Thursday, 31 December 2009
Shyness is a quiet tragedy. It is an affliction desperate not to call attention to itself, even though it worsens in doing so. “Leave me alone, I’ll be okay,” it lies. “Don’t make a fuss.”
Well, today she was going to make a fuss. She had been a prisoner of her own awkwardness for too long; her own gaoler, subjecting herself to this life sentence in some inverted panopticon.
How long had she hoped that someone would see the real Emily and invite her out of her ridiculous cell? But even if they had, would she have been brave enough to cross the threshold? There is safety inside prison walls. One small step for man; an impossible leap of faith from the top of a tower block for Emilykind, she reflected.
Reflected – that was all she bloody well did. Day after day, she sat and thought; with her back to the window she watched the shadows of the world mirrored on her television, painting pictures no one would see.
Not any longer. She was wholly sick of shadows; fed up of staring at a reflection of a silhouette of life go by, unable to taste the real thing, like some unseen, pale face looking in at a restaurant window, watching couples laugh.
Couples laugh. She pictured her heart as a walled garden, one whose walls she had raised and fortified – but why hadn’t he noticed that she’d left the door open for him to come inside?
But enough. No more. Her elderly television had finally died that morning, the screen cracked from side to side. Today, for the first time in a year and 100 days, she was going to go outside.
She checked her watch. It was 11.41 am. Maybe she should wait until 11.45.
On my wall I had a rather nice and not inexpensive map of the Solar System, the Sun on the left, the other planets neatly radiating out from it at even intervals, with Neptune on the far right. About a third of way across, the lacuna; the ever-present absence around which we have all developed a blind spot.
What remains unsaid about these maps is that they are a lie. We’re so alone that we are literally unable to picture it; no map can be to scale and capture the emptiness between us. An inaccuracy to convenience cartographers and comfort the poor buggers who live out here.
I banged the heater to try and get it working again. What, exactly, is the point? We are more isolated than any humans in history, rejected by our mother like no other people before. Burrowed into snow holes beneath a dirty ball of ice, we huddle together in a desperate attempt to keep warm, clinging on to life by our fingernails. And yet still we lie, cheat, steal and kill. We fight each other even while we fight for survival.
But is that our final condemnation or the crowning achievement of our tenacity? Does that make us mankind’s nadir or its zenith? Whatever gets thrown at us, still we make the time to be really, really unpleasant to each other. Are the pimps and pornographers outside my door, all the event of the last few days, testament to man’s fundamental awfulness or its indomitable spirit?
Sometimes I wonder whether we are the Universe’s supreme achievement or its worst nightmare. For better or worse, and despite millennia of our own best efforts, nothing has managed to stamp us out. Even the cockroaches went extinct a century ago.
Monday, 28 December 2009
His breath is short, his mouth is dry; his empty stomach knots into a fist ready for the fight – but his legs feel weak and boneless.
The clock ticks; the blood surges through his veins, hot and fizzing with excitement and trepidation; he feels it rushing through his head like rapids.
But it seems the clock’s second hand is sweeping round too quickly, carrying him along with it, stealing these precious final moments from him.
He tries to take control, slow his breathing, cool air mixing with anticipation, diluting the fear inside – but he can’t slow the clock.
He’s just not ready; he thinks about how many hours he’s wasted and what he’d give for just a few seconds more.
He wishes he could somehow opt out of the game, sidestep risking his stake on a single shake of a die.
The clock ticks – he wants the safety of the sidelines but he knows that he’s already spent too long there.
He promises: just a few more moments to prepare and he’ll make the most of every one that remains.
Maybe he could he borrow a second from tomorrow, but he knows his tomorrows are all already spent.
He curses himself for forever hiding from today, for taking refuge in looking forwards or looking back.
He remembers warm summer evenings that felt endless, time as slow and honeyed as the light.
The clock ticks – at his back he swears he hears the hoof beats drawing near.
Mornings when hours seemed like years yet they’d curse the Sun for waking them.
Stolen seconds with her, nights flying by in flashes, instants that last forever.
He feels like he’s trapped in an hourglass, sucked down like quicksand.
How many costly grains has he let run through his fingers?
The clock ticks, the road narrows, the horizon is here.
God please, he begs, just a single second more.
He’s waited too long; he’s wasted too long.
He's run away just too too often.
Past the point of no return.
The clock is still ticking.
The hour has come.
Time to begin.
Saturday, 26 December 2009
It’s getting colder. The snow falls thicker than ever. It covers the ground’s face with a spotless veil. The snow will hide what happened; the snow will help me forget. The snow will make everything clean and white again.
It covers my footprints. It wipes out where I’ve been. I hope it erases the signs pointing in my direction. But it can’t erase what I’ve done.
I look to the cold, grey sky and let the snow fall on my face. It’s cool and cleansing against my eyelids. I open my eyes and for a moment it feels like I’m floating upwards. But my feet haven’t left the ground and the snow is falling down towards me. The weak winter’s sun still won’t warm me, as if it were holding me at arm’s length.
The snow makes everything still and hushed again. It’s so beautiful up here, even though, lying beneath the pristine white, all of nature is treading close to death. But at least the fields and the trees and will come back to life.
There are icicles hanging from the branches. I read somewhere that if you take an icicle and plunge it into someone’s heart it will melt away to nothing, taking the proof with it. Where do these thoughts keep coming from? I think there’s already ice in my heart, running through my veins, freezing my thoughts.
Below me, the fields are laid out like blank pages from an exercise book. A clean start.
It’s getting colder.
Even in a blizzard, snow doesn’t fall hard – it’s always soft. The flakes dance around me, like frozen feathers from a burst pillow, or a swarm of crystalline flies. Countless flakes; each one different, each one beautiful, each one precious. But they’re too much; they fill my vision and I can’t see the way anymore.
Red on the white, melting through the snow.
The snow hides, but it also preserves. Beneath the snow, the truth will remain, waiting for the thaw. Cold silence will sustain it and worsen it, like an unresolved argument between two unspeaking lovers.
The days are so short now, and the nights are so long.
I’ve lost my way on Winter Hill.
I don’t know how long I’ve been up here.
I hope it whites out. I want the cold to make me forget and make everyone forget me.
I took off my coat and boots hours ago.
When the spring comes people will remember.
The woman behind the desk beneath the mug bore a slightly bovine gaze. Grazing on the pages of one of those magazines whose editorial remit is limited to celebrated cellulite and sweat marks, her bottom jaw aimlessly worked a wad of what the occasional pink bubble revealed to be gum, rather than cud.
I waited to be acknowledged.
I waited a little longer.
Chew, chew, chew. Infl a t i n g b u b b l e ...
Chew, chew, chew.
“Er, nice mug,” I lied. The triple exclamation mark was like a trident jabbed in my eye.
She finished gawping at whatever picture currently held her attention before looking up at me with a resigned, sullen slowness that left me in no doubt as to: a) the lack of interest I held; and b) the unreasonable amount of effort this conversation would present to her.
Her eyes were deep and warm and surprisingly lovely. There was also absolutely nothing going on behind them. Clearly, this was to be an uphill struggle. Time to wheel out the patented Adams charm.
“So, do you, er, have to be mad to drink out of it?”
Chew, chew, chew. Infl a t i n g b u b b l e ...
She looked at me like I was the one the mug was referring.
“No.” There was real scorn in her voice.
Chew, chew, chew.
“Oh. Er, super. I guess if you did, you would need to drink insani-tea, wouldn’t you?”
Another long gaze. I was struggling.
“Um, y’ know, I used to be a container for hot beverages. But in the end I had to quit.”
Chew, chew, chew.
“I, er, I realised it was a mug’s game.”
“You what?” Again, real scorn.
“Er, nothing. It was a joke. Sort of.”
“I don’t get it.”
I felt tongue tied and acutely aware of how shambling, unwashed and generally unattractive I was. Dammit! I think I may even have been blushing a little. I had heard that certain banks and utilities providers had actually made it policy to hire some of the dimmer bulbs of our dear populace. And if they happen to be really rather disarmingly beautiful, so much the better.
