Blasts from the pasts

August 26, 2008

I have uploaded a couple of short stories what I done writed some years ago.  These were written back in the days when I neither edited or believe the internet could help me in any way.  How far we have all come.

They are not easy to read.  When I have time and inclination I will go through them and tidy them up.  I have about 20 of a similar ilk … good stories and hooks, but poorly written and presented.

Penguins on the run (from da nineties)

August 26, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguins on the run.

 

 

 

  God sat back in His chaise-longue and took an extra long draw of His cigar.

   “Another brandy, sir?”  Asked a certain person.

   “How many times,” He said.  “Do I have to tell you?”

   “Sorry, dad.”  Said Jesus.

   “That’s better.  Yes please – just keep them coming.”

   “Right you are si… dad.”

  God reassumed his position and started to think about… matters, yes, that’s quite a good word to sum everything up at the moment.

   Things on earth had taken some rather unexpected twists of late.  The 64 dimensions that govern the planet were starting to be discovered.  And not before time!

   “Huh!”  Mused God.  “Time!”

  The most important thing about matters at the moment was that humans realised, rather begrudgingly, that they are not the most intelligent animals.  Obviously the dolphins – how could humans possibly expect to keep the entire quantity of marine life in perfect order?  They hadn’t even got the right shaped noses…

  Then there were iguanas, of course.  My word, thought God, Iguanas!  How the hell did they manage without the Iguanas and their incredible knowledge?  No wonder pollution was such a problem.

  Wildebeests were a bit of a worry, though.  They were not very bright, ok – fair enough.  But they hadn’t yet quite grasped the fundamental concept of language.  They understood the words perfectly, oh yes – no problem there, if only they would remember which meanings applied to which words…

  The dimensions govern the earth.  Half of them are taken up by animals and the other half by emotions, objects and ideas.  Humans are no more than managers who keep everything in order.  Without humans there would be no order and no chaos – a healthy balance of these two aspects of reality is essential to any well run society.  Although humans are by no means the most intelligent species on earth their heavy-handed approach to ‘matters’ ensured that everything was achieved almost satisfactorily in the end.  Although, eleven times out of ten, somebody or something is always damaged along the way – but that is ok, according to God.  If everything worked out perfectly all of the time there would be little enjoyment in living.

  Safe with this knowledge God observed the current ‘matters’ on earth… oh dear!

 

***

 

   For the past three years the new ‘United Parliament of all Continents’ had brought a peace on earth never witnessed before.  All the wars had been eradicated, crime existed only amongst the upper classes, every country enjoyed a bountifully rich economy, there was 98% employment (you can’t really count the company directors) and, best of all, everybody was sickeningly happy – East end Londoners would walk happily with West Indian immigrants, Jews would playfully slap German blondes named Herman on the back, an Irish Catholic would buy a Protestant a pint of Guinness with unforced jollity.  Even the Welsh agreed to be mildly pleasant.  Yes, the new political regime was the best thing that had ever happened to prejudice, hate, greed and jealousy.

  So who was to blame for this sudden turnaround?

  It all started about five years after the discovery of dimensions – when humans were still maintaining that they were the most intelligent species on earth.  Back when we were still trying to sort out what to do with all of these marauding animals claiming that they were better at sorting out basic essential duties than humans.

  Most of it was fairly obvious – dogs (D43) were incredible miners, cats (D21) sat around French bars looking absolutely disgusted at anybody who looked in their general direction (art critics).  Wildebeests were a slightly harder to work out, though.  Since they kept saying things like ‘Herald the hot pan – show us your bunions?’ and then running away, crying, if anybody tried to reply, people had more or less given up on them.  Even now they continue to bother everybody and then have serious emotional outbursts.  Eventually it was realised that they would make either incredible FIFA officials or perfect Arsenal fans.

  There was one animal, however, that was discovered to be the most infectiously brilliant politician.  Forget new manifestos, old manifestos, right wing politics, left wing politics and autonomous states, this one animal had such an immaculate grasp of politics they could even run a sensible railways service –

  Penguins.

  It all began fairly quietly during a by-election in South East London.  The usual candidates were standing – the smug Tory, the Armani clad Labour, the eager to please Liberal Democrat, the man dressed as an apple and the old, slightly withered man standing right at the back who belonged to no-one in particular.

  At this by-election, however, a penguin decided to give it bash; it was mainly a joke at first – a bunch of ‘Southern Pansies’ had got together after a strangely rowdy game of cards and thought ‘What the hell?’

  As the campaign had progressed it became more and more apparent that everything they said was perfectly in line with everybody’s beliefs and moral standings.  Policy after policy was seemingly plucked out of the air with elegant ease – and every single one of them seemed… right.

  They knew how to fund education and the health service, they knew how to clean up the environment, they knew what the world could do with defence, they knew how to balance the economy and they claimed that they could eradicate crime and poverty.  It was not just a series of half-hearted, empty headed promises, they explained every single concept with effortless clarity and everybody understood and realised that their goals were not merely possible, but impossible not to achieve.

  The most unusual aspect of their campaign was the fact that there was no leader.  Every single speech was split equally between each penguin and in all of their meetings no single penguin accepted the responsibility of the chair.  There was no garish slogan, no public denouncement of other parties, no sleaze and most importantly of all, complete and utter confidence.

  Only three people failed to vote for the penguins (they had no party name) in that by-election – two people voted for the apple (his mother and a student who claimed – ‘All political parties are the same! They continue to push their empty, rich…’ unfortunately, somebody shot him at close range before he had even reached his first proper verb.)  One person voted for the Labour candidate (the owner of a shop that specialised in fake Armani suits.)

  Within a year the penguins held a majority of 704 in the House of Commons (the number of constituencies had grown to 705 – the Welsh nationalists managed to scramble a seat.)

  A year later the penguins had abolished the old political style and the country had agreed that there should be no other political force (except for a small area in the middle of Wales.)

  Two years later the penguins held power all over the world under the name ‘The United Parliament of all Continents.’  The name was taken for PR reasons only at the recommendation of the tabloid press.  Only one part of the planet remained immune to the governing talent of the penguins – and, quite frankly, nobody understood a bloody word they said!

 

***

 

  …Oh dear, thought God.  He shouted…

   JJJJJJEEEEEEESSSSSSSSUUUUUUSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

 There came a bang, a scream, and a muffled groan.  The door flew open.

   “…Yeah?!!  Later mate, outside!!…..yeah!!?!!  Sez you twat-monkey…!”

   “Son of God, King of Kings, great Messiah… drop that ridiculous cockney accent and SHUT UP!!”

   “Sorry pops,” said Jesus. “Me and Judas were just chatting about… old times.”

  God beckoned to his only son.  Jesus closed the door and shuffled uneasily towards his father.

   “Look at that.”  He said, shoving a newspaper under Jesus’ nose.

   ’Three nippled donkey eats the moon!!’  That’s a turn up…”

   “No!  Look at the headline at the top of the page.”

  Jesus squinted.  Jesus read.  Jesus wept… well, nearly.  It was more of a short intake of breath followed by a whistle – similar to the technique adopted by mechanics around the globe.

   “That’s bad.  That… could be really bad.”  Said Jesus.

   “Tell me about it!  It took me years, well, days to create that wretched place and now everything will be ruined – and all because of a personality flaw!  Where’s your mother?”  Asked God.

   “Erm,” said the Messiah,  “I think she’s gone to that party with Joan of Ark…”

   “Hmm,” said God.  “Well, what shall we do, then?”

   “Can’t we just let the penguins and mankind sort it out for themselves?”

   “Oh yeah!  I can see that – mankind believe they know it all whereas the penguins really do know it all.  Can you see either side relenting?  I can think of only option.”

   “Em…” Jesus looked puzzled for a few seconds before looking up into Gods face, mortified.  “Oaaoow daad!  Not again!”

   “Oh come on.  It nearly worked last time.”  Said God.

   “You’ve never had to work amongst them!  They all come up to you and beg for forgiveness or beg to be healed or beg to be enlightened.  It’s bloody embarrassing!”

   “But it’s your job!  They’re all expecting a second coming, anyway.”

  Jesus considered his options.

  He looked up and said –

   “Can I have the big office?”

  Seconds passed.  God answered thus –

   “Only if you keep it tidy.”

   “…And can I borrow your best tennis racket whenever I want?”

   “Now that’s pushing it!”  Said God.

   “Ok,” said Jesus.  “I’ll just go and find Judas and we’ll…”

   “Alright!”  Roared God.  “Have the bloody tennis racket.”

  He threw the newspaper to the floor and disappeared into the bathroom.  Jesus rubbed His hands together and strolled, grinning, out of the room.

  The headline on the newspaper read –

‘Single penguin proclaims – I am leader.’

  All important events deserve a good ending.  The above conversation was a considerably important event as it was decided that Jesus would return to our world – and the ending merited the importance.

  It was a shame therefore that the scene was ruined by God stumbling out of the bathroom, His trousers around His ankles, shouting at Mary Magdalene for not leaving any bloody loo roll by the toilet!

 

***

  There are incredible similarities between the workings of an ant farm and the human body.  Both are made up of millions of tiny moving parts that go to make one large machine; both machines manage to function perfectly for, pretty much, most of the time.  Occasionally a small part of the machine will break down, but due to brilliant efficiency from the rest of the machine, within a short space of time everything will be restored to normal.

  The only real difference (apart from the fact that humans can run about, sit down, have sex and drink large amounts of alcohol – occasionally simultaneously) is that ant farms are governed by a queen and not a major organ.  Apart from that the millions of tiny moving parts work in perfect harmony to create and sustain an incredibly strong machine.

  Unfortunately, a usurper will always arise.  Eventually.

 

***

 

  Dimensions were first discovered in the year 2000.  It took until 2005 for all the confusion to die down.  The first penguin by-election was in 2006.  It is now 2013 and everything is perfect.

  One of the initial problems with animals taking over essential roles was their short life span.  A dog lives for about 13 years – it will take at least a year for a puppy to reach the correct age to start mining, which leaves only 7 to 8 years for that particular dog to pursue a career before he/she can enjoy a happy retirement.

