There are no chupacabras in the restroom [Octagonal Beasts]

•November 7, 2011 • 3 Comments

Because there are no chupacabras in the restroom, she is relaxed and at one. This glaring absence of chupacabras makes it easy to open the door and walk in and even to be alone in there. They simply don’t exist, you see. And let’s say they did…

It’s quiet in here and minty in smell and minty is the light.

But look let’s just say that they did exist, it would be out in the country, where there are plenty of goats to suckle on. The only people who see them – who WOULD see them – are old cowboys, who see a lot of things, a lot of crazy things and only some of the things they see are real.

And these cowboys are very far away, also. Off in Sonora. Not in Tijuana.

Rosalita takes one shiny patent leather shoe and pushes the door of the cubicle open. It’s peppermint. That’s the specific mint. She has it.

She expected the door to swing wide open. It swings only about 20 centimeters before stopping silently.

She keeps her foot in the air. She is stuck in the moment of uncertainty. If she changes nothing, maybe nothing will change and eventually someone will come in the room and it won’t matter so much whether there is a chupacabra in there or not.

Won’t someone please just come and make things not matter?

Please come.

Her leg trembles like atoms.

A hiss comes from behind the door. A sucking hiss.

She turns and runs and hears barking, like if a donkey barked, and she hears skittering and she hears the sound of a big splash like a long tail thrashing into the toilet bowl.

Why is this room so clean? Why is the floor so clean and so slippery? Why does she run and run but go nowhere? Why are her legs so soft and numb. She is a dancer. She has strong legs. But they don’t move.

What they do is bend and she falls on the floor and she covers her arms over her head and maybe he will just chew her arms off.

He strikes.

The Hernandez sisters come in and find her. The Hernandez sisters are notorious liars and/or dreamers. There account is unreliable. Rosalita will have to tell people that again and again for the next few weeks.

Their account is that they came in and the room was empty except for Rosalita who was biting at her own arm and whose mouth was red like a tomato full of teeth and that’s why the blazer was ripped open.

Rosalita knows that she is ruining her life (again) but she tells the truth. It was a big claw that ripped her open and that the restroom window should not be open so how do you explain that, how is that explained?

After he sews her up they ask Dr Pacheco and he says, “What…do I look like Quincy?” and he acts like it is a big deal for him to explain that this is a TV show about a forensic pathologist who is more like a Sherlock Holmes but of course it is really just a great chance to remind everyone that he got his degree up in the USA.

The nuns come to visit her at home the next day. They come in full costume. They read their exorcism books the night before, but that was really more because even the life of a nun needs a little spice.

Really it is just a little chat about the devil in general and the chupacabra in specific and how they would prefer it if she could be more on the lookout for the devil and less on the look out for the chupacabra, which is just a scaly kangaroo and furthermore is not real.

She nods and receives the ghastliness of nun hugs in return.

She survives five more such attacks before graduation and – naturally – this changes her.

At One Time

•November 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

At one time, the dead walked among the living.  While they no longer needed their corporeal bodies, some chose to hang on to them. There were those who were particularly stubborn and held on to their corpses until they were little more than dust.  Some of the living said it took effort to do so, but others insisted that it couldn’t have been difficult because everyone knew the dead were lazy – although it would have been impolite to say so in front of them.  They liked to be catered to and respected.

The old and the spiteful in particular would keep their bodies animated as long as possible.  It was not uncommon to see a family leading a confused maggot-filled corpse back to the gravesite where all would cajole and bribe the spirit to leave the body once and for all.  Promises were made of frequent visits with flowers and sweets.  In time, elaborate rituals were developed in order to coax out the spirit, and those who were particularly skilled in this form of persuasion were sought out and well-paid.

While nobody knew the ultimate fate of the spirit once it had left the body, these persuaders would tell elaborate tales of special lands and the joy that awaited the new arrivals on some distant shore.  At first anyone who could tell a convincing story became a persuader, but later there were restrictions.  In some lands only men were allowed this position. In others it would fall to a certain caste.

Still the walking dead continued to be a nuisance. While one might be able to ignore even the most obnoxious and persistent of ghosts, a decaying corpse always called attention to itself.

More rituals were developed and people began to pray regularly for the dead always adding expressions such as, “May they rest in peace.”

The concept of a separate place, “an afterlife” often high up, far away, and close to the gods was invented.  The living at first did not believe in such a place.  It was something they told the dead about – the way a parent might talk to a pesky child – hoping they could convince them to go away and find it for themselves.

The world was becoming a faster paced and growing smaller. It was no longer practical for the dead, even in spirit form, to remain so constant a presence.

Commerce had been invented.  The living had begun to build cities and trade in marketplaces. The streets of the cities were becoming overcrowded.  One would see the living usually involved in the process of buying or selling or some other type of work related to those occupations.  They were busy and hardly even had time to chat.  The dead in spirit form looked not so different from the living, although they moved about more slowly, if at all.  A dead person in spirit form could stand in the same spot for an indefinite amount of time.  After all, where did he have to go? What was the rush?

The living could simply barge through them – which some people believed was rude or bad luck and there was often the possibility that one could be mistaken — that very old woman with the tattered cloak was in fact alive and not too happy when the young man in a rush tried to walk though her.

And people became even more impatient about the corpses.

By this time it was considered vulgar to continue to occupy one’s body after death. The knowledge that a skeletal matriarch ruled a household could kill the prospects for marriage for generations. But there was no reasoning with a corpse.

Some cultures began the practice of ritual cannibalism to keep this from happening.

Others adopted cremation, which became popular although the wood and oil necessary were costly and the religious guilds kept the prices too high for most of the common people who began to break away and perform their own rituals, home made cures for the problem.

Eventually, people demanded more, a final solution.

The religious guilds were broken so that cremations could be performed more cheaply.  And when they weren’t, the coffins were nailed shut and buried several meters under the ground and gates placed around the cemeteries making it very difficult for the dead to reanimate their bodies and escape from the grave.

Over time, the dead forgot how to animate or reanimate anything, and even if a body had been left out in the open, it remained still as stone until moved by the living.

These measures took care of the corpses, but did nothing about the ghosts.

Progress had become popular, and the dead were incapable of understanding it.  The patriarchs and matriarchs of families would continue to try to hold power for as long as they could.  They would demand the finest clothes, even though they couldn’t wear them.  The best furniture though they couldn’t sit, the richest foods which were brought to them in elaborate displays and left to spoil or to be eaten by vermin.  They would forbid marriages, and demand the living carry out ancient vendettas.

There were sons and daughters who could never marry.  Even beyond the grave their parents demanded to be cared for.  And women who did marry had it worse.  They were never allowed to ascend to their proper place in the household.  Their husband’s mother, or grandmother or great-grandmother or even beyond would still hold sway.

Of course the dead would go off somewhere or fade away, but this process could take anywhere from one to twenty generations and there were a few particularly stubborn dead people who were not easily persuaded to “give up the ghost.”

The dead, even in spirit form, could be unseemly.  Sometimes a man who died in his prime would continue to husband a woman as she became older and the sight of a decrepit old woman with her dead young spouse was not uncommon.  More problematic were the lonely dead who would try to persuade their partners to join them.  They could be very persistent, whispering in the ear of their spouse day and night.  Children were orphaned because their father had stabbed himself in the chest to be with their dead mother.  And while both parents would continue to “occupy” the house, they were unable to provide or nurture their living offspring in any meaningful way.

More elaborate stories were invented to control the spirits.  In addition to “heaven,” rumors were spread that if they went beyond the cemetery gate they would disappear.  Of course it only took one brave spirit to walk out and come back to tell the others and cause a mass exodus.  So the living developed other strategies.   They began to ignore the dead except on a few special holidays each year when they would be honored, but even then they would no longer be spoken to directly.  This became the law, and the living who chose to continue speaking with their dead friends and family did so at great risk to themselves. They could be accused of heresy, burned as witches, or locked away as insane. And while offerings might be made in one’s home to one’s parents or grandparents, they no longer had to be made to one’s most distant ancestors no matter how much those ancestors complained.

The living found this strategy worked.  Nothing frustrated the dead as much as not being paid attention to, and if the living stopped speaking to them and reminding them who they had been, they soon forgot and faded away.  Homes were made less hospitable to the dead by the use of certain herbs that they found to be particularly unpleasant.  One still might see them drifting around the town but they were for the most part easy to ignore.

Of course for the first few hundred years of this phase, things were awkward.  It could be almost comical at times.   A woman might be sitting in a chair next to her dead husband, might know perfectly well that he was there, his arm around her shoulder, his mouth almost touching her cheek.

“Oh I miss him so!  If only he were here.”  And of course she knew that he was, saw him as plainly as the bowl of fruit on the table.

