Friday, 15 March 2013

A Million Meals

A Million Meals
“So what was it?”
“”What was it about?”
I had no idea.
I heard a noise about my left ear.
A light whirring, the noise of trapped wings.
It took a couple of attempts to locate it in my vision.
It was a large insect trapped in a fine web struggling to break.
The spider was tiny compared to it, but the large insect would never break free.
I thought “a million meals - far more than the spider could consume in its lifetime."
Then I thought, “What will the spider do now? Now it doesn’t have to concern itself with its own survival. Will it keep on building webs and catching flies or will it commit suicide for lack of purpose?”
I’d heard that spiders were industrious creatures, I thought it may spend a little time procreating, building a nicer, bigger web…
I reached down for a stick and began poking at the web, winding it round, destroying it, making sure I knocked the frantic captive to the ground.
I sure fucked up that puny web and did the spider the biggest favour he would never appreciate.
It was about a million meals.

"What's it all about?"
He said,
That small voice,
About my ear.
He said.

"My own voice?"
I asked,
"I have no idea,
I'm like everyone else."

I hear a noise,
 About my ear.
Light whirring,
Trapped wings,
Until vision locates...

Enormous insect,
Trapped in a fine web,
Or in a dirty jar,

Tiny spider,
Compared to its prey,
 But the insect
Could never,
Break free,

“One million meals”
Too much to consume – 
In a lifetime,
In a lifetime.

“What will we do now?”
I asked the arachnid,
When survival,
No longer,
Concerned us.

More jars,
More webs,
Or more flies,
Or suicide,
For lack of purpose.


Or endless pleasure?
Or some other measure?

I reach down for stick,
Knock over the jar,
And poke, poke poke,
Poke at the web,

One fucked-up web,
One smashed jar,
One puny spider,

And puny me,
One million meals,
As one big favour.

Granite Bee

The bee is as good as dead.

  The odder you, the stranger you fall. That's what young Granite Bee was thinking. Private jokes for belly laughs and keep the outside world at a unique distance. There would always be another corner to turn, another bizarre revelation leading only to the new Lost. One more surprise summit, one more unknown quantity, one more question, the infinite penultimate.
    Granite was not sure exactly where his life was taking him, but that day, his mission was to hop to The Wellgate Benefits Office to participate in his Career Development Interview. Being unemployed, he considered the interview title both generous and optimistic.
    It was 11am and two post-pubescent boys were smoking hashish in the stairwell to the building. Granite could smell it before he could see them, allowing him a moment to wind his wing-muscles up and prepare mentally for any unexpected aggression or abuse. The boys ignored him as he rounded the corner and began the arduous task of the stairs. Too much violence around here, he thought, no need for it.
    On the first floor there was a more subtle blend of odours; rolling tobacco, clothes left wet in the washing machine for a few days, cheap aftershave and the same smell his friend's Scaletrix set used to give off after an hour.
He buzzed to the reception desk in the open-plan office and the bitter-looking bag of bones intently staring at the VDU in front of her.
    "Hello, I have an appointment here at 11..." and before he could squeeze out his name or any other information, was abrubtly asked if he was in the correct building, as they had moved surnames starting with the last thirteen letters of the alphabet down to Riverside.
    Granite considered whether he should treat this as a game or a battle.
    "I'm here to see Janice McGurk, my name's Granite Bee."
    "Take a seat, she'll be with you in a minute."
    As Granite alighted safely down on to the seat, he imagined Boney would go home after an African Safari having seen nothing but an unexplained scratch on her dashboard.
    He turned his head slightly and gave a gracefully slow nod to the weather-worn primate next to him. There was a stained, three-quarter-length beige raincoat with large buttons, Rupert Bear trousers and boots made from old tractor tyres. The face with bulbous purple nose and huge, veiny ears effortlessly ignored its surroundings, making no movement to betray a nervous awareness of the bee next to him, Granite turned away from the man just as the sun shone in the window behind him, lighting up his ears a translucent pink and turning his thin head into a grotesquely deformed butterfly.
    The bee scanned the room and saw Moe the stooge.  A second sweep identified more than one Curly.
    Moe was trying to pan off a fax machine on one of the less world-weary inmates while many of his spawn crashed around his legs like miniature planets never quite breaking free of their Guiding Light's gravity.
    Phoney Moe dripped seaside arcade bling and donned labels of quality clothing firms.
    Here is our Arthur Daly, thought Granite, our Del-boy. Superlagersupping kids. Glue and gas for roullette after the Merrydown Rodders, none of the fancy stuff, our complexions must explain. Good honest wife-beating and a passion for attacking the helpless with a pack of like-lobotomised hooligans, that was Moe and everyone knew it.
    The bee had no more interest in the monkeys than they had in him.
    A few feet away, a short, dark woman bounced through a door at the back of the office and called Granite’s name out as a question. He took a deep breath and rubbed his back legs together before exhaling and gently buzzing forward to introduce himself formally.
She was attractive in a dark Italian Scottish way, but had doubled the weight of her head by applying too much make-up and was in danger of being blown away if a sudden gust of wind caught her many decorative scarves simultaneously...

