Friday, 15 March 2013

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.”

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