WARNING: These pieces contain language, subject matter and attitudes that may cause offense.
These pieces are fictional characters. These have been performed (seperately and as a whole) by myself and others.
Large yellowed fingers curled round the fat white filterless fag. Gitanes were a guilty pleasure these days. They were one of the things he had fallen in love with during the war. Gitanes and Giselle. “My little Gee-gees” he had used to say, smiling down at them both. Dark hair, dark tobacco... both tasting strong and sweet. Heady enough to make you spin if you weren’t up to snuff. Heh heh.
And both gone all too quickly. Like smoke.
Nothing left but a rich aroma that other people disapproved of.
And who the hell was this now? - a nurse? One of those bloody pushy students - wanting to know everything about the ‘old days’. Old days. Not for him. He had been young in them after all.
Didn’t a man have a right to own his past?
Maybe it was his daughter. All black eyed and beady - looking up at him - oh yes he knew that expression well enough. You’re such a child Ronnie. Barbara had looked at him like that even when her face was grey and wrinkled and falling away - when the years had dismissed them - when she was fading from under him - when he sat next to her on the stifle scented bed and against every instinct, snivelled like a baby.
Maybe he made that up.
Maybe it was a dream.
It was a bit like a dream - the faces, their faces, her face - he couldn’t be sure. Maybe he just stole it off a film star. Some tart. Margaret Lockwood. Now there was a looker.
There was a mystery here.
Giselle laughing out loud, laughing out - laughing, at, with and past him. Into the August air. And gone. Nowhere.
This was getting nowhere.
Didn’t a man have a right to -
and so he had married. It was the done thing after all. What you were meant to. And Barbara had taken charge. “Honestly Ronald” she had said. “You need sorting out.” Looking at him across the factory fence. Who was her friend again? - the WAAP, the W - Wendy? Katy?... Yes, ah Katy - all eager and fancy and right as ninepence bustling around the bungalow like she owned the place. Seemed to own Barbara well enough. Friends since school. Grew up together. You’d never have thought so. Barbara so proper. Primming her way through an evenings knitting. Katy giggling like a schoolgirl as they listened together to the Navy Lark. He had been asked once (some bloody student) about the coronation. Could he remember the bloody coronation.
“No I can’t. Fuck off.” that had learned em.
Truth was of course he had missed it. Not that they hadn’t all squeezed into Arthur’s place - he was the plod weren’t he? - squashed onto the settee, or thereabouts along with half the street. It was just that during the event itself, Katy had insisted on bending in for a closer look. Squealing at the dresses and jewels and leaning in for a closer look. So he had been distracted. Always appreciated a good length of nylon. Well he was only a fella right?
Doesn’t a man have -
And that clumsy mistletoe kiss, one year after the daughters were born. And he had felt the pain in his belly. That’s what you get for making a pillock of yourself he had thought, twisting away from the taste of lipstick and punch. Seeing the alarm in her eyes. He had winced in pain, nearly doubled up inside his shirt. He had wanted it to swallow him. Yes, that’s what you get.
It was an ulcer.
So that was alright then.
Everything back to normal.
Sundays in the park.
Down the dogs with Fred on a free Wednesday night. Pints in the Crown and Anchor.
Doris and darts.
And something missing.
Eyes slowly focusing as the brain registers - there! - a tiny sensation - like holding the hand of an infant in its pram. It was his right foot. The toes crinkly up at him and smiling.
“Fucks sake!” Where was the slipper?! His left foot had found one easily enough.
No/one seemed to be able to countenance a murder. Not here - oh no! Not here - and everyone so old! Bollocks.
Ronnie could believe it. His generation had been trained to kill. People forgot that.
People seemed to forget everything.
He wished he could.
maybe it was his daughter - -
Nathan hated dogs. All his life he had tried very hard not to hate anything. But he hated dogs.
He listened now, wincing to the wild and pained yowling from outside and below. He had peeped through the blinds a little earlier, warned by some special sense, his dog alarm. He’d always had it. And yes - there, tied neatly to one of the entrance posts. A big thing, all grey taught muscle and ugliness. Squat. All upper body aggression on tiny legs. Like a sailor from the old days - or at least how he remembered them - and he didn’t like to. Never been his thing. Always more Timothy’s line that. He courted danger. Had. Had courted danger. Had. How often he HAD to correct himself these days, he thought. Smiled ruefully.
He right hand shook a little as he reached forward towards the collage he was struggling to finish.
He was getting frail.
