All entries for Thursday 17 January 2008
January 17, 2008
So, last week's assignment. I've written this very... genre? I don't know which genre, but it certainly feels "genre". I'm happy with the dialogue - it's natural-ish. And the pacing is satisfying to me. Admittedly the episode is of no use as a short story, but it would fit into a larger whole, and I think the pacing would be quite comfortable for a novel. So although the narrative wasn't one that energised me, it was gratifying to know that I can write at roughly the right pace for a novel.
Of course what this doesn't show is that in two more pages I would have run out of adjectives...
Rupert crept in through the servant’s door, boots clicking on the slate-tiled kitchen floor. He winced, adjusted the long-johns beneath his coarse workman’s trousers, and tried to sit down at the wooden preparation table on one of the kitchen’s three-legged stools. The bandages made it a little difficult but in a moment he was propped tentatively on the edge.
The door from the wash-room opened to reveal Alissandra, a wash-basket full of sheets propped between her right arm and body, and a rolled cigarette and a lighter in the other. She nodded to him as she passed through into the courtyard, the door tapping in the frame as she left it unclosed.
“Close that, yeah?” She called back at him. Rupert set his face and steeled himself as he made the journey to the door. Walking was the trickiest part. No. Running had been the trickiest part.
“Bugger it”. He murmured under his breath and slipped back out into the breezy courtyard. Alissandra was smoking happily against one wall – the washing lay undisturbed in the basket beneath the line.
“What happened?” She asked, offering him her roll-up. He took it gratefully as she hoiked out her tobacco pouch to make another.
“What makes you think something happened?”
“You get caught?”
“No.” Rupert said with a tight smile. That much was true.
“You’ld be dead if you were caught.”
“True.” He let the smoke go in a hot stream of ash. “And what makes you think something happened?”
“’s in your face. I can read faces very well.”
“You’ve to stop having these delusions of being some gypsy mystic, Aliss, you’ve been told.”
“I can and that’s truth.” She overcut him. “I’m good at reading faces. So you tell me what happened.”
It would get out as soon as he told her – the serving community in the village was closed, insular, had loose tongues – but it was going to get out anyway. It was embarassment, not fear that had closed his mouth so far.
“What happened to Lord Partridge last summer. Same as that.”
“No. Noo! Oh, that’s going to cramp you, eh?”
“Well I reckon so yes.” Rupert crossed his arms in frustration and turned away from Alissandra, stifling a gasp of exasperated pain. Alissandra chuckled.
“Not so much as I was expecting, no.”
“Lord.” She leant back against the wall, rolling the cigarette from one end of her mouth to the other. “Lord, me.” Her face lit up with a devilish grin. “So what did the Posh say about it?”
“Well she took it worse than I did, didn’t she?” Rupert stared up at the clouds. “She was bloody screaming like a mad thing and I thought sooner or later that jobbing idiot Palmer was going to burst in thinking she was dying.” He sighed. “So my first time down the drainpipe and me in no fit state.”
“Wouldn’t want to be doing her sheets.” Alissandra mused, kicking a pebble over at it with a curious foot.
“No.” Said Rupert sourly. He looked into the garden proper through the courtyard archway; it made a pretty frame around the Summer Royals. Just this morning, he thought, he had been looking forwards to blanketing them up for winter. Now the notion of even bending down filled him with dread.
“Hey, you talk to Parsons?” Alissandra asked. He nodded, grimly.
“Old quack. He bloody laughed didn’t he!” The old doctor’s face had scrunched up like a boot, with the split toe as the mouth and the sun-burnt brown leather of his face scrunching up around the smile.
“Well, he must have given you something at least.”
“He told me to dip myself in salt water for three weeks.” Rupert groaned, and Alissandra laughed up from her belly as Rupert shuffled back into the house, his mouth downturned into a miserable grimace.
So, here's a little short story that literally smashed out of my cranium and onto the page. How bad a writing process is that? No structure, no idea of what would happen, just one metaphor and two faint characters and up this popped. I hope you find this enjoyable. George, I hope it's not too cliched ; ) Anyway, this is a first draft - if I'm ever happy with it I'll send a later draft out to journals.
“Carpe pullo” I scrawled on Marcy’s left thigh, ironically. Everything we did was ironic. Our affair was in the height of irony. Neither of us was married, for a start, although Marcy did have a live-in lover. Later he would break my nose and three of his knuckles in one impressive punch, but not over Marcy, and not for three more years. My nose is now wide and French, and he had to learn to write with his other hand.
“’zat mean?” She asked, and I replied, “Seize the cock.” So she giggled and scribbled up the words she was putting on my stomach, low, just above the jeans line. I wasn’t wearing jeans then, I wasn’t wearing anything, but I always wore them too skinny. They left a red band like a belt that I was inexplicably proud of.
We were in a wood, naked. It wasn’t overly warm and we hadn’t had sex – we never had sex. Not once in the whole thing. I wanted to of course, and nowadays I think she did too, but she told me the first time I ever asked: “Nuh-uh. If it’s not cheating for Monica Lewinski it’s not cheating for me. So it’s just oral and cigars.”
I didn’t actually know about Lewinski. The whole thing with her and the American president had passed my by, while I was still lurking moodily in my bedroom in my parents house, without a television but with a huge sense of universal injustice. I think I passed that entire period of my life either sulking or masturbating, so a television wouldn’t have raised my awareness anyway. Marcy had to explain the reference to me, and when she did I bought the largest Cuban cigar I could and fucked her with that instead of my fingers. “Carpe pullo” might have been one of those little pushes I made to try and get some more, like the forty year old rubbing his cock against his wife’s brown dot and grinning like a cat, hoping she’ll say “go on them” and let him in.
