Sunday, 26 June 2016

Fiction: The Literary Underground

False Idols


It was Sunday. The day had started before then, though. Probably Friday. 
Possibly Thursday. Our pockets were empty. Bodies depressed, standing 
in the cold light rain of an ugly Manchester night.

"How we going to get home?"
"Get a black cab and do a runner at yours."
"Fuck that. Last time the driver buzzed everyone in the building and the 
police came. It was lucky my Mam wasn't in. I saw John on the stairs the 
next day and he said he'd kill me if another taxi driver woke him up 
because of me."
"Fuck off! Big John- the big black guy that just got out for murder?"
"Exactly. 16 years, please. He won't need much of an excuse to go back. 
It's the only home he's ever known."

The girl was standing there looking lost. Something switched on in her 
head, and she walked over and flicked Chris hard on the nose.

"What's wrong with your face, Ginger Balls?"

I laughed. I'd forgotten about her. She wasn't with us. She was supposed 
to be with Nick. Nick was supposed to be getting us into a members club 
around the corner, but it looked like we had seen the last of him. Now we 
were burdened with the lunatic.

"Sam, what you doing with her?"
"I'm not doing anything with her. She's a fucking idiot. She just threw the 
last of Nick's coke out of the window of the taxi on the Mancunian Way."
"No shit! Stay away from her, mate. I know her family: she's been 
sectioned twice."
"Cheers, Jimmy. But don't worry about it, like I said, she's with Nick."

The cars pulled away from us and along the street, leaving the wet road 
momentarily patterned from the tread of their tyres. The red rear lights of 
the cars mixed with the white light from the street lamps and the blues and 
greens from the shop windows, all shrouded behind the fine film of drizzle 
that it was almost possible to forget was there until small drops of water 
formed on the tip of my noise. We stood together in silence watching the 
street shimmering in front of us, sharing in all the futility of waiting and 
something that might have been beauty.

"Fuck this. Chris, come on, we're going to have to get a black cab."

Before he could say we had no money, I digged him in the ribs and looked 
at him to shut up by pointing my eyes in the direction of the girl. We had 
no money, but she looked like she did. The taxi she threw the coke out of 
had picked her up from an old, expensive house on Chatsworth Road. If 
she didn't have money on her, she could get it when she got home- we 
couldn't.

We pