Thursday, 28 February 2019

Just like yesterday

There’s always someone who your head says “no way, uh huh; this spells trouble” but your heart just trips over for. It sends an itch that just can not be scratched and it’s not just a desire born of a physical relief but a deep seated yearning.
Dean had never thought of himself as incomplete but after seeing Eve for the first time realised exactly what that meant, and how completely empty his life had been up. But, to be fair, he was only 8 at the time.
When it happened to him again at 16 there was one big complication. He had been brought up to respect  -up to a point- other people religious and cultural beliefs. He had none himself; like his mother and father, he felt unencumbered by the weight of puritanical dogma or sullied by secular sin. They saw life as it was, not through hellfire tinged glasses; so falling in love with someone like Eve was totally doomed, ridiculous in the extreme.
Eve was not only Christian but from a very distinct branch that somewhere along the line had snapped off completely and now bordered on being known as a cult. The Reverend Gerry King had a devout following, mostly from devout young women, most of whom frequented the various youth groups of the area, and the school where Dean went.
When Dean had moved to the area as a child he had gone to the “Sunday School” that the Rev. ran for a few weeks and it was there that he’d first met Eve, and was totally smitten in the way that only young boys can be. This was not arousal but something more akin to a Spiritual knowing, a genuine flow of pure emotion, which Eve seemed to share.
Dean had been offered a chance to be indoctrinated into the scholarship programme that Rev. King offered; to become closer to God, but by that time Dean’s parents had heard more stories about King and forbade him to go. Worse, he could no longer see Eve at all.
Eve was not allowed to go to school at that age –she was deemed far too vulnerable to brainwashing or so the Rev. thought- and so Dean did his best to forget all about her.

Years passed, as they do. Though there had been other girlfriends none seemed to hold a candle to the feeling he had for Eve. Being nearly an adult complicated matters with sex rearing its ugly head. He was no fool, he understood about what was happening to his body, the hormones now raging, but understanding and living it were two completely different things. He was both liberated and intimidated by his new found freedom. He was not blessed with good looks but knew how to hold himself, how to speak to women and make them feel at ease and special.
It should have been easy for him to reap a bountiful harvest and it wasn’t for a lack of offers; women found Dean desirable; but he found that he could not go through with the consummation. It felt wrong to manipulate them with such ease; the women seemed too pliable, too willing for debasement. In a way he saw his ability to manipulate the women being similar to Rev. King. Dean often wondered whether King had seen some of the quality in him that he wanted to mould and call his own.

Ten years later – a balmy day; first class on a Wednesday morning.  The door to the English class opens unexpectedly and Dean’s world gets blown apart. Ten years passed by but it might well have been yesterday when Eve walked into the classroom again; and back into his life. Just like yesterday.
The classroom paled into insignificance as he saw her. She stood at the front of the class as the headmistress spoke to Mrs Slough, the English teacher. Eve seemed aloof, so disconnected to everything else; the world still had not touched her.
Her hair was still long; pure lines of silk, a burnt coffee colour and seemed to contrast to her pale complexion; salt & pepper freckles, a light dusting. She was still quite thin but was now clearly a woman. He felt himself blush as she surveyed the classroom and for the briefest of moments their eyes met. She seemed not to notice him, looked beyond him, even, to the world outside.
Heart sinking, he cursed himself for being a fool; ten years had passed, after all, and she had moved away; built a new life for herself. But what had made them come back? And did this mean that her whole family had moved back?

The questions were answered later that evening. Dean had not been able to meet Eve at all during the day; circumstances always seemed to get in the way. At the end of every class Eve would hurry away, not wanted to spend time with anyone or trying to make friends. She saw it as a futile exercise, and was probably right. The gossip mill had already gone into overdrive, but Dean wanted no part of it, so he was surprised when Eve was the subject of the dinner table.
“We heard that Eve King is back at your school, Dean. Is she in any of your classes?” Dean’s mother asked.
“Yes, English. How’d you know?”
“The whole clan, the whole Family have moved in, strangely enough, back into their old place. It’s stayed derelict for all these years.”
“Maybe they own it?”
“That would make sense…” Dean’s father replied. “But you’re going to stay away from her though, aren’t you?” This was the first time his parents had laid down the law like this.
“Well; I was going to re-introduce myself if the chance came; but why should that be a problem? What have you against her anyway?”
“It’s nothing against her, per se. Well; you were too young when they moved away the first time… but there were always rumours that Rev. King wasn’t a Rev. at all; just a leader of a cult. Worse still, there were even rumours that he’d molested several children in his ‘parish’; maybe even his own. You can imagine how horrified we were found this out; and you can see why we stopped you going to the Sunday school!”
“When you’re a child then you see things that way…” His mother interjected. “There’s no thought of anything but the purest of reasons. Words such as ulterior motives or grooming have no meaning…”
Dean felt sickened to the stomach. He wanted to go back to those times. It wasn’t that he was ignorant of this news; everyone had been talking about it at school; but to hear his own parents worry that he might have become a victim.. and worse still, that Eve could still be… well, it was almost too much for him.
He excused himself from the table and went upstairs to his room. Lying on his bed he thought of the angel he had known all those years ago and wept knowing that it was no longer so.