Long on patience, short on wit, they are excellent at soaking up customer complaints and deflecting unwanted enquiries with the kind of uncomprehending, uncombatable inertia that only the truly stupid can bring. You can’t outwit what isn’t there. It’s like dividing by zero or something.
“Look, um, Mr Rylands left his card behind a bar last night. And I’ve been asked to return it to him. So ... uh, I would quite like to return it.”
Chew, chew, chew.
Infl a t i n g b u b b l e.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
It was at times like those that I always wished I’d listened to what my mother had said when I was young.
Quite what that was I couldn’t tell you – I wasn’t listening – but she was usually a warmed teapot full of level-headed, practical instruction.
I always remembered what my mother had told me as a child: “Never trust a man named Jez.”
She had her reasons: “Here is someone who was born a Jeremy, with all that entails, who wants the world to view him as a Gaz, with all that entails.
“It is a solid, dependable chartered accountant of a name, now wearing leather trousers and carousing with a girl half his age. It is a name for hospital radio DJs, bar managers and university ents officers.
“He has amputated two syllables from his name and grafted on an unnatural Z.
“And if he will do that to his own name, God only knows what he will do to you.”
It’s at times like these that I always remember what my mum told me when I was young: “Shut the fuck up, Andrew.”
Less charitably it is also a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be a total prick.
Henry Severin certainly lived up to that.
He had been with the firm for more than three decades, a company man through and through – so far through that there was nothing of himself left.
His job was his life, the single minded pursuit of money his only motivation. Not money as a key to pleasure, wellbeing or happiness – not his own and certainly not others’ - but money in and of itself, its only use being a way to measure his superiority over others.
He had led an obsessive battle against all the company's competitors, hunting down and consuming anyone smaller or more vulnerable than the firm. He had begun to view the company's rivals as his own personal enemies.
But a man who had made billions from his work was finally about to understand the meaning of the word 'payback'.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Blessing number one: my very existence. A blessing for me, you understand, not necessarily for you. Sitting here in the cold and the dark, I must say that each and every day, in each and every way, I feel I’m winning the lottery. Or being hit by lightning. I forget which is the more miraculous. Either way, I’m feeling it.
Had my parents not met, had they not then consummated their relationship exactly when they did, had my sperm not been the one that made it first to the egg, there would be no me.
And had the same not happened for my grandparents, there would be no me.
And had the same not happened for my great grandparents, there would be no me.
You get the idea.
But any minute deviation by anyone or anything from exactly how history played itself out, right from that auspicious evening at the Reflex Nightclub, Wigan, all the way back to the first cell dividing in the primaeval sludge, and there would be no me.
Every single one of my ancestors, without a single exception, succeeded in passing on their seed. Which is pretty incredible. Looking at myself in the mirror, I find it pretty incredible that any of my ancestors ever got laid, frankly.
You know that picture of the monkey and cavemen walking along, who gradually stand upright and evolve into homo sapiens? That popped into my head, but the various apes, cavemen and, I guess, housemen who make up my ancestors are wearing running vests and taking part in a millennia-long relay race, handing on a sticky baton covered in semen. It is not a happy image.
Regardless, I am, essentially, the very apex of creation. And haven’t I made the most of it?
Okay, next blessing.
He had awoken with a sore head and a mysterious lady in his bed.
This was most irregular.
Lying as still as he could, he strained to look at her out of the corner of his eye.
She was lying on her side, her back towards him, a peroxide Venus At Her Mirror. Her dark roots were showing, which made his stomach leap with sudden excitement.
Her bare shoulder was showing just above the duvet, a five-pointed star tattooed there like the lingering shadow of a kiss.
He couldn't see her face; he couldn't remember her name.
So now what?
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
No, that was no good. He must have rung her doorbell all of - what - five seconds ago. Optimistically he had another five to think of something better.
Palms sweating, heart racing, his thoughts skittered about his head like a flock of excited butterflies. If only one of them would land for a second he could probably form a coherent sentence. Instead he was panicking about how sweaty his damn palms were. Think, think, think, think, think, dammit -
She opened the door.
