Sunday, April 15, 2007

Crumbs Into The Shallow

Consider the mass, the rise of his twelve daily checks. Consider, no, instead, his obsession with pornography, his pathological aversion to cigarette smoke, his whole checklist, in fact, of contrived oddities and singularities that he imagines mark him out, by some degree, as a man to be wholly reckoned with. Yet he’s the sort of fellow, as they say in those kinds of circles, who would happily let the spilt juice from a bowl of baked beans simply dry on his thigh. Rarefied circles, that is.

One of his dictums: How to avoid becoming the victim of a road rage attack. Don’t drive like a cunt. Don’t drive like a pussy.

You know, a dictum for victims. Or, rather, potential victims. Such as you and I.

Wait though. So there he is, moving in his circles, making certain names for himself, and he’s spreading himself so thin and so wide that there will, at the end of it all, be no such thing as the complete picture of him. You would have to press him together, slice by slice, to get the full measure of the man. Like a jigsaw puzzle, also. Or a brick by brick wall. A set of encyclopaedias, lined up in line, volume by volume, so we can dip into him from time to time, look him up etc.

To one group, then, he appears as something removed from the way he presents himself to another group. He is a man of many faces. He is a complex gathering of small mysteries tied up inside a bag of discarded magicians’ handkerchiefs. Stick your hand in and it’s a different selection every time.

Okay. So he’s a mass of this and that. Who isn’t?

Actually, he isn’t. Not really.

The flow of the river beneath the bridge was enough, at last, for his mother to decide to drop him into the warm rush that she hoped would carry her baby boy to a future she knew she couldn’t provide. Oh, the things she imagined. A doctor maybe, a footballer or a pop star, a writer, an architect, a saver of souls, a lawyer, a shopkeeper, a lover of women, a father to children, a man about town. But what would she have done had she known that he would become merely who he is now, with his pornography, his cigarette smoke aversion, the baked bean juice dry on his thigh? With nothing, that is, that could dress him up as the man she might have envisioned. Envisaged. She would, what, have snatched him from the water, cut him off at the next bridge? Or drowned him, body and soul?

Had she known that, caught in the bulrushes mere yards from his water entry, he was fished out, so to speak, by a kindly, elderly couple who took the boy in, raised him as their own, taught him the folky virtues of simple middle-class people, of piety and goodness and all that nauseating countryside villagey, churchy, bourgeois bullshit, she would, maybe, have hung on to him. But as it was, there he was, raised in the ways of the countryside and thus removed from anything that might have led to a development of character or personality. Which explains why the baked bean juice on his thigh makes it as one of the few things to say about him. There really is nothing much else to add. Except for the public school thing and how he, like so many others like him, confidently took a place at university that should, by rights, have gone to some smart working-class kid who could have, well. You know.

The Moses allusion, such as it is, is quietly apt. Because they love all that don’t they? The Old Testament stuff with the lessons delivered and the lessons learnt. Have a look down the country lane or in the church car park the next time a Sunday service is in session. You won’t see any horse-drawn jalopies or rusting pram wheels there. No sir. It’s the money that does it, the reward for their goodness. And gosh, they really do go for that whole richness of the soul bit.


So yes, he was brought up by Ma and Pa Kent out in the country somewhere, the shimmering fields of wheat, the setting yellow sun, the rhythm of the crickets. It was heaven on earth for a while, those distant planets be damned. Metal plates of piping hot beans burning circles into bare beshorted thighs. No wonder the juice, to cool them down. Ah, take him back. Take him back.


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