The next day he tried blanking it all from his mind. His parents were right, it wasn’t a good idea to get involved. It was obvious that she was too mired into the fundamentalist Christian lifestyle. The Rev. had taken a new ‘hands-on’ approach to the religion, standing on street corners, shouting his message of hate to anyone who could hear it; with the rest of his family by his side.
The message was far more extreme. Love was there but only if you fit certain criteria. The homosexuals, the coloureds and even the Brexiteers were condemned to hell. God loved all the others and all could be saved, even those of colour, if they sacrificed.
That was the term he used –it meant turning your back on everything you had known before and becoming part of the family of Christ.
Eve could be seen every weekend, with her father, arm in arm; passion flooding her face; whilst at school she kept herself alone and cut off, nothing showing. She only spoke when she addressed the teachers; and if anyone dared make fun of her then she would retaliate, her voice drowning out the laughs until they retreated, intimidated by the frenzy and fervour coming from her. It wasn’t long before they all left her alone.
And so did Dean for the most part. He couldn’t reconcile what his parents had told him with  what he saw on a daily basis. It broke his heart to see her, he wanted so much to take her in his arms, make her snap out of the religious stupor she was in. She was hurting so much, but just couldn’t see it. Oh, how he wanted to be the one to save her.
He knew how ridiculous it sounded; knew of his tendency to rescue first and ask questions later. Equally he knew that no good could come of any relationship with her, no matter what his heart (or cock) said otherwise; so he kept away.
And all went well for another three weeks until one Friday afternoon.
“It is you, isn’t it, Dean?” The voice from behind took him by surprise. He was sitting in the library during his last free period of the day. (he never understood why he wasn’t allowed home early; he could just as easily read or study at home and proved just how ridiculous college treated the students. “We talk to you as adults” said their prospectus, but treated them as children, Dean wished that he’d never gone to college; he just got suckered by their promotional campaign. No one at his school offered any other alternative; it was either go to college or you’re on your own…) He was so lost in thought he never realised that she was standing behind him.
“I was sure that you didn’t recognise me.” He replied, turning to face her. She was far more beautiful than he ever remembered her.
“I didn’t realise it was you until someone pointed to you in conversation.”
“I hope it was something nice.”
“Oh; of course! It’s only me that gets bad press; though I can’t imagine why.” That stumped Dean, he didn’t want to say anything that would be offensive to her; equally he didn’t want to say anything stupid. She laughed at this, actually laughed out loud, good naturedly, at his indecisiveness. “You ARE sweet; after all these years, Dean. Still thinking of others, not wanting to hurt their feelings. No doubt you know all about my family.” Dean just nodded once. “And you still talk to me?”
“Well… that’s just your family…”
“And me… but it shouldn’t get in the way of us though. I just wanted to say that to you, Dean. I just wanted to say hi, and you still hold a place for me…I haven’t forgotten you.”
She walked away then, leaving him baffled. Other people were still staring at him as she left. This was unheard of; the religious nut actually having a conversation with someone. Dean had to walk out himself, the stares were too off putting.
That night: Dean said nothing to his parents. He wasn’t sure what happened himself. Eve’s words were obscure and seemed contradictory to how she was perceived. His feelings for her were now reignited, stronger than ever. Being that close to her was intoxicating and things were about to go up a notch.
A sharp retort of “Welcome To The Jungle” woke him up that evening –his mobile was ringing. No one knew he ever had a phone, let alone rang it (it was for emergencies only!). It took a few seconds to find it before he could answer it.
It was Eve.
“Can we meet?”
“Yeah… sure; I guess… where?”
“The old place.”

This was proof that she did remember the childhood days indeed! The old place… he’d almost forgotten himself!
His Grandfather had been the school caretaker and knew the grounds better than anyone and even knew of this little oasis. No one else knew it existed.
There was a small stream that ran alongside the school for a bit, most inaccessible, except at this one little spot. Eve and Dean spent hours there as children, just talking; and now they were going to meet there again after all this time. It didn’t feel weird at all….

Eve was there already, waiting for him; lying on the sloping bank, barely discernible in the dark. He felt his heart race at the knowledge that she was there for him. She patted the ground next to her and he lie there by her side, not daring to look at her.
If he closed his eyes then it would’ve been like none of the surrounding years had happened, they were still at that wonderful, innocent age; very much in love. That was why he kept them open, staring out at the sky.
He suddenly realised just how precarious a situation he was in.
“I didn’t know whether you’d come.” She said, breaking the ice; whispering the same way she’d done as a child; but she was anything but now.
“Of course I would.. but you knew that.. How did you find my number though?”
“The family has its ways…” A chill slithered down his spine. “Don’t worry; no one else knows that I’ve contacted you. They think I’m at the cinema.”
“Really?” This sounded quite preposterous considering what Dean knew of the Rev.’s views.
“Don’t sound so surprised! We keep up to date on current films for our own ends. Not only to satirize and deride them, but we can also use the knowledge to tempt people into our church. Father is wanting for the church to expand here again, find a new flock.”
“Is that why you’ve contact me?” The penny dropped.
“Hardly…” And missed… “what.. you thought I was going to use my feminine whiles to entice you into the church?” She started to laugh, much to Dean’s dismay. He was very confused now. “Wait..” She continued, “you still came though. Ha!! You must have it bad, Dean.. you poor boy!”
“How can you tell them about the film if you haven’t seen it then?” He said to change the subject fast.
“You really are naïve, aren’t you? YouTube? Wikipedia? IMDB? I can swat up before I talk to them!” It was obvious really, he thought..
“What did you want to see me about then?” He asked finally.
“Do I need a reason?” She replied. “I just wanted to see if there was still the connection there. We always used to have one.. and it’s something that I miss.. kind of. Someone who I can just be myself with –whoever that might be. Would that be ok? We don’t have to really talk about anything, if you don’t want to. I won’t try to convert you, but if we can meet up a couple of times a week it would be aces. It would mean a lot to me, Dean.”
She found his hand in the dark and squeezed it gently, sending waves of electricity through him. “Of course.. I’d like that.” He replied, barely able to get his words out.
“Thank you.” She looked at her watch and placed her hand on his to push herself off the ground. As she stepped over him he smelt her perfume: lavender, just as she always used to wear. “God speed my sweet friend.” She said and was gone in the night. Even though the air still had a chill to it, his hand felt warm. Yes, he did have it bad…