  It was so that this rule applied to every animal within the dimension chain.

  At first this was considered to be a problem as the workforce would be moving along at such a rate, nobody would be able to keep up with things.  Of course, this was seen from a human perspective – the animals reasoned that fresh ideas and greater innovation would rise to the top very quickly.

  By 2013 this theory could be put to the test properly, as most of the initial animals from the dawn of the ‘second age’ would have reached their retirement age.  Had the cream risen to the top?  Were these much talked about ‘fresh ideas’ apparent?  Yes.

  Ducks (dimension 27) turned out to be brilliant chefs – they made the Roux brothers look like ‘Greasy’ Tim from the transport cafe.  They took gastronomic delight to a new plain; by 2013 they had turned even the meekest dish into a palatable pleasure – although their joke dish ‘Garcon a l’orange’ caused a few itchy palms.

  Snakes (dimension 20) became philosophers.  One snake named yyyG$hh (or Harold, in our tongue) described the works of Socrates and Plato as ‘utter bollocks’.  By 2013, snakes had not only unravelled the mysteries of the universe, but had decided that that was far too boring and embarked on a game of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’.  Ridiculous as this may seem, they have already discovered that the rules are not written in Esperanto.  Possibly.

  And so it goes on across the entire spectrum.  Species after species have taken to their roles like ducks to pasta.  New ideas leak from paw, feather, scale and bottled nose.  Humans are quite impressed.

  Penguins are no different.  Their approach to politics have continued unabated for seven years.  They have somehow managed to please every single sector of society in every single culture in every single country in the world.  They have so far done nothing wrong – the children are learning, the sick are healing, the criminals are reforming, the jobs are increasing – for the first time in the industrial world there are such a huge surplus of jobs that employers are having to be subjected to interviews from prospective employees.  People are going to interviews and naming their wages – more often than not the employers are happy to pay extortionate demands.

  Even though it is painfully obvious, nobody can account for the success of the penguins.  They gave no secrets away for fears of a shift in the balance of smugness.  The penguins reasoned that nothing must ever change – everything works perfectly now so it will work perfectly in the future.

  They are right… in a way; if you can trust unmitigating circumstances to lie low or problems to keep themselves locked in the toilet, then the penguin machine would continue unchanged and unabated for as long as they were kept in supply of fresh haddock.

  Unfortunately, this approach was to prove to be the downfall of the penguins.  Firstly, circumstances will never remain unchanged.  The whole nature of existence on earth relies on an ever changing set of circumstances – somebody will always unlock the toilet cubicle and let the problems wash their hands, check their hair in the mirror and swear at the urine saturated floor before setting out on a campaign of destruction.

  The success of the penguins relied on many factors.  The organisation had grown to such an extent that if any of these factors changed, then you could guarantee a severe bout of mayhem.  The most important factor was their ability to rule and pass judgement without the need for leaders to suppress the under-class.  But the penguins burned with the same ambitions and aspirations of all the other animals – and it would only be a matter of time before a penguin came along and unlocked that toilet door…

 

 

 

At last, a leader.

 

  After years of wonder, the final piece to the penguin success jigsaw has been fixed into place.  At 4.26pm, 4th May 2013, a penguin named Arthur Gosh (known amongst his friends as Darkyboy) proclaimed himself President of the United Parliament of all Continents.

  This is a dramatic twist to the penguin story, a story that always claimed that leaders were ‘unnecessary’ and were nothing more that ‘filters for progress’.  The question now on everybody’s – have the penguins finally lost the initiative?

  In a press conference yesterday, Gosh said ‘It is time this parliament realised that you cannot rule by equality and hyper-organisation – look what happened to Tony Blair.  Every penguin is different – some are clever, some can barely spell ‘policey’.  I have elected myself to a position where I can separate the cream from the cheese and remould this ageing, inefficient and complacent parliament into a party that will plan for a brighter future.’

  Colleagues looked bewildered and downcast as they left the daily session in the parliament building, Fridge House.  One penguin described the event as ‘catastrophic’.  Others were too tearful to comment.

  Surely this is the greatest event in the history of the parliament.  At last we can fully trust a party with an elected leader, a leader who will speak directly to the people and animals he represents.  The days of shy, introverted penguins are over.  Never again will we cuss at the poor standard of public relations.

  This is the best day in the history of the ‘Second Age’.

 

Extract from ‘The Evening Mail’  4/5/2013.

 

  The penguins have a leader.  The world has a president.  The future has a spy.

***

 

   “JJJJEEEEESSSSSUUUUSSSSSSAAHH!!”

   “What now!”  Squealed Jesus.

   “Have you remembered your toothbrush?”  Asked God.

   “Em… yes.  Here it is.”

   “Good, good, well done, son.  You never know where you are unless you’ve got a good, sturdy toothbrush.  I remember once, oh, thousands of years ago now… I think it was the fourth day of creation, actually; and I looked into my toilet bag…”

   “Dad,” interrupted Jesus.  “There is one tiny matter, very small, that does worry me.”

   “Oh yeah.  Wossat?”  Asked God.

   “I’m sure I read somewhere that if I go back There, then some bloke from Hell will appear on Earth and there’ll be some sort of war?”

   “Armageddon.”  Corrected God.

   “Yeah, that’s it.”  Said Jesus.  “Well, I’m just worried it might disrupt my mission.”

   “Don’t worry,” said God as he sat down with a thump and lit up another cigar.  “I made a quick phone call and Satan has agreed to leave it for a while – he’s busy with the ‘Soul Counts’ at the moment… we had quite a good chat actually.  Do you remember that time I couldn’t go to the loo for week?”

   “Yeah,” said Jesus.  God looked at Jesus knowingly.

   “You mean… no!  The bastard!  We had to use a hose pipe and a bucket of cold water in the end…”

   “Yes, yes, alright.  Anyway, we spoke for a good ten minutes and everything is sorted.”  Said God.

   “Good, good.”  Said Jesus.  “Well, with Armageddon averted, fancy a pint?”

 

***

 

  Arthur Gosh sat in his office with his head in his wings.  Things had gone very badly since he had declared his leadership.  He realised that perhaps three years ago the parliament would be unable to cope with a leader, and that the idea of a leader was unthinkable.

  He thought he had timed his actions to perfection – the first generation of animals in every other sector of society had come to an end and innovation was the key to the future.  New ideas were erupting in every mode of life.  Every animal (even the Wildebeests) was happy to let the second generation implement their new ideas.

  Why then were the penguins reacting in such a negative way?  Surely they must realise that to progress beyond the present they must cut off the baggage of the past.  In the old days, fair enough, the idea of a leader was unthinkable – although the penguins had functioned beautifully as a group, there was not one single bird capable of the responsibility of being leader.  The whole effectiveness of the penguin machine relied on this fact.  The birds who made the decisions did not have to worry about answering to somebody at the top.  There was no chain of buck passing if mistakes were made because, basically, all the penguins were sickeningly equal.

  Not that mistakes were ever made.  Until now.

  Darkyboy looked at the assembled notes on his desk.  Even now they are all hopelessly equal in their thoughts.  Seven hundred and three notes all bore the same message with a footnote from all other personnel.  In all, over a thousand farewell notes revealed the legend.  He did not even bother to look in the six sacks of notes that had arrived from all the other continents on the planet.  He knew they all said exactly the same thing.  One single word – how ironic, Darkyboy thought, a single word for a single penguin from the masses of single penguins who merged to create the ultimate political force.  And now here he was, alone… he wanted to be the ultimate leader, and how very much he was, now, the ultimate penguin.  The only penguin.

  He eyed one of the hundred thousand identical notes.  It read –

 

Farewell…

 

***

 

  A man walked into a pub somewhere in North London, and surveyed.  Well, He thought, things have certainly changed a bit!  In My time a lady would have been stoned for wearing a garment that revealed so much skin.

  He took a closer look at the woman and wondered about the actual definition of ‘stoned’.

   “Whayoulookina’?!”  Said the man sitting next to the woman.  He had a mallet tattooed to his forehead.

   “Oh, nothing really.”  Said the man.  “Just fate.”

   “’er names Jill.”  Said the Mallet.

   “Ahhh.  Of course, sorry.  No, really, sorry.”  Said the man.  He walked to the bar.

   “What will it be mate?”  Asked the barmen.

   “Em, can I have a glass of red wine please?”

   “Red wine?”  Said the barmen.  “Dunno about that.  I might have a bottle of Rose somewhere…”

   “That’s fine,” said the man, ironically.  “A glass of water will do just as well.”

  The barmen produced a glass of water and stood back in a way that suggested he was expecting something.  The man eyed the water and closed his eyes.  He seemed to mutter something under His breath before waving His hand over the innocent glass of water.  He opened His eyes.

   “Oh!  That has never happened before.  Normally every time…”

   “Not to worry mate,” said the barmen.  “We all have our off days.  Go and have a sit down and think about it.”

   “No, no.”  Said the man.  “I don’t think you understand – it happens every time.  Never in my existence has it failed to happen.  You may have witnessed a miracle!”

   “Honestly sir, it happens to every man at some point in his life.  It’s perfectly natural.  Relax for five minutes and then have another try.  Perhaps you were just trying too hard and thought about something you shouldn’t have.”  He turned round and started to polish a glass with incredible vigor.  He suddenly felt very strange.  He decided to think about football.

  Jesus went and sat down at a table with His stubborn glass of water.  He stared at it wondering what had gone wrong.  Never… no!  He must stop thinking about it – He had far too many other important things to worry about.  There was a man sitting opposite Him tearing strips out of a beer mat.  Jesus tapped him on the shoulder.

   “Excuse me, sir.”  He said.  “Do you know if there are any churches or cathedrals anywhere near here?”

  The man looked at him for five seconds and went back to his beer mat.  Jesus, ever the optimist, persisted.

   “Em, no.  I think you must have misheard me.  Could you please tell me if there are any churches…”

   “I heard you!”  Shouted the man.  He instantly clamed down.  “What, may I ask, do you want with a church?”

   “Erm,” said Jesus.  “I just have… some business to conduct.  Nothing too serious – I just need to meet some people who can help me… or more to the point, people who I can help.”