Angry and frustrated the deceased would lash out even managing to move objects or create temperature changes while the living went on pretending that it was only the “wind.”

Later the living came to fervently believe the myths they had created about the magical realms that awaited the dead. It made them feel less guilty about neglecting them, and offered a way to convince the dead to leave.  In time, the living became so convinced that the dead were in fact someplace else that they no longer needed to pretend not to see them.  They automatically rationalized away the evidence that their senses provided.  The dead became quiet and meek also believing the stories.  They felt it was their own fault they were still around, that they must have done something, or neglected to do something that caused their continued presence.

Some of the loudest, angriest dead would not accept the blame for their condition.  They would continue to “haunt” their relatives.  When their outbursts could not be explained away as natural phenomena, special rituals to appease and exorcise them continued to be used, up until modern times.

Others stayed behind at the cemeteries waiting and waiting until the boat came, or the coachman or whomever it was they were told about.  Some just drifted away, faded into nothingness, embarrassed, feeling that they must have failed somehow.  Some wandered searching for eons or formed their own communities.  A few even performed rituals of their own where they would lead the newly dead away from the living and pretend they were going toward the mythical good place.  They believed they were helping their brethren by doing this.  Even though the newly dead would eventually figure out they were only drifting, by that time they would have adjusted to the situation and been less disappointed.

At some point the living started to really despise the dead.  Widows could hardly wait to burn their husbands’ clothes.  People avoided cemeteries and houses said to contain spirits. No one even remembered the reason for this contempt, but like most prejudices it began with the suppression of a crime committed against the oppressed.

After hundreds of years of ignoring the dead, the living lost the ability to communicate with them even when they wished to.  They could no more hear them than they could hear sounds too high pitched for a dog’s ears.  Some children were still able to see and hear them, but this ability, which was held in disdain by adults and never nurtured, would wither away by the age of six or seven.

The divide between the living and the dead was complete and in some ways things were much better than they had been before.  Food offerings no longer had to be made daily.  Even if the dead were standing with their hands pointing to their mouths demanding or begging to be fed, to have the unbearable and constant hunger assuaged, they were given at most (and only by the devout) a few morsels a couple of times a year.  The rest of the harvest could go to feed the living and no one had to starve. Oldest sons grew up knowing that someday they would be in charge of a business or a farm with no one standing by their side constantly haranguing them with advice that might have made sense a hundred years before.  Women raised their children in peace.  And if by misfortune the child died they mourned it and moved on, had other children so life could continue.  And if it was the mother who died in childbirth, then the father would find another wife, a living wife to care for the babies left behind and give him more.

And of course our streets and houses were less crowded, much less crowded.  Progress was achieved.  Commerce uninterrupted.  Old things could be thrown away without fear of offense, until finally the world was inhabited by people who didn’t even know what existed before they were born.  Without the dead to tell them otherwise, each generation believed that the world was created just for them.

Dinner Engagement

•October 9, 2011 • 2 Comments

“At last, the infamous James,” Peter announced as the new arrival walked into the restaurant.

He was late. The group had already started drinking.  Sarah had had two mojitos, unusual for her on an empty stomach. Except of course for Peter, they were all meeting James for the first time. Everyone stood up and offered him either a handshake or a kiss.

Sarah thought a kiss would be more appropriate. She was aiming for his cheek and missed. Later she’d wonder if the lip-to-lip smack had been intentional on his part. Pulling away, she felt herself flush, but nobody seemed to notice.

James and Peter had similar eyes, and almost identical noses. James’ mouth was fuller, his hair a bit thicker. They weren’t very different. And yet, Sarah thought, next to his mysterious older brother, Peter looked like a copy made when the machine was low on toner.

There were six of them at the table, including Sarah’s former roommate Samantha, who’d been invited to even out the boy-to-girl ratio, although Peter had warned Sarah that Sammy wasn’t James’ type.

“What is his type?” Sarah had asked.

“Oh, you know. The usual.  Lady in the living room, whore in the bedroom.”

Throughout dinner, Sarah found her eyes going to his. James didn’t speak much. His voice was like Peter’s, but deeper.  Later she’d recall little of what he had actually said.

Between the entre and the coffee, Sarah excused herself to use the ladies’.  It was far from the table, downstairs past the bar.

He was standing beside the door when she exited.

He grabbed her, or did she grab him?

They kissed, this time intentionally, sweetly, sloppily.

