Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Broom Against The Clouds

Except when he’s walking. Through the rain. Or through a whole (drunken) pit of validation: Hello, please love me. He is no different, he says, from all the other schmoes out there, all looking for love. He uses the word schmo, neither knowing nor caring whether his hearer is familiar with its meaning. What’s a smo? she asks, later, as they dance upon the balcony.

Too frequently these days he finds himself addressing the ceiling. Or talking to the walls. He would, as he often used to do, talk to himself through the mirror. But he can no longer stand to look at what insists on talking back.

And here. A terraced street in grey, black and white, a train somewhere in the background, a flick of chimney stacks, a cobbled street or two. You know. A wash, a smell, of obvious decay. Corners curled and picture frames cracked, the obligatory ticking clock on the mantelpiece, a collection of brass below. On the arm of the armchair, a mug of tea, and he leaning forward, fag in hand, cocking an ear to the radio which is, of course, speaking the shipping forecast. What, he cares about the ships now does he? He cares about the sea?

A crowd gathers as he lies on the ground, straddling the kerb and the road, somehow twisted within his bicycle. The driver of the car stays behind his wheel, gently shaking his head, weeping. The man trapped within his bicycle is, as it happens, the leader of the local Green party. He is known far and wide for his unswerving opposition to the motor car. Which is why, despite the pain, he is estimating the mileage he might be able to wring out of what could, in fact, turn out to be a very useful incident. Until, that is, he hears somebody say: That’s that twat from the Green party - I hope he dies.

He hangs around cemeteries sometimes. Especially in the summer. He steals the flowers and spray paints the grave stones. Today he has added the word ‘paedophile’ to George Trellis, loving father, grandfather and friend who fell asleep on January 23rd 1986 and who will be very greatly missed.

Religion had nothing to do with him. Had no part to play in him. It was an absence he was always glad of. But all of the other atheists seemed to have stories to tell about religion, of religious parents maybe, of spiritual inclinations, Sunday schools, church services, childhood fantasies. The point of these stories, of course, was to showcase the uniqueness and bravery of these now enlightened atheists who courageously stood up for themselves, finally saw the light, refused to be fooled any longer, took on those inner demons. He always said to them: But you shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Somebody called for an ambulance. They pulled him up, laid him flat on the snooker table, cushioned his head with his jacket. He lay there for a while, oblivious to the panic around him, staring into the light, wondering why nobody could see to turn off the light. Did they want him to go blind as well?

Blake’s legacy, he started to say. But stopped when he saw the look of derision on her face. What? he asked. Nothing, she replied, quickly checking herself, removing that look from her face. Blake’s legacy, he repeated, is here for all of us to see, especially here, now, in the very streets of contemporary London. Is it? she said, is it really? Oh please, please tell me more.

Thick fog. Howls of some kind. Swirling thick fog. A distant tapping getting closer. He has been here, at the railway station, for well over an hour. He is waiting to be collected by his new employer, Lord Gaslight, international explorer and good vampire. His duties will include assisting in the making of a new television programme with the working title of: How I, a typical public school cretin, travelled the world many, many times and how, now that I am too old and enfeebled to travel any longer, want to spread the message that it’s not okay for you to travel the world in the same way, what with the damage to the environment that you and your fellow oiks would cause. At the same time, however, I also want you to marvel at all of the great things I did and saw.

His karaoke wife, notorious rule bender and fag hag, withdrew the few remaining scraps of their savings and treated herself to all of the things that women tend to treat themselves to. You know, a massage, a facial, bags of chocolate and make up, clothes, party hats, chips, peas, gravy, jewellery, flowers, fine wine, cheeses, vodka, orange juice, tonic, dildoes, pasta, tequila, herbs, spices, cookery books, dopey novels, crystals, spiritual thingies, mushrooms, cigarettes, bread makers, pepper grinders, handbags, carrier bags, candles, sea salts, bath salts, perfume, melting balls, lorry drivers, fortune cookies, blueprints, gargles, mouthwash, eventides and bowling balls. At the end of the day, with all of their money gone and all of her needs (as she called them) satisfied, she returned home to tell him what she’d done. Can you imagine how unhappy this made him? Can you not guess the levels of dismay to which this pretend wife drove him?

Wistful, past his old house, the top left window the site of activity that would now, now that he has become who he is, cause him a relative degree of shame and discomfort. But ah, he thinks, you can’t turn back the clock and who would want to, after all? Behind him, in the shadows, his old nemesis The Black Fog, chuckling, loudly enough for him to hear. The Red Streak, quickly off his toes, turns, rises slightly, and treads the cool night air.

His father, the cure for dyspepsia. A barrel of ice, a clatter of rusty saws and a touch from the mysteries of electricity. Blam.

His repertoire of boxing stories ran the whole gamut, from the few victories through to the many crushing defeats. His days in the navy, during the war, when he fought and beat the soon-to-be world champion. Leaving work at five-thirty on a Friday evening, travelling miles to make the seven o’clock bell and the promise of a five pound purse. The prison battles, plus earning a few guineas in the boxing booths, pretending to be a gyppo.

How many more times would he be forgotten, erased like the dead? The fact of his existence, here in the Blodent Field, was often taken for granted and he was required, like so many others before him, to will himself to life, to make the right noises, to be noticed and catalogued, to be much more than himself. For out here, where even the wind seeks to avoid you, there is no room for those that sink.

He moves in mysterious ways. Is what she often says to excuse him of the terrible behaviour that has caused unimaginable pain and anguish to at least four other girls. Women. And also, of course, to sprinkle upon him a kind of God-like quality that might offer an explanation as to why she continues to stay with, and excuse, this ridiculous little man.

2 Comments:

Blogger Shannon Forbush said...

You always do this very well - the (somehow) romantic, slightly desperate Everyman of the city stripped hown to a few word snapshots. Not quite sure how the vampires and super-villains fit in but I can go along with it!

4:19 PM  
Blogger Shannon Forbush said...

I meant stripped down, obviously.

4:19 PM  

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