I pressed the copper washer into his grubby paw. I think he said “cheers”. I don’t know.
A thick mist of the inevitable. Lost minds clogged the lungs. A strand of junk thoughts messed with my mind. Memories of curves, of sensuality. Craziness from the centre of the universe. Longing. Laughter. A sombre day, spiked with possibility. The ghosts of 10 million soldiers marching across the tundra. Ragged uniforms. The muffled sound of military song. The clomping of tired boots through the shopping mall. The modern church of the damned. Me. You. We.
Notes left on lamp posts. Homeless postmen playing penny whistles. A friend coated in a suit of armour. The lost vessels of a long forgotten sea battle. The invisible waves running through my knees.
Mighty river, I would love to be like you.
Poppy said her neck was hot. So I blew on it. She glared at me like I’d slapped her in the puss.
A man stood about fifty feet away. He was staring at the clouds. He was chanting too. Chanting that he wanted to make the clouds change shape. A rhino? A girl? A hypothalamus?
Poppy undid the top buttons of her blouse and laid down upon the picnic mat. I raised my eyebrows and blinked out towards the boats. They are going to rebuild the Titanic, I thought, in conversation with myself. I thought about telling Poppy. Decided it was best not.
The man was still there, his hands clapping together, silently somehow. An little, old woman was walking her tiny dog. The little, old woman stared at the cloud man. She stared and wore an intense frown on her little, wrinkled face. Rather like how a cat arches its back when it thinks its going to be attacked. She had nothing to worry about though, the man was light years away.
Just then I heard what sounded like a single, muffled note from a trumpet in a mouse orchestra. Poppy cleared her throat.
The little, old woman walked past and mouthed the words “Morning.” I ignored her. I felt like standing up and chanting, just to wind her up.
The man began shaking his head around. If he’s not careful he’ll go over the cliff, I remember thinking. No more clouds.
The tiny dog coiled out a turd into an otherwise pleasant afternoon. The little, old woman picked it up through an inside-out bag. Then she pulled the bag out the right way and tied it off. The tiny dog trotted ahead, not wanting to be downwind, presumably.
“What is that smell.” said Poppy. “Have you farted?” .
Feet dug securely into the earth. Out at sea, a barge shouldered its way through the brine. The sun sparkled indifference; the warmth, complete without poetry, without your new words. The air shuffled the birds into order. Bright and light in the empty air space that, at distance, convinces us that it is blue in colour. Where does the sparkle hide in the invisible blue? Must we mine for this precious element? Uranium, thermamin, beep street hues. You can see the pub. The street where the pub lives, anyway.
For the first time, the feathers pop through the skin; at least, the skin itches, puckers in anticipation. Feet burn and crawl with the sickness of the land underneath its feet. The evil stories written in foul, forgotten fluids.
An old man sits on a bench and shakes his head. His cheeks and nose are alive with large red and purple veins. They look like creatures in themselves. Ropy, pulsating, lined with the smell of alcohol. Skin tags hang from the eyelids and nose like tiny, sleeping bats.
A small stream of excrement. A totem of turpitude. Without gears, the machine judders and fits. Rum and coke. Lean and mean. Your rancid tit. Statues ablaze. My city, your city. Wiggle. Ten times ten equals one whatever.
Have you tasted the air after an animal has fitted? Convulsed and vomited sounds that have come back to you via de ja vu?
The sourness gathers and rises.
You, my friend.
Do my gong a bong and close the door. Make sure the air is closed; womb-like, unlike the scratch, the nub, the death of everything.
He drew himself back on his wobbly spine, fizzing brain; if not with intelligence, then beer, and threw the punch. His eyes did not follow the swing, though he felt the slight tap as the knuckles, his knuckles, lightly brushed the outer, leathery edge of the bag. It creaked backwards and clacked back into its mechanised housing…almost tiresomely. He recovered his balance and, with his brain spinning in confusion, humiliation, then a building, white hot self-hatred, he watched the clock add up his score.
215. A child would have hit more powerfully.
Within a few laps of the clock, the ‘pugilist’ drank away his sorrows surrounded by gaudy, dusty photos; drying his tears on memories he might as well have invented from scratch. From deep within this musty grave lined with bunting and fairy lights, worms reached out for a single swing at his jaw, confident they might be able to floor him. Perhaps they’d heard the news. Perhaps they just wanted to kiss him, then bore into his soft, dainty flesh and remove him from the gene pool for to provide valuable fertilizer.
Perhaps. But the grave, the worms and the photographs waving in the layers of muck in a whirlwind, were phenomena that existed in the mind, and the mind only, of the failed pugilist. The grey destroyer. The punk with the clip-on nose ring. The man of the world, as seen through the comfort of the first class cabin window.
He took his precious moleskin note-book from his blazer and wrote the following instruction:
“To do – Monday: Buy shovel”.
He squashed passion fruits in his fists until the red pips splattered out in a yellow bloody pulp.