NB -    Be prepared, he's going to die. That big truck is going to splat him on the windscreen, or perhaps the boys in the stairwell will turn nasty - he's going to get it, either way, we just haven't got round to it yet. The bee is as good as dead and the graffitti on his tombstone reads "Die in PIGWORLD insect scum".

And Its Number Was...

   I listened to the scratching at my door for the duration of Judge Judy. Then I peaked out.
    There was a strange animal there, waiting. It was shaped like an umbrella, with coarse fur and a forlorn look upon its face.
    There was a small square patch shaved from the side of its head with a recipe for pineapple upside-down cake tattooed there. I wanted to kick it, but instead, I shut the door and it left.
    I dusted off my old Smith Corona and inserted a sun-bleached floppy disk marked "backup".
    I received a shock as I read a letter written to The Mouse with my name on it, thirteen years ago. It was a wonderful, convoluted, naively arrogant letter with flashes of brilliance peppered throughout. In one part, in the middle, "But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after..."  precedes a marvellous paragraph.
    I only vaguely remember writing the letter and for some reason, instinct perhaps, I googled the dingledodies - and found that I did not write the passage. It was Kerouac. I can't remember reading much Kerouac, let alone taking the trouble to quote him.
    I had an image of myself. With things and stuff lying around. Stuff and things, thin, with dyed red hair and black teeth among missing teeth.
I was not the person I thought I was, I am not the person I think I am and I will never be the person I hope to be.
    I may well give up tomorrow.
    I had also neatly worked in some sentiment from The Lost Highway, stolen from Thoreau and copied Coleridge. Like George, I never really had access to that account, only arrogance and distraction.
    I may well give up tomorrow; but then, at least I stole from Thoreau.
Still, I may well give up tomorrow.
...then again, I may well buy some large, hard pumpkins and head off into the night at high speed - before the creature comes back with friends and a second-rate recipe for Hungarian Goulash...
    ...a recipe which had been stolen from me some time ago. The patterns persist and before I had the chance to see the second episode of Judy, the news flashed at me in some modern form, by phone or on screen, perhaps piped directly into some neural circuitry I am unaware of. Another photofit degenerate pays the price of the social network today, or yesterday, or some other day, and I realise it's no longer my day. In my day he would have used graffiti on his elderly neighbour's wall, in my day he existed in a pinball machine which buffered him between regular sectioning, temporary institutionalisation, release and regular beatings from the stalwart scum of  the community. Still, the ball-bearing would eventually take the inevitable tumble and drop back into where it came from. Today, his computer is seized, he is advised that what he has written is in the public domain, never to be deleted, and that he will serve a considerable amount of jail time. Either way, the mental health facility which would allow him to watch the Magic Roundabout and fantasise about Ermetrude in peace does not, and never did, exist.
    Next up, the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder, addicted and addicted, in an endless cycle of various forms of abuse, is arrested in the north west's version of Atlantic City. She has committed an indecent act, probably for her next foil, packet or bottle of Buckfast. The focus of the news however is not the downward spiral of an empty generation whose void was opened by throwing salty burgers at a thin, damp cardboard promise. No, the appalling story is that the culprit was caught on CCTV shortly after, urinating on a war memorial. To make matters worse, when attending her court appearance to relive the moment, a crowd of ex-servicemen gather to tell her the error of her ways - the monosyllabic reply she gives completes the demonisation. People fought for her country. She has insulted them. Someone has insulted them and someone must pay.
    Paranoia sweeps across the Atlantic in the Litigation Ships and we realise that Freedom of Speech is an abstract concept in the abstract modern world. There's no doubt that they're going to get you, it's just a matter of time. Your PC has images on it you've never even been aware of, you paid your council tax late in February, your passenger side front tyre is bald, your eye lingered on a silhouette for more than the acceptable moment, the banana skin you threw in the bushes is not classed as legitimate decomposable material and don't imagine that it's only the military who have access to what the high-definition, 3-D heat-imaging satellite which can see-through-your-ceiling recorded you doing last Wednesday.
    Politics and war are predictable, Art and human nature are under the spotlight now. There are no nutters anymore. Beware. There's nothing you can do other than hide behind the freak who's going down before you...
    ...the Umbrella Beast returned. It had one of its paws removed and in its place was growing a copy of Hello Magazine. I kicked it hard with my oxblood Doc Martin, closed the door and then went to check my retractable cosh which I keep under the sink. The action was smooth... like Jackie Chan....

