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.

Mr B

I wrote to Mr B the other night. On a piece of greaseproof paper, in 2B pencil, nice and neat.
    I was going to tell him the truth about everything, but I soon found out I didn't know anything apart from the stuff about me.
    He wrote back promising to tell me the stuff about him.
    I wondered how much I could say in public and reminded myself that Dr Thompson never asked himself if there were limitations to what he should say, Frank Zappa didn't worry about the thought of a Cuban jail cell.
    If we were going to go into Chinatown and pick up the taffeta and sequins for the musical about Crabbe, we were probably going to get into a fight.
I decided not to put on my leathers, as, although absorbing the blows far better than skin and ribcage, the compromise of movement in the limbs was not sufficient to justify the homo-erotic look.
    I disappeared into the crowd and soon found Dervish, shady Dervish. I asked him how the meat trade was in the Runcorn area. He skipped around the question like a seasoned politician without really even admitting that he still did have some connection with it. One thing you could rely on about Dervish was that he would always have a large, very sharp knife somewhere close at hand. A man who had caused himself great pain over the subject of food. He said nothing, but offered me a lift.
    I took it.
    He was going to some flat or other. Somewhere in the North West, industrial country, probably near some small unit estate. I went with him and down a set of concrete stairs into the cellar of a takeaway kebab shop in a run of low-rent graffiti-tagged shops thrown up under a labour government in the 70's.
    The cellar had a low concrete ceiling and harsh strip lighting. Three bodies were already mingling about there, near one of the beat-up chest freezers, alongside a small walk-in fridge with a dangerously labouring motor. They spoke in Turkish, the muscle-bound one louder than the crazy-looking one or the sharp but slightly nervous one with tortured eyes.
Dervish led me to the handle of the fridge and the three acknowledged my presence with a backward nod, the gesture more pronounced in the largest of them. Dervish looked me straight in the eye before he opened the door - straight in the eye with a burning sincerity which only a few are destined to possess. When we walked into the light he turned back again with a smile.
    I was presented with the finest lamb backstrap fillet I'd ever seen. To call it a piece of meat would insult Dervish. He  lay it across both my hands as I knelt in the supplicant position, slowly, carefully. I told him that I did not how to get the best out of it - I didn't like the responsibility.
    In one barely perceptible move, he reached across to the six inch Global lying on the second shelf and swept it across his chest.
    "Eef you do not know what to do weeth it," he said slowly, with disdain, "you cannot be conseedered a man!"
    "I'll do my best, Dervish," I replied, "thanks very much. I really appreciate it. I'll do my best."
Shortly after tea accompanied with conversation about his home village, he drove me back.
    I told Mr B about my trip and he said he wasn't bothered, he'd met up with Will Self at a party and done some stuff he probably shouldn't have. I told him there was meant to be some new magazine on Campus and that I was thinking about doing a piece on Lady Gaga or Simon Cowell but no-one would answer my e-mails. They hadn't heard of the candy machine and the brass plaque, but then I wasn't going to elevate myself, even inadvertently, and be dragged down to the fiery pit we had both seen in days gone by; besides, they knew a lot of things that I didn't.
    Watching the shadows on the ceiling and listening to the dull traffic on the M56 was nothing like Woody Creek. I wasn't there. Prolonged staring at the shadows produced a grotesque and incongruous Cheshire cat.
    The cat did speak. It spoke about the authentic, the threatening emptiness, the angst, responsibility of freedom, the breakdown, the terror, existere, despair and the Ultimate Purpose.
    "There are some coming back to the fold," it said in eerie voice. I'd never liked its face, it looked like a cheat.
    "Some are coming back to the fold," it said, "those miners must have given some inspiration."
    I told it that it had all started happening before that.
    "It's social networking then," it said.
    I told it that it had all started happening long before that, before our time even. It looked confused. I thought cat meat.
    I got up to sear the lamb in a super-hot pan while I made the bean-dish with home-grown fully-ripe tomatoes. Mr B had sweet Baklava and good coffee to be followed by some nice Manchego cheese.
    I told him about the cat and how I had compared the Shewring, Lattimore and Pope translations of Homer the previous evening. Pope made him smile.
    "That's the truth, baby," he grinned, "that's the truth. If some of us are reading, it would stand to reason, that some of us aren't."
    "Don't think about that, you're a layman," I said absently. "Besides, you're further down the road to Hell than the rest of us."
    “At least I’m not seeing cats in the dark,” he smiled, “Now finish that cheese, we’ve got business to attend to.”