  The man looked very hard at Jesus for a moment and said, “Hang on a minute.”  He went to the bar and asked for the phone.  The barmen, shaking, passed the phone over to the man who made a very quick phone call.  He came back and started talking to Jesus.

   “Er, did you see the match last night, sir, I mean mate?”

   “What match?”

   “Spurs Vs Arsenal.  You know ten years ago that match was one of the highlights of the season.  But now, with Arsenal in the 3rd division, it was a bit of a disappointment.  Spurs won 13-0, their 23rd FA cup win in a row – a record… ah, here we are.”

  Jesus was just about to answer when a dozen policemen in riot gear stormed through every available entrance (they even allowed certain parts of the wall the pleasure of being an entrance for a short while).  Within two seconds Jesus was spread flat on his back with a gun pointed into the middle of his stomach.

   “What the Hell is going on you bastards?!  I’m bloody Jesus Christ Me!  You can’t treat me like this!”

   “We have reason to believe that you are Joey ‘The Lion’ Green,” said a policeman.  “Notorious drug dealer.  Anything you say will be taken down…”  With this being said Jesus was hauled to his feet and dragged towards the door.

   “I died on the cross for your sins, you know.  Two thousand bloody years I gave up, just so you could shag whoever you wanted…” and He was pushed through the door.

  The Mallet looked at the barmen and said

   “Takes all sorts!”

  The barmen simply leant on the bar and winked at the Mallet.

 

***

 

  The world gradually ground to a halt.  The word ‘gradual’ being rather mis-interpreted into meaning ‘in one morning’.  The penguins had disappeared and nobody knew what to do about it or, for that matter, where they had gone.  It is a common fact that those in power are blamed for everything bad, and yet go completely unnoticed for all that is good.  Parents, the police and God, for example.  It is only when their absence is apparent that we realise how vital they are to our existence.  The same truth applied to the penguins – although it was universally acknowledged that their political style was perfect, complacency (from humans) had led to blame and distrust.

  Their absence fuelled a fact that, only now, is being realised – the world cannot function without their guidance.  On this premise the world refused to do anything until the penguins came up with an explanation – everybody either sat at home moaning to each-other or rioted in the streets killing one another.  Economies crumbled, cities burned, pizza delivery firms enjoyed a boom; and everybody looked at everybody else and blamed the penguins.  Not one person even considered the fact that, perhaps, humanity was to blame.  After all, everybody was well aware that humanity is blameless in every respect…

 

***

 

  Arthur Gosh surveyed the sad scene that sank like daggers on his eyes.  A million penguins milling aimlessly around the dark, freezing wastelands of the Arctic – their beliefs destroyed by him.  He screamed ‘Brothers!’ until his throat was sore.  Not one pair of eyes turned.

  Dejected, he sank into the crowd.  Against his beliefs, he became equal.

 

***

 

   “Look,” said Jesus.  “As I have already said over a hundred times, I as Jesus Christ, King of the Jews, the Son of God and the almighty Messiah.  Anything I’ve missed out?”

   “No, no… carry on.”  Said a policeman.

   “Jolly good… yes, the Messiah.  I am not Joey ‘the lion’ Green.”

  A detective sat opposite Jesus stared at a patch of obtrusive air for a few seconds.

   “Hmm,” he said.  “There is something… I can’t quite put my finger on it!”  He laughed ironically.  “… not quite 100% clear about your story.  The seeds of doubt were just starting to poke through the soil of truth just as you reached the ‘Lo…” in ‘Look’.  From there on the buds of falsehood shot up into the sky and grew into a wonderful and yet dark, mysterious tree that bears a fruit uncannily similar to apples.”

  All was silent.

   “Somewhere on this tree there is an ancient carving, and this legend states ‘Are you taking the piss, or what?’”

   “Ok,” said Jesus, after a long pause.  “Let’s just forget the ‘Jesus’ bit,”

   “Fine!”  Said the detective.

   “I am not a drug dealer,” continued Jesus.  “I arrived in London a few hours ago looking for a church…”

   “A church!”  Said a different policeman.  “Notorious for deals – quiet, not many people about, secluded areas, places to hide, easy to run from.  It all adds up.”

  On the point of despair, Jesus recognised a small matter that had been niggling away for the past ten minutes.

   “Is it always necessary to have fifty policemen and women present at an interrogation?”

   “Well,” said the detective.  “We don’t want you to escape.”

   “And,” continued Jesus.  “Another thirty looking in through doorways and windows?”

   “A new technique,” shouted somebody from the other side of the hall.

   “From America!”  Shouted another.  There were mumbles of agreement.

   “Why in the canteen?”  Asked Jesus.

   “Well,” said the detective.  “In case the interview goes on for any length of time – it saves having to break for dinner.”  Even louder mumbles of agreement.  Somebody tittered.

   “I see,” said Jesus.  “Can I go now?”

   “Just say it… two more times.”  Said the detective.

   “What?”

   “The Jesus bit.”

   “What, you mean ‘I am Jesus Christ, king of the Jews, Son of God and the almighty Messiah’?”

   “And again!”  Screamed somebody from a doorway.

  Jesus sighed and pursed His lips.  “I am Jesus bloody Christ, king of the arsing Jews, Son of that Fat Bastard and, most importantly of all, I am the almighty wanking Messiah!  Now, let me go, otherwise I shall make it be that that tea urn only ever produces piss!”

  There was a cheer and the sound of money changing hands.

   “That’ll be all sir – and don’t do it again!”  Said the detective.

   “Bastards!”  Said Jesus as He walked out of the room.  Somebody placed a five-pound note in His breast pocket.

 

***

 

   “Penguins!”  Bellowed God.  “Penguins!  Listen, for I have spoken.”

  He was greeted with a million ignorance’s.

   “Bloody Jesus!”  Mumbled God.  “If a job’s worth doing…”

  He raised Himself to His full height… realised that ‘infinity’ was rather ‘over doing’ it, and sank back to about six feet.  The heads of the penguins, as one, turned to face God.

   “That got you, didn’t it?”  Said God.  “Now, listen – you have fallen into the exact trap I thought you had dispelled.  How can you leave behind all you have achieved because one of you demands progress?  Your very style demands the progress of all that is good, so why are you defeated now that you have become more advanced?”

   “We are equal – we cannot have a leader.” 

  God took a step back – there is something awe inspiring about a million voices saying the same eight words at the same time.  It tends to take your breath away, give it a good clean and hand it back well ironed.

   “That’s… impressive!”  He stammered.  “But not the truth.  You are as ignorant as humans are stubborn for not accepting your leader.  All the pain and suffering that occurred during the persistent persuasion that you were right to lead – and you are prepared to throw it all away for nothing?”

  The penguins remained silent.

   “You are so important to the world – it can’t do without you, and yet, at the same time, you can’t do without the world.  So decide on a way to elect leaders.  You can still be as equal as you were before, but now you will elect specific penguins to relate to humans.  What do you think?”

  The penguins looked appealingly at one another.

   “Alternatively, I could melt the ice-caps and deplete the local fish stocks.  But I’m sure…”

  He was interrupted by a deafening wash of squawking and shouting.

   “Good birds.”  Said God.  He disappeared.

 

***

 

   “What happened to You?”  God asked a soaked Jesus.

   “Don’t ask.”  He said.

   “It’s all sorted, by the way – with no input from you, I noticed.”

   “Bollocks!”  Muttered Jesus.

   “Son!”  Said a startled God.  “How can you speak to your father in such a way?  Now, piss off and find my brandy… carry on, Mary.”

  Mary Magdalene continued to fan God with a large feather.

 

***

 

  The penguins returned to power the next day and announced that they had just popped off on holiday before totally overhauling their internal autocratic system.  Arthur Gosh was elected to ‘Main, number one, but still slightly equal penguin’ and ruled the world with utter fairness and love.  The only downside to the end of the story is that Jesus never got hold of God’s best tennis racket…

 

 

ML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Ben’s syndrome (from 2001 ish)

August 26, 2008

Mr. Ben’s Syndrome

A short story by

Matthew Adam Langford

 

   “You know what happened?” asked Stacey.

  To arrive at a conclusion it is always essential to know where it all began.  Without even knowing where it all began you end up arriving at a totally false conclusion that will help nobody. 

   “I know everything.  Nobody is going to understand until they know everything.”  Replied Dave.

  Jeremiah Craven and Dean Wivel had met six years ago and struck up an immediate and close friendship.  With friendship come several rules and several different categories of rules that apply to different people and situations.  As an individual you enjoy a repertoire of differing personas that placate those with whom you share company.  This is a rule generally acknowledged and easy to deal with.  This is called Mr. Ben’s Syndrome.

   “What do you mean by everything?”  Asked Stacey.

  Things get complicated when individuals become jelled by friendship.  Mr. Ben’s syndrome allows people to discard their old persona and try on a different one to accommodate whoever they are with.  When a friendship has jelled and another person enters the situation, suddenly a variety of options become available.  Say person A and person B enjoy there own personal Mr. Ben with few difficulties, person C will enter and cause havoc by negating the original Mr. Ben’s and enforcing a multitude of others. 

    “Nobody has any idea of what happened before,” Dave whispered down the phone with an air of disregard.  “To understand why you must first know how.

  Jeremiah Craven and Dean Wivel had created their own very personal and well-defined Mr. Ben.  With it went phraseology and gestures understood only by those two.  If another person entered then their Mr. Ben would have to be very strong, otherwise they wouldn’t have a clue as to what was going on.  The most renowned phrase they used was ‘Massley’.  Everything was either ‘Massley good fuck!’ or ‘Massley good day!’ This is a very simple example of how they communicated and was understood by everybody who knew them.  You could describe their friendship by describing the way they spoke to each other.

   “Well, stop talking in riddles and agree to meet me.” Said Stacey. 

  Friendship is a complicated thing especially when it has jelled.  If a Mr. Ben has been defined between two people it must remain unbreakable and impenetrable.  If you don’t allow for flexibility then things can get very messy.  Jeremiah Craven and Dean Wivel hadn’t allowed for flexibility, and that is why their friendship petered out over many messy and unhappy months.