Per Aspera Ad Astra

   “There is a great pestilence on this land son. A plague of locusts. And imagine this cloud flies from a fractal in their collective brain son, it resembles a funnel, a funnel of filthy locusts coming from one place. They’re all the same at the top.”
    “Ab uno disce omnes, Dad,” I said sarcastically.
    “They’re scared,” he said. “Oh, make no mistake, they’re running scared.”
    I was never sure who “they” were, but had an innate belief that “they” indeed existed.
    “Precise time hunts me down,” he said. "My bush is rustled by the second hands. My leaves are my fear of ignorance.
    But I have forged a weapon! (he stepped up on the couch)
    My foil is my disdain for the cruel briefness of our time.
    Who am I to fight and how, you ask.
    Can I spill the sand that others captured and if so, will my egg still boil?
    Well, time can’t photograph this thrust. And I will thrust, compulsive me, even if my beginnings have already dictated the outcome.”
His head dipped, “Yes, I lost when I started with that glimpse of triangular shadows, sounds of ticks and losing the feeling in my cold brass hands. But, dum spiro, spero, son. Dum spiro spero.”
    “Dad,” I said, “You’ve gone mental, you’re not making any sense for a man that works in a factory. Have you been spiked with junk? Keep this up and you’ll regret it.”
    “You snap out of it!” he shouted, “Who are you to judge?”
    “Judge a flower, in a broken hand, on a child, in a chair of steel. Or a good-willed, misled man of God without the power to heal. Judge a vicious widow, razor-tongued, walloped when a wife or stale but passionate artist, in a storeroom for his life. Judge a lover lost her fervour but following her heart. As if to judge were power at all when we can’t choose when to part.”
He shifted over to the drinks cabinet where we kept the Advocaat and whisky, some glasses and the Communist Manifesto. I shuffled to the door where, years before, he had rustled up a makeshift swing with rope and a polished plank screwed into the door frame. I blocked the passage to expel any ideas he may get about making a sharp exit and realised that he was swaying wildly.
    “You are drunk,” I said viciously.
    “So are you,” he replied.
    I swiftly jumped over towards him and swung down the laminated chipboard door of the cabinet. I grabbed the half-empty bottle of single malt and took an aggressive slug from the neck. Cold tea.
    “It’s a good job you’re hammered,” I said. “It’ll go some way to numbing the pain.”
    “No longer you need,” he said slowly, while lighting a fag. “You need no more success than to be. May the righteousness that drives you, stay with you and continue.
    Hope exists linked to your arm and grins alongside your own amusement. To see your worth laugh winds up the clockwork poet in me. To hear you puts the oceans to silence. Energies and forces confuse us in awe son, but to turn the tables, we need only breathe. Worth it you are so be merry my son, be merry,”
    “That Yoda filth is the last straw Father,” I said calmly. “I‘m going to punch you as hard as I can in the guts, then I…”
    I grabbed the Advocaat whilst maintaining this derisive eye-contact.
    “I’ll have this,” I said. “And I’m taking your Old Spice, too.”
    I slugged him with an uppercut in the solar plexus and watched him double to the floor.
    “The weirder you are, the stranger you fall, Dad, remember Chef?”
    He struggled to breathe and his speech was now broken as he wept, “But son, the ink drawn on the paper can’t set you Free. You said that yourself. Humble yourself now, substantiate your existence. We both read that. A centralized body of control will tell you when. I fed all of that, son.
Ethical is too abstract, the black nonsense of contradiction thrives. You’re just confused, but pure independence can’t come, Stupid, they’ll get you first. You’re used. Control has answers, face it and embrace it. You’re already used and abused beyond the point. What plot are you trying to use? Pain, shame,? Maim and gain? Pavlov’s flame? Tame and train? Distance from yourself is a fatal game. Be simple, near. Words cloud, people shroud. Be clear. Dictating emerges not from Wisdom, but Fear.”
    “I’ve had it, Dad. I've had enough of you,” I slurred and staggered to the garden to cut and strip a good bendy whippy stick. “Cui bono? Cui bono?” I mumbled, as I lit another cigarette and stumbled.