The sun was a hazy white dot through a streak of cloud, and between us we had four very rigid, painful nipples. It was Autumn, and soon it would rain, but not for a few more days.
“Keep writing.” She said, and I bit her softly on her cheek – her left buttock - and twiddled the marker in my hand. “You’ve gotta keep writing.”
That morning we were on the bus. I was Indie, and we were riding nowhere in particular. You have to have whims. I had secret hopes of spotting a record store I had found once, very drunk, late at night, closed of course, but very secret, rising from the drunken fugue like the ruins of Atlantis. I didn’t know where it was or what it sold. The chances were I’d hate the music. But a good whim.
Marcy was with me because her boyfriend was out of town and she was even more ironic than I was. “I’m a New Romantic.” She said, and she was. Text book. Apparently Romance was reinvented in the 1980s, landing with A Flock of Seagulls and taking off again around about the time of Thatcher’s second term. I listened to underground music, the deeper underground the better. My favourite bands fought troglodytes and morlocks to make it to the mic stand. Hers were just uncool. I ached to be that ironic.
“Yu?” I said. It was a solid reply.
“Yuhuh, I looked it up. All my faves’r New Romantics. And my beanie-hat”
I didn’t have a fucking clue about the beanie hat, so I said:
“Yep. That is one New Romantic beanie-hat.”
And she laughed, possibly because I was wrong, possibly because I was stupid, not that it mattered. That laugh. It was dreadful. I mean that in the ancient sense, the one that’s lost to our world of “downloading” and “computeach”. It filled me with dread. A base ape-like fear that I was missing the plot entirely. And it was beautiful too, in a Jackson Pollocky sense. Broken and cracked by a little too much smoking. The rest of her was dainty.
The trees moved very slowly, at their own pace. “They’re not moving with the wind.” I said that out loud, I distinctly remember it, and she said nothing, even though it was such a damn stupid thing to say. Admittedly she was distracted. We were both covered in ink, and now she was working it off me.
The bus was one of those clanky old fuckers with angry drivers who’ve long fused with their seats, one leg stuck on the accelerator, the other on the brake, their urinary tract feeding into the cooling system for the engine through a specially arranged catheter. We weren’t alone onboard or my hand would have been in her trousers already. I was an idiot for never fighting her boyfriend.
She had these small breasts that made her look like a boy, almost, and which I found intensely, worryingly erotic. They were nearly non-existent, hidden like faces on the moon – you had to want to see them. They were a wonderful secret. But they made her look very young.
“If you shaved your pubes,” I said, gazing into that tangled blackness, “I don’t think I could have sex with you. Too wrong”
“You can’t have sex with me anyway.” She laughed. “That would be cheating.”
And she dotted the “i” on my chest.
The cloud was low, soft and wide, wispy and English. Later I walked back under fish-skeletons covered in gold lace, black shadows and gold ribs melting into the fading sunset. “It’s getting colder.” I said, which was a lie. It was already too cold to feel the difference. The town had been sweating all summer and now that sweat was evaporating, chilling us down at the speed of science.
Walking through the town the cold had been crueller. My undeclared search for the record shop was over, abandoned due to pointlessness, and the weather had no respect for my feelings. Pointless projects are the ones closest to the heart.
I put that on her skin as well. And “2+2=5”. And “Autumn is the cruellest month”, which I scribbled out when I realised Autumn wasn’t a month. The mess turned into a mouth – turned into a monster – tuned once more into black nothing. I was gazing at her crotch.
Two weeks later she shaved it. We were on her boyfriend’s bed, fumbling in a well-practised way, when she pushed me back, silenced me with one finger to my lips and another behind the hem of her skirt, and then stripped, just the skirt, and left her t-shirt on. Then she lay back, legs akimbo, and said, “Come on.”
I hesitated. Just long enough. She caught it in my eye and pulled it out, reaching for a felt-tip pen – one of the same we bought the day I didn’t find a record store – and scribbled on herself, a fake fur of ink. “Eat me then.” She commanded. I did – rubbing my face and mouth in there, licking and working and building up a shiny black nose of ink.
The felt-tip pens came from the same store we bought the cake at. She was always better at whim than me.
“We pack a bag with felt-tip pens and cake and then we go out into the country.” And we did, filling my satchel with pineapple upside down cake and twelve thick marker pens, one of which got lucky later, barely ten minutes after we started to ink each other, and found it’s way as far into her affections as I ever had.
We were swimming in our afterglow which almost stopped me shivering in the dusk. I was covered in ink and the sun couldn’t be seen in the woods now.
“I should probably go.”
“Okay.” I said. “I’m just gonna stay here.”
“While it gets colder and darker.”
“My clothes won’t keep the cold out.”
“You’re naked anyway.”
“Very wise.” I observed. “What’re you gonna do tomorrow?”
“Don’t talk about that.” She said, and held on to me.
She looked very sad, sitting there still naked, this glade of trees bowing around her, her flesh a pattern of ink and white, so smeared and intermixed you could hardly tell which was the real colour, as I walked away. But then she laughed and waved and pouted and put on a sad face again, and then I almost hit a tree, and after that I watched the path instead of her.
We could have had sex, I’m sure, if I’d only had the nerve to break something. What she really wanted was for me to shatter society – to break my own inhibitions – to cripple taboo and just fuck with her, naked and covered in ink, in a town square, surrounded by the old and young and CCTV cameras and police and pigeons, slowly and pleasantly, at ease, enjoying it, with everyone watching and staring and wishing they could be us. But I think breaking her boyfriend’s nose would have done the job almost as well.