All during school she ignored him; he was just another face in the crowd, which puzzled him at first, but the more he thought about it the more it made sense. By seeing him in the evenings she was going against the family; the whole church! She was living a secret by seeing him so she couldn’t risk acknowledging him whilst at College. He smiled to himself; he was her guilty secret! (and to a certain degree she was his too) He doubted that anyone else would understand the dichotomy in her, they would see her and just see the fundamentalist, but was that who she really was? Why had she chosen him to be the one that saw the other side of her? Was she her ‘real’ self when they were together? He had to find out.

“Are you asking me if I’m schizophrenic for Christ?” She laughed quietly, aware that there were peoples back gardens less than 20 feet away.
“Not exactly.” Dean replied.
“You’re asking me, then, whether I’m still a religious nut or by seeing you, am I showing signs of branching out on my own?”
“Kind of… I guess…”
“You’ve not really thought this through, have you?” He shrugged. He thought he had, but Eve had a way of turning arguments inside out. She probably got that from her father.
“I don’t see that I’m doing anything wrong, Dean. We’re not committing a grievous sin by talking… Dad might get a little upset, but everything’s a sin with him! But that’s how I ended up here, if you think about it! There’s his way and then the way that others should follow… Sometimes..”
Dean looked at her. “What?”
“Nothing.. I don’t need to be dredging that stuff up, there’s no need. You’re good, y’know that? You’re good with getting people to open up. I feel that I could just talk to you.”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Not yet… everything comes to those who wait, Dean.”
“No… it really doesn’t.” Damn, he hadn’t meant to say that. She was quick to pick up on his subtext.
“Why, I didn’t know that you still thought of me that way. Still, I thought it was just a childish crush.” Dean turned away.
“Yeah; well.. so did I. Now I find myself lying on the banks of a stream, holding hands with you beneath the stars.”
“Romantic, isn’t it?”
“Don’t, Eve. I’m as confused enough as it is. It’s easier for me to think of us as just friends… most of the time.”
“So you don’t want to kiss me then?”
He turned to her in astonishment. The streaming light sparkled on her skin, making her look ethereal and more beautiful than ever.
“I…” He started to speak but she moved closer, turned herself over to him and looked into his eyes. She moved to kiss him softly but deeply. He felt lost in her tenderness; all time synchronised with her heartbeat. All that existed for him was the feel of her skin against his, her tongue passionately probing his own; their souls becoming one; the scent of her hair. He was intoxicated with her.
It was over far too quickly. As soon as she withdrew she kissed him lightly on the forehead before getting up and leaving. Touching his cheek he realised it was slightly damp, putting it to his lips it tasted slightly salty as if she’d been crying.

It was another week before she contacted him again. In a way he was glad, it gave him a chance to sort his feeling out. He knew that this could only end in more tears, probably his; and she would never leave the church. He wasn’t even sure he could ask that much of her.
He had to be careful around her now. The kiss had woken all sorts of feelings, made him feel truly alive and stoked up a passion he’d never felt before. He was afraid of it.
The text was only two words: Tonight – 8ish.

She was already lying by the bank again when he got there. She didn’t even look at him when he sat down next to her. This time there was more of a distance between them and the silence was overpowering. There was so much that he wanted to say to her but he didn’t know where to start, so he just sat there.
He turned to look at her and initially thought she was shivering with the cold but then realised she was crying again.
“What’s wrong?” He asked her.
“You must think I’m a tramp.”
“What??” Was all he could think to reply.
“Kissing you like that. I’m nothing but a hypocritical tramp.”
“Christ no.”
“Is an interesting choice of words, Dean.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I don’t think I understand any of this. None of it makes sense, just what I felt when we kissed… but I’ve been told that’s wrong.”
“But it felt so right… I do know what you mean, but I don’t think badly of you at all.”
“I doubt myself… I scourged myself after seeing you; vowed I’d never see you again because of the thoughts I had.”
“But here I am again. I just want you to hold me. Would you?”
He turned and laid next to her; felt the pressure of her hands on his back and her kiss was more yearning, searching for something he didn’t know whether he could give.
Nothing more was said until she left. Words made it real, confused things more. When she turned to leave she said two words. “Thank you.”
For weeks they met, kissed by the stream and whilst they were together nothing else mattered, but when they were apart Dean felt confused, unsure of what was going on. Was this actually a relationship or just a friendship? What was he to her?

Summer was now almost upon them and it was warmer now in the evenings. He’d noticed that whilst she was around him her clothes were looser, less buttons on her blouse were done up, showing him more than what was healthy for his imagination.
When they kissed she would often lie on top of him now, her hair flowing over him, her breasts pressing on his chest and it was impossible for her not to notice his erection against her.
Finally it became too much for him; he had to understand what he meant to her. He pushed her off and sat up.
“I’m sorry… I need to know, Eve, what’s going on between us?”
“How do you mean?”
“Cut the crap, Eve… please; just tell me.”
“What do you think, Dean? What do you want it to be?”
“Those are two completely different questions and you know it.”
“Do you think I’m being unfair?”
“More than a little. You know how I feel for you.”
“I can, every time I lie on top of you. It’s nice.”
“I don’t get you.”
“Can’t I enjoy how I make you feel?”
“Is that all it is? Is this just a tease? Do you enjoy turning me on? Knowing I can’t do anything about it?”
“Who says you can’t do anything about it?” Don’t you want me?” She licked her lips suggestively, sending shivers through his body. It took every ounce of his will power to turn away. She laughed and then placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s because I know you won’t take it too far that I enjoy spending time with you. I get a chance to be me in a way I can’t with anyone else.”
“Then that, to me, IS being hypocritical.”
“If that’s what you think…” She got up and left him. He didn’t try to stop her. Why was he even bothering with this? It was torture –tease and denial, yet he was as guilty as she was. It was like some childish game they were still playing but there were no rules and more was at stake.

One week passed and then two. On the third week Dean was almost relieved; he felt a little guilty about that, but his head felt free from confusion. Without temptation he could live his life normally. By the end of the third week he barely thought about Eve at all. And then she texted him and like a fool dog on heat he dropped everything and went to her.
She wore a very demure white blouse, a long pleated skirt and looked as if she’d just come back from church.
He sat next to her and said nothing and for ten minutes neither of them spoke a word. Then she leaned over to him and kissed him lightly on the lips, then ran her tongue lightly over them, knowing that was a sensitive spot to him. He gasped and she used that moment to slide her tongue further in. It was a kiss to lose himself in and Dean felt exactly that; he felt lost to her. She moved to his neck and he could feel her breath in his ear.
“I’m getting married.” She whispered.
He pushed her away, shocked by this confession. “What? Why?”
“It’s Father’s wish. It’s why we moved back here.”
“It’s what? You’ve known about it all this time? So why go through this.. all of this with me? Just what have I been for you? A diversion?”
“My saviour. One I hoped would deliver me from this if I pushed your buttons enough, but you’ve been more puritanical than my own family! I wanted you to want me, Dean, but you haven’t.”
“How can you say that? Don’t you know what you do to me? How I feel towards you?”
“So you’ve repeatedly said, but unlike Father you’re just words. You’re not a man of action. I mean, can you imagine anything beyond this? What we’re doing now? It’s still just a childhood fantasy come to life for you. I doubt you’d actually fight for me, should it come to it, and it probably would have… so what are you going to do about it now, Dean? Rail and thunder against the inhumanity; about how badly I’ve treated you? What have you done for me? You’ve never tried to talk to me, just let me make the first move the whole time…
“And now I tell you that I’m getting married but you don’t try to stop me but think about how it’s going to affect you!”
Dean just stared at her, not knowing what to do or say. She was right; he had been so confused about his own feelings that he’d just been passive the whole time.
“I almost thought you were the one to save me from this. I entertained the thought of going all the way with you and telling Father about it. He would have beaten me and excommunicated me but I would have done it for you if I knew that you’d stand by me and look after me. But I know that’s an impossibility. It’s asking too much of you; I can see that now. My time to break free will come, but not now and not with you.
“I’m sorry about that, I truly am, but it’s down to you. I won’t be seeing you again.”
She didn’t even kiss him good-bye, she was just gone. For a few minutes he pondered what she said. Part of him was sorry about what had happened; she was right after all. He sighed and looked to the stars.
Suddenly he smiled to himself: she was right after all… All sorts of shit would have hit the fan if they had gone all the way… Phew, he thought… dodged a bullet there then!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Voice That Came Back

There was a flaccid silence and the people that had been shuffling nervously and uncomfortably in their seats were now actively vacating them.
Even the spotlight had given up and slowly drifted away from Buddy's prone, hunched body as he tried desperately to search for the next punchline; but it was no good.
It was almost eleven on a wet and sorrowsome night, nearly closing time, and not even Jesus himself could resurrect this performance. Buddy was amazed that after six weeks he was still allowed to come back and perform his routine; and twice a week, at that. It didn't make sense to him, but the ailing nightclub owner helped put it into perspective after the show.
You suck, kid.” Mr O'Flattery puffed, he epitomised the 'over' personality to Buddy: overweight, over-smoked, over-drank and over-emphasised the wrong words in his limited vocabulary. He was also overdue a cardiac arrest, according to Buddy -hopefully, any day soon! “And I'm being kind here, kid... but business was crap before you got here and you haven't made it any worst!” He cackled at this and Buddy grimaced as the cackle turned into a coughing fit that smelt of cough drops and laryngitis . “In fact,” he continued after getting his breathing under control, “I swear that some people come in just to see how bad you are!” A quick elbow in the ribs forced Buddy to smile at the rapier-like wit. “Do you know what I like best about your act, though kid?”
Buddy really didn't want to know, he was used to the ritualised humiliation aspect of the show, but he hated talking to; he hated being coughed on. It was as if O'Flattery's morbidly obese body had a gravitational field of its own, sucking everything closer to his inevitability, even hope. O'Flattery continued, not caring whether Buddy wanted to know or not; “You manage to clear the house every time you're on! Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a hard time getting rid of the drunks; but the nights that you're on they just get up and leave!”
Well, at least Buddy was providing some service, maybe he could be used as a form of crowd control, a type of dispersal device. Give him a wireless microphone and he'd move any crowd, dispel any riot just with the sound of his own voice!