Twelve Steps To Clinical Insanity

  When I woke up, at one, I was assured that I could be Spiderman. I had the feeling. I had the right stuff, to Save, and the confidence to remain anonymous. It was the webs I wanted though. That wrist action and the rapid, controlled and measured shooting of the web. What they gave me was a plastic, suction dart that, when spat on and shot three inches from a window, would stick. Without the window it would travel no more than a disappointing three feet. The Velcro strap was adequate but the cumbersome mechanism for shooting the dart which sat on the wrist was, at best, disappointing.
       At two, the joy of isolation, as literature becomes the walk in the country, the Sidlaw Hills, all those days spent bunking off school to walk up there on my own, happy, content. The sensual being, I was, with my fire and stolen potato, my teabag and civies in my schoolbag. All my time I spent there with no-one - not even myself - happy and watching the finches and the city light up.
    At three though, I realise, the pain of isolation. I murdered my dog out of curiosity. I loved her, but I killed her to see what it would feel like. It felt bad, but the crisp, suddenness of the pain was soon gone to be replaced by the dull thud that integrated into my character - no need to explain mother, it was messy.
    At four I bring out my Bowie, or Tarzan knife, from its leather sheath. This is one of the few possessions I have truly felt at one with in life and I have been told that I cannot have it back. It is not mine. (once upon a time we sat on the gorse, fern and heather covered hills with a small fire when the farmer approached and he told us we were not allowed there and you produced the Bowie knife and stuck it in the earth in front of him and you said your father and his grandfather had been born on and worked on the land and if anyone felt like trying to move us, they could try - and then he left.)
    At five, I get home to find the order has arrived. It was fourteen-hole Doc Martins I wished for. The Fred Perry and the Staypress were not important, but I have been sent fakes and I will not fit in. I don’t care whether I fit in or not, but it is noticeable, I will not look good. I would have looked odd but good in the genuine article, but now I will just look odd and cheap. Odd and like I should be left alone.
    As I get back to the city at six, I smell the Chinese and Indian food I have never tasted before. My dad may vomit at the smell of garlic, but I am elevated by the sense. Baby octopus on a sizzling platter. Baby Octopus on a Sizzling Platter. Not mince and tatties, or stovies, or tinned custard. The first microwave that softened the steak and kidney pie after skating was Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds, indeed, but the sizzling platter was Iron Maiden’s Killers with Clive Burr and Paul Di’anno.
    At seven I have already picked up my guitar and am practicing my modes, Lydian, Dorian, Phrygian, but never Locrian. I am honing my knife skills too, with corriander and thyme - these are the passages to my Holy, these are the good times, when nothing fills my brain but yellow-pepper fish sauce and Madeira/shallot reductions. I have some sense of the Taoist Monks, silence, I am cooking.
    At eight comes the bad. The cider, the butane gas, acid, sniff and blow. Hell in the ironic shape of a mushroom where my bath tile swung open and the pestilence of Hell flew out. Horrid it was, horrid, bleeding from the inside out, I could feel the cold liquid and the drip inside me, bleeding, nothing on the outside, all from within, invisible and untreatable.
    At nine comes reprieve in the shape of Civil Disobedience, Henry, Henry, Henry my love, the Suffragettes, the Freak Platform, Thomson and Bukowski, Camus and Kafka. Our heroes never take it half the distance, they never compromise, say “Yes, that is enough for me.” I’ve always said, "Yes, it’s good enough for me." I want to offend, but not to the point where I may cause offence. It was good, but a dream.
    At ten comes the absence of God and the presence of Sonic. The Hedgehog has become more important, more vital and Current. Sonic has become the puzzle and all else lost or forgotten.
    At eleven, the real Loss. Dreadful, confusing Loss. Where Respect became more important than Truth and Feeling. The Loss that requires me not to write. The Loss that requires me to write. Horrible, temporary Life. The life we must love because of that.
    Twelve now and back to my audience and my fifty desperate e-mails. You voyeur, you doctor of slugs.
We must break bread together soon, we both know the moment will pass. I apologise, but my family and I are waiting on you, we are here and we are everything you do not have. If I do not share soon, then I shall  empty and die. I am empty without you. Please fill in the form attached below and we shall be awkward together as God intended. At twelve, my symbol, my Father…