Sighed. Carefully positioned the tiny photo fragment. Very good, no smear from the glue. Still he always had to resist the vulgar urge to sniff his fingers. Hmmm.
Yes, now where was he -curse that wretched dog - yes, he enjoyed collage - had been really quite good at it, earlier in life. It had been really quite moddish too - the moddish thing to do. Except it never really worked out for him. Moddish perhaps. Modest definitely. modest advertising and art job - pincered between two decades and at just the wrong time. He remembered being seeing his initial excitement disappear at the explosion of new media and alternative presses. They were gaudy - International Times and, later Oz. Some of his younger friends had urged him to subscribe to them and - oh - Jeremy. How daring. How artless. Not a collage in sight by then. Jeremy. As if he would have actually wanted a magazine called that. He had always resisted being the fey archetype he had nevertheless felt himself become.
Again he dabbed for the glue.
These days - well - he kept hearing strange phrases like ‘it’s easier now’ from the well intentioned and ignorant. ‘Easier’ - what exactly did that mean?
He has to get this collage finished. Took a second to listen to the scott walker album playing in the background. Soft music audible between outbursts from the dog. Ah, he had been quite hip after all eh? Chuckled to himself, remembering his delight at discovering that the lovely young blonde didn’t just have a voice but seemed to genuinely appreciate Lieder. Lieder had always been a love of Nathan’s. People found it difficult music. He loved the harmony - the precision. The balance of elements. Like a collage.
Bloody typical poofs music, his sister had always said. Yes, well he supposed people were more typical back then.
‘It’s easier now’ he grated sarcastically. Instinct interrupted him then - never a one for the sour mood - his eyes glanced across to the photo of his niece Marie - a wide faced smiling girl in the photo. Gay pride that, she had said handing it to him. Ah. Well it true that the only pride he had ever had was Mother’s Pride, but he was very fond of Marie. And at least she texted before visiting.
It was ridiculous the way her parents seemed unable to grasp the concept of a mobile phone. So that leaves me and thee he had laughed to Marie on her most recent visit. At least we’re in the 21st century, she agreed.
It was of course, their dog causing such an unwelcome commotion outside now.
Shirley was white. Shirley was black. Shirley was white. Shirley was black. She was white. She was black. White and black. Black and blue. Feeling blue. White and black. Black and blue. Like a bruise. Putting on her lipstick and rouge. And for who?
Mind you - when she cut her milk teeth dancing and learning to dance and dancing wide wide wide and learning to chat back, to be tuff - ‘nuff punnani’- swinging in a high stiletto-ed style - all alone at the Africa centre, Brixton 1988 - we gotta date - back when bling was just the noise a ring pull made when you played with an empty can in the shivering small hours as your girlfriends threw up and you waited for the night bus home. Bus no.1. well she thought she had it sussed.
But then, back then, she had thought ‘Cha Beats’ was just a record rhythm - not the sweaty percussion dealt out to her by a jealous and shoulder chipping White DJ (from Cheltenham) keen to earn his roots and culture credentials - and living by now, like her, in moss side.
‘Cha Beats’ was just a record rhythm - not the insane drumming of a hyper ventilating human male heart rushing to hospital in the back of a salmon cab. ‘I’m Dying Shirley!’ he had yelped between amphetamine clenched teeth.
Where do DJ’s go when they die? Ibiza? Goa? The last she had heard he was a newly converted Christian handing out pamphlets in Birmingham. Her friend Trix had bumped into him outside a gig he was dissing.
So, true. She had proved herself. Big enuff. Drum and base danger-zones junglist massive spent bullets and black canvas in tiny jumping clubs. She had loved that she could get in - all fiery whiteness and no messing - and none of her white boyfriends could. Well they were mostly too chicken to try.
She had met Danny at one such, some such, strutting in front of his mates - and they clicked immediate during a rare slow down in the music to make way for the current hit ‘No No No you don’t love me, this I know now’ selected by the DJs because the women just loved that song and all 3 of them were guaranteed a slow child-bearing hip-swaying moment across the floor.
Danny had breathed with relief later into her ear “Thank God, I hate fuckin drum n base”.
She had been his escape. Great. Another couple of years on the meter. And he didn’t even beat her. He had been really quite nice. Nice.
“Nice guys finish last!” She had roared at him one time.
So he had drifted away. He was 3 months into his mature college course now apparently - Economics - he had always been good with the readies - paying his way with a part time job at the HSBC.
And here she was painting up her face again. One more time. Surely she was getting too old for this shit. No way! She could show the Kids a thing or two. She had her RnB moves.