Monday, 14 December 2009
In actuality, she looked a cacophony of nipped, tucked, teased, plucked, trimmed, tightened, bleached, sprayed, collagenised, siliconised, extended, augmented skin, bone and gristle; like a collage of parts from girlie magazines, or a woman assembled from parts of other women by someone who had never seen a whole women in the wild before; a women made by men to make money from other men.
She mmm-ed non-committally.
“I’m not so sure. I think it might come off as a bit smart alec-y.”
“Even if it were done in a sort of knowing, post-modern, self-referential way?”
“Especially if it were done in a sort of knowing, post-modern, self-referential way.”
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Downstream, commuters flowed across London Bridge by foot, bus or car, like oil into an engine.
The thought left David drained.
“So many,” he said, “I had not thought death had undone so many ...”
“What was that?” asked Tom.
“Eliot. The Waste Land.”
Tom paused in thought.
“No Macavity: The Mystery Cat, though, is it?”
“It’s an allusion,” said David. “To Dante.”
He saw Tom’s blank face. “Like a cover version.”
“I see. Look, don’t start getting all profound on my at this hour. We’ve got a job to do.” He hauled his backpack on to his shoulders. “Let’s get a move on. Time is ticking”
David hesitated. He looked back at bridge, along King William Street. To where St Mary Woolnoth kept the hours with a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
Thousands of small cogs in one vast machine, run for someone else’s benefit, the parts unaware of the whole. I had not thought death had undone so many. His rucksack weighed heavily on him. He felt sure people would be able to feel its pressure, just as he was sure they must be able to hear the blood pounding in his ears.
He sighed with resignation. For all the posturing, what was he if not a small cog himself? He hurried after Tom.
“You know this TS Eliot?” Tom asked. “What does the 'TS' stand for?”
“Tough Shit. He was famously harsh on his students, I think.”
David looked at this watch. It was 8.45.
Friday, 11 December 2009
In the end, you are exactly what you are.
Put on a wig with a million curls,
put the highest heeled boots on your feet,
yet you remain in the end just what you are
It was only after he had died that the real weirdness began.
For someone who had spent the last two decades as a professional wacko, that was saying something.
It was late and I was picking my way through the usual mountain of crap produced by a Hollywood death like some kinda dung beetle. Obituaries; op ed pieces from two-bit hacks amounting to nothing but “I never met him; I never saw him live; but I looked up these facts on the internet”; critical appraisals; critical re-appraisals; souvenir full-colour pull-out collectable tributes; endless interviews with crying fans, which always give me the suspicion that the poor, tearful souls had only been ardent devotees since he bought it. I get that feeling a lot; I spend a lot of time at rich folks’ funerals.
Anyways, you all know the story. Act One: the poor black boy from the Midwest with a martinet instead of a father; with his brothers, beaten into the shape of a superstar by the age of 11; the most famous human being on the planet by the time he was 21.
Act Two: things start to go wrong. The fame gets to him. All the obsessive surgery turning a beautiful black boy into an emaciated, androgynous white man. The nutbar behaviour of a multi-millionaire recluse with the money and power to do what he wanted and no one to say No to him.
We used to play a great drinking game, wheeling out a some kinda weird story about him and then guessing whether it was a genuine rumour or not. Collecting stuffed bodies of bearded ladies and Siamese twins from the old freak shows? Tick. Making his staff wear surgical masks and gloves when near him? Tick. Having a refrigerated bedroom to stop him aging? You get the idea – real easy way to get real drunk real quick.
And then Act Three: the other, darker stuff, which I ain’t going to get into here.
Usually this job is like panning for gold. You sift through the junk for hours until you find a tiny grain of something valuable. But this time I hit the mother lode and nearly immediately.
The first piece was an unedited version of a report by his shrink, retrieved from a shredder and pieced together by a contact at the firm, Hollward & Wotton, who know about the more dark secrets and vulnerabilities of LA’s great and good than a confessional priest. Blackmail is such a dirty word, don’t you find?
The report had the usual line about a middle-aged man trying to live out a childhood he’d never had, which his people always spun into making him some kinda Peter Pan (which always creeped me out even more).