  Dave was quietly contemplating.  “Where are you now?” he asked. 

   “I’m at home.” Replied Stacey.  “The cottage next to the Post Office.”

   “I’ll be there in an hour.” Said Dave.

~

  About a year before Stacey was talking on the phone to the mysterious Dave, Dean was working as a delivery driver in Brighton.  Although it wasn’t the most mentally stimulating position he’d enjoyed in his various careers, he enjoyed it immensely.  It allowed him the freedom to drive around Sussex and meet people who weren’t going to threaten his intellect.  He would simply get into his van in the morning and drive around the countryside for eight hours with whatever band he felt like blaring from the stereo.

  That morning he was asked to make a delivery to a new customer – some café on the campus of Chichester University.

   “You’ve made quite a name for yourself.” Said Mike, Dean’s boss. “They’ve asked for you personally.”

   “That’s a bit odd.” Said Dean.  “How often does someone ask for a specific delivery driver?”

   “Not often, mate.”  Said Mike.  “You must have been recommended by somebody.”

  Dean arrived at the café at lunchtime and went up to the woman on the till.

   “Hi – Dean Wivel from Brighton’s Brightest Caterers.  I’ve got a delivery for Clara.”

  The woman on the till looked at him blankly.

   “I’m sorry.”  She said.  “We’re not expecting a delivery.”

  Dean looked at her with surprise.

   “This is the Niche café, Chichester University?”

   “Yeah, and I’m Clara.  We are definitely not expecting a delivery today and have certainly not placed an order with… whoever you are.”

   “The BBC,” said Dean.  “The name has absolutely nothing to do with me.”

  Dean made a point of appearing to be glad that a fuck up had been achieved.  Clara was beautiful – long blond hair, piercing brown eyes and a very short skirt that tantalised Dean’s lust.  He admitted ungrudgingly that a mistake had, indeed, been made.  He made a great fuss of being disappointed and announced that ‘heads would roll’ as a result of this catastrophe.  He decided that the stress of the event would mean he would have to stay at the café and eat some lunch.

   “There aren’t many people here.” Declared Dean. “ I’d have thought lunchtime in a Uni café would be mayhem.” Said Dean.

   “It’s reading week – most students have buggered off to Brighton.  What would you like to eat?” asked Clara.

   “Really?  What’s the point in staying open then?” replied Dean.

   “I don’t know to be honest.  It doesn’t bother me really.  I get paid the same wages to do half the work.  What would you like to eat?”

  Dean totally ignored the question and continued to chat to Clara.  They talked for an hour without realising where they were or what they were supposed to be doing.   Dean appeared to be hypnotised by her searching eyes and devastatingly emotional skin.  Clara’s boredom was lifted and snuffed out by the meeting of minds and, admittedly, a fuck off gorgeous arse.

  Dean suddenly jumped up and announced that he’d have to get back to Brighton and explain the cock up.  Clara looked disappointed and made a point of coyly walking back to the kitchen and cleaning the coffee percolator.  Dean followed her and asked her if she’d like to meet up with him again.  She told him that she was moving to Brighton in a couple of weeks and that she’d give him a call.

  Dean’s subsequent dismissal from his best ever job paled into insignificance as his romance with Clara blossomed.  Within a matter of weeks they were a couple and deeply in love.  A plan of attack finely executed by two experts.

~

  Stacey’s stomach was dancing somewhere between her knees and her feet.  She paced up and down her living room with an occasional glance out of the window – as if this would make Dave’s arrival swifter.  It had been six months since the last time she’d seen Dean Wivel – it had been the day before the murder.  He’d seemed perfectly relaxed and happy.  He and Clara had just come back from holiday and seemed to be sharing in a mutual joy that seemed flawless.  As far as Stacey Wivel could see there wasn’t even the slightest of hints that her brother was anything other than blissfully happy. 

  What was the mystery, then?  Why had he killed somebody?  This wasn’t even the hardest part of what had happened or what Stacey was feeling.  The hardest part for Stacey to digest was why Dean had disappeared and not got in touch with her.  Her brother, whom she knew better than anybody, with whom she’d shared every single experience of her life, the person she was closest to in the world, had vanished.  He’d committed a brutal act for reasons completely unknown to anybody and then lost himself without a word.  There was no reason for any of it.  She’d grown close to and adored Clara and knew for sure that she was utterly devoted to Dean.  So why had he killed her?

  Stacey filled another glass with wine and sat down on her leather sofa with a crump.  She’d grown up in the village with Dean and watched him zigzag through life with an efficiency that she could only describe as erratic.  He’d moved from town to town and from job to job, never really happy unless he was at home.  He’d never really settled on one single scheme or one single destination and been happy.  But this was OK.  He was still young and full of enthusiasm for life.  He may not have been sure of what he was doing or where he was going, but he seemed happy enough trying out as much adventure as possible before getting there.  He loved home and he loved Stacey and knew that she’d always understand him and be there for him.  At the last count she’d received the ‘Come And Get Me’ plea seven times now.  She would pick the phone up and hear Dean asking her to come and get him up from wherever his life had gone wrong.  London, Bristol, Exeter, Leeds, Manchester (twice) and Haywards Heath had all enjoyed Dean’s company since he’d left school nine years ago.  She thought that the call would never come after he’d met Clara and settled in Brighton – now she wished for nothing else. 

  Stacey finished her wine and felt a little groggy.  Her nerves were starting to simmer down a little after the initial shock of discovering that somebody knew what had happened on that day in Brighton six months ago.  She’d waited and waited for the slightest scrap of information that may lead to some answers.  At this moment she didn’t care why he’d murdered Clara or what part the mysterious Dave played in it all.  The only thing she wanted to hear from Dave was where Dean was and if he was OK.

                                                                    ~

   “Massley good spliff me’young chapster.” Announced Jeremiah.

   “Moroccan Black is never slack,” answered Dean.  “A mean coont of a resin.”

  Just over five years before Stacey was pacing and waiting, Jeremiah Craven and Dean Wivel were relaxing in their flat following a day’s work.  Dean Wivel was currently working in an independent record shop, whilst Jeremiah Craven was unemployed but enjoying the fruits of small time drug dealing.  They’d been sharing a flat in Wood Green for almost six months and in that time had seen few other people apart from each other.

  Dean Wivel looked up from the floor and stared hard at Jeremiah Craven.  Jeremiah was a tall man with a slightly plump face and long dark hair.  He complemented Dean’s shorter stature, thin face and blond hair.  Although Dean had had a great time over the last six months the old insecurities were starting to set in.  He was missing the village, he was missing Stacey, and he was missing the freedom of movement that only exists in the countryside.  London was exciting and packed with everything he needed – Jeremiah Craven was a good friend with whom he enjoyed a lot of frivolity and indulgence, but he wasn’t free in the sense that he could walk out of his front door and fall straight into a stride.  He had to wait whilst three or four people walked past before he found a gap.  He couldn’t cross the road without having to wait seven minutes before the Green Man flashed up.  He knew that these were just excuses – what he really wanted was his home.  London may have had everything he needed but it didn’t have everything he loved.  He’d already half decided to give it a few more months and then give Stacey a call.

   “What are your plans, Jeremiah?” asked Dean.

   “To get me a fuck off Massley bong and suck it, fuck it and weep.” Replied Jeremiah.

   “No,” said Dean.  “I mean about living here.  The lease is up in three months and I was wondering what you wanted to do.”

  Jeremiah Craven looked hard at Dean Wivel and tried to assess what he was going to say.  Dean’s question had come somewhat out of the blue and was confusing him.  He had no plans, no ambition and absolutely no desire to think three months ahead. He was quite happy just selling enough blow to live on and smoking enough to thrive on.  Moving on or looking for another flat never entered the equation. 

   “Couldn’t give a fuck, mate.” He replied.  “I’m happy here and nowhere else ya coont.  What you asking for?  You movin’ on?”

   “Dunno, mate.”  Said Dean.  “I think the grass of home is a’calling.  Massley fucked with the shite and smog of the Big town, mate.  I need a bit of country air and not the puerile piss that infect me lungs now.”

  Jeremiah Craven dropped his guard for a second.  One minute ago he was wallowing happily in his little rigid world with no cares or problems, now Dean had kicked sand in his face and announced that he wanted to move.

   “What the fuck’s up with you, Dean Wivel?” asked Jeremiah.

   “Changes, mate.  Changes are needed.  I can’t rest easy knowing that what I really want is at home.”

   “Where’s your FIE gone, mate?  You fuckin’ frigid or what?” asked Jeremiah.

   “Eh?” replied Dean.

   “Your ‘Fuck It Element’ you twat.  What’s happened to your ability to say ‘Fuck It’ and do whatever?  In order to exploit this life to which we have grown accustomed, meaning you and me in this flat, you must possess the need to say ‘Fuck It’ at any given opportunity.  A situation presents itself and you must grab it’s bollocks and announce ‘Fuck it you cunt!’”

  Dean smirked.

   “What has that got to do with me?  Massley good useage of the word ‘bollocks’ by the way mate.  Wivel scores it seven on the ‘Wivel’s Bollocks Master Cuss Chart’, mate.  I can’t stay in one place for over long, Jeremiah Craven.  I need to move on.  I’m not saying it’s definite mate, but it’s a possibility.”

  Jeremiah Craven looked at Dean for about a minute without saying a word.  A world of unwanted possibility was opening up.  He knew he was different to Dean – he liked to procrastinate and stew whereas Dean liked to move and lurch from this to that.  Jeremiah Craven liked a rut; Dean Wivel liked variety.  He was also intelligent enough to know that the word ‘possibility’ meant definite.

   “Spliff it, mate.” Said Jeremiah.

   “I don’t want one, mate.” Said Dean.

   “I said roll a fucking spliff!” screamed Jeremiah.  Dean jumped at the shout and shot to his feet.

   “Easy, Crave, Easy!” said Dean, a little in fear. “No need for the antics.  What’s your problem?”

  Jeremiah didn’t say anything; he just looked at the floor.