What I Did (Part II)

I’m glad I did what I did.
    It wasn’t pleasant to witness the suffering, but being party to the sublime justice was intensely satisfying.
    I did it because everything was alright one day, and the next, it wasn’t. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the eight-headed beast appeared shrieking and shaking the ground, devouring the past in an instant. Eating yesterday and leaving only the rank stench of happy memories.
    I was glad no-one bothered to ask; all assumed the existence of the beast brought about the existence of Dorothy, translating a polar morale. In their minds, it stood to reason that there had to be a diametrically-opposed entity - they had no idea then, that after The Birth, after The First Kiss, after The First Hit, that the line was only punctuated with varying degrees of disappointment. The Thing existed with no opposition, in a spiralling vacuum of its own making, alongside the perpetual spinning void of Family Fortunes and Findus Crispy Pancakes. When Doris Day donned the suede and tassels, whip-crack away, whip-crack away, whip crack away - it was debauchery. Dorothy was as much a head of the beast as Cowell, Clifford or Castro.
    The only option was to burn and run, run and burn. I’m glad I did what I did, leaving them ablaze in the valley. No metaphor, Wonka burnt to a crisp in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, along with the axminster, while I ate Osso Buco and drank snakebite and blackcurrant in Corsica.
    Beginnings. That’s an essay. One pure point in time and then a downward spiral until another pure point in time juts out and spikes you in the heel. That pain doesn’t burn, it stabs, quick and clear.
    I took my recipe, my new cake-tin and my roll-up of cash back home. The curries had lost flavour, the Sidlaws shrunk and the currency had changed, but Dundee, Scumdee, aaahh… only the locals can understand.
    I turned to the nearest drunk in the city square as the grease from my onion bridie dripped onto my jeans.
    “Ya think you’re sae much better,” he slurred.
    “Give me a drink,” he wouldn’t refuse.
    “What happened tae yer accent then? Naebody loses it unless they waant tae. You’ve gone aw posh.”
    “Yes sir,” I said, “all posh and superior. I’ve been waiting fifteen years for this.”
    “Yev got tae tak a risk.”
    “There aren’t any risks. I saw a photo of someone and they looked twenty years older than they did twenty years ago. I used to drink around here, in the bushes and then on the bandstand at Magdalen Green. James McIntosh Patrick painted a picture of me mooning the trains after seven. I was, even for a child, perfectly proportioned and I felt very clean and smelt of a nice neutral soap, until after my sweetheart stout.
    "I have to leave now anyway," I said loudly. "I’m respectable and my kids will be wondering where I've got to, and to be frank, they’ll be none too pleased if they find out I was here with you."
    “Mr Fancy Breeks now, is it? Too good for us plebs now?”
    “No, on the contrary,” I replied, “you make me feel… less alone.”
    I clicked my heels together the appropriate number of times but quickly woke up in a cell. It was very unpleasant and confusing and due to this, shortly afterwards, I employed one of those small, invisible, deformed chaps to burn me a little whenever I felt like a change again.
    I haven't done what I did, before, again, since, probably because I'm not too keen on that burn, which I employed, again - the way it suddenly seems to come out of nowhere when you least expect it, and burns you. But I’m glad I did what I did because I got some good advice and realised some minor pain.
    “Tak a risk,” he said.
I’m putting my mind to it now and wondering who I can attack, wondering who won’t bite back. But then I’m thinking, if they don't have teeth, they’re not worth attacking.
    The questions is, how many blows would I be prepared to take and to what organ? I’m a respectable man, sick of the white ankle socks and gingham now.
    Respectable? No. But no regrets, I’m glad I did what I did - there was never any other option.
    I’m putting my mind to it now… wondering who…

And Let That Be A Lesson To You

“…and let that be a lesson to you.”