Typically it was raining on his way back home, but he didn't mind it; the puddles reflected back the street lights and made the town seem glitzy and not such a shit-tip. Darkness and rain hid a lot of sins.
He wondered why he kept going back to the club, he was almost on a decent enough wage at the supermarket, and though he wasn't exactly respected he was likef by some...almost. The club didn't pay that well, either, and O'Flattery treated him worse than the toilet attendant; but he was up on stage, doing something he'd always dreamed of!
Ever since he was a child and watched Jasper Carrott on stage he knew what he wanted to do. It took years to hone his material, he read countless joke books and learnt his routine; but everyone he auditioned for slammed the door in his face even before the first punchline -he was that bad.
He tried O'Flattery as a last resort -the last club on his list. During the audition Buddy was so nervous -it being his last chance- and everything that could have gone wrong did so. He tripped and fell walking to the mike, spilt water on himself, fluffed every joke and nearly strangled himself on the microphone cable.
O'Flattery, thinking this was all part of the act, applauded and cried with laughter, hiring him on the spot.
Opening night, however, came as quite a shock to him. O'Flattery had told all his friends about this sensational new comedian, “Buddy Parsnip” (no one ever got the pun) and when Buddy walked on to tell his first joke it became obvious that there was no act the previous night... People stuck around for the first few jokes before realising that something was very much amiss. O'Flattery was furious, demanding to know what Buddy was playing at -what had happened to the amazing routine from the audition? It kinda went downhill from there.
Buddy did try to replicate the mistakes from the audition but actually made things worse. By that time O'Flattery had discovered Buddy's knack of emptying the club and decided on putting him last on the bill.

Buddy was almost home and he had been stealing himself for the onslaught, as he did every night. If he thought that his audiences were bad... he put the keys in the lock and fumbled it.. damn!
BUDDY!” Came the ear-splitting retort. “Whattimedoyoucallthis? “Younevertellmewhereyou'regoing or whenyou'llbeback... don'tyoucareaboutme? Don't you care?” She never drew breath.
Mum, for Christ's sake, I'm a 36 year old.. I can take care of myself.” He still hadn't managed to get in the door yet; even though she was in the next room he felt her voice as a concussive force.
Youcantakecareofyourself but youdon'ttakecareofme! WhatdidIdotodeservesuchason?”
Buddy finally shut the door and sighed -here we go again...
Mum! I do look after you, well.. I would do if you let me. I pay more than enough rent and I try to take you out to dinner... out for walks.” Here it comes... 3..2..1... deep breath.
Idon'twanttogooutsidewhereallthepeopleare, youneverknowwherethey'vebeen! They'retoonosey, inconsiderate.. youshouldstaywithme, wecouldwatchtelevision.”
Sigh... we could order take-away.” He said it without thinking and instantly regretted it.
Whowantstoeatotherpeoplesgreasyfood? Youdon'twherethey'vebeen, whetherthey've washedtheirhands! I can cook...”
Mum – I'm tired, I'm going to bed.” He finally said.
Whydon'tyoutellmewhereyougotoatnight? Isthereawoman? Oh,pleaselettherebeawoman!”
Don't worry, mum -I'm fine!”
Isthereawomanthen?” She brayed, hopefully. He had his foot on the bottom stair now and was ready to sprint up at the first opportunity. Timing was everything -just like comedy.
NO! There's no woman!”
Areyouashamedofme? Isthatwhyyoudon'tbringherback?”
There's no woman, but yes -I am ashamed of you.” Silence... Now was his chance. He bounded up the steps with vigour, two at a time before she got her second wind.

Every night he honed his material; every damned night and that somehow made it worse. He had no audience; he practised in the attic silently, in case his mother heard. He was embarrassed by his lack of success and he lied to her constantly. He was always working overtime and by this rate he should be one of the richest men in the world due to the amount of hours he had supposedly clocked up. Maybe it would have been better if he had been working overtime. He'd certainly be better off.
Of course, his mother suspected something, but that was fine. She was fast becoming senile and would never be able to piece it all together.
Why is a martyr like the Grateful Dead? They're both stoned.” The jokes were getting better... or were they?