But then was a part that had been redacted in the version leaked to the press. About how he’d grown to hate fame and all it had bought him. About how he felt that that it had corroded his soul. About how he felt so many people needed a piece of him, because he made them happy or because he made them money, that there were no pieces left for himself. About how he felt that as his fame had grown he’d been stretched out to cover it, like a canvas over a picture frame on which people painted what they wanted to see. But he’d been stretched out too far, so that he felt nearly translucent and as substantial as shadow or a wisp of smoke.
It went on. He’d felt that the root of his success lay in his father’s belt and fists. Had Pa not pushed him so hard, he’d’ve ended up working in a metal working plant, reflecting on what he coulda had. But he’d come to view his fame with revulsion and resentment because of where it came from, as if the mansions and the millions condoned what his dad had done. He’d started to look at his fans in the same confused light, loving them but seeing them as complicit in his abuse.
I thought things were starting to add up but wherever my train of thought had been heading, it was about to be derailed by the second piece of gold.
I was looking at the post-mortem, pointless as the findings had been splashed over the front pages that morning, when a note fell out from between the pages. It was from the coroner, Marlowe.
It looked like it had been scribbled in a hurry. It said that he’d not been able to put in truth in the report. The tranquiliser overdose was a front to occupy the crowds. While a manslaughter case was being fought in front of the cameras, the reality was infinitely more troubling.
His heart had just stopped. There were no drugs, no sign of disease, nothing. It was as if it’d been given a set number of beats and reached the end.
There were no signs of surgery on his face. His famously blank, cadaverous face, which looked like it had been whittled to nothing by the surgeon’s knife, as if someone was trying to obliterate his likeness, was untouched. His features had just withered away.
Likewise his skin. There was no vitiligo, no skin bleaching, no make-up. His flesh had been fading to gray.
“I know this sounds impossible but God help me that’s what it looks like.”
I felt cold. You usually think about working towards the truth as stepping into the light, but here it just seemed to be leading into the shadows.
Marlowe is about the best there is. Sober, too. He wouldn’t joke around but I couldn’t work out what his motive was. Investigation 101: The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Part of me liked the idea that the rumours were wrong after all and that what had seemed like desperate denials were the truth. But part of me didn’t know what the hell the consequences of that would be.
Marlowe had put an address and a time on the bottom of the note. A bar down the street at 10.30. That was now. I grabbed my hat, my coat and my gun and headed out.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
“Let me leave you under no misapprehensions: Eric Clapton,” Tom said, “is fucking shit.”
Gig 1, rehearsal 1. Things were not going well.
“His 40-year ‘career’,” and here Tom did little enraged bunny ears, “is perhaps one of the worst crimes perpetrated by one human on his fellow man since the second world war.”
The eye that wasn’t hidden by a lank lock of hair shone with a genuinely frightening zeal, like a rat about to attack a dog. I tried to avoid his gaze. As a bassist, this is par for the course.
“I’m serious. If I could rid mankind of the curse of malaria or the curse of yet another Eric fucking Clapton record, I’d choose Clapton every time.”
We bassists are often described as the glue that holds the band together. I’d like to think of myself in more historical terms, as a sort of indie Joseph Bazalgette. Our work may not be glamorous but it is important, and it underpins everything done by everyone else. And without it they’d all be knee-deep in shit in five minutes.
“His records are not just one of the worst things in the history of popular music, they are one of the worst things in the history of sound. No – wait – vibration. Ever since the Big Bang, nothing has vibrated with such undiluted fucking malignancy of consequence as Eric Clapton’s frigging guitar strings.”
Flecks of spit began to gather at the corner of his mouth. Even at the best of times Tom looked like cherub who’d been living on the streets being resentfully abased into licking vinegar off a battery for money.
“Answer me this: if Eric Clapton plays in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does he really make a sound?”
“Well – ”
“Who gives a fucking shit? Eric Clapton fucking doesn’t. If he were here right now, in the midst of one of his interminable wankfest fucking solos, we could all – all of us – piss off back to yours for dinner, leave him on his own, come back an hour later, and he wouldn’t have noticed. He wouldn’t even have moved on to a new song.”
“Well – ” I tried again.
“And anyway” - too late - “there wouldn’t be a forest there, because all the trees would’ve committed suicide rather than risk absorbing one of his mediocre, MOR, AOR, imagination-free, passion-free, pretend rock bullshit drearathons.”
I opted to let Tom’s rage run its course. We bassists are a noble breed like that. We allow the common good to come before our ego. Or, indeed, self-esteem.
His rant had found a second wind. “Ooh-ooh, here’s an idea: let’s take a group of people who’ve been stolen from their homes, shipped to another continent, made to work as slaves and put through unimaginable degradation and hardship in order to make some money for some fat fucking white men. Let’s then steal their music off them and then turn that into a new way of making money for fat fucking white men. Let them do all the hard work, let them invent a new fucking note for fuck’s sake, and then let’s cash in big time. Then let’s do it again with fucking reggae. Ripping off the poor and disen-fucking-franchised, you Slow Hands twat – real fucking classy.”
I felt this was a bit much. “Now, I think Clapton was a genuine fan of the blues – ”
“Who fucking cares? You? Your nan? Your big fat fucking sister?” – for the record, my sister (Hello, Becky, if you’re reading this) is not fat. Tom would later try to finger her after a gig, so I know this was just something he said while carried by the wave of his tirade – “Here is a man who has confused an attempt to express pain, suffering and the human condition with being able to play the guitar quite well. And not particularly quickly.
“He’s a wife-stealing, Enoch-Powell-loving turd with shit hair and a shit beard in a shit suit and he can fucking go and fucking fuck himself the fucking fuck. Fuck!”
The room fell silent. I can say, with some confidence, that I had never heard so much swearing coming from someone wearing a cardigan. Grandpa John near the end excepted.
I cleared my throat.
“So,” I ventured, “are we doing Tears in Heaven or not?”
Monday, 7 December 2009
Being on the receiving end of a mathematician in love was not always easy.
“I don’t think there’s any room in me to love you more than I do,” he had said in bed one morning. “Literally. I’ve no appetite because you fill my stomach with butterflies. My heart feels like it’s about to burst. I can’t sleep or work because my head is full of you.”
Weeks later, he’d left her a note in her kitchen: “Every day, I love you more.”
When she’d light-heartedly brought him up on the apparent contradiction, he had appeared to take it as a mortal insult. A day or so later, he another note in her kitchen. She unfolded it. At first glance, it was an academic paper. It was written by him.
Towards a fractal model of love
I love you completely. I simply cannot love you more.
Yet my love to you grows with each day. This is no contradiction.
Our love may be perfect and complete, but it is no impersonal, featureless circle. Were that so, getting the measure of my feelings for you would be simple. [Here he had kindly footnoted with C = πd]
In my mind, our love is more like an island, alone in a storm-tossed sea. Its margin is made up of granite cliffs and rocky outcrops, bearing the scars of their battering by the elements. These are inset with sheltered coves, hidden caves and secret safe havens. It is a coastline as unique, irregular and storied as we are.
But measuring the true length of such a shore is nearly impossible.
Yet every day I spend with you, I can measure with more precision. Not just the general sweep of the headland and bays, but each individual inlet and promontory. I can measure the undulations of the surface of the rocks, the outline of the smooth, sea-polished pebbles along the beach. I can measure the grains of sand along the water’s edge, and then the elementary parts that form them , so numerous that there are as many to each grain of sand as there are grains of sand along the entire beach.
And every time I feel I can measure the outline of our love more clearly, so it grows ever longer.
I can measure down with ever-increasing precision, until nature can sustain no further division. I will have run out of days before I have truly found the extent of our love.
And so, although I my body can only bear a finite amount of your love, this is nearly limitless.
Being on the receiving end of a mathematician in love was not always easy. But it was not always without its merits.
Friday, 4 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Four little words, and the waters rose in his eyes.
For a fraction of a second they remained, his eyes like two perfect balls of glass.
She saw her face reflected for a final, fragile instant. And she knew that this was the very last time that things would be right.
One last time, during which the world seemed to hold its breath. The bitter brother to when their eyes first met. A final chance to save everything.