The Deal

  And so I wrote the e-mail.
    Regarding the book.
    I brought up identity-theft and how the thief could be a location.
    I spoke of Prince Jellyfish, real motorcycle gangs and people who would stomp you or commit heartless acts of arson as soon as look at you.
    I reminded them that the "Mama Please Stop the Screaming in my Head" quartet of poems would increase interest in the book.
    Screaming at the Gateway.
    Screaming Desires and Hollow Fulfilment.
    The Screams of the Suffering.
    The Confusion and Illusion of Authentic Recovery.
would not be released without a deal.
    Alongside the book, this was going to be real cult stuff - Billy Corgan would be talked into doing the score for the musical version and Tim Roth would doubtless play the lead male just for taxi expenses.
    I mentioned in the e-mail that in June 1987 Thompson informed us of a very rare photograph taken at the funeral of assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, showing four living American presidents standing in tight focus in one 35mm frame - Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Three of the four had already been chased out of the Whitehouse in defeat or disgrace or both and the fourth was ready to go. I told them  he wrote about Nixon being a crook, Ford a shameless fixer and Carter an awesome bungler who gave values like “decency” and “honesty” a bad name. Reagan, however, is the one who tells a reporter for People Magazine that this generation may see the end of the world.
    The book picked up on this eighties’ sentiment, this burger-flippers’ confusion, disenchantment and extreme lack of concern for others… and it was all about the book... and the sticky issue of a reasonable fee. I told them I had already put out a challenge to the young, aggressive revolutionary scribes, the ground-breaking artists of the quill, the cream coming through the red brick of the 21st century - and tumbleweed skipped down the streets.
    Sure any upstart could undercut me, but even if some pseudo-genius did appear from the haze of pub-golf, their version of eighties’ nights and sexual frustration, none would be able to find their way into the mire like I could and this would be exactly what was required for sales.
I explained in the e-mail how I had always been closer to the filth than the heavens and that The Addicted could instinctively tell that I was one of them.
    The fee had to reflect the risk; if the writing was going to get done, it had to be dangerously aggressive and as I no longer had Chef around to back me up, danger-money was what they'd have to show. At any time of night, my car might be ripped apart under the bedroom window or a long, lonely drive taken with three, brute strangers into the dark countryside.
    The thing was, I was the only one in the institution who could deal with that - it was the suits that bothered me - the suits were my ante-up. This is where the real danger-money comes in I told them. Sure, some Mummies and Daddies might be connected to the judicial system, but I'm exactly the kind of degenerate that they want to send down for many, many years.
    So show me the money.
    Red brick? English Society? Chords and elbow patches?
    The fees were tripling and the contact time halved.
    Show me the money and you'll get your book, I said.
    Moreover, show me the money, I'll be out of your hair before you know it and in the meantime leave you something which will enable you to start trading on reputation again... just like the old days. Detatch and cash in.
I'll show you what's under the table without having to name names.
    I ended the e-mail.
    By the time I got home, there was a nice, shiny-black card propped up against a plastic triangle on my desk and no forced doors. Gold letters were embossed expensively on the smooth card Lucifer's Paper Mill. A small note lay behind it, on thick beige paper with an indecipherable water-mark, stating that the paper-work for the deal would arrive within three working days.
    I scheduled a meeting with Chef by calling him out of the safe-house - and out of hiding for good.