Two nights later, his jokes as good as they were ever going to get and he walked out to the packed house of six people! Well, it was still early, only 9.30. By 10pm there may even be eleven!
Manic depressives make the best pilots! Why? They're already flying solo.”
Ok – that was a poor punchline. The thing was, he had seriously studied the greats: Jasper Carrott, Roger DeCoursey, The Grumbleweeds; but he couldn't match their styles.. their delivery: they were geniuses!
I used to have a drinking problem... I tried drinking gasses instead of liquids!” That at least got a grunt of recognition.. or was it flatulence?
Then the unthinkable happened.
The club lights burst on and, like the trumpets of the apocalypse.. HER voice!
BUDDY! Whatareyoudoinghere? I wassickwithworry. Ithoughtyouweredeadinaditch somewhere! Orinahospitalsomwhere... or withawoman. Iwashopingitwaswithawoman...”
Mum... wha... What are you doing here?” He whined, forgetting where he was.
People were now paying rapt attention -this was a turn up for the books, real conflict! The bar staff were hypnotised and people were even coming on from the street to find out what the commotion was -she was that loud.
WhatdoyouthinkI'mdoinghere? Ifollowedyou! Whyareyoumaking suchaschmuckoutof yourself? Whycouldn'tyouhavebeenwithawoman? Evenawhore... or a man? Amanwouldhavebeenbetterthanthis!”
Buddy knew what death felt like and what it meant to want to murder someone. He felt all eyes on him for the first time in his career.
Drummers make the worst cryptologists? Always crashing their cymbals?” He went for broke.
Now that made the audience laugh... and loudly. Buddy felt himself ooze off the stage, just wanting to disappear down one of the cracks that hairlined the stage.
His career was over.

That night he went home in tow, trapped in his mothers dense tractor beam like an errant schoolboy. Buddy was figuring out how much time he would have to serve if he murdered her. He could probably put it down to justifiable homicide.
Past midnight he'd run out of scenario's -garrotte (no, her neck was far too thick), falling down the stairs (nope, she'd bounce), freak pruning accident, swallowing powdered glass (nah, her cooking was far worse).
What made his humiliation worse was how the audience had suddenly sat up and paid attention for the first time! They loved her, lapped up the conflict. He made the perfect foil, her the perfect natural antagonist -it was so unfair. As unsavorary as it sounded they made a perfect double act! But she would never agree to be a stand-up.
But maybe she didn't need to....

The next gig, O'Flattery was buoyant, jubilant and bursting with enthusiasm. “It's a full house, kid! People must have heard of your ball-breaking. They've turned up in droves to see if it happens again. so... will it?” He needled. “Will she? Will she turn up again?”
She just might.” Buddy replied and winked. O'Flattery was so giddy with excitement he took no notice of the battered suitcase Buddy carried.

On stage, his normal routine bombed. It was the Nagasaki of bad nights and Buddy could tell that O'Flattery was close to turning the lights off -the crowd was out for blood.
Buddy was going to oblige them, the time was just right -let the merriment commence!
BUDDY!” The voice was like a 12 bore cutting through butter -no one expected it despite it being the only reason they were all there. Buddy's timing was no only spot on, the amplification made it more unexpected.
Buddy!” The crowd held its collective breath. “Let me out of here this instant!”
Like a Mexican wave, everyone looked at each other. “Let me out of this fucking suitcase!” Suitcase? And that was when they saw it -the suitcase was shuddering as if something was trying to get out of it. (in reality Buddy was rocking it back and forth with his foot, but it made a great illusion) Could he really have his mother in there?
Buddy's face went white. “Oh shit.” he whispered and the audience chuckled knowingly -this was why they were here and it was obvious that they were hooked. What the hell was going to happen next?
mum...” Buddy stuttered. “Where? How?”
Get me out of this suitcase and I promise I won't hurt you.” Buddy nodded and did his best to open the case. At this stage it looked as if it was actually fighting him (and the Oscar for best actor goes to....) Finally he managed to pop open the both catches and lifted the lid so the audience could no longer see his face. He breathed deeply, got the hinges into the right position then let the suitcase fall to the floor.
It took the audience seconds to realise what had happened and what was now sitting on Buddy's knee.
It was an almost perfect caricature of his mother in puppet form. Again the club breathed as one.
Mum!” He elongated the vowel as the audience howled with laughter; Buddy had finally pulled off the impossible. He'd dragged his career back from the brink of disaster!
And to think – he had his mother to thank for that.

And things went brilliantly!

at least... for a while....

Of course, there were still problems -his mother being the harshest critic of them all. Mr O'Flattery was beside himself with joy -which was an impressive feat due to his imposing bulk. His dream was manifesting right in front of him. When the talent scouts and newspaper men buzzed round him he stuck to his guns: “I always had faith in him (I had nothing to lose), I knew he'd go far (with my boot up his arse) and I always knew he was one in a million! (A complete schmuck!)”
It took a while longer to convince his mother... well, it took until his first months wages. To Buddy's surprise Mr O'Flattery had been completely up-front with fleecing him. He'd divided the box-office takings 75/25 -at least to start with; the rationale being that for months O'Flattery had been carrying Buddy.
Even taking that into account, Buddy was still taking home nearly £900 a month! The club was booked every night that he was showing and Mr O'Flattery was even thinking about opening an extra night, which did mean changing the contract. He realised that it was probably best to let things run for a little longer as they were, just in case Buddy ran out of material.
And initially that was something that Buddy was concerned about, but then he realised that he had a lifetimes worth of experience to draw from!