Then the glass shattered, and everything was broken.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Instead, play dead.
Unless, of course, the bear is hunting you. In which case, the theory goes, stand your ground, make as much noise as possible, and put up a fight. This should scare off most bears.
Unless it’s a grizzly. Or you’ve wandered into its territory. Or disturbed its young. Or threatened its food.
In such an instance, you may want to escape by climbing a tree.
Unless it’s a black bear. Black bears are excellent climbers.
Unfortunately black bears are often actually brown. Like grizzlies.
All this and more flashed through Ray’s head as the large brown bear bore down on him.
He felt like a marionette whose strings had been cut by fear. His feet seemed stuck to the ground and his legs too heavy to lift. He was acutely aware of how ridiculous, small and vulnerable he was; soft meat hung on suddenly spindly, brittle bones.
Ray smelled the pine and must of the forest. The boulder of muscled ursine rage barrelled its way towards him.
He didn’t know what kind of bear it was. He didn’t know what he had done to offend it. He didn't know why his mind was babbling away like this.
What he did know was that he was with a bear, in the shit, in the woods.
Monday, 30 November 2009
I think I have been a little bit in love with Josie Long ever since I stood next to her at a bar and overheard her plotting to challenge the entire place to game of Boggle.
It was before a gig of hers at The Book Club (not the East London venue but the now semi-defunct comedy night from Mr Robin Ince, which also included such delights as readings from the time-travel erotic thriller The Dark Highlander and someone playing Britney Spears’ Toxic on an accordion). I should point out that I hadn’t actually realised that she was an act until she went on stage. Slick, Sheen, slick.
Anyway, there is a great deal to love about someone who is not only hilarious, but who also gives out wonkily-drawn home-made badges at a show called Kindness & Exuberance.
Her latest adventure is called One Hundred Days to Make Me a Better Person. It’s a challenge for people to, well, make themselves a better person over the course of a hundred days. That can either be doing one small thing every day, or one big thing that takes a hundred days.
Call me Ismael
Making me a better person is not difficult; adopting a less childish sense of humour would be a small start (a part of me was amused because this sentence involves a semicolon. Colon. Sniggle. And for that matter: Semi. Snort).
However, I am also not very good at self-improvement. My last two New Year’s Resolutions were to say “Please may I have” rather than “Can I get” when ordering coffee, and to try to become less late. Not punctual, per se - let us not run before we can walk (although perhaps if I did run more often I wouldn’t be so damn late all the time) – just less late. 2010’s resolution is probably “Get hair cut a bit more often,” which is alarmingly close to a client’s frankly outrageous “Wear better shoes.”
So I figured, What the heck.
What's it going to be then, eh?
I thought of, and dismissed, a load of ideas. Learning a word a day. Watching a hundred awesome films (I’ve never seen Goodfellas, The Godfather, The Usual Suspects, Memento or The Shawshank Redemption ... but I have seen Holiday on the Buses. What is wrong with me?). Doing a sequentially rising number of press ups, starting with one on 1 December.
But, after much deliberation, I’ve decided to write the beginnings of a hundred different novels and post them here.
For a long time, I went to bed early
At first glance, this will actually make me a far worse person. It could lead to further self-indulgence, the carrying of a Moleskine notebook, and sitting about in cafes ostentatiously writing on my laptop.
I promise to do none of the above. Moreover, they say write what you know and I don’t know diddly. So that means getting off my skinny white ass more often and doing stuff to seek inspiration, which I guess counts as self-improvement.
The plan is to write a beginning a day. I can’t promise that I can post them every day, but they will be written every day. Promise. It will most likely be the beginning of a novel, although it may be a poem, play or, if I get my pencil case out, a comic strip.
It will range from a line to a page. It may be profane or profound, prosodic or prosaic. Some will hopefully be funny. Some will hopefully be rather lovely. Most will probably suck, but to varying degrees. If I were a genius, they would all interlink. But I’m not, so sorry.
The first should be here and on Facebook and Twitter (@SheenNotHeard) at some point tomorrow. But in the meantime, read these to get an idea of how to do it properly.