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No man is an island by Brian Staff: sneak preview - get it from Amazon.com
No man is an island
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By Brian Staff


Your life

Life with others

Just life


Turning 50

My fiftieth birthday. Time to take stock.

The table in front of me is littered with a half-empty bottle of wine, a half-full pack of cigarettes, and a half-finished Chinese meal. The wine will get finished, and almost certainly a new bottle will be started, and maybe finished. Likewise the cigarettes. The Chinese meal? I won’t eat any more of that. I’ll crush the two forlorn looking fortune cookies in my hands before I have a chance to read their messages. “Your life will be full of peace and joy.” “You will meet the love of your life.” Fuck that.

Fifty years. A failed marriage and countless failed relationships. Well, I guess they must be failed, otherwise I would still be in them, wouldn’t I? I still can’t work out why my ex-wife hates me so much. Our time together went from liking to loving to despising in the course of a year. Maybe I should enter us for the Guinness Book of Records in the ‘speed to hate your husband section’.

The wine bottle is empty. How did that happen? The next one is open, and no sooner is the synthetic cork out of the bottle than I’m fiddling with the cellophane on the next pack of cigarettes. Fingers that fumble over the most rudimentary of tasks seem to find no problem with extracting corks or unwrapping cigarettes. I’m even having trouble writing these days, particularly signing my signature. The ‘S’ for Steve is okay, well, it would have to be, after all what is an ‘S’ but a squiggle? I get the ‘Pet’ part of my surname done, but then my hand seems to freeze in a state of rigor mortis. My brain tries to help out and urges my numb hand to get on with the ‘erson’, but when brains start messing with things that we’ve programmed ourselves to do naturally, it just doesn’t work out, makes matters worse in fact, and I end up just slurring the final characters onto the paper in an illegible mess. My signature ends up looking like how I’ll pronounce my name when I’ve had my first stroke, which can’t be that far off now. Perhaps my signature is trying to tell me that, give me a warning that if I don’t lay off the bad habits and develop some good ones I’ll soon be saying my name in the sad blurry form that I currently write it. ...

Ever wonder, I ask the audience, where these exotic new diseases keep coming from? Ebola virus, AIDS, Green Monkey fever, Asian bird flu, West Nile virus, flesh-eating bacteria? When I was young we had to make do with smallpox, po-lio, whooping cough, tuberculosis. Really boring stuff. Kids today have so much more to choose from. This is a good thing. Right? I mean we all have retirement plans, don’t we? And those retirement plans usually contain a good chunk of
investment in manufacturing companies, and some of those companies are bound to be pharmaceutical companies, because they make such a boatload of cash. Right? So if those companies couldn’t be sure of new diseases turning up that
they can make medications for and profit from, we’d all be poorer, wouldn’t we? You gotta love the good old capitalist ecosystem. We can even transform misery into money. Well, someone else gets the misery and we get the money, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, right?

I’m overweight I tell that audience, stating the obvious. Half of you are overweight. I can’t see you clearly – I tell them, shading my eyes against the stage lighting and scanning the room– but I know half of you are overweight, because that’s what we are in this country. There are three things that are certain in our American life: death, taxes and flab. And all three of those things are patriotic gestures. We have to die to get out of the way so that the next generation can come and get their turn of suffering. We have to pay taxes so that we can continue to terrorize the rest of the world. And we have to get fat so that we can spend a lot on food, and spend even more on the drugs that we need to cure the illnesses that the food induces. Being fat is a patriotic act. Eat up, my fellow Americans! Your country needs you, and the more of you there is, the better. Your flab is fuelling the wheels of countless industries.


No man is an island … as long as there’s a woman around.

This collection of short stories is a first person view of the absurdity of living with oneself, with a partner, in a family, in a community and in this world. It is a witty and entertaining look at contemporary life and experiences.

With a dash of self-deprecation, this anthology invites the reader to guffaw, groan or cringe at the ridiculous but real aspects of everyday living. Each story brings the joys, conflicts, challenges, nonsense and meaninglessness of life alive, and hooks the audience right up until its surprise ending.

In Turning 50, a wanton drunk turns the tables on a dour comedian whose life and jokes are sometimes indistinguishable. Heart and Sole was described by Writers’ Forum as “hilarious” when they awarded it first prize in a short story competition. In Liar, we are invited into a hot and heavy relationship with Sally, a mistress of tale telling, who points out the holes in any criticism of her by showing that lying is just part of everyday life. The smell in the bathroom will remind students and professionals alike of the rough and smooth of sharing living space with others. We are given insight into how an individual proclivity can test the tact of the best and turn a run of the mill existence into an exercise in diplomacy.

No man is an island … as long as there’s a woman around is a collection of works that depicts life lived on different levels for people who want to take time to laugh as they gain insight into the human condition, rather than engage with a self-help manual to get through life’s dysfunctions.