She pulled away.  “I… I must have had too much to drink,” she muttered.

He put his hand on her bare arm. It was like he’d flipped a switch and turned on a light she forgot existed.

Somehow they both wound up in the bathroom.  Had she pulled him in or was it his idea?  It was she who bolted the door.

He pushed her against the wall and put a hand under her dress.

“Don’t… Stop.”

“Don’t stop?”

She leaned into him. Her hand went to his zipper.

It was over in a few minutes.

She returned to the table first.

It was Samantha who asked, “Did you see James? He seems to have disappeared.”

Peter said, “He’s good at that. Disappearing acts. He said he was going out for a smoke.” Then he turned to Sarah, “Granted, not the most reliable of men, but what do you think of the putative best man?”

“He’ll do,” she said, a shaky hand grabbing a coffee cup.

——–
Author’s note: Not the type of stuff I usually write, but there was a flash fiction contest with a prompt and this is a slightly modified version of what I came up with. Thoughts and comments welcome. For those of you unfamiliar with my work, please check out my page here or my blog.

Turntable Eulogy

•October 2, 2011 • 3 Comments

Stuart Estell’s novel Verruca Music is available in paperback or ebook. Click here for details

I give thanks for the joyful noise of my now-deceased Pioneer turntable and praise its  holy name.

 

This most sacred of objects was handed down from father to son, and, at the time of its passing, was thirty-nine years old. It leaves behind indelible sonic memories.

 

I give thanks to my deceased Pioneer turntable for the afternoon it spent playing both sides the 12″ single of Far Gone and Out by The Jesus and Mary Chain that I bought half-price in Woolworths in King’s Heath. It played them over and over again.

 

I give it thanks for my first exposure to “Screamadelica” by Primal Scream in 1992, which I borrowed from a schoolfriend named Fred, and which at the time I absolutely hated. But it sowed the seeds.

 

I give it thanks for my first exposure to “Psychocandy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain. The storm of feedback is still lodged firmly in my brain and my ears. Its gift will never leave me.

 

I give it thanks for my first exposure to “White Light/White Heat” by The Velvet Underground, which I borrowed from a schoolfriend named Steven. I listened to Sister Ray and watched the picture disc spin round and round and round and round. Steven once took the chance of ‘phoning me so that he could volunteer to replace me as singer in the band I fronted. I refused and suggested he play drums instead. He didn’t.

 

I give it thanks for my first exposure to “Dragnet” by The Fall, which I borrowed from my friend Ian. It was a hot summer, and mum described the song Printhead as “raucous” – she certainly got that right – but strangely enough didn’t ask me to turn it off.

 

I give it thanks for my first exposure to Velocity Girl by Primal Scream, which in contrast to “Screamadelica” I loved instantly and consider to this day to be the finest one minute and twenty seconds of pure jangly pop I have ever heard.

 

I give it thanks for the hours spent sitting on the floor in the dining room, leaning against the wall, head back, eyes closed, listening to Shostakovich quartets, Mahler symphonies, assorted Messiaen, Webern, Stravinsky and anything else I could borrow from Birmingham Central Library.

 

I give it thanks, nearly twenty years later, for my renewed acquantance with Screamadelica. I saw sense eventually, and my now-deceased Pioneer turntable played the red vinyl 180 gramme reissue beautifully.

 

I praise it for its smoked plastic dust-cover, even though it was an absolute pain as it would no longer stay open on its hinges, making the simple act of turning a record over something of a challenge.

 

I praise it for its reliable belt-drive, its pleasing adjustable arm-weight, and the immensely satisfying metallic noise made by the arm that moved the tone-arm between the “up”, “on-up”, and “down” positions.

 

I praise it for its dated 1970s fake teak casing, and slightly dangerous-looking wiring.

 

It died as it would have wished: spinning the limited edition blue vinyl pressing of “West” by Wooden Shjips. May the psychedelic sounds of Ripley Johnson’s Airline guitar accompany it to a better place, where it will rejoin its sister amplifier, the death of which preceded it by a year.

 

And I mourn it because it was my dad’s, and I thought it might – just might – outlive him, as a part of our shared past, as something to be cherished.

 

S.E. 23.9.11

 

How long can a girl live on crackers?