   “I don’t want to cause any problems for you mate,” said Dean. “And I don’t want you thinking that we have to come up with decisions today.  I just want you to know that we’re not attached at the hip and that I might want to move on.  I’m the bloke who lives here for my own reasons, not a bloke who lives here to complement you.”

  Jeremiah Craven understood.  He understood what Dean was doing.  He was doing things for his own reasons and not taking their existence into account.  What they had was special – they existed and lived in the flat day after day without a care for what other people did or thought.  They had created a rigid Mr. Ben.  They had jelled their friendship.  Dean Wivel was going to shatter it.

   “You frigid cunt!” said Jeremiah.  “Look at what we’ve got, mate.  All the wankers who pass through mate and we’ve found each other.  You’re my best friend at the moment and I don’t want to ruin that, but you have to see what we’ve got here is unbreakable.  If you say you want to leave then that’s the end, Dean Wivel.”

   “What the fuck are you talking about?” said Dean.  “I’ll only be a couple of hours away.  It’s not as if we cease to be mates once we part company…”

   “You don’t fucking get it, do you?” said Jeremiah.  “We’ve got our Mr. Ben here.  We’ve worked so hard to get it right at it can’t be broken.  It’s rigid, mate.  You make a Mr. Ben and it’s set forever.  If you change it then it’s fucked and can never be fixed.  Don’t ruin what we’ve built.”

  Dean couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He went to bed thinking that he’d totally misjudged the person he thought to be his best friend.

  The next three months were a nightmare for Dean Wivel.  Jeremiah saw to it that Dean’s life was as miserable as it could possibly be.  The day he picked up the phone and played his ‘Come And Get Me Plea’ card to Stacey was one of the best of his life.

~

  Stacey jumped when she heard the knock at the door.  She’d drifted off thinking about Dean and their past and almost forgotten about Dave.  She got to her feet and shuffled slowly towards the door.

  …So this was it.  She thought.  …months of frustration and I’m about to find some serious stuff out.

  She slowly opened the door and peered out.  A tall, tanned man was being held up by the warm, moist night.  He was wearing a long, brown jacket and a pair of round glasses.  He looked at Stacey and flashed a self-satisfied grin.

    “You’d better have something important to tell me or I’ll kick you so fucking hard…”

   “Relax, Stacey.” Interrupted Dave.  “I know absolutely everything there is to know.  I’ve come here because Dean wanted me to…”

   “…You know where Dean is?” screamed Stacey.

   “I’ll tell you everything in the order that it needs to be told.  Dean felt guilty that he hadn’t got in touch, and he obviously can’t come himself.  So he asked me to come and tell you everything that happened… and I mean everything.

  Stacey invited him in and started to cry.  Dave said nothing and walked into the lounge.  He gazed around the room with an air of disregard and sat down.  Stacey came in after him wiping tears away from her eyes.  She picked up her glass of wine and stood by the fire.

   “You must excuse me but I’m a little pissed and emotional.” Said Stacey.

   “Don’t worry,” said Dave.  “You’re probably in the right frame of mind in that case.  There’s a lot of stuff you wouldn’t even have imagined.  For a start Dean didn’t just kill Clara that day.”

  Stacey looked at him with horror and astonishment battling for supremacy on her face. 

   “He killed other people?” she asked.

   “One other person.  All that will become clear, however.  You’ll need to hear it from the very beginning to understand what and why.” Replied Dave.  “I’m not going to sugar-coat this or leave anything out just to make you feel better.  Once I’ve told you you’ll wish that you’d remained ignorant.  The outcome is a hell of a lot worse than you would imagine.  If you take my advice just accept that Dean is OK and will remain safe for the rest of his life.  You will never see him again, I’m afraid, but he’ll let you know where he is and how he’s doing.  The best thing for you will be for me to just go and leave it at that.  It depends on how inquisitive you are.”

  Stacey thought about this.  She wanted to remember Dean the way he was and not imagine him as some brutal killer.  But she already knew that he was.  She could not go through the rest of her life not knowing what had driven him to it.  She loved him too much for that.  Plus she was very inquisitive.

   “Fuck it!” she stated.  “Whatever happens I’ll never believe in Dean the way I used to.  Tell me the whole fucking story.”

~

  Six months before, Dean was stepping on to a train back to Brighton.  He and Clara were returning from holiday, and he had finally battled his way through all the crowds, suitcases, people and ticket offices to the finish. 

   They journeyed back in silence, enjoying the memories of their until recently current holiday.  It had been a simple package affair to Southern France.  Nothing expensive or extravagant, just a week away from England, work and monotony.   They’d enjoyed the local wine and the local beach with fragmented pleasure. 

   They arrived back at Clara’s flat late in the evening, quickly unpacking before going to the pub.  They sat at a table in silence for a few minutes, quietly watching the bustle of the pub and thinking gently about the day’s events.

   “It’s good to be back.” Said Dean.  “You start to miss little things about home when you go away.”

   “We only went away for a week!” Said Clara.

   “Yeah, I know.” Said Dean.  “But it’s enough time to get homesick.”

   “You weren’t even homesick.” Said Clara.  “You were culture shocked.”

  Clara laughed as she said this.

   “How can you get culture shock in France?” asked Dean.  “It’s hardly any different to here!”

   Clara continued to laugh.

   “Fuck off!  So I got a little homesick!” pleaded Dean. “It’s hardly a good enough reason to start laughing at me.”

  Clara calmed down a little and gave him a stare.

   “Ok… I admit I couldn’t cope with missing a few little things like telly and football, but that hardly means I was culture shocked.”

   “You spent six hours on Sunday looking for a newspaper so you could check up on the football results!” said Clara.

   “So I get a little obsessed with my passions, what’s the problem.”

  Clara had stopped laughing by now.

   “More like you get passionate about your obsessions.” She said.

  Dean silently admitted defeat – he couldn’t be bothered to argue.

  They returned to their gestureless slouch and surveyed the busy room.  The Practical Pig was the nearest and the dearest pub to Clara’s flat.  It catered for the young people of the area by fusing student prices with local appeal.  It was fun, not too loud and brightly lit.  Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy was playing in the background.

  Without a word Clara shot up from her seat and raced across the bar.  She reached a tall man whose back was turned and whispered something in his ear.  The man turned round and saw Clara.  They laid welcoming hands on each other, talking and laughing loudly as they did so – although Dean couldn’t make out what they were saying. 

  Dean returned to his drink and felt a little disgruntled.  All he wanted to do was enjoy a quiet pint and go home for the night.  Now he’d have to contend with meeting an apparent stranger who was likely to shatter his in intentions of slumber.

   “Dean!” screamed Clara.

  Dean rose laboriously from his seat and wondered towards Clara and The Man.  Halfway he stopped and remembered that he’d forgotten his pint, so made a big deal of going back to his table and getting it.  He turned round and walked towards Clara and The Man.

   “Dean!  This is Harvey from Chichester – we worked together in the Café where you and I met.  I haven’t seen him for over a year!” said Clara.

  Dean politely shook his hand and said hello.

   “Where are you staying?” Clara asked Harvey.

  Harvey was actually very tall and thin.  He was wearing small glasses and sported a short, ginger hair cut.  He spoke quite quickly.

   “Well that’s the problem you see,” he said.  “I was staying with a mate in Gloucester Road but we had a bit of a falling out.  I haven’t got anywhere to stay.  I was hoping that the pub might put me up for the night or I was going to go down to the Backpacker’s hostel and fake a German accent.”

  Dean knew it was coming.  There was nothing he could do to stop it and once it had been said there was no way he could resist for fear of looking like a complete cunt. Any moment now she was going to say it… there it is!

   “What?  No I couldn’t possibly.” Said Harvey.

   “No honestly.  Come and stay at my place for the night.” Said Clara. “I’ve just come back off holiday so there’s no food and it’s a bit of a mess, but at least you don’t have to pay anything.  I’ve got a couple of bottles of wine as well!  We can have a drink and a chat!”

   “It’s tempting.”  Said Harvey.  Dean was looking at a patch of wall about three feet to the right of the bar.

   “Dean will be staying the night as well so it should be quite a laugh.  What do you say.”

  Harvey thought for a few seconds.

   “Oh, go on then.”  He said.

   “Excellent!” screamed Clara.  “You don’t mind do you, Dean?”

  Dean dragged all his reserve sincerity as close to the surface as he possibly could.  He couldn’t believe it!  The first night back from their holiday and some tosser he’d never met before was going to be snoring in the next room and pissing in the toilet.

  Bollocks!

   “Yeah, of course I don’t mind,” said Dean.  “I’ll even go out in the morning and buy some eggs for breakfast.”

~

  To his surprise Dean found that he was enjoying himself immensely.  It was nearly three in the morning and they’d polished off the two bottles of wine and were now halfway through the reserve bottle of cheap Vodka Clara kept at the back of her food cupboard.

  Dean had initially done his best to stay out of Clara and Harvey’s conversation.  They’d spent twenty minutes talking about old times and how they exploited their obvious talent for soft-core mischief.  Rudeness to ugly/impolite customers, stealing tea and coffee, spitting on teacakes and exploiting the seemingly constantly pissed manager were the main topics of conversation.

  They soon bored of this and started talking of the present and future.  At this point Dean was involved and pretty soon became the engine of the conversation.  It was his area of expertise…  if there was one thing Dean excelled at it was the ability to talk at length about his many theories concerning the future.

  The wine flowed; the Vodka followed.  The sickness began pretty harshly for Dean who played his usual trick of talking and drinking in equal amounts.  He came back from the toilet the first time feeling fairly refreshed and continued to laugh, converse and drink.  The second time he came back he felt like death.  It was ten past three and all he wanted now was to go to bed. 

   “I can’t believe this.”  Said Harvey.  “At ten o clock I was expecting to be spending the night in some fuck off dirty hole, and here I am at three in the morning drinking Vodka with one of my best mates.”

   “Are you having a good night?” asked Clara.

   “It’s been great.  I think Dean’s starting to flag a bit, though.”

  Dean lifted his head as far from his right shoulder as he possibly could.  He was slouched on the floor with his back against Clara’s sofa.  He’d had far too much to drink and his head was spinning wildly.  He hadn’t eaten properly for hours so the vomiting had made him feel terribly weak.  Despite this he still felt mentally strong and was fully aware of what was going on.  He was just finding it difficult to convey this awareness in a physical way.