After being asked to leave at least three establishments due to completely unrelated disagreements with either members of staff or patrons, I decided to retire quietly to The Pilgrim and blend in.
I took up my usual booth, occupying all seats with bags, hat, coat and laptop. I dabbed a bad scratch I’d received on the forehead with some toilet roll before scraping under the velour in the same place I’d found George’s letter.
There was an air of danger in the bar, but the patrons were nondescript in their "out-there" appearance.
But still, a sense of foreboding.

A couple of weeks after finding George's letter, I had discovered that there was a rip in the upholstery. When sitting upon the rip, one’s mind would be largely occupied by two brief moments of Epiphany drawn from past experience, each caught in spiral flux and colliding sporadically with the other causing them to occupy space both within and without the vacuum of the rip.
These moments could prove providential to the occupant if correctly interpreted, but also, the unstable state of matter in the unpinned foam rubber beneath, meant that occasionally a physical object could be thrown forth from the fractal, usually in some form of Art. To the ignorant and uninformed, the twin experiences would simply dance around the mind for a moment before being disregarded when the instinct to drink or empty the bladder overshadowed them. To the ├╝ber-astute however, these moments could be recognized, isolated and turned to good use.

The first psychic imprint to manifest itself in my mind that evening was of my old English teacher giving feedback on an essay I’d written as a kid. My story relayed an unlikely sequence of events which had transpired after the protagonist spat on a magic packet of pickled-onion crisps. The essay contained random, unconnected statements and attempted to foray into the realms of stream-of-consciousness, comic incongruity and the philosophical value of a concept of social anarchy. The teacher was particularly disparaging, discouraging, disdainful and disinterested. He had to walk home unexpectedly that evening.

The second floating scroll from my history was an argument I had with another teacher - woodwork – and the Great Safety Poster Competition Fiasco. I was by far the best artist in the class and spent hours on the study of an image of Satan as the centerpiece of the composition. Teach told me I did not draw it. I told teach I did. He then told me that tracing was not drawing. I told him that I had spent hours drawing it freehand. Mr Shit then told me I was a liar. I agreed with him but told him I had drawn the picture freehand. Neither of us could back down at that point and I had to be removed from the class before the bell rang.
The winning poster, which was copied and adorned the tech-sheds shortly after, was one of a hammer and a sore, red thumb, complete with wavy throb-lines and “attention” spelt with one “t”. I was assured by a colleague of Mr Shit that the spelling mistake was deliberate and a cleverly measured ploy to draw attention to the poster.
Where did all this anger come from?
I made a mental note of the similarities and subtle differences between the two incidents and consigned them to the vault before faking around for any physical prize from the Rip. A small bundle of letters was presented to my hand; they were bound loosely with medium-wide, red, silk ribbon.
On the top of the pile was a card with a hand-written disclaimer:
“All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, except for ______.”

I went to the toilet before continuing and there read at eye-level black ink on white tile, while the intermittent noise of flushing and smell of rancid urine did its best to distract me:
“No,” said George. “No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I’ve never been mad, an I ain’t now. That’s the thing I want ya to know.”
Another George. A different George.

I thought of Steinbeck and how HST really wanted to be him.
I pictured Bush choking on a pretzel.
I pictured the scene of George murdering Lennie in cold blood.
I shook, spat and got out.

