Friday, 21 March 2008


In the weeks after I ran that kid over I was a bit of a mess.
Friends came round sometimes to see how I was coping, but from the smell and the state of the place they could tell that I wasn’t coping well.
“Are you eating?”, “Have you been out much?” Everyone sounded like my mother during those weeks.
James, his name was. The little boy.
I saw his photo a few times in the newspaper. He had green eyes, he had brown hair that seemed to curl up at the ends and he was smiling. Maybe he smiled a lot, maybe it was just for his mother when she took the picture?
When I used to look at the photo of him I would imagine being in the room too, looking around the edges of the frame, seeing if his family were there too. Was this an occasion? His birthday, perhaps?
Sometimes I would have to slap myself hard to stop looking at his damned dimples.
On the night that it happened I hadn’t had anything to drink. Nobody would believe me afterwards but, honestly, I was dry.
At the inquest I looked over at his poor mother. I swear she sobbed the whole way through. Poor thing. Poor both of them - James and her.
I cried too. I still do. But who cares about me? Penitence is useless when you have a three foot coffin on your conscience.
So now, here I am, living on the second floor and spending all day gazing out of the window at the cars going by in the street below.
I’m still able to drive. All a horrible accident, so the judge said. Could have happened to anyone.
But that judge never saw a small boy with curls in his hair disappear under the bonnet of the car he was driving.
I can’t go out now. I can’t get in that car. James is with me and he’ll always be here.
That little boy, always smiling and laughing. James, with the brown hair and the green eyes. Always smiling.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Our first fight

“Here’s the thing,” I said to Rachel. “You think that I think I’m better than you.”
She eyed me incredulously. “But that’s not why you hate me. Here’s why you hate me.” I paused for dramatic tension. “You think that I’m better than you.”
It took her a second to process the information and then WHACK! She caught me hard on the jaw.
I wasn’t expecting to get hit. Well, maybe just a slap if I’d really got to her, but the surprise of the fist to the chin brought a tear to my eye.
Then she got on top of me and tried to wrestle me to the floor. We were in a bar called Shandy’s. The lights were fluorescent and the drinks were mostly cocktails. The music was chillout and dub, while the mood was generally blissed out.
And there we were, a couple of hyenas, cackling away at each other and scratching at each others skin, trying to bruise and gain advantage.
I had hold of her hands, so she couldn’t do any real damage, but she managed to shift her knee across the top of my thigh and wedge it down close to my groin. She was getting pretty near to real damage now.
As she dug her fingers in to scar my wrists, her knee finally reached its target and I jerked forward. My forehead crashed into her nose and she fell backwards towards the glass table.
I managed to grab her body back from the edge and we both slid sideways, off the bench seat and onto the carpet, the main thoroughfare between the bar and each of the booths filled with patrons.
I placed her carefully down and waited for her to open her eyes. She scrunched her nose like a child or a mouse and then smiled, showing me her straightened teeth.
I smiled too and we kissed and rolled about there on the rich blue carpet for what seemed like hours.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Drinking in The Strange

The announcer said this might be the first rocksteady track ever recorded. It crackled on and then filled the background. The lights blared while the music soothed.
One man alone in a shared house. A glass of brandy slipping from his grasp and the music and lights hummed on.
That’s when I decided it a good idea to go out.
There were several bars within a three minute walk of the house and all of them were full of the kind of people I wanted to meet.
“Buying or selling, guy?”; “What limbs you got for me?” Men in leather jackets wanted to know. They jostled me as I made my way through the front door and on to the bar.
“Treble brandy, splash of lime, hun.” I said that to the barmaid. She looked like a cross between Lulu and Bob Dylan. I gazed at her as she got my drink. I wanted to sleep with her.
“Sell me your face,” said one of the men at the door. They were weird in here. Everyone was allowed to be strange and riddlesome, it was encouraged and expected.
Next door, the bar was Sleazy. Everyone in there was filth and they letched and groped all night. Across the road was the Arrogance CafĂ©. Sometimes we’d go in there before we drank, or maybe we’d end the night in there. It was good, because there were no seats in there.
Tonight, I paid for my drink without looking the girl in the eyes. “Can you show me Babylon with your hands, Sarah?” I spoke to her now.
“Just follow the rivers, don’t follow the palms,” she came back quickly. I could see in the mirrors behind the bar that she was smiling at that.
I drank half of my drink and then placed it down on the bar. I asked clearly for two cubes of frozen water, and then I went to the toilet.
Inside, a guy asked me if the crows were being born starlings this year. I told him they were all being aborted by owls, then asked him if he were looking forward to when the scarlet wings he was growing were ready to fly. This made him laugh and I shook my head with disdain.
Back at the bar I was already growing bored. No-one took this at all seriously except for me, of course.
“For plastic’s sake. Are we done yet, Sarah?” I cried. She nodded and went to get her coat.
I cracked my knuckles and scratched lightly at my crotch. I was ready and looking forward to going next door for a drink.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Mary's day

A broken pencil, an empty spreadsheet and three doodles completed.
She rubbed at her glasses but only wound up smearing them with the moisturiser she forgot she’d applied to her hands.
“Time for a break,” said Mary aloud. She seemed to be speaking to the computer monitor.
Mary went over to the counter and poured herself a glass of vino. She waited, her bottom perched on the work surface, as she nibbled the edge of the wine glass, as if considering whether or not to drink. She then allowed the liquid to slip down her throat in one smooth gush.
She was a pretty woman, Mary. All the men told her so, after one too many beers, whenever she went to those evening social occasions with work. She always made an effort you see, with herself, with other people. She liked people too much.
Mary’s hair was perfectly blonde. She wore a tailored suit, different shoes each day and fake tan to work. Mary worked from home.
At Powers & Fleetwood LLP she had enjoyed seven intimate relationships with work colleagues. Four of these were married and one of those was a woman.
One day her immediate boss, Peter Edgeware, called her into his office and suggested she work from home from now on. He said Mr Powers himself had made this suggestion. Mary said she could understand why he thought that and agreed.
She was offered a new job title and her salary was raised by £20,000 per annum.
Peter would ring her most days to see how she was “getting on”. Some days she would answer more quickly than others. Today when he rang she sat on her window seat and watched the men digging up the road.
Once a week Peter would phone on his mobile. He would be gauging her state of mind and she knew it. She would pretend she wasn’t drunk and that she’d been working hard and then maybe, just maybe, he’d say he was coming over. Coming over today, to see her.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Jam and Freddie

I hate jam.
The way jam gets stuck all over your knife. How are you meant to clean it off? What do you do when you need to spread your butter all over the bread and the jam has encrusted it and will either deflower your tub of butter or mix ruefully on the sandwich you're preparing?
My cousin Freddie, had just such a problem recently. He had a friend, always clinging on to him. Everywhere he went (Johnny we'll call him) there was Johnny, sticking to him like that jam. Seeds, annoying you, lumps of fruit you couldn't spread away. Sugary, sticking your skin together.
Freddie asked Johnny how come he would always be there? "Why are you always around me? Are you gay, are you high?" Johnny would always say the same thing when reproached in this way: "Wanna play pool? You rack 'em, I'll buy the beer."
And Freddie would say: "Okay," and shuffle over to the pool table. Thing is, Freddie liked pool, and he liked beer. That's all.
I take a lot of comfort from that.