   “I’m fine.” He grumbled.  “Bed ‘ould be nice vough.”

  At this point he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer and clasped them shut.  Clara and Harvey silently stared at their glasses for about two minutes.

   “It’s good to see you again.” Said Harvey.

   “It’s been weird you not being around.  I know that coming here was part of it all and I think I’ve coped with everything quite well, but…”

  Dean’s cough and mutterish request for more drink if bed wasn’t a viable option stopped Clara from finishing her sentence.  Even though his eyes were shut and his head was spinning he was still listening to the conversation and understanding every word.

   “Don’t say too much.” Said Harvey.

  Harvey and Clara continued to sit on the floor opposite Dean.  They stared at their glasses without saying a word.  The flat was deadly silent now that conversation and laughter wasn’t filling the void.  A dog barking a few streets away was answered by a drunken laugh just outside the flat.  Whoever had been so amused by the dog lost some form of control and dropped a glass bottle outside Clara’s front door.  The sound of glass against pavement made Harvey and Clara jump.  Dean didn’t stir.

   “It’s quiet.”  Said Clara.

  Harvey nodded in agreement.  He looked hard at Clara for the first time since Dean’s head had supposedly announced that he would no longer be taking part in the evening.

   “Massley quiet.”  Said Harvey.

  Dean allowed the words to settle before making any judgements.  Occasionally things are said or things happen and you try hard to understand why you feel so unsettled.  Some might say that it’s de ja vue which is nothing more than your brain playing tricks on you.  Sometimes, when you see something or hear something that really shouldn’t be seen or heard, you start to shit yourself.  Dean made his judgement and decided to act.

   “I’m going to bed.” Dean announced.  He opened his eyes wide and looked hard at Harvey.  There was something in his face that was unsettling.  Where there shouldn’t have been anything familiar there was something Dean suddenly saw.  A brightness in the eye; a turn of the mouth; a lift of the chin.  Although Harvey spoke quickly there was a tone to the voice Dean recognised.  The way Harvey sat there holding his glass awoke a distant feeling in Dean. 

  Dean suddenly felt very drunk and put the strange sensations down to his extreme state.  He tried to get up and immediately fell straight back on to floor.  He looked at the guilty face of Clara.

   “Can you help me please?” he asked her.  She put her wine down, looked at Harvey with an expression that Dean missed, and lifted Dean from the floor and on to the sofa.  Dean looked up again and saw a very faint smirk on Harvey’s face.

   “Good night, Harvey.  I hope you sleep well and enjoy the comforts of the floor.”

  Harvey continued with his half hidden smirk.

   “And a good night to you, Dean.  I’m sure the floor will offer the same pleasures as your bed.  Sleep tight.”

  Between them both, Dean and Clara (who was also starting to feel very drunk) managed to stumble into the bedroom.  They undressed in silence and got into bed.  They lay there without touching or speaking for ten minutes.

   “He seems quite sound.” Dean said eventually.

   “Yeah,” said Clara. “He’s a really nice bloke.”

  Dean decided to close his eyes and sleep.

   “Massley good night, Clara.”

  Clara replied with silence.

~

  Dean woke at midday feeling very well considering his exertions from the night before.  He looked over at Clara and saw that she was still asleep.  He slowly got out of bed and put his clothes on whilst trying not to disturb Clara.  He opened the bedroom door and walked to the end of the hallway and visited the toilet.  He splashed his face with water and looked in the mirror.  He felt mentally prepared.

  He left the bathroom and walked back up the hallway to the door that led into the lounge.  He walked in and saw Harvey fast asleep on the floor.  He carefully picked up the keys to the flat from the floor, walked around Harvey and went to the front door.  He opened it and stepped into the bright, demanding day. 

  The fresh air injected a little vigour into Dean Wivel’s calm mood.  He walked towards the corner shop surveying the surrounding buildings and busily hurried people.  Everything seemed very calm and relaxed as he reached the shop and gently purchased some eggs, a loaf of bread and a pint of milk.

  As he left the shop a man in round glasses and a long, brown coat approached him.

   “Dean Wivel?” he asked.

  Dean was a little surprised to hear a complete stranger say his name.

   “What?  Yeah.  Hello.” He replied.

  The round spectacled man shuffled uneasily as he looked at Dean.

   “Look, I know this may sound very strange and bizarre coming from a stranger, but you must listen to and act on what I say.”  He said.

  Dean wasn’t as fresh as he thought he was when he’d left Clara’s flat.  He suddenly felt very tired and hung over.

   “What?  Who are you?” he asked wearily.

   “It doesn’t matter who I am.  You can’t go back to Clara’s flat.  You must leave Brighton now and never come back.” Said the Man.

   “What the fuck are you talking about!” said Dean Wivel. “How do you know me and Clara?”

   “It doesn’t matter!” shouted the Man.  “If you go back there you’ll regret it forever.  The worst possible thing is waiting for you.  As soon as you walk through that door your life will change.”

  Dean smiled and looked at the Man through a haze of midday illness.

   “Look… everything is fine at Clara’s.  I don’t know who you are or what you know about me but there is nothing unexpected at Clara’s flat.  Everything will be fine.  Just go away.” Replied Dean.

  Dean turned round and started to walk back to the flat.  The Man stood motionless for a second and then ran to Dean and stood in front of him.

   Please listen to me!” he pleaded. “You don’t understand.  Really bad things are going on with Clara…”

   “What bad things?  What has Clara done that means I have to go away?  This is my home, where I work, where all my friends are.  It’s taken me years to find a place that feels like home.  Why should I suddenly leave all that behind on the word of some complete nutter?”

  The Man looked at Dean with an expression of horror.

   “I know it sounds stupid, but you must listen.  If you go back there…”

   “I know.” Interrupted Dean. “Bad and weird things.  Please, it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

   “What?” said the Man.

   “Now please.  Leave me alone.” 

  The Man allowed Dean to walk off.

   “I couldn’t believe it!” said Dave to Stacey.  “He’d just been approached by a complete stranger and told something utterly stupid – and he just dismissed it.  I wasn’t expecting him to just agree with me and leave Brighton without resistance, but his reaction seemed very unusual.”

   “I still don’t get what happened.”  Said Stacey. “Why did you tell him to leave Brighton?  Why were you hanging around Clara’s flat waiting to see Dean?”

   “I’d been waiting all night to see him.  I’d been waiting for three years to find the right moment and talk to him.”

   “Why?” asked Stacey.

~

  Dean arrived back at Clara’s flat and opened the front door.  He was a little shook up following the unexpected meeting with the stranger, so he quickly walked through the lounge (hardly noticing that Harvey had disappeared from the floor) and into the kitchen.  He poured himself a glass of water from the tap and drank it quickly.

  He slowly unpacked the small bag of shopping and poured himself another glass of water.  Feeling a little more refreshed he walked out of the kitchen and up the hallway to Clara’s room.  He placed his hand on the doorknob and was about to walk in when he felt a sudden urge to use the toilet again.  He went back down the hallway and into the toilet.  He splashed his face again after going for piss and felt a lot better.

  He left the toilet and walked back up the hallway to Clara’s room.  He reached her door and opened it.  As he walked in he looked over towards the bed… Harvey and Clara were sat up in bed totally naked with beaming smiles on their faces.

   “Massley good fuck me’young chapster.” Said Harvey.

  Dean stared open mouthed and fell gently against the wall.

   “Jeremiah Craven.” Whispered Dean. 

   “Jeremiah Craven!” Screamed Stacey.

   “Jeremiah Craven!” Agreed Dave.

   “Jeremiah Craven.” Announced Clara.

   “Jeremiah Craven.” Said Jeremiah Craven.  “Who else?”

  Dean stared at Jeremiah Craven and Clara Bodge for a few seconds before turning his head and looking out of the window.  He was completely unable to summon a word or a phrase to account for his horror.  He slowly slid down the wall and ended up sat on the bedroom floor.  A tear washed down his cheek.

   “Cunts.”  He whispered.

   “Did you really think somebody as stunning as my little Clara here would go for a scrawny little twat like you!” laughed Jeremiah. “She’s mine, mate.  I was fucking her years before you got your dirty little paws on her.”

  Dean continued to stare out of the window.

   “Come on, Dean.”  Said Clara. “You must admit he is amazing.  You don’t really believe that at any time over the last six months I’ve felt anything other than complete loathing towards you?  You! Compared to Jeremiah?  You’re nothing.”

  Dean sat motionless and expressionless on the floor.

   “I’ve waited five years for this moment, Dean Wivel.” Announced Jeremiah Craven. “I never thought that you’d fall for it.  All I had to do was lose a bit of weight, put on a pair of glasses, dye my hair and talk a little more quickly.  I knew you wouldn’t recognise me.”

  Dean slowly turned his head towards the two people in the bed.

   “I sussed it last night.” He spoke disjointedly.  “Well, I thought I had.  I put it down to being a bit pissed and tired and, but…”

  As Dean drifted off into some other world Jeremiah and Clara laughed hysterically.

   “I’ve always had this theory,” giggled Jeremiah. “About the whole Mr. Ben syndrome thing.  If you enter another Mr. Ben totally out of context then you can be whoever you like.  The fact that you know me inside out means nothing.  Give it five years distance and change the shape of things ever so slightly, I could enter your new Mr. Ben without you even noticing.”

  Dean wiped the tears from his face.

   “You won’t believe how much work I’ve had to put in to get this far, Dean Wivel.” Said Jeremiah.  “I’ve slowly encroached into your life over the last five years until I reached the point where I control everything.  That’s right, Dean, I control absolutely everything in your life.  I control your bird, I control your jobs, I control where you go on holiday – fuck it!  I even control your shags!

   “How does that feel Dean?  I want you to feel bad.  I want you to feel like you can’t go on.  I want you to feel like there’s nothing left in your life that means anything.  I want to control your feelings.  I want to control your destiny.  And hey, guess what?  I do.”

  Dean looked at Jeremiah and shed another tear.  He glanced at Clara quickly before fixing his gaze at the wall, unable to look her in the face.