Profanity and the Shop Dummies

  I was in the park helping the homeless get their heads around some basic philosophy, but my mind kept wandering to the subject of profanity, offensive language and its relationship to some of the most inexplicable experiences I had had in the past.
    In the past I had been hung over the three-storey outdoor balcony of the pool hall from my ankles by Nazi skinheads before they head-butted me in the dark alley outside - knocking one of my bottom teeth out. I had been chased by fifty well-dressed football hooligans while skidding around in cowboy boots and then reduced to the foetal position when caught, taking uncountable blows by foot and fist to the tune of dripping blood, laughter and screams. I had been stabbed through the tricep on the top deck of the 18 (to Kirkton) bus with a double-edged flick-knife which was honed to a razor’s edge and pushed through the seat behind. And one icy Hogmanay, a cheap, cream-handled butter knife was held to my throat by a balding psychotic stranger as I sat on a wooden chair egging him on because my mind may have been as distorted as his at the time.
 ...and the rest. Beatings, jail cells, terrible accidents, strange surroundings... Chef’s jaw had once been broken by a madman who had been released from prison that same day and he maintains that the hospital record was filed away and forgotten long before his own memory could put it  to rest.
     Why... after that... words could only exist as icy figures skating gracefully across a frozen country pond.
    With this in mind, there I was in the park, on a Friday, teaching a homeless person how to properly dice a shallot (complete with Sabatier/cutting board/blueroll) while contemplating the meaningless nature of her life, when Chef approached carrying two shop dummies - one dressed in a Christmas jumper and leg warmers, with a conspicuous CND motif painted on the forehead, the other beaten-up and half-destroyed. I hadn’t seen him for a few days and I thought he cut a dashing figure draped in purpose as he strode through the park with the mannequins effortlessly placed beneath his arms.
    “I’ve got it,” he said as he approached, “I finished the experiment and collated the data.”
    “The experiment. The experiment? What experiment?”
    He proceeded to tell me of his shady wanderings over the past month-and-a-half.
    Around six weeks previous, Chef had paid a visit to half a dozen clothing stores trying to convince them that if  they had any mannequins they were disposing of, to contact him first. Well, one independent maker and seller of quality and original bohemian boutique fashion was being run out of business by the massive global chain retailers of overpriced, slave-produced rags and she happened to offer chef three of the best quality plastic people money could buy. So lifelike and attractive were they, one could consider them sculptures or strange pieces of high-grade pop-art.
     Chef then continued to tell me of his strange, secret experiment, undertaken in an attempt to give me the raw material for my defence in the Kangaroo Court where I was soon to appear.
    He had taken a hacksaw to the back of the dummies, both female, and carefully and ingeniously attached a motion-sensor and amplified recording of three unique looped audio tapes.
 The first dummy simply looped the word “Fuck” - the second looped recording said “Love”.
   He was carrying them back from where he had bolted them down, naked in Gellatly Street. The public had dressed the “Fuck” dummy, shown it compassion, treated it with respect and reverence - there were offerings of sandwiches and cigarettes placed at its feet. The “Love” dummy had been hacked by a machete, urinated on and badly burnt.
    Next to the “Love” dummy though, a large wooden cross had been placed on the ground and around it was strung  a small makeshift plaque of wood. The plaque was scratched freehand with the legend, “Sleep tight Maria. Sleep tight our little girl” and sat serenely above a small, worn brown teddy bear on the ground below.
    “They might understand soon that FAMINE, DROUGHT and WAR are the words they are obliged wince at, as humans you know...” said Chef.
“Profanity is yesterday’s news, discrimination is today’s cutting edge. Stephen Fry sorted all that out.”
    I wasn’t so sure.
    Chef was. He thought the whole world was ready for the language of the kitchen. "The celebrity chefs are taking care of that," he argued.
 "Empty words," I remember replying.
    I said goodbye to the homeless woman while packing up my knife and block. “Bless you,” she said - but then coughed -“Arsehole” - under her breath.
    She was a good woman.