•July 30, 2011 • 3 Comments

Someone needs to talk about Marion. It’s not going to be me though. No way. Because everything I know about her is really something about me. And I know nothing about if she died or went somewhere nice or is still living in her Dad’s old cellar.
Except he was in jail for a few years, and the house was abandoned. So it couldn’t be true anymore that she was kept underground, like it used to maybe be true when we were all kids.
Unless he left a gigantic stockpile of shrink-wrapped ham and Ritz crackers.
She loved Ritz crackers.
If that mad bastard did lock her up in an underground dungeon – and I’m not saying he did – then he would have made sure she got lots of Ritz crackers. I went in her kitchen fairly often and whenever you pulled open the big cabinet it was a red flash of Ritz boxes. After her mam died anyway.
I mentioned it to her one time: the Ritz crackers. That was awful. She melted and she shook and I almost had to touch her.
It was weird. I knew it was weird. Everyone knew it was weird. Except maybe Marion. Even before we all got puberty, it was weird. We didn’t play two-ee-ball, or tigs or anything. We didn’t play. We watched the telly and ate and she ironed. Later she played me records, Tamla Motown compilations that crackled with pure time from the smell of the sleeves to the crackle of the needle to the music that obviously was something her mam would have liked and not her dad and her mam was drowned in time and made of time.
That was amazing music. Unexpectedly it came into our life. It was better than telly. We never talked about it. She would just go all quiet and walk over the superthick carpet and get a disk out of the deep drawer and put it on and we’d both sit back and love it and soar on some track like “Baby I Need Your Loving” but we wouldn’t talk about it and we wouldn’t look at each other.
So this is all weird right? This is like mam and dad when it maybe should have been doctor and nurse.
When she grew beautiful, I assumed it would all end. It didn’t. She did her boyfriend thing. I did my girlfriend thing, as best I could. There was still time to meet up in the time between 4pm and 6pm. I was getting into my art seriously by then. She thought it was a miracle the way I drew so she’d watch me do it. For her, when you drew you would draw a circle for the head and then other shapes around it and you’d draw a nose in the correct spot etc. And I liked that style. I still do. But for me it was all the chaos of the pencil on the paper, drawing from the center out, finding the best way for the scratches to share the paper and teasing people and trees and cars and geese etc. out of it. Every time she treated it like magic, so of course I kept going over.
She was lovely Irish. She was lovely freckles.
I should have drawn her. At least once.
But imagine asking her.
Imagine that.
I was usually shuffled out before her dad came home but of course I knew about him because I lived across the street and back then everyone knew everything except the very filthiest details about each other back then. The VERY filthiest details. And a very high level of detail. That was what we didn’t know.
But when you came home from work drunk and you terrorized your lovely daughter like a big ugly bat in her face and you stayed up till midnight taking photos of the moon then we knew it like you had glass walls on your house.
If you had a big, bloody telescope and you didn’t just look through it but you also wrote things down about it – in a book! – then this we knew.
And if you started fights but never finished them. And if you dug a big hole in your back yard and over a period of months built yourself an enormous shed that looked like a bomb shelter then every sheet of corrugated steel and every foot of timber was noted.
And when it was done and you called it your observatory and you locked it up, then we hated you.
Not ‘me’, I was a daft kid. I just heard this all in other rooms, in big smoke bubbles with bad music going on. How bad? The best of it was “Bad Company”: that’s the high water mark.
“Don’t go to bed, stay up a bit. Have a laugh.”
How can a kid have a laugh with a bunch of grown ups? Really they wanted me to say soft things so they could teach me the language of insults that I would need to live my adult years here.
“He’s got a big head hasn’t he? Like a bloody caravan?”
“G’night.”
Anyway, I learned things in the bubbles. They all thought he was mad and dirty and that he thought too highly of himself.
But that was my friend’s dad. I didn’t want him to be dirty and mad.
So one time I suddenly said to Marion, “I want to meet your dad.”
Not “I think you’re great” or “I’m still going to be thinking about you my whole life” or “I want to draw your picture.”
She said no, of course, but without conviction. I was surprised and I found a comfortable place to sit.
I found a comfortable place. Then I got worried.
“Is this your dad’s chair?”
“No, it’s our mam’s.”
I settled into it. Our chairs outlive us. I soaked that thought in as Marion fluffed up her hair which had recently been cut into a short wedge.
Then she suddenly laughed and smiled at me so hard that even if I think about it now, I break a little.
Then we heard her dad cough and we both practically crapped ourselves. The next bit of time drops away from my memory. Then I am half out of the little window in the kitchen pantry and kicking my legs and how can it be that she is not laughing at the two legged octopus she is trying to push out and how come I am not screaming as I look down at the concrete my head and hands are actually trying to plunge into?
Later that happens, I guess. We have a very good laugh next time we see each other. But we don’t say why, because at root…there is something not funny going on.
After that day, we grow apart. We still live only 100 feet apart but she becomes more like other girls and I become probably even less like other lads.
A year later, she runs away from home.
It’s totally plausible.
Presumably the police check the observatory. But maybe when they are in there, the telescopes distract them and they look up instead of down. Maybe she is underground. We talked about it a bit when we were kids but it was one cold day in Germany when I read the news about another one of those girls being dug out from under her father’s construction with rape babies clinging to her that I really thought that the stupid kids had been right and Marion had been in there in chains. It seemed so stupid then, like we had the last traces of Hansel and Gretel still in us and we were embarrassing the grown ups with our idiot talk. We had to be more reasonable like the police and the doctors.
It is plausible that she ran away. She grew wild in the year without me. First she stared smoking, which is no big deal but she did it forcefully and when she held the cigarette in front of her face it was the most intense theater I have ever seen, even to this day.
Then she went a little punk and she drank more than the other girls and she threw up without bending over.
Then she was gone.
I remember our last nod. I had expected that at some point we’d have a new friendship that would burrow out from the remains of the old one like a rash of flowers. The nod was maintenance, until we were both a bit older and more solid.
I remember the last nod and seeing that she had five rings in one ear now. I remember the sense that she was with a tall, boring lad.
And then years and years pass.
And people die.
And I don’t.
And now I am back in the old house, looking over at her old house.
Her dad is still in it. The stars still encircle it.
And one day, as sure as flowers will sprout from the earth, I will go to that house and I will find out the truth.
So tonight…I won’t.