   “Haven’t you got a mind of your own?” Dean said slowly.

   “Of course I’ve got a mind of my fucking own!” laughed Clara.  “I’m not here because Jeremiah forced me to.  You see I actually believe what Jeremiah says.  I listened to what he told me about you and what you did to him.  I love him so much that I agreed to do whatever it takes for him to get even with you.  The way I see it, you destroyed his life so he deserves to destroy your life.”

   “You’re both fucking evil and screwed up.” Said Dean, softly.

   “It’s got nothing to do with that, Dean.” Said Jeremiah.  “It’s about revenge.  It’s about setting straight what you’ve screwed up.”

   “What have I done?” asked Dean.  “I didn’t do anything!”

  Jeremiah laughed at this.  He lent over to Clara and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  “Go and make me a cup of tea.”

  Clara got up and walked over to Dean.

   “Take a good look at this body, because you’re never going to touch it or look at again.” She said.

  Dean continued to look elsewhere.  Clara laughed and walked out of the bedroom.

   “You always did have a weird control over people, Jeremiah.  I don’t know how you do it, or what it is about you, but there’s something about you – something indefinable.  You can make people do whatever you want them to do.  You can get into people’s heads and screw them up.”

  Jeremiah laughed.

   “I’m glad you recognise that because that’s what I’m having the most difficulty with.  That’s the very reason why I’m here.  I thought you were going to do whatever I wanted.  I thought that we’d established a Mr. Ben so well defined that it could never be broken.  But you broke it.  You destroyed what I’d built and just walked away.  Why did you do that?”

  Dean looked across from the point where he’d been staring and back at Jeremiah.

   “I didn’t do anything.  All I wanted to do was move away.” He whispered.

   “You betrayed me you fucking wanker!” screamed Jeremiah.  “All those times we had, all those laughs we had, all the people I ignored because I thought I’d found somebody I could fuse with.  You and me, Dean.  We could’ve been something really special.  We could’ve been the greatest.  And you walked away.”

  Dean slowly rose to his feet and stood limply against the wall.

   “Now the punishment for that is you lose everything.  You now have no girlfriend.  You will lose your job.  You will lose your flat.  All you have left is that shitty little village and that slag of a sister of yours.”

  Dean continued to lean faintly against the wall.

   “I can’t believe it.”  Said Dean.  “I thought I’d finally done it.  I’d found a place where I was happy, I fell in love with somebody I thought was perfect and I had a life I didn’t want to leave…”

   “…And it was all down to me.”  Said Jeremiah.  “Must make you feel sick, Dean Wivel.  I’ll bet it doesn’t feel half as bad as I felt.  I thought I’d lost it.  The ability to make people do whatever I wanted them to do.  Fuck me I was wrong!  It gave me more power, more will and more intent.”

  Dean looked at Jeremiah and shook his head.

   “And that’s what I want you to find out, Dean.  I want to see how much power, will and intent you’ve got compared to me.  I can build and destroy somebody’s life.  I want to see if you can end it.”

  Clara walked back into the room with a tray of cups.  She put it down on the floor and picked one up to give to Dean.  He ignored her totally.  She laughed and gave it to Jeremiah instead.

   “I’m hungry.”  Said Dean.

  Clara picked up her own cup of tea and got back into bed.

   “Now Dean,” said Jeremiah.  “I want you to do something.  Look in the top drawer over in that corner and tell me what you see.”

  Dean slowly turned round and walked towards the chest of drawers in the corner.  He stopped for a second and took a long deep breath and opened the top drawer.  He stared for a few seconds at the object resting on a pile of underwear.

   “It’s a gun.”  Said Dean.

  Jeremiah and Clara laughed in unison.

   “Well spotted,” said Jeremiah.  “I’m glad you’ve recognised what it is because there’s a lot I want you to understand before you use it.  First I want you to tell me how you’re feeling.”

  Dean left the gun untouched and closed the drawer.

   “I feel sick Jeremiah.  Everything was so good and the way I wanted it to be.  You’ve been here five minutes and now everything is the complete opposite.  There’s nothing left for me.  It’s all been destroyed.  I don’t understand what I’ve done.”

  Jeremiah said nothing for a little while.

   “Where’s your FIE, Dean Wivel?”  He asked, eventually.

   “What?”

   “Your ‘Fuck It Element’ you twat.  What’s happened to your ability to say ‘Fuck It’ and do whatever?  In order to exploit this life to which we have grown accustomed, meaning you and me in this flat, you must possess the need to say ‘Fuck It’ at any given opportunity.  A situation presents itself and you must grab it’s bollocks and announce ‘Fuck It you cunt!’

   “I said that to you once and you didn’t get it… you didn’t get it at all.  In that gun there is a single bullet.  You have to decide which one of us is to receive it.

   “Remember the power, the intent and the will?  Well, if you have the power then you’ll kill me, because then you would have righted the wrong you think I’ve done you.  If you have the intent then you’ll shoot Clara, because she’s the main reason you feel this bad.  You loved her; she made you happy.  If you really loved her that much then you’ll recognise that she has to die.  You can then live on, in some prison cell, slowly festering and rotting – hating yourself and everybody around you.

   “And if you have the will, you’ll use it on Dean Wivel.  How can you go on?  You know that your life is over and that I’ll haunt you forever.  If you’re brave enough, if you possess enough will, you will use that bullet on yourself.”

  Dean turned round and stared at Jeremiah in disbelief.  He stood completely silent unable to comprehend what was being asked of him.

   “What if I just turn around and walk away?” he asked.  “You’ve done what you wanted – you’ve destroyed my life, you’ve got the girl.  Why does there have to be bloodshed?  Just let me go and try to get over it and leave me alone.  Why do you have to push it even further?”

   “Because I want to see how far you will go.  We jelled, Dean Wivel.  You might not see it now but we built an unbreakable friendship.  Our Mr. Ben was totally rigid and unbreakable.  It still is.  To break it one of us has to die and that will be the end.  If you walk away I will pick that gun up and shoot you in the back.  It has to end.”

  Dean looked at his feet.  He didn’t speak for what seemed like a lifetime.

   “I get it.”  He said, finally.

  Dean turned round and walked back to the chest of drawers.  He slowly opened the top drawer and picked up the gun.  Without closing the drawer he turned back round and walked to the foot of the bed.

   “I do get it, Jeremiah.  I’ve always understood what it meant to you.  The problem was you didn’t understand what it meant to me.  Fuck all, that’s what.  It’s a game.  You don’t understand that the whole thing is a game.  You can’t make new rules or try and change the old ones.  Whoever you want me to shoot it will ultimately be for the wrong reasons.  It’s not up to you to make the choice.”

   “That’s where you’re wrong, Dean.”  Said Jeremiah.  “There’s only one person who understands the reasons.  I’ve already made the choice.  It’s up to you to work that out.”

   “And how do you feel about this?”  Dean asked Clara.  “You haven’t said anything for ages.  Don’t you care that he might want me to shoot you?”

   “I told you, Dean,” said Clara.  “I don’t care.  After what you did I’d do anything for Jeremiah.  I’d even die for him.  That’s what love is all about.”

   “No it isn’t.” announced Dean.  As he said this he opened the barrel of the gun and let the bullet fall to the floor.  He kicked it under the bed.

   “There isn’t a winner or a right choice.  You know, Jeremiah, that nobody will get killed now.  You just want to play little games.  You think that Clare’s a weak woman, but she’s not.  She knows that I wouldn’t shoot her.  She also knows that I haven’t got it in me to shoot you or myself.  You think that you’ve won, but you haven’t.  You also know that it is just a game.  The whole Mr. Ben thing means nothing.  It may be a simple way to describe people and psychology, but it means fuck all.

   “There’s only one question you’ve asked that has had any relevance – have I got the will?  Well…Yes I have.”

  Dean smiled as he said this.

   “What?” asked Jeremiah.

  Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out two bullets.  Before either Jeremiah or Clara understood what was going on he’d put the bullets in the barrel, pulled back the trigger and pointed it at Jeremiah.

   “As I said, Crave, Clara’s not a weak woman.  She wouldn’t agree to die for you.  You might have convinced her that it would be a laugh to get me to fall in love with her before you unleash your little plan, but she’d never die for you.”

  Jeremiah looked absolutely mortified.

   “What are you doing?” he cried.

   “I knew that the gun was in the drawer.  I also knew that you were too piss weak to put a live round in there, so I took the trouble to go out and get a couple!” shouted Dean.  “One for you and one for her!

  As Dean said her! he turned the gun towards Clara and shot her square between the eyes, killing her instantly.

   “Oh my God!” squealed Jeremiah.  “What have you done!”

  He leant over Clara’s bloodstained body and tried to lift her head.  Unfortunately, most of her head was dripping off the wall, so he caressed her naked body instead.

   “What have you done, Dean.” Cried Jeremiah Craven.  “You Cunt!  You’ve killed her!  You’ve killed her!  You weren’t supposed to kill anybody!  Oh my God she’s dead!  You’ve mutilated her you bastard!”

  Dean smiled and pulled the trigger back on the gun.

   “The will to win,” said Dean.  “Must far exceed the other’s will to win.  It wasn’t about winning for you, Jeremiah; it was about playing a game.  You didn’t take the game seriously enough – which is why she has died.”

   “How did you know about the gun?”  Sobbed Jeremiah, shaking uncontrollably as he held what was left of Clara.

   “Because you’re a dumb cunt, Jeremiah Craven!”

  There was a wicker chair in front of the chest of drawers.  Dean walked towards it and sat down.

   “Leave her alone and listen to me, Jeremiah.”

  Jeremiah looked over and saw the gun pointed at his head.  He carefully unwrapped his arms from around Clara’s body and sat round attentively to look at Dean.  He was totally naked, covered in blood and crying his heart out.  He painted a sorry picture.

   “The tables have turned somewhat, eh, Jeremiah?” said Dean.

   “Fuck you!” screamed Jeremiah Craven.