She was white. She was Black. She was Blue.
I was completely drunk when I met Sheila. And on the rebound. Technically. From who - well, I can’t remember now - but I did a LOT of rebounding in those days. I was drunk and dirty minded. Dancing in a way I hadn’t attempted since my mid 80's lambada prime. Or was that a car... moped? Lambretta? No. That’s a gun.
I looked like David Beckham, she said. People’ll say anything sometimes.
Still this was before Beckham was well known. She had her finger on the pulse, for sure.
Mine was still beating in time to whatever garbage that late night Stockport DJ was playing. I shudder to think. No, I shudder to remember.
BREED WITH ME!
It was there in her eyes.
But I was down on luck at the time - never much fun in a sunless under-dwelling with psychotic rats and Human League fans from Newcastle for bed mates - she wanted to make something of me - whatever THAT was supposed to mean. Make what exactly? Mincemeat?
BREED WITH ME!
Reeling round the markets and shops - she got me some good clobber though, I’ll say that for her.
I’m 32 - she’d cry - that’s my sexual peak! (And mine was n-n-n-nineteen... Yeh thanks for that)
for Fucks sake
BREED WITH ME!
I barely had time to finish me tea - let alone the mark and lard show - and I was being dragged kicking and screaming up the little wooden hill to the altar of sacrifice. “Did you make sure the back door’s -”
BREED WITH ME!
BREED WITH ME!
And she could do that thing with her pelvic floor muscles - leaning back in silent concentration the light from the landing glinting off silky moisturised skin - that thing where - CLAMP! SHNUFF! AGH!-my God! I confess! I AM a Communist Sympathiser - I’ll name names! The attack on Normandy is due to begin on -
But - thank the stars, the Goddess, Jimmy Hendrix and a secret heroin habit - we did not conceive.
She’s happy now I heard.
Yeh well, your problem Derek is you never got married - made an honest man of yourself - or dishonest even eh? Heh heh. You don’t even really get the chance for that unless you’re married - I mean, what are you gonna do? Cheat on your girlfriends? That doesn’t mean anything.
See that’s your problem - too scared to make anything real aren’t you - commitment phobic or something I shouldn’t wonder - now me - I’m committed - 110 percent 24-7 work and the wife. I go flat out.
That’s how you get somewhere in life - I don’t mean - I know what you're thinking, it’s not like I’m some animal kind of - claim your prize sort of bloke - but just what’s natural - what’s normal. Right?
Your problem is you shy away from the normal - I think - that’s probably why you didn’t get the promotion - you make people edgy - what are you holding out for? I mean look at me - 12 years of marriage - we still flirt - we still have an edge - the spark - I can still put my wife across the kitchen table - what? Well yeah ok, maybe not now exactly with my back and everything but - see, right there - you focus on the negative.
That’s your problem - dwelling on the dark side - all that bleeding angst, midlife crisis if you ask me - that’s probably why Chrissy - what? Yeh fair doo’s ok - maybe that was out of order but - look, after she left what did you do - you moped, you sulked, you dwelt on the negative. Sorry sometimes you gotta hear these things mate - tough love. Oh no - don’t think I don’t understand - I know what it’s like, I could’ve gone your way if I let myself. You know, with Jenny and everything. What? No I might not have mentioned her before - we usually have more important things to talk about you and me - work for instance - but yeh I could’ve let my life slide by while I was pinning for Jenny. But I don’t - I got on with my life. And look what happened. I met the wife.
I think it settled me down - makes a man realise what's important - the grown up things in life - a house, responsibility - you still think mortgage is a dirty word. Well Mr Rebel, tell me how uncool I am the next time I’m on holiday in the south of France. With my wife.
Yeh - France, I like it there - Jenny used to talk about it so much I thought i’d check it out - she was right - dead relaxing - I’ll say this for her she was right about places to go, always, great sense for stuff like that. I bet you’ve never been.
That’s your problem see - don’t relax enough - you should go somewhere nice - have a holiday - but when you’ve only got yourself you think ‘why bother?’. You don’t even get out much round town do you? I love just going out for the crack, nice day in town, window shopping, take in a coffee, a movie, look round a gallery - Jenny got me into paintings - she liked all that Picasso shit. I probably get out more than you - weekends, when the kids are at home - what? Who? No. The wife looks after em. Its like freedom you know - taking on the town -meeting people, having fun - flirting. Same as if I was a single guy like you - only I have a home to go back to. Mmm, that’s right. Freedom. Marriage aint a prison you know.