What it Means to be a Doctor is to Love

•July 21, 2011 • 1 Comment

Rearranging the flyers on her desk. Thinking about all those mad syllables. Pantroplillipan. Foroxiplotl. Sometimes she read one backwards, just for fun. Nothing really happened, except that she did have fun.
Ltolpixorof.
She put the flyers in her flyer box, which she would empty in a month’s time unless some patient asked her about one of the drugs, in which case she would open the box and get it out and read it in front of them and then say, “Hmm,” and then either “Yes” or “No.” In her younger days she would have momentarily left the room to read the flyer, to maintain patient confidence. Now she was past that. She had achievements and massive failures both under her belt. But she still got paid every two weeks and the ever-aging never-changing herd trampled on her for six hours a day every day.
Plus, reading was a talent in its own right and not to be underestimated. Sometimes a blob in a grey big rib duffel coat would audibly giggle when she started reciting the magical powers and diabolical curses inscribed on the trifold.
“Death.”
The ultimate side effect.
Any time she read that side-effect she made sure she looked up to see the unique way each simple face would take it. Most often they looked behind them with a darting look.
Well, anyway. Flyers in the box.
Then two minutes before the next appointment.
She walked to the window and looked out. Today she chose the sky over the concrete wall or the forty foot drop. It was the brighter of the three today. She knew the air between her and the blue shell of the sky was awfully polluted and she had seen what came out of the lungs of living and dead people she encountered in a professional capacity. She lived out of town, where there were green bushes and foxes and people sometimes walked for pleasure. But she breathed this muck all day every day.
And yet there were those who say she had never been punished! That she had got away with murder.
The cowardly thing to have done would have been to run like Dr Pigz did. Or not even a run. She disappeared. No photos, no press.
But she, Dr. Dean, had stayed. She had only been passing through. But now eighteen years had passed. She was forty-two years of age. Her face had grown long, her ribs still were prominent when undressed but her belly sagged. She had the sad beauty of a woman at the feet of Jesus in a painting. She had the sad beauty of a lute’s plaintive cry. She had the sad beauty of a person who has lost their shoes and is dealing with it alone.
Sometimes she met a man or a woman who had been one of the children that she and Dr Pigz had considered back in those days. She touched them with great fear.
Her ex-husband would always ask her one thing when he got drunk [every second Tuesday during the first part of their marriage but more randomly as the end came in to land.]
He would ask her, “Why the hell did you stay here in a town you destroyed?”
And she would answer each time, “Because I don’t know if I did.”
Time was up. Two minutes more had been added to the pile of minutes devoted to this dilemma.

