking him and chucking him under the chin. “Come on in!” Maire said shortly. “With your hair like that too-we don’t want the neighbours to see it.”
“What’s wrong with it?” asked Tina defiantly.
“You know what’s wrong, it’s too revealing-the clothes with that hairstyle. Anyone could be at the fair; you don’t know who you’re dealing with. Girls have been attacked for less.”
Tina pulled a stick of rock from her pocket. “See, I was only buying sweets at the fair like a kid”, she said. “I wasn’t acting grown-up at all.”
Maire let it rest and turned on her heel to go into the house, and the budgie made angry noises from its position on the bars of the cage by the window. Her house was a mêlée, a mess, and that was how she wanted it to be. But at the same time, she wanted her children to be exemplary examples, employable employees at their school, which stood on the nearby hill and looked more like a Tyrolean house in Austria than a place of education.
Melvin went to his room and began playing a video game. He was fourteen and just starting to experience that the real world and the fantasy world in the video games were at odds. The real world did not deliver, the videogame world did not play fair, and he suspected he might be wasting his time because he had been indoctrinated to believe that other pursuits were more worthy of his attention.
Still he went on playing automatically, because that’s what boys of his age do, and his hair was spiky behind his ears and marked him out in the classroom as the rebel that his mother wanted him to be.
Teatime came at last, and as they all wolfed down the cherry cake it did indeed put everything to do with the fair out of their minds, and all they remembered was a birthday party this coming weekend where they were all planning to compete to be the most generous and beautiful.
Shirley dropped a lot of her tea onto the miniature jeans she was wearing: all her clothes a miniature of adult ones according to the fashion of the day. Her hair was more old-fashioned, though: in bunches, which curled on either side of her head and sprang up, up, when she jumped or walked. Shirley hadn’t yet felt her way through organizing the chaos in her room and left it to the four winds, just like in her babyhood which at four she was only just tentatively leaving behind. Rompers, jodhpurs, bouncing in a bouncy chair and breadcrumbs you can’t reach for birds you can’t catch. She wanted to be a rebel too, like her mother, but did not even know what it meant.
She was tied up in her bunches: in a bunch of nursery school children, in a bunch of flowers that is indoors now, and you are helping to arrange it in a vase just like Mummy. Tied to the routines and all the other ties, she leaned over and tried to see the world beyond her jeans where she had dropped so much of her tea.
Tina oversaw her brother and sister in a way cursory, though still concerned. She was a better judge than their mother, she thought, of how they were coming on; though of course that sounded like a potted plant that you are checking every day for healthy growth. With Melvin, quiffs in the hair and wiping his nose was what she looked for, and with Shirley a little less concentration on her teddy and more on what was going on and being said in the house. Pertinent comments were frequent on many subjects and if Shirley missed too many chances to add her views she would never grow up to be a discerning adult. That was Tina’s opinion, anyway.
The hedge outside was full of mottled birds that seemed to have come from the nearby park, where people encouraged their numbers by feeding them crumbs. They called the budgie, not seeming to understand why it answered but did not come outside to them. Freedom was relative in this society for man and bird, and the song of those who were truly free echoed above the gardens like theirs, far beyond into the policed sky where planes watched planes and planes watched humans on the ground below; sometimes using laser technology all the better to determine who was friend and who was foe, and who simply did not know the borderlines.
Tina held Shirley’s hand as they walked up the stairs at bedtime, for Maire was busy with hairnets and curlers; although she was a relatively young Mum she liked to do up her hair like a turkey at night-time.
The children’s Dad was absent, presumed missing-not missing at sea though, missing from his duties and responsibilities and from their lives, and from the straight and narrow path he had promised to tread as a child. Maire cared nothing for straight and narrow and would have let him be a mop-haired hippy all he wanted, but somehow that had made no difference when it came to it. He had not wanted to follow her path or walk her way, but to ‘go off on his own’ and ‘slip off somewhere private’, excluding them. It was an inconvenience only for him to remember them, for more pressing matters were at hand such as his hobbies, career and leisure, which were after all for whom? Surely these things were to share with them, his family.
To throw a stick for a dog in the park is such a very simple thing, so why wasn’t he there doing it? Their dog wondered too. Animals have a memory, based on scent and treats, that can last many years.
Tina never thought of her father these days. He was a vagabond who tugged on her hand, on her heart for a brief while and then went away, leaving her not so much bereft as bemused. She was not certain she wanted the influence of a father figure at this juncture in her life when she was discovering motherly feelings in herself towards Shirley, and desired more distance and independence from Maire than she could comfortably have when they were squeezed tightly into a family home together.
Shirley didn’t really remember when Daddy left, and there was no exact day; it had been a coming and going for a while. She was fond of him of course, but had gradually learned not to rely on him. As for Melvin his loss was much greater, being alone in a house of women, and because of that he mostly said and felt nothing about the matter.
On the day following their trip to the fairground the children were all spruced-up for a journey into the centre of town in which the barber’s shop featured. So why spruce up, Melvin wondered, when the barber could do it for you? The two girls had important shopping to do for the schools they attended, so their smart appearance was more understandable. They threw themselves happily into their shopping, and other pursuits like stopping for ice cream and drinks that were always included in this agenda. It could have been a contract made with Big Brother, to participate in his dismal world to the full knitting-needle extent and length of it. Who would ever think now that they were rebels, or that Maire was, as she fixed her lipstick and clicked shut her handbag? For they were doing the same as everyone else who was a molten-down conformist. Maybe it was all in their minds, and at any moment they would come unstuck against a skating rink barrier, or a stick for popping balloons. Banana sandwiches in a lunchbox do save time, and do involve fruit as well as starch, and here all our concerns meet as the clock strikes noon.
Children are an asset in our society, or so Maire had been told. She was not so sure it wasn’t a constant search for their little heads bobbing away and on the point of escaping, like they had done at the fair. Then she had to haul them back, like drawing in fish on a line, to the respectable speckled dolly-mixture streets where dogs played in the bushes on either side of your neighbour’s lawn.
They had left their dog Bruno on the lawn, chasing a ball alone. You do not always need a puppet to throw the ball; once you have got the idea of the game you can imitate its rules all by yourself, and make the ball obey you as you prod it across the grass and curve yourself to chase it round in a circle. You can follow wherever it leads, bereft of the mysterious mentality floating in the air above it that was formerly behind it.
Melvin bent down to tie his bootlaces. Why would they come undone at inappropriate moments, making him look so much less the independent teenager? -the impression of which he wanted to waft to all their friends and neighbours and his schoolmates, especially during tackles and passes on the football field when the boots were replaced by even stouter football trainers.
The girls continued their lunch, a mere interlude before further shopping. How a society could be so fixated on shopping that every few days it becomes necessary to trail round the shops looking for something else is a tragedy hard to believe.
Maire at a coffee morning: who invented those? Are they meant for the owners of coffee cups to show off their ownership to a neat little clique who meet in houses near the school, while the children are tortured within and have no access to the civilized conversation of the coffee morning? Pride and showing off are part of this always; keeping up with those mythical Joneses who don’t exist; otherwise they would be here at this tête-à-tête and other similar parties. A frequent place for these rituals to occur is on the veranda where everyone can see you, though this diminishes the value of the conversation, for then you must not speak too loudly when saying intimate things.
The ladies love to drink their coffee while showing off the fashionable clothes that they bought on their most recent shopping trip, and while discussing their husbands endlessly and their household gadgets to a lesser degree. The children are a very tricky subject, for it can make you look good or evil, wise or out of date, according to which facet of family life you pick on to praise.