Buddy – Clean out your room... It's like a rats nest in there!” His left hand would shout at him.
That's because it IS a rats nest! You won't let me out of the goddamed basement!”
He'd honed his mothers voice to perfection -it shook people on that first night as they actually expected the bulk of his mother to steamroller through the club again. There were some punters who still had nightmares about that and others who'd given up drinking completely!
Why don't you bring any girls home?” Ok, the puppet didn't look anything like her... but that added to the show -made it more farcical. “Do I embarrass you?”
Of course you do!” He complained to his hand.
So I'm doing something right, at least!” The jokes still weren't particularly funny, but they didn't need to be; the material struck a chord with people. The archetype of the overbearing mother was so cliché that it was still funny.
Are you one of those mono-sexuals?” Bizarrely enough, his mother had actually asked him that one day!
Well.. only if my right hand counts.” That got a huge laugh and became part of his routine. Each night he tried new material and chucked those that didn't work.
No... well, are you gay then?”
Living with you I'm more likely to be suicidal!” Buddy was most impressed with his ability to throw his voice. He had initially sucked at it, but it didn't matter as his exuberance for the material and shock value had hidden it. For once, though, practice had paid off.
His favourite trick was standing in queues -whether in the cinema or in the supermarket and creating virtual arguments with other people. Of course, no one ever realised that he was providing both voices.

And it wasn't long before he found himself a girlfriend.. or rather, she found him. Her name was Pam and his mum took an instant dislike to her.
Pam was called the “cradle snatcher”, “money-grabbing-bitch”, “Thieving Whore” -all to her face; always to her face.
Buddy was in hell -he was beset on both sides. His mum complaining about the money-grabbing-cradle-snatching-whore and the rest of the time it was Pam railing about the hardships she had to endure under his mothers wrath. Buddy just wanted to keep his head down and enjoy the sex... with Pam.
The trouble was, Pam wouldn't shut up. To be fair, neither did his mum, the only saving grace was that his mum had to stop when he went to bed. Unfortunately, Pam didn't have that compunction; talk about coitus interrupt-us.
Course, then he stumbled upon the idea of creating a new character: Sammi! Ok, he lacked originality, but he managed to strike another goldmine and he introduced something that had never been seen before -Puppet sex!

Picture two small, crudely made puppets... humping.
That was the second act now – he'd managed to create a mini soap opera on stage and it was even billed as such on the adverts. “The acting's not the only thing that's wooden.” O'Flattery was overjoyed with his pun-manship. The first act was between Buddy and his 'mum'; the second between him and Sammi, in bed; whilst the third was the most complicated: the three of them together.
At first he'd found it difficult and got confused easily, but the punters found it all the more hilarious.

The second act would open with the sound of wood on wood. The spotlights picked up on the silhouette of two puppets grinding and thrusting. Then came the immortal line, “Buddy?” The inflexion slight, like a barbed hook -you never notice it until it's time to pull it out.
Whaat?” The answer from Buddy, reserved and measured -a lot riding on the question.
Why does your mum hate me?”
She doesn't, sweetie. She just doesn't understand you.” The rhythm was slightly different now.. hesitant, before resuming the intensity. Steam would start wafting out (smoke from a footpump) and people would start to chuckle.
BuDDY?” The rhythm of the humping would slow down once again and his reply would be terser. This would happen three further times and at the end they would be shouting at each other. The last line would always be 'Buddy's': “Well... I've lost wood.”

Of course, he lost Pam.... but it was worth it. The material was just getting better and better. It was literally writing itself and at every waking moment.
If it wasn't his mother supplying the gold-dust then it was other events; everything had potential. His life was simply a breeding ground for his show, it was all just a rehearsal for the main act.
Actually, all he had was the main act... he had nothing else.
It was all his mum's fault -she had become drunk with fame. She was becoming as much of a celebrity as Buddy was. At first it was a novelty for her and she took it in her stride. Buddy let her have the five minutes of fame. But then she started taking credit for the material -which, in a way, was actually true- whilst running him down as the same time.
He's always been a good-for-nothing.” She'd say in one interview. “But now he's a famous good-for-nothing!”
Of course, he couldn't do it without me -I'm the source of all his material; and do I get any credit for it?”
What she never pointed out was how much he had bought for her. She wore the best circus tents in town; ate from the most expensive troughs and now she was biting the hand that wanted to throttle her.
She wouldn't listen to reason either and each night Buddy would rehearse how the next conversation would go -or replay what had happened that night.
He'd read how comedian Lenny Bruce had become obsessed with how he'd been treated by the Law, and his act had suffered because of it: he would just re-enact the court proceedings in minutiae before topping himself.
Well, that wasn't going to happen to Buddy.

He'd planned it meticulously -nothing could go wrong.

The neighbours were already used to the noise from the countless arguments so tonight would be no difference... except for one thing; those were all rehearsals This was the main event.
He'd thought of all the ways to do her in a long time ago and he'd managed to whittle them down to strangulation. He wanted her to know that it was him that did her in; it couldn't be an accident. He wanted her to know why and how much he hated her.