The Geometry of the Bongo

•July 19, 2011 • 13 Comments

Outside, red bricks slept. Tired after a day of being red, they were muddy brown now and left eyes alone. A few unlucky bricks had to do night duty in flamingo pink, under the neon sign.
“I could murder a pint.”
It was a nightclub of last resort or of raising the stakes. It was the step before getting a tattoo for a laugh, or searching alleyways for tramps. Or arm-wrestling over glass.
It was the place you could definitely get some sex, either for free or not but basically. Yes there was a place you could always get sex and everyone knew about it but they didn’t go all the time because it was awful sex. It was white label baked beans. No matter how you psyched yourself up, brought your ‘A’ game, purchased or consented to hallucinations it was crap and damp and short. Not short enough but definitely short.
Chris and Spike came in to murder that pint. People think they have white skin but they forget that quite often they have blue, then pink then green skin. Chris and Spike flashed at each other like cuttlefish as they lounged on a copper rail by the mirror-cased dance floor where so far only two Philippina girls walked around with the air of lizards in an exotic pet shop. No seduction, because they knew the inevitability of the night.
Chris was short and irritable and had not chilled out when the twenties cooled and the thirties started to cement. He would fly off the handle regularly, mainly verbally but often he was the guy who said the word that started the minor bloodbath.
Spike was a big fucker. He was totally chilled out to a zen extreme. His muscles started in waterfalls below his ears and did not give up. What was the source of his cool, his warm tolerance and unruffled Brillcreem calm? The biggest clue was paradoxical: the “cut here” tattoo across his throat and the big black DM boots that peeked their toes out from under his sideburns.
They were friends since school so both knew the stories that had got them where they were. But the stories had unrolled letter by letter and entwined together so if you asked them about their pasts it would come out as a coded jumble, if they spoke about it at all, which they likely wouldn’t unless you caught them in a bong steam in front of a DVD trilogy, hundreds of feet up in the air in the almost empty tower-block Spike lived in. They had never tried to kick him out and none of the ghouls that took it over ever bothered him so he stayed because he was used to being high in the sky when he slept.
In the Bongo, the Soup Dragons played. They would play until the CD lost its pits to the laser gaze. More people had arrived. Chris and Spike looked at the girls. The local girls were not calm like the foreign girls. The local girls were wild, like they had crossed a line of chalk such as the ones sorcerers use to hold devils. They thrashed like they had muscles but snapped back like they didn’t have that many.
Tattoos made it like a puppet show. Little ponies and fish and burlesque girls made patterns in the commons.
While Chris and Spike had been avoiding the main topic, a lot of people had arrived. That meant it was the uncanny time where you couldn’t really say it was early or late.
Among all the local lads, most of them teenagers touching the sky, were also some good natured thugs from eastern Europe and a few sharks from Turkey who would drag you somewhere dark to slice you and make jokes with you about it on the way. You would have to be sure not to lock on the same target as the Turks if you just wanted a quiet night of whoring.
“I can’t believe they let that bitch out,” said Chris finally, because he couldn’t stop himself.
“Fuck off, mate. Let’s not fucking go there,” said Spike with gravy on his voice.
“What’s the reasoning, man? She has no male relatives left so she’s safe?”
“Why are we going there here and now, cuntface? Why are we talking about that in the Bongo?” said Spike, with traces of emotion.
“I’ve gotta be who I am, gadge. I’m burning up, mate. And I don’t know why you aren’t?”
“She did us right.”
“She did us right? You think Steve-o would say that? Killing his fucking dad and his granddad and his uncle? Over a fucking lie?”
“Steve-o’s dead, mate.”
“That’s what I’m fucking talking about!”
He was screaming now. A quiet moment in house music let everyone hear the screams. The Turks bristled.
Spike looked down at Chris. His little mate from back when he was little too. Before the skins and the jails and the taste of nirvana and the fall from nirvana.
“We can go and talk to her. What about that?”
“I have nothing to say to her.”
“She looked after us. She looked after us both when we had no-one. When your mam had spikes in her arms. And she’s done her time. And who knows what really happened. Who knows.”
“I have nothing to say to her.”
“Then this topic is done. I’ll start a fight with those mad Turkish bastards over the footie but not over this bullshit, soft lad.”
Chris looked at the Turks. They were young and fit and looked back at you.
“Is that why we’re here? I thought we came for some trim.”
“I can’t remember now. Let’s dance and see what’s happens.”
‘Step On’ by the Mondays came on, and they entered the arena.

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers

%d bloggers like this: