Sunday, 24 July 2011

Chapter 3 and 4 of Milligrams

Feeling fairly generous today so here's not one but two chapters of book. Wont be putting up anymore for a bit cos I'm working at writing a new short about climbing under a table when your drunk. No joke.


            There’s a guy walking on a cobbled shore. The sun silhouettes him. All I can see is a shadow. His head is down like he’s deep in thought. He picks up one of the flat stones, runs his thumb over the smooth edge and breathes the salt in the air. For a moment he stops and looks at the stone between his thumb and forefinger. He throws the stone into the water. It bounces along the surface. It goes under. He picks up more stones. They all fall through the water. He stays there until the sun starts to go down. He keeps throwing stones into the water. None of them will bounce. I can see him better as night takes over from the day. His hair is long, curly and brown. He’s naked and very skinny. He turns around. He’s me.
            When I wake up the dream feels real. Like I’m still on the beach. It gets muddled and lost. Then the pain kicks like a mule. It’s coming mostly from my face and back. I’m aware of still being half in half out. If I wake up fully I’m going to have to deal with whatever my eyes show me. I’m not ready for that yet so I try to sink back into sleep but it’s a waste of time. I’m awake, in a green and white room.
            It’s easier to sit up than I thought it would be. My back makes a cracking sound that reassures me. The back cracks have been there for years. I was sixteen and into that WWF stuff. The wrestling slash dodgy soap opera programme. My favourite wrestler was a face. That’s a wrestling term for good guy. Heel is a bad guy. Wrestling’s kind of like those old morality plays. Like Everyman or Faust. Where a guy has to choose between the devil and god and blah, blah, blah. Point is they’re incredibly boring. However when you add two muscle bound ‘roid monkeys and plenty of testosterone the struggle between good and evil becomes way more entertaining. Jeff Hardy was the best of them. He had this slick finishing move called the Swanton Bomb. He’d climb up the turnbuckle and raise his arm into the air. This meant there was a Swanton on the way and the crowd would go crazy. His opponent, the terrible heel, would be lying face up on the mat. Jeff would dive off, head towards his opponent. It always looked like he was going to break his neck but then in the last second he’d flip and land on top of his opponent with his back. The crowd would flip too. Thing is, it was easy to forget about the ‘don’t try this at home’ segment at the start of the show.
            So I’m at a party when I’m about sixteen. Being young and Irish I’ve already been drinking for about three years. Not professionally or anything. I’m still getting langered on about two cans. My friend’s folks are out of town and he’s got this weird-ass hedge in his back garden. It’s extremely bouncy when jumped at from a height and I’ve just found a ladder. I’ve also had about two cans...
            What I don’t know is that my mate Bobby is trying to tell his neighbour he’s sorry about all the noise. Thing is Bobby’s had about two cans so the apology is shaky at best. Meanwhile in the back garden I’m ascending the ladder and enjoying the attention I’m getting from all the other sixteen year olds. Especially the attention I’m getting from Ellen McCarthy. Everyone screams to do the Swanton Bomb but Ellen just smiles. I’m smitten man, for sure.
            Bobby’s just realised his neighbour is going to tell his parents when they get home. That means he’s getting lynched. He needs to take this out on someone and there I am; about to attempt a neck-break manoeuvre with a hedge and ladder as my partners.  In my mind this memory plays to that tune Adagio for Strings. That’s just a fancy name for the Platoon theme. It wasn’t raining that night but in my memory it’s lashing. I’m so wet small beads of water are dripping from my eye brows and everybody’s breath is swirling in the dark. Bobby rushes out from the back door. His feet hit the grass with shotgun thuds. Everything happens in slow motion.
            I take a breath in and get ready for the jump. I hear Bobby shouting before I realise he’s coming straight at me.
            “Stop making all that fucking noise!” but in slo-mo so it’s like:
            “Ssstttoooooooooopppp mmmaaaaaakkkkiiiiiiinnnnnggg aaaaaaallllll ttttthhhhhaaaaaaaaatttt fffffffuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkkkkiiiiiiiinnnnnnnggggggg nnnnoooooooiiiiissssssseeeeee!!!”
            He crashes into the ladder but it’s too late. I’m already entering the jump only I’ve got nothing to propel myself from. I twist upside down and fall. My friends all gasp. Bobby grabs his face with his hands realising what he’s just done. He shouts at the clouds.
            *Bobby’s realisation at what he’s just done is at 5:15 on the track.*
            Then the lull: I lie, curved around the ladder, abashed and confused. Blood bubbles bursting as I cough. “His spine” someone mutters before looking away. Bobby grabs my hand. Tears stream down his face.
            “I’m sor...”
            I place my hand in front of his mouth.
            “Men like us...we have no time for apologies.”
            His tears drip onto my bloodied mouth and with my last bit of strength I whisper:
            “I never even had the sex.”
            The rain pelts down, he screams again. Ellen whispers a simple “why?” to herself. Her tears get lost in the rain.
            Roll credits.
            The actual event was much less epic. It ended with everyone laughing as I made constipated sounds and Bobby freaked out thinking he had broken my back. Ellen was all Florence Nightingale. I was able to walk grand but I kind of milked it a bit. It’s not like I was being an attention whore I just wanted to be able to talk to Ellen alone for a while. Bobby could totally see what I was doing but in fairness he never tried cock blocking. He gave me a wink and said:
            “Feel better Alex (wink part) I’m sure ya will!”
            It was just Ellen and me in Bobby’s parent’s room. We talked for hours, nothing else. Don’t get me wrong I wanted to kiss her. I thought if I tried she’d think all I wanted was tail. It didn’t seem right or something. Maybe it was because we were lying on the bed. I didn’t need to but she was lying beside me so I was pushing the sore back thing. I guess we weren’t ready for the big S.
            Back then no one used to ask about my dad. I’d hear people saying it sometimes but no one ever said anything to me. I had a lot of friends, not super popular or anything. I played rhythm guitar in a band. People knew me, I don’t think they all liked me but whatever. So me and Ellen are sitting there and just blasé she’s like:
            “I heard about your dad. How’s that?”
            I didn’t know what to say for a second. No one had ever asked me. Not even ma. It was just a thing that happened. Dirt under a rug. People would occasionally stop talking when I was walking by. They’d give me that nod, half smile. That hurt like nails but no one ever said “Hey check out that pink elephant!”
            “It’s okay...I don’t know. He’s still going through the courts so...”
            “My uncle went to jail for a while. Assault or something. My dad doesn’t really like him.”
            “He’s not exactly Rambo and he might wind up in jail. Fucking retard.”
            “You don’t really think that.”
            “I don’t know. We would’ve had money either way. Everyone’s supposed to pay taxes right?”
            “Maybe he did it for you and your sister.”
            “We don’t drive the Lexus.”
            Then she slapped me in the arm.
            “You couldn’t drive a car anyway with your broken spine!”
            I jumped up to slap her back. Not in a domestic abuse way or anything. We were both laughing until she started laughing really hard. I didn’t know what was going on.
            “What’s up with you?”
            “Haha what’s up with your back faker?!”
               My cover was blown. Damn stupid hormones. I didn’t know what to say. Inside my head I was just like: “Idiot. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.”
            “It’s still kinda sore.”
            This just set Ellen off even more. I was getting embarrassed. Probably going red. I go super red when I’m embarrassed. It must have been obvious because she stopped laughing and grabbed my hand.
            “I don’t want to go anywhere else. Even if your back isn’t broken.”
            I smiled. That’s one of the only times I’ve felt the way they look on TV. When two people are all soppy and happy and wretch, wretch, mbleh. But right there I felt like I was going to laugh or cry or vomit or faint or something. We looked at each other. For ages. My head was screaming at me: “Pull the trigger! Kiss her!” But I didn’t. I wanted to but I totally chickened. She smiled at me and then we both lay down on the bed. It must have been late or early or whatever because no one was making noise anymore. She turned into me and smiled then put her head into my chest. I kissed her on the top of her forehead and said “night”. That was the first night I fell asleep with a girl in my arms.
            There are about five other people in the room with me. Three of them are old, one of them is an African woman who’s been on her phone since I woke up. The other one is a girl in her early twenties. She looks really pale. White almost. She sees me looking at her and I look away. I hate that, when you’re looking at someone and they catch you. I always feel like they think I’m some sort of pervert or something. I lift up the sheets and look at my chest. There are big rings of purple on my side. I touch one, the pain is crazy. The pale girl must see me pull my ‘ouch’ face.
            “Never mind your ribs man, you should see your face!”
            I look at her and smile.
            “Don’t worry about me Casper.”
            We both laugh for a few seconds before the doctor walks in. His hair is bright red. It looks funny against his white coat. He comes up to my bed and looks at my chart. He keeps doing this little drum roll with his pen and finger.
            “How are you feeling Alex?”
            “Sore but I think I’m okay.”
            “Do you remember how you got here?”
            “I guess the guards must have brought me but I don’t really remember any of it.”
            “Okay can you tell me who the President is?”
            “Umm...McAleese right? She’s always President.”
            “Correct and can you tell me where you live?”
            “34 Cromwell’s Fort.”
            “Very Good. And what religion are you?”
            “I was baptised and all but I don’t really follow it.”
            “Okay” He says with a slight laugh “there’s a guard here who wants to ask you a few questions. Would that be okay?”
            “Yeah it’s fine. Have my ma or sister been in?”
            “I sent your mother home about an hour ago. She said she’d call back tomorrow. Your sister and nephew were in with her.”
            The guard walks in. It’s a bean guard. You can’t call them that anymore though can you? Soon enough if you open a door for a girl she’ll kick you in the nads. She asks me about the two guys.
            “I couldn’t really see their faces. They had tights on or something. There was a skinny one wearing a white top and jeans. About six foot maybe. I think his top was Adidas. The other one was small, he had a black vest on and tracksuit bottoms.”
            “Okay and can you tell me what happened?”
            “I woke up and they were in the sitting room. It wasn’t the tall one. To be honest he didn’t seem like a bad guy but the small one just went Joe Pesci on me.”
            She looks at me for a second.
            “I’m sorry?”
            “Oh sorry, you know Casino? Joe pesci.”
            She looks pissed off. It kind of gives me the fear. I remember all the med boxes lying around the house. What if they ask me about that? What if I have to give up Hooper’s name?! Is it illegal to sell foreign pills? Would Hooper send a guy to gangster me up?! I can feel the sweat on my palms and this wave of heat rising up my neck. I keep telling myself to just get through the interview, that everything will be fine. 
             “He’s violent that’s all, I thought you might have seen the film. He has really hairy shoulders.”
            “Joe Pesci?”
            “No the guy that bet me up.”
            “Okay, can you think of anything else that might help us?”
            “Not really. Just it sounded like the first time the tall one did anything like this.”
            I don’t really know to phrase it. It’s like sometimes Batman catches a guy on his first crime. He doesn’t beat him up or anything, if he thinks he’s an okay guy in a bad situation he just scares him. Then behind the scenes he’ll offer him a janitor’s job at Wayne Tech or something. The guy just needed dockets he wasn’t a bad man just in a bad situation.
            “I don’t know. I guess it was just mostly the small guy.”
            “Joe Pesci?”
            “No his name wasn’t Joe Pesci. He just looked like Joe Pesci.”
            “Okay. We might be in contact if we need an ID.”
            She walks away and I stop freaking about all the med boxes in my room. I’m left with a hum of fear hanging around me. Not too strong. I guess the best way to describe the fear is like a bottle of Kia-Ora or one of those cordials. When you have a glass of water it’s clear. Let’s say you put blackcurrant Kia-Ora on top of that. At first the purple clouds just rest on the water like oil but once you shake the glass it’s a different story. Before long everything’s purple. I’m the glass and the water is relaxation. Spin us around too much and the fear takes over. Thing you’ll notice about the water is that it doesn’t need a whole lot of shaking before everything goes purple. I’m not sure if that’s a good metaphor. Makes sense to me though.
            I ask a passing nurse what time it is. She looks at her watch and says ten p.m. There’s a sign on the wall that says visiting hours are over at eight. Having no one to talk to for the next twelve hours is kind of disheartening. I look down at my purple rings again. I want to see how bad my face looks. Ma must have left my dressing gown here when she visited. She brought some grapes and 7-Up as well. She conforms to hospital etiquette quite well. I pull on the gown and head to the bathroom. My legs feel strong. I think it’s because the rest of my body is so weak. Every footstep is an angry pulse in my stomach. The floor is wet in the bathroom. Not piss wet but shower wet. I hope so anyway. There’s a small mirror above the sink. I can’t really see myself until I get close.
            It looks like I’m pouting and wearing purple lipstick. You’d think I had delusions of becoming a model. Or a cross dresser. The side of my face doesn’t actually look too bad. It feels dodge but I don’t think you’d know I got nailed with a bag of kicks. My nose got out unscathed but my forehead didn’t. It’s bruised and lumpy. I do a monkey smile at the mirror to check my teeth. My face doesn’t actually look all that bad. I expected some broken teeth at least. I take my arms out of the dressing gown and it folds at my mid section. The purple rings are bigger than I thought. They run down my ribs and into my back. There’s a point on my stomach that’s only black and greeny-yellow. It eventually bursts into red and purple. I tap each of the circles and the green is definitely the most painful.
            The bathroom door opens and shuts behind me. I hear the lock twist. Damn one of the oldies must have come into the toilet. I don’t turn around at first. I’m scared I might see some weathered balls or something. Her voice is direct. I think it’s the bean guard...
            “We need to talk.”


I put my arms back into the gown before I turn around. It’s not the bean guard. Of course it’s not. Why would a guard follow me into the toilet? It’s the pale girl. Her hair is elbow length and dark. It looks dread locked in places. I can’t really see properly, the light in here isn’t great. She’s wearing a red dressing gown. She doesn’t smile when she talks. It’s hard to know if she’s taking the piss.
            “You and me have to be hospital buddies.”
            “What buddies?”
            “H-O-S-P-I-T-A-L buddies!”
            “Seriously between all the oldies and the woman who’s sponsored my Nokia I’m losing my rag!”
            “So what does a hospital buddy do?”
            “First things first, it’s nothing sexual so don’t start getting ideas!”
            “Getting ideas? You’re the one who followed me into the toilet!”
            “So if a girl wants to talk to a guy in a toilet that means sex?!”
            “That’s not what I said. I just meant there’re connotations.”
            “Ugghh men! You all watch too much porn!”
            “If I followed you in here and said ‘We need to talk’ you would’ve blown your rape whistle.”
            “I don’t have a rape whistle.”
            “Well you know what I mean.”
             “Relax man. I’m only jesting. I’m Zed.”
            We shake hands.
            “I’m Alex. Zed’s kind of a weird name.”
            “Yeah tell me about it. My mam and dad were all LSD crazy. I have a brother called Lobo!”
            “From the comics?”
            “He’s one of Superman’s enemies. He loves mindless violence and intoxication.”
            “As much as he sounds like my brother it’s actually after Roland Kent Lavoie. His stage name was Lobo. You know ‘Me and you and a dog named Boo’?”
            “I know the name, don’t think I’ve ever heard the song.”
            “Best to keep it that way.”
            Zed walks over to the window and opens it. She puts her hand into the gown pocket and pulls out a pack of Camels. She flicks the lid back and offers me one. I take it out of the box.
            “Been off them for a few months. Fuck it I survived a fairly nasty beating I can handle cancer.”
            “Good attitude man. What happened?”
            “Two guys broke into my house. Didn’t end well for any of us.”
            “How do you mean?”
            “Well I got the shit kicked out of me and they didn’t get a chance to steal anything.”
            She flicks the head of a match against the box, holds it straight and tries lighting the fag. It goes out. This happens again before I intervene.
            “Show me a second.”
            I take a match off her and strike it.
            “You gotta hold the head towards the ground otherwise it’ll go out.”
            In a few seconds I’ve lit both of the cigarettes. We take turns breathing out the window. There’s a car park outside. It’s mostly empty. Wexford general hospital and Indian culture don’t exactly go hand in hand but for some reason there are two totem poles outside. I try to figure it out for a second but my brain can’t come up with anything. An ambulance goes speeding out onto the road. Zed blesses herself.
            “You Christian?”
            “Not really. I just figure it’s better than doing nothing.”
            We exhale the last of the fags and flick them onto the car park. Back in the ward all the oldies have drawn their curtains. The African woman is still yammering on her phone. Zed looks at her, puts her index finger over her lips and points to the curtains. The African woman smiles and quietens down a bit. Gradually she starts talking louder and louder until the initial volume is restored. Zed gets into her bed and I get into mine. The sound of moving plastic under the sheets is annoying.
             A few hours pass and I’m fairly sure everyone is asleep. I look at the roof tiles and try not to move. I’m fixated on the sound of the plastic. In the silence I can hear it rising and falling with my breathing. I start thinking about how I won’t be able to sleep. How I need a sleeper. I can feel stress and worry waiting to fall in on me. Someone moves and the plastic ruffles underneath their weight. I grab a fist full of sheet. The creasing sound of the plastic only stresses me more. When I hear Zed it almost frightens me.   
            “Hey Alex?”
            “Why are you still awake?”
            “This fucking plastic is plaguing me!”
            “Takes a while to get used to.”
            “Thanks for showing me the thing with the matches.”
            “You got the match box handy?”
            “Yeah, you want another smoke?
            “No. Read the back of it to me would you?”
            She fumbles around her locker for a few seconds.
            “One beetle recognizes another.”
            “Heh, that’s a good one. Ever notice how those things always seem to be talking about what’s going on in your life?”
            “We’re the beetles then?”
            “I guess so.”
            “Can I be John?”
            “Haha. Night Zed.”
            “One more thing Alex.”
            “Breath in for seven beats of your heart and out for eleven okay?”
            “It’ll put you to sleep.”
            “Yeah right.”
            “Just try it. Your tossing and turning is keeping me up man.”
            I start breathing slow. In for seven beats, out for eleven. It’s hard to think about anything when I’m concentrating on my heart. I yawn and shift my weight. The noise of the plastic doesn’t annoy me as much. I barely even notice the African woman answering her phone.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Chapter 2 of Milligrams

Chapter Two for your consideration...


                Five milligrams. That’s all I have left. It’s not always enough to put me to sleep but it’ll have to do. Generally ten or fifteen do the trick. Problem is your body cops on quick. Means you have to keep on upping the dosage. A week and a half ago Doc took me off the Xanax. Said he couldn’t prescribe me anymore. Here’s the problem: I still can’t calm down. Doc won’t even give me sleepers, thinks I’m going to go empty bottle sunrise or something. I needed an alternative, enter Hooper Dolan. Hoop used to go out with Jess. Way back when she was a teen and I was single digits. He used to knock out some hash. Made enough to pay for his own ounce or whatever. Small scale. Now Hoop goes to Greece regularly, buys the world of prescription medicine and brings it back home. He’s got enough drugs to start his own chemist. The kind of chemist where mentally healthy students load up on anti-psychotics for the laugh. 
            I get a glass of water from the filter. I put the sleeper on my tongue and drop it back. I’m not so nervous indoors but my brain still won’t shut up when I try to sleep. It’s unlikely that five milligrams will take me out so I may as well just enjoy a few hours happy time. The TV in the sitting room is a HD. It really makes a difference to the picture quality. You don’t even care about watching the same shit every day. It’s late now, nothing but reality television. On one channel people are looking to work for some big business on another everyone’s living in a jungle. I flick through some more: five people try to go a week without sleep, twelve women vie for the affections of a paraplegic millionaire, tough looking guys fight each other until one is named the ultimate warrior. They could create one about people trying to make the perfect slice of toast, they’re all the same.   
            Or that’s what I think until I see Naked in L.A.:
            “Last week Donna got kicked out of the kitten house!” Queue this physically perfect woman without a shred of clothing:
“Beep all y’all! Miss Misty don’t know beep! I beep better than any these bitches! Look at these beeping titties! Donna Domino gonn’ be back! Back with the motherbeeping hardcore!”
            On a scale of one to what-the-fuck this show is doing well. The intro credits burst onto the screen. Some virtuoso shredding up an electric guitar with a montage of people having sex. Then a forty-cigarettes-a-day narrator pumps through the speakers “Who’s going to get the chance of a lifetime and win a one year contract from Milky productions? Katana Skyes, Phoenix Down or Whiskey Lopez? Join us now for Naked in L.A.” After the title drips off the screen this old chick with impossibly big boobs starts talking:
             “In the industry it’s important to know what’s going to earn you money. Obviously blowjobs, hand jobs, meat shots and cum shots are a necessity. Without these you are not a porn star. Not a porn star.”
            She hangs on the spaces between the words. I feel light headed. Maybe it’s the sleeper.
             “Today you girls will get a card that’s going to say anal or lesbian and you’ll have to perform it in a scene that we’re going to shoot in... Las Vegas!”
            Katana Skyes and Whiskey Lopez are visibly excited. Phoenix Down half smiles like she heard a joke that needed editing. Her one-to-one with the camera makes the kind of sense David Ike does when he talks about lizard people. “I can’t really do lesbian.” she holds up the silver cross around her neck “See I’m Christian and I’m pretty sure there’s something about not being gay in the bible.” I’m laughing. I can’t believe somebody gave this the green light. Imagine the pitch: Some sleazy looking guy, hair slicked as far back as it’ll go, the kind of meg you’d find on a goat.
            “I’ve found a way to secure the views of teenage boys and old”
            The grey haired exec looks back at him, takes out a pen and a cheque book.
            “Boy, you just got yourself a job.”
            Here’s the funny thing though: This show would definitely pull in teenagers and old guys who can’t work the internet but I bet a heap load of women would watch it too. First reason: women like reality TV more than men. Do the paper work, I‘m telling you. Ice dancing, regular dancing, walking down a catwalk, bitching in a jungle, they’re all catered towards women. Second reason: the natural look. See out of the three porn stars in training only one of them isn’t plastic. Katana Skyes and Whiskey Lopez are silicon bombshells but Phoenix Down is 100 per cent natural. She’s your girl-next-door and there is nothing women like to see more than the girl-next-door taking a victory. Here’s the funnier thing: Guys don’t care one way or the other. You’re either hot or you’re not. It’s all relative. One guy’s fat chick is another guy’s platinum, glaze eyed, 32-DD. Meat and poison.
            The sofa is becoming more comfortable. I let out that soft yawn and wait for the haze. I’m vaguely aware Phoenix has decided to choose a porn contract over eternal damnation before I turn off the TV and a last yawn sends me to sleep.
            I’m not sure whether it’s the glass breaking or the heavy footsteps that wake me up. The taller one has a white tracksuit top and torn jeans. The little guy’s only wearing a black wife-beater vest and some Nike bottoms. Thick brown hair curls around his shoulders. I laugh before I realise what’s going on. The small one hits me with me with something. The world waltzes into a spin. I’m seeing loads of everything.
            “What ya hitting him for?!”
            “Sure he woke up like!”
            “They’ll do the fuck out of us for battery!”
            “Sure we won’t get caught then!”
            My sight is getting less plural. I cough and breathe, there’s something wet on my lip. The blood comes into focus on my hand. I should feel afraid but I don’t.
            “Leave the TV here. It’s only a Tevion.”
            Neither of them says anything for a second. The tights move and look at one another. I didn’t think people actually wore tights when they were robbing houses.
            “We’re taking whatever we want son!” the small one points at me.
            “You probably won’t even get much for it. It’s all going 3D now.”
            Hairy shoulders kicks me in the gut. I’ve never actually been beaten up before. Haven’t been in a fight since the early nineties or something. Now that I think of it I’ve never actually punched anyone in the face.
            “Stop hitting him will ya!”
            “Fuck up a second Mick!”
            “Ya sure say me name in front of him why don’t you!”
            “How many Mick’s do you think live in Wexford?!” 
            “Fuck this now. You’ll get half nothing for robbery, they’ll throw you away for assault!”
            Curly shoulders pushes the big guy and then starts kicking the shins off him. I’m grasping my ribs in one hand and trying to get to my phone with the other. The big guy could totally take him but all he takes are the kicks. I dial 999 and bring the phone up to my ear. As soon as I hear a voice I start shouting.
            “34 Cromwell’s Fort! Two fella’s are robbing me! Hurry they’re after attacking me!”
            I don’t believe in auras or any of that but once the little guy realises I’ve rung for help I swear I see a red mist on him. I know how mental that sounds.
            “Ya little cunt ya!”
            The tall one runs. The front door slaps of the wall. The small one’s not ready to go yet. The first kick catches me in the side of the head. Thank god he’s wearing runners and not boots. My left ear starts ringing even though he hits me on the opposite side. I lose count after the fourth kick. That’s okay though he switches it up. He punches my back a few times. It hurts like hell but at least my face gets a breather. He stands up, breathes heavy and spits at me. I don’t know if any of the saliva hits. I feel wet everywhere. I hear him shouting when he’s outside.
            “Ya little fucking cunt ya!”
            It’s hard to get up. I’m shaking everywhere but can’t feel any pain. The fear starts dripping. I just got the shit kicked out me. Shit... I start breathing heavy but the breathing turns into coughing. My right hand starts shaking really bad. Not just tremors but full shakes. I try to hold it in my left hand but they both just zig-zag. I’m coughing blood into my dancing hands.
            What the fuck is wrong with me? Why didn’t I just shut up?! Why the fuck did I bring that beating on? I did. It was me. My ribs start frying. It’s not a pain I’ve had before. The coughing turns into vomiting and then it feels like my face is falling in. The tears come strong and I barely notice pissing myself. Everything hurts. I lie face down against the carpet. My voice sounds like I’m speaking through a crackling, broken tube.
            “Help me C.A.”
            C.A.’s not real. She’s just a guinea pig. She doesn’t understand her name. She doesn’t understand what it means. Doesn’t understand me.
            I get sick again and roll onto my back. Then I’m calm and I don’t know why. I think about how bad Spiderman must have felt when Goblin killed Gwen Stacey. Pretty bad I guess. I cough again and get just a little sick. There’s always carrot in your vomit. Everything gets blurry before it disappears.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Short Story

Thinking of sending this one off. I'll throw chapter two of book up soon. Unfortunately there's no tits or lasers in this one. I'm working on a new story featuring a futuristic space shark with a pair of laser enabled double D's. Should keep the public happy.

Beside the Tightrope

After six days of waiting I started taking walks. Sometimes all through the night. I would walk along the train tracks. Looking out at the river and the ripples of moonlight. Occasionally stumbling between the rocks and sleepers. Sometimes I would walk through fields, sometimes the town. Through places people say it is a bad idea to walk at night. It didn’t matter much. Movement was all that mattered.
                It was months before I could sleep again. A few hours at first. Somewhere between two and five in the morning. The doctor had given me sedatives and sleeping tablets. I took them once and was appalled at how easy it was not to care. They stayed on the dresser beside my bed. Eventually I could get five or six hours a night. It was enough to function. Less and less she appeared in my dreams.
                I woke up at eight one Thursday.  The sky was a kind of sunny gray. Bleak but hopeful. I smiled though I’m not sure why. After breakfast I decided to call the school. McMurray’s secretary answered.
                “Grayson? Is that yourself?”
                “It is Maura, how are you?”
                “Never mind me. How are you pet? How is everything?”
                “Ah sure getting there. You know yourself.”
                Silence for a second.
                “I’ve an idea all right, you poor thing. Are you looking for the big fella?”
                “I am Maura.”
                  There’s no waiting music. The kind you’d get from a hospital. Static shuffling of papers and pens. I hear Maura say that Grayson is on the line. McMurray doesn’t reply to her. I almost get a fright when he answers.
                The two syllables stab. All he’s said is one word. A word I should be comfortable with.
                “Pat, how are you?”
                “I’m well and you?”
                “A lot better Pat. I’d like to come back soon.”
                “People usually don’t get as much time off. I’ll have to give the substitute some notice.”
                “Of course.”
                “Pat, honestly, the worst is over I’m...”
                “One second Grayson. I’ll ring you back.”
                Before the phone goes dead I hear him shout “Morrissey where are your brogs?!” The line drones like a sad heart monitor. I put down the receiver.
                McMurray is a good principal in the same way Mussolini was a good dictator. The school is well organized, there is no time for pleasant ring tones between phone conversations and the students, for the most part, are afraid to do anything too extreme. Often times he is wearing a blue shirt to work. Myself and several of colleagues have commented on this with sly smiles. None of us have shared the joke with McMurray. 
                Apparently walking a mile in fifteen minutes burns over two hundred calories. I’ve never timed my walks but I’ve certainly lost a bit of weight. Agatha says too much. Before telling me how much she’s prayed for me this week. Even though it makes her sour I remind her that she is no longer a nun.
                “I never wanted the convent. T’was all Daddy’s fault.”
                Pressure, she said, to be a right catholic young one. But she prays still. God is still God and Hell is still Hell. I see her waiting between sips of tea. To see if I’ll ask has she prayed for Aya. Realizing I won’t she says:
                “I lit a candle for her Monday gone.”
                 I don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse. My sister making sure Aya is okay with the power of prayer. If Aya was okay I would’ve heard from her by now. The guards don’t say that to you but you see it on the telly. Those detective programmes. After a week that’s it. Assume they’re dead. I suppose that’s the most rational thing to do. Better off assuming she’s dead than hanging onto some fairytale. Realising you’ve wasted most of your life on something that wasn’t there at all. I’ll leave that to Agatha.
                You miss a lot at night. There is no sense of a path. Walking in the middle of the night requires you to watch only what’s directly in front of you. To look at what you’re facing and tell yourself that every step is getting you where you need to be. The anxiety of not being able to ‘see’ everything. Not knowing what’s going on behind your back or what lies beyond. Daylight, however, is sobering. You’re thoughts are friendlier and there is no worry of the next day. You simply wait for the current one to end.
                Knowing McMurray it would be at least a week before he rang back. Luckily I had been taking walks in the daytime for a while. I didn’t have to wait in purgatory beside the phone. In truth the walks seemed to connect me to something. Almost like a return to childhood. I would leave my house at nine or ten and choose a location. Not in my head or from a map but from what I saw in the distance. The burning yellow of a rape seed field or some broken castle across the river. I’d leave the house and walk. I had no idea how to get to any of these places. I suppose that was the point. The walk itself was an adventure. The journey would present itself as I put one foot in front of the other. There was no kind of ordinance. A vague internal compass and a willingness to lose myself.  Across the river, past the docks and through the camping site. Today I want to find out what’s behind this.
                ‘When men yield the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon’.
                ‘We all live under the same sky but we don’t all have the same horizon’.
                ‘Broaden your horizon’.
                ‘There is something on the horizon’.
                I strain to think of a few more...nothing. Save for maybe ‘all that the eye sees can be yours’. In essence this all depends on the horizon. Where does this quote come from? I think for a few seconds before my mind settles on Lucifer. I wonder what Jesus would do if he could reconsider. Dying as ever lasting love drove rusting nails through his open palms. ‘Why have you forsaken me Father? I could have been rich!’
                I’m on the docks when I realize I must have been walking for about twenty minutes. It’s not always a good idea to get lost in thought when you don’t really know where you’re going. Though I often feel like that’s the best part.
                The docks are over the bridge. Primary coloured trawlers line up the side like an industrial rainbow. The smell of petrol and rotting crab meat are almost sweet. Or maybe it is sweet, the real problem is that I know where it’s coming from. For the many times I’ve seen the trawlers it’s rare that you find a fisherman. Add to that the fact that I’ve never actually seen a trawler leave or moor on the dock. It’s almost like a tourist attraction. A part of the sunny south east that must be there for the sake of the local economy. Aya always liked the docks. Often I’d come back from school and she would show me the fresh trout or mackerel she bought from the fishermen there.
                “They never seem to be there when I’m on the quay.”
                Sensing I was a little tired and knowing I’d be ratty Aya would tease me.
                “They no like English people, only Japanese!”
                She’d put on the accent and everything. It was impossible not to laugh. After a day of trying to teach pubescent teenagers, or the ‘walking hormones’ as McMurray calls them, it was nice to have someone try and make you smile.
                Aya’s family came to Ireland before she was born. She never talked much about history. Never talked about how gruelling the trip must have been for her parents or how terrible their reasons for leaving. I didn’t need a degree in history to understand. There was no such thing as Japanese food. Over a decade of odd jobs passed before her father could afford to open a restaurant. The Emerald House, a Chinese restaurant. No one on in Ireland could tell the difference and the family pretended to be a dynasty. Aya laughs...laughed about that all the time. Her father would tell her to keep it a secret. Not to tell anybody. Of course she never once pretended to be anything other than what she was. Irish.
                “And what about your name? Grayson...that’s not very Irish!” Aya asked as we were getting to know one another.
                She was right. Apparently my mother had seen a picture of the major of London in a paper as a teenager. He must have been devilishly handsome because she forgot his name as she looked at the black and white print. Luckily, or unluckily, she knew that the origin of the word Grayson meant the son of a bailiff. Since my father didn’t work as one of the King of England’s officers it never made much sense. But she insisted and got her way. Delighted with the fantasy no doubt. My father would often say that paper never refused ink.
                I told Aya this and she laughed. She was so unique, so unlike anyone I’d met before. A girl somewhere between the edge of the world and Ireland. But always laughing, always seeing the smile in everything. I feel something near the back of my head coming forwards. A dark, forming thought. Aya walking back from the quays at night. A car pulling in, the driver asking a question. She leans into the window. He grabs her, she struggles. I’m not there to help her. I pray this wasn’t the case. Would I rather it was all a charade? That Aya wasn’t really happy at all. She left me, left life, left everything...  
                I focus on the camping site. It’s only starting to fill now. The Germans are usually the first. Their giant jeeps with the un-readable registration plates. Why they are so keen on camping I don’t know. Personally I prefer a good hotel. Comfortable bed, nice room and a pleasant temperature. There’s the toilet situation also. It’ll still be a month or so before the sun breaks through. Something about Germany and gray seems to make sense. Maybe it’s the infrastructure.
                Beside the caravan is a trail. It follows the edge of the river as it loops around the shore. I sit down for a moment and look to where the water ends. Years ago people would have imagined the sea falling into a kind of perpetual waterfall. The horizon was a cage, it trapped us all inside as water spewed over the edges. Did anyone ever think about where that water would’ve gone? Someone must’ve thought that maybe beneath the world there was a giant ocean. An ocean so big it could drown the sun with a drop. Four seagulls circle and dive over the water. Against the gray sky they look almost like doves. I decide to keep walking and wonder how often birds fall dead out of the sky. Drifting out with the current and falling into the giant ocean under the earth.
                The trail eventually turns into a field which leads to a back road. It’s guarded with a red gate. Everything around the fence is a different shade of green. It looks ominous, like a spidery stop sign. I open the latch and walk onto the road. Typical country, pot holes everywhere and shoots of grass coming through the tarmac. In the distance there is an old iron bridge. It looks like the sort of bridge you’d ride across on a train. A crowd is gathered in the middle. Twenty, maybe thirty people. Commotion,’s all happening. They’ve found something. They’ve found something in the water.
                I start running towards the bridge, stumbling over the potholes. I imagine Aya dragged with the current. Drifting all the way out to edge of the ocean until the swell pushes her off the world.
It’s the first time we’ve met.
 We’re at the doctors, he tells us we cannot have children.
We buy a loose cigarette at the cinema and share it on the interval.
I stand at my father’s grave, Aya squeezes my hand.
She smiles, kisses my cheek and calls me ‘Grayson the tan.’
What if the last time I see Aya she’s washing up on the shore?
                I get to the bridge and stop for a second. My stomach heaves but nothing comes up. No one notices me. I push my way through the crowd. I don’t even notice the tears until someone asks me if I’m alright.
                “Yes” I try to smile “I’m fine.”
                “Shocking though isn’t it?”
                “Give us a hand lads, she’s a heavy one!” someone shouts.
                Three men with their backs to me. I’m stuck in a block of ice. The men walk back. My heart beats faster. Everything slows down.  The men begin turning. They creak around like an old cog. I can almost hear time. 
                “I’ve never seen one that size before Joey!”
                It’s mouth opens and closes, gasping for air. The moustache hangs down in defeat. It writhes for a few moments before going limp. The men struggle to hold it over their heads. It's the biggest catfish I've ever seen. It has reached the edge of the world. Fallen off. The people around me cheer and chant. I turn around and begin to walk back. I don’t belong here. I decide to go home and wait until the phone rings.