It was a warm day. There were normal people out doing normal things: washing cars, mowing lawns, trimming hedges, playing with themselves behind the net curtains. He was sat in the front garden of my parents house wearing a Dan Dare tee-shirt and Y-fronts that cut off my circulation. But he didn’t care. Whiskey made everything okay. Girls around his age pushed prams along the road and gawped in horror and disgust. And he just smiled like a man who’d had his heart broken. Except, he hadn’t. Which was something. One particularly heavy in chest and lumber poked a bloated tongue out at him. He blew her a kiss and grinned like a buffoon. She stopped, yanked a small, metal ‘No Dog Poo’ sign from the grass verge and threw it at his head.
The cat sat by the front door hoping for its owners to return. Fat chance kiddo, he thought to the cat believing it to be not only evil but psychic too. The cat blinked at him, infuriatingly. He crawled on all fours like a tot to the site of a dead pet and began digging frantically. The dry earth flaked apart and, underneath, gave way to more moist, yielding soil. He placed odd clumps of chalk, flint and wood to one side in case, for some reason, he decided they might come in useful later. Perhaps to lob at leering ladies. Then his hands felt out something like a tree root but harder, though not as dense. He yanked at the object and held in front of his eyes. A rib bone. “Ha! Aha!” he screamed at the cat and went about digging up more of the bones.
In the dying sun, he laid them out on the immaculately trimmed grass. The scene resembled a desperately domestic forensic dig lead by a psychopath. His hands were scratched and bloodied and covered with mud and some kind of grease. He became tired. Farted into the grass. Hope he hadn’t woken any sleeping worms.
He had the following thought: If a worm became lonely and depressed would it cut itself if it could? And if it did, and did it bad enough to cut itself in two, might that not solve its original problem?
Exhausted by his exertions, both physical and mental, he decided to call it a day. Also, the police had arrived and he thought it only polite to assist them in any way that he could.
“Doing a bit of gardening, mate?” One policeman said, wishing that he was sat in front of the tee-vee with a beer instead of having to deal with these clowns day in day out.
The policemans voice echoed in the mans skull. Before his now heavy eyes, the evenings colours swam into one another before beginning to fade. The voice, lost in oscillations, was saying “You’ve got No Dog Poo stuck in your head, mate…”
I was listening to a radio programme. On the internet. They were playing these old soundtracks from the 70’s and the 80’s. The sort of thing we would have heard when we were kids. The sort of thing you used to love. And I thought of you when I heard it. I though ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.
It’s like last night.
Saw this beautiful film. An animation; scratchy, heart-wrenchingly well observed. It was about a man and his dog. It was like they could read one another’s minds. And my heart ached with this distant, wayward kind of joy. Weird. Put me on the back foot. This joy that I’m on about, it carried a sadness with it. Like I’d dug up a grave and found two hearts, barely beating, lying side by side together at the bottom of a muddy grave. It had such a strange effect on me this film. The man reminded me of your Dad. The way he was. And the dog, an Alsatian, reminded me of your old dog. I remembered how me and you used to go out to the common and watch her jump into the long grass, biting the heads off the tulips. I remember how she would hurry back to us to check that we were still there. She seemed happy to find us there together. She seemed to smile.
And, yeah, as I watched this film I thought ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.
And I would have done. I would. But then I remembered that I hated you.
She passed me the thin plastic bottle of cider. I kept looking at her, expecting something else, I didn’t know what. Mistake. “Don’t cut me up…tosser!” she said. Then she nodded to the bottle. I poured some down. She looked back to the pier, then the sea and whatever else was out there. The drink was evil. The smell of sugar, gas and cheap aftershave was overwhelming. Some of it came back up. I drank more to push it back down. Somehow it worked. I passed the bottle back. The plastic clicked and popped. She clasped it with both hands, like she was holding a baby she didn’t want and wiped the bubbly, green mouth with the grubby sleeve of her purple puffer jacket.
The metal joists moaned under the weight of fairground rides, cafe’s, candy-floss, toilets, 248 shoes, teddy bears, brightly coloured plastic balls, hot dogs, goldfish, a karaoke bar, 85 tonnes of timber, arcades, doughnuts, little rifles and whatever else…
“This is rubbish. Let’s go and flob at the sea.” She said.
I followed. Of course I followed.
(The tension in the chest. Eyes darting; busying themselves when all they hunger for is the image of her. A bird soars above the street and waits for the big creatures to leave their rubbish behind and go home, or wherever they go. A solitary man stands by a old, dead statue. He looks the clock. The bells ring through the sour, icy air.)
…stood out in the freezing winter street…how was it ever summer?…when we promised to meet here again, all those years ago…as the sky changed complexion; from peach to India ink?…did you fall out of time and miss me saying it?…did you miss me saying that I would wait?…
…hundreds of tomorrows have crawled by between then and now…and maybe you never dreamed of this day like I did…and maybe, rather than sat in the back of a cab on your way here, you’re cuddled up to some good-looking man…and smudge my self-esteem while you’re about it…
…perhaps you think of me every now and again…as you clear out the cupboards of your heart…and perhaps you chuckle to yourself…as though back then you were just a silly, little girl…but I’m here…after all these years…and I’m waiting for you…my love…and my cold flesh is nothing compared to the winter growing inside me…