Come the time of the deed, they were having their normal argument, except Buddy wasn't budging this time. He stared into the corner, watching the material blubber, moan and chastise him, counting down until he could take it no longer. She was completely oblivious to what was going on until he slapped her hard across the face.
The slap was enough to shut her up, but when he tried to put his hands round her throat to choke her he found that this was actually impossible! Even with two hands he just could not find purchase, and this gave her enough time to knee him hard in the bollocks, letting out a scream that hurt far more. He scrawled around for something, anything that could finish this quickly before it was too late.
All the knives were too short -they'd never penetrate her bulk, but he had to try. He took the steak knife and plunged; stab, stab, stab, as many times as he could. The scream persisted until it sounded like air escaping a punctured balloon and she collapsed due to the blood loss.
Even then Buddy wasn't spared; he'd misjudged the situation and slipped on the blood streaked floor just as his mother fell on him -the ultimate humiliation.
But worse was to come.

The doorbell, and outside flashing blue lights. Someone had called the police. That scream had been too real. Buddy had to try to bluff his way out of this.
Hello? What's going on?” He shouted out in his mothers voice.
Police, madam. Would you please open the door. We've had reports of a domestic disturbance.”
I'm not dressed to receive.” Buddy shouted back; well, that was, at least, true.
Don't worry, luv. We just need to make certain that you're ok.” The voice seemed sympathetic and Buddy wondered whether he'd be able to make it seem like an accident. Or even justifiable homicide – she had kneed him in the balls and fallen on him, after all.
It was my son, he was just rehearsing his show.” Buddy shouted back just as he was interrupted by the inevitable.
HELP!Hetriedtomurderme!” The voice came from behind him, clinging on to life as she had clung on to her weight.
See... I told you that I was practising!” Damn-it, he had just replied in his own voice.
Open up, Sir -otherwise we're going to break down the door.”
This was getting bad now, he couldn't bluff his way out of this one. There was no way out for him, so he had to make the most out of it and treat it like a show.
Or I'll HUFF and I'll PUFF.” Buddy shouted back just as the police started ramming the door, “And I'll blow the place down!”
He could scarcely believe it was going to end this way, but it couldn't get any worse.

And the way he was seeing it now – it was all material that he could use in future. It would be one helluva comeback!

Thursday, 7 February 2019

No Waking

I feel numb; the cold linoleum floor is spreading through my body, turning me to ice but I can hear their helpless screams; hollowing down the corridor, punctuated only by his gunshots. Cowering beneath this desk, I daren’t move; no sounds now… a deathen silence falls around me. This has to be a nightmare, let it be so…
Less than twenty minutes ago, walking up the street to this building … just an office I used to work in. Dan know what’s going to happen, I’m sure of that.. even then. It’s the way that he smirks as he tells me what we’re here for: just to scare some woman who owes some money… telephone operator by day, adult provocateur by night.. We’re just there to frighten her.
And Dan is frightening, but not in an obvious way. To glance at him you might think studiously handsome but then you’d see a flawed expression; a lack of empathy, a calculated glint in his eyes and you know.. somehow know, that he’s working out all the ways that he can make you suffer; and that he’s good for it. It’s his job… I’m just along for the ride…just.. because.. He’s a friend of a friend who I owe too many favours to. This is a quick payback, and I never questioned why it was so quick.
Wedged under the desk, I’m cramping up now but there’s nowhere else to hide. It’s not possible to see where I am from the door.. but it’s not locked, and he only has to walk into the centre of the room and then I’m dead too.
We’re close to the building now and Dan is still incredulous that my given name is Patsy. And as I explain it to him for the fourth time I have to remember not to make him angry. He’s already threatened me four times in the last ten minutes.
“I’m called.. well, my name is Peter Palmer, but I’ve always been called Patsy.. like Patsy Palmer.. and it stuck.” I sigh and he mocks me, replying, “But you’re Peter Palmer… the amazing Patsy.” He chuckles knowingly.
We find the right floor; Allyson stands at the front of the office, just as radiant as I last saw her 10 years ago; though now she’s a head of department. I open the door and walk in; she looks round puzzled but pleased to see me as recognition sets in… this turns to horror as I step aside and she sees Dan… sees him for the killer that I couldn’t recognise. She looks to me, disbelief and terror widening her eyes and from nowhere he pulls something… at first I think it’s a knife, just part of the act to frighten her.. but then… everything changes.
They say that television has numbed us to violence, they use words like desensitisation… they know nothing. I saw Alison crumple seemingly before the chilling report of the gun, blood spatter a crimson Rorschach against the wall.
I couldn’t shout her name… the screams drowned everything out as Dan never stopped firing, no longer at the downed Allyson but indiscriminately into the office.
Somehow I found the strength, not to leap in and stop Dan but to leave the bloodbath, god help me, and just ran.
I look down at my hands and there is blood on them, her blood…
I ran but know that it’s far too late for me, I’m a marked man now…. Maybe… maybe I can hide it out, wait for Dan to get killed and then surrender.  But now his footsteps are outside the door and I can hear him snicker. “p.p.p.pick up a patsy, Patsy.” And he slowly, carefully opens the door. He has all the time in the world; and like a nightmare he knows exactly where I am. He senses me, smells my fear like it’s a tangible entity. I can see him, somehow through the desks. I can see his smile, devoid of anything but the desire to inflict pain. He looks around the room almost nonchalantly before locking onto my eyes.
“So much for the second coming.” He says and I know now that this is no nightmare… no waking….