   “Watch your mouth, please.  You have to understand, Crave, that I know exactly what’s been going on and I know exactly what you’ve been trying to do from the very day you started.  You really should be more careful when you’re hatching schemes to destroy the person you live with, especially when they have their ear pressed up against the wall.”

  Jeremiah looked wearily at Dean.

   “You knew what I was doing?” he asked.

   “From day one!”  Announced Dean.  “From the day I overheard you telling some cunt on the phone what you were going to do, to when you arrived in Brighton yesterday.  I’ve known your every movement for the last five years.  I knew exactly where and when you met Clara, I know that it was you who called the caterers and asked specifically for me to go to the café.  I thought about making it more interesting by ignoring her and leaving it up to you to push harder, but I wanted to get it done with.”

   “How?  How could you possibly know?” asked Jeremiah.

   “Because you’re dumb!  You don’t plan a scheme as grand as yours without leaving a mark.  There were people you freaked out along the way.  I simply posed as a kind of understanding uncle figure and got what information I wanted out of them.  You thought that you’d tied everything up and made the whole plan watertight.  You fucked up Massley style mate.”

  Jeremiah looked at the gun pointed at his head and leaned back a little.

   “Are you going to kill me as well?”  He asked.

   “Yeah, in a minute.  First, though, I want to know why you did it.  Why did you devote your life to the effort of destroying mine.”

   “I just thought it would be… a bit of a laugh.  You did hurt me, you know.  I don’t know why, but…”

   “It had nothing to do with Mr. Ben syndromes or friendship,” said Dean.  “It’s because you’re a fucking faggot, and you wanted to fuck me, isn’t it?”

  Jeremiah looked angrily at the gun.

   “What?”  Answered an astonished Jeremiah. “I’m no fucking queer!  What the fuck are talking about!”

   “Which fucking word didn’t you understand!  You’re a queer cunt and you wanted to fuck me.  As simple as!”

  Jeremiah Craven was clinging desperately to what remnants of reality remained.

   “Dean!” he shouted.  “You’re talking shit!  I’m not queer!  I’ve been shagging Clara for the last three years!  How the fuck could I be queer if I was doing that?”

  Dean looked at Jeremiah and smiled.

   “Yeah, I know.” He said whimsically.  “Just checking.  It all comes down to who wants it the most and who possesses the bollocks to see it through.  I just chucked in the queer thing on the off chance that you actually were.”

   “What?” said Jeremiah Craven.  “Are you some sort of gay basher, then.  Have you sunk that low that you want to humiliate and hurt queers?  You’re fucked up, mate.”

   “No.” said Dean, coldly.  “It’s just that I’ve been planning this occasion for a while and I promised myself that I’d throw in a few teasers for you, just to throw you off guard.  All I want to hear you say is that you’ve lost.”

  Jeremiah Craven adjusted his position on the bed so that he was leaning back a little more.

   “Fuck you!” said Jeremiah Craven.  “I’ve got nothing to lose now.  Just shoot me and get it done with.  I’m not giving you the satisfaction of saying that you’ve won or that I’ve lost.  Yeah, I fucked up and I should’ve been more careful.  But you broke our friendship!  You took away the one thing that meant more to me than anything because you’re too weak and pathetic to stick to anything.

   “All you had to do was stick around a bit longer.  Another year – what’s a year?  But no, you had to fuck off back to little Stacey because you couldn’t hack it.”

  Dean remained silently smiling in the wicker chair.

   “What do you think that really did to me?  How do you think that really made me fell?  Maybe the Mr. Ben thing is just a load of bollocks, but all that friendship stuff is true.  I’d never had a mate like you before.  We could pull birds together, smoke puff all night, talk bollocks for days on end.  It was the best few months of my life.  And just because you were bored – because that’s all it came down to – you fucked off home.  Ok, I admit the big plan was out of order and would’ve hurt you really badly if it had come off, but I never meant to kill you.  It was just a bit of a laugh.”

  Dean lowered the gun.

   “None of that matters to me.”  Said Dean.  “I’ve been festering for five years.  Whatever plan I had to stop you has totally gone.  That was five years ago.  I’ve discovered something better, stronger… something that will out live your pathetic little desire for ditsy friendships and bonds.  I’ve got power.”

     With that Dean pulled the trigger and shot Jeremiah Craven in the head.  He died instantly not knowing that Dean’s own plan was just beginning.

~

  Stacey’s eyes were red and puffed up.  She’d just been told a story about three people whom she thought she knew.  Now she realised that she didn’t know either of them, especially the one she thought she knew best.

   “When I heard the second gun shot I banged on the door.  Dean let me in and told me everything.”  Said Dave.

   “How come nobody knew about Jeremiah?  If he’d been shot then surely his blood would have gone everywhere.”

   “It wasn’t easy.  We had to clean and paint the walls, change the bedding and clean the room as thoroughly as possible so no trace of Jeremiah Craven was left.  We waited until it was dark and wrapped him up in a bin bag.  We then drove Jeremiah to the New Forest and buried him where nobody will ever find him.” Replied Dave.

  Stacey sat down on the sofa next to Dave and sobbed.

   “I wish that you’d never told me any of this.  At least I felt better not knowing what had happened or what Dean had been up to.  Jeremiah’s plan was bad enough – Dean’s was just… calculated!  This way round I feel worse.  My world doesn’t exist anymore.”

   “I did tell you.”

  Stacey wiped her eyes with her hand and poured herself another glass of wine.  Her whole existence had been turned upside down.  The person she trusted most in the world, the person she loved and understood more than anybody was a complete stranger.  He was a psychopath, a cold-blooded killer who’d slain two people.  Why hadn’t he just confronted Jeremiah all those years ago?  Why had he waited until the time was right? – He’d waited patiently for five years so that he could shoot Jeremiah.  He’d never loved Clara.  In fact he must have hated her to kill her like that.  Jeremiah’s plot may have been horrible and brutal, but Dean’s counter-plan was down right evil.

   “If he could wait all those years for Jeremiah just so he could get him back, what else is he capable of?” asked Stacey.  “He’d lied about everything for five years: is he out to get other people?  Is he out to get me?  Am I part of the Great Big Plan?”

   “Who knows?” replied Dave.  “Maybe I’m for chop.  At the moment Dean’s in hiding with myself and a couple of others who were involved.  I’d been roped into the whole thing by Jeremiah years ago.  I got out just at the right time and disappeared.  I discovered what Jeremiah was planning and got down to Brighton whilst Dean and Clara were on holiday.  All I wanted to do was warn Dean – I didn’t realise that he’d already got a plan.  I don’t really understand anything about him to be honest.  I don’t think that he’s planned anything else and I’m pretty sure that he genuinely loves you and cares for you.  But as I said, who knows?  Maybe you’ve got an elaborate scheme to kill him!”

   “Oh don’t be ridiculous!  How can you possibly say that?”  Said Stacey.

   “How could Jeremiah know that for every move he made against Dean, Dean was always peering over his shoulder?  Who knows anything?  If Jeremiah’s failure teaches you anything it’s that every outcome is possible.  If you get yourself into something make sure you are aware of each eventuality.”

   “That’s not very comforting, and to be honest I don’t want to hear any more.  I’m getting more paranoid by the minute, thanks very much.  I’ve just discovered that my brother is utterly evil and into premeditated murder.  I would therefore prefer to be depressed in peace.  I don’t think there’s anything left to say.”

  Dave saw his cue and decided enough was enough.  He left without saying a word and walked through the rain to a waiting car.  He got in the front seat and stared out of the windscreen.

   “Well, she knows everything.  Everything we decided to tell her anyway.” Said Dave.

  Dave looked at the driver.  Through the darkness the driver looked back at Dave and began to laugh hysterically.  Dave reciprocated with further hysterics.

   “Excellent.” Said the driver.  “She’ll keep for a while longer.”

   “How long?” asked Dave.

   “In Massley good time, me’young chapster.  Massley good time.”

 

End.

Juggling

August 26, 2008

Hello. Is this how you’re supposed to open a blog? I’m dangerously new to this kind of thing so apologies will be sprinkled arbitrarily throughout the piece. Apologies for that. Apologies for the clumsy opening. I do hope you read on. Sorry if you don’t.

So who am I talking to? I typed ‘random face’ into Google and got David Cameron. I don’t want to talk to him. I looked at a picture of my 2 year old boy. I talk to him enough already and most of what I say is in a pleading, whiney voice – such a poor way to get your point across. Finally, I got the face of a not-unattractive woman of about my age. She looked kind and intelligent, so I shrinked the box, put it into the corner of my screen, and I’m talking by proxy, via her, to you, whoever you are.

I’m a nurse, a father and someone who wants to sell lots of books and be really rich. I write books, you see. I’d love to say that I was a desperate talent who was hideously mis-represented and that at any time soon a publisher was going to seize my talent and make me rich. I fear this is not the case. I’m a gradually improving, although still mediocre, writer of uncertain talent who may, one day, with hardwork, gumption, luck, nepotism (if I marry again wisely), willing, bribery etc etc get something, anything, published somewhere, anywhere.

It isn’t easy writing when you have young kids and you work full-time. My work takes up 37.5 hours a week. Travelling to work and changing my clothes puts an extra hour on the day. So once meals, chores, smoking and washing are out of the way I have 8 hours left in the day for sleeping and 4 hours left for time with family. Something has to give in order to create written words. So I have sacrificed sleep. I go to bed an hour later than usual and wake up 2 hours earlier. In this time I cram in as many words as possible on my MS word. Occasionally I go back through it all to change the quality and bash myself on the head for not sleeping anymore!

Is this necessary? It has crossed my mind to buy a laptop and hide in a small cave on Dartmoor for 6 months until I produce something good. I fear my wife may not appreciate this sabbatical, however. And I may not have a job to return to. I brought forth these children, after all, and I suppose, as the Daily Mail goes to great pains to describe, it is up to me to make sure they are happy and not too emotionally scarred. They’ll end up hating me anyway so I may as well get some kicks from teasing them and pinching them when mother is out of the room.

Anyway, it is 07.20. My boy is talking to his Lola doll. Within half-an-hour I’ll be smelling of poo and making weetabix whilst my girl asks me what we’ll be having for tea on Thursday. No one told me it would be like this.