What I Did

  I shouldn't have done what I did.
   I shouldn't have done what I did because everything was alright and suddenly, out of nowhere, that one-legged friend of his appeared followed shortly after by that twisted, frightening and unpredictable Willie Wonka friend and the one-legged friend had soon taken his prosthetic limb off and was going between attacking and defending with it and his moral-free girlfriend was in the background, laughing maniacally or egging him on or something and the axminster carpet in the garage kept bugging me.
   It was horrible and frightening and I closed my eyes, at first pretending not to be there, but soon relishing my moment as Dorothy. Before I clicked my rubies together I would take a while to become aware of the sensations I was having.
   I was, even for a child, perfectly proportioned and I felt very clean and smelt of a nice neutral soap, happy and excited at the same time. As Dorothy, I knew I was special and good but at the same time I had very little ego.
   I decided to open my eyes and continue to be Dorothy, it was such a pleasant, optimistic sort of a feeling.
   "I have to leave," I said loudly. "My auntie will be wondering where I've got to, and to be frank, she'd be none too pleased if she knew I was here with all of you."
   I got up unsteadily and stepped over something revolting on the grass. I went through the front door backwards and said quietly, "Goodbye," as I shut it.
   It was dark outside and unwelcoming. After six hundred miles I stumbled upon a railway station. There was an old dishevelled gentleman sitting on a bench under a lamp. I sat down next to him.
   "Dorothy?" he said.
   "I didn't know you knew," I told him.
   "You forgot," he replied.
   "Oh goodness, yes," I remembered and immediately clicked my heels together the appropriate number of times.
   At home, safe, I thought I shouldn't have done what I did, but then I started to get bored and lazy and interested in myself again. So I employed one of those deformed chaps to burn me a little whenever I remembered or felt like that again.
   I haven't done what I did before again, probably because I'm not too keen on the burn, the way it suddenly seems to come out of nowhere when you least expect it, and burns you.
   I know I shouldn't have done what I did, but being Dorothy for a while was great, especially the immense sense of freedom the pretty dress and white ankle socks gave me.

The Modern Mersault

"If a state is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are the subjects of shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honours are the subjects of shame." Confucius.

To walk was to participate in the very nature of life, the rhythm, the instinct, the pulse, and so on. To regard the walk, to value, respect and consider was at the very heart of being a frog.
Antoine the frog walked at every opportunity and found that if there was any contentment to be found, it would only be while locked in movement. He refused to hop or jump like his colleagues, but rather took to ambling with a big swinging motion on his powerful hind legs. This unnerved his fellow pond workers who, in turn, would spread hostile gossip about him, attributing him with a wicked and secretive disposition and an unholy association with the Predators. Antoine, however isolated, was motivated only by his belief that any static position equated to instant death. There would be no disembarking onto the platform signposted "Happiness" for the exhausted Antoine.
Walking went some way to stimulating his mind and Antoine used it as such, he pounded the treadmill to distraction. Distraction.
Certainty, he thought, was a barely conceivable abstract of the past along with words like tadpole and Freedom. There were only a few very fallible and destructive ways to move outside The Machine if you disagreed to being refined and used in its essential oils. Antoine walked alone. For most frogs, the very idea of attempting to forge the Lonely Path was taboo. But Antoine had no choice.
Fellow amphibians were draped in the shadows of a uniform and under the guise of contributing, wholeheartedly submitted to the very beast which trod on and subjugated them. The blood of their friends and family served to strengthen the invisible tendrils of a vengeful and paranoid bureaucracy, full of supposition and filling of gaps. Time empowered the irrepressible magic of greed on the north side of the pond and the west had been lost to the expensive blindside of ambition long before.
There must have been only four or five who had ever made the attempt to reject the monster completely, the Admirable. There was a shining path to be found in the hearts of those frogs and for one single moment Antoine could be inspired to conscientiously leave the influence of the mass and find his way to the stairway scratched Truth he would surely ascend and taste something new...
...and so Antoine walked given any opportunity, while contemplating the world around him and his journey. He would move as much as his physical self would allow but the gnawing, futile, all-consuming truth was not a physical manifestation. It was an inner-knowledge, an intangible fact which burned from the inside out - no matter for how long or how far he got away, he would always return to the ignorance of the pond.
Antoine had discovered some brief reprieves from that pain and vowed to keep moving while he was still able. He knew very well that if anything got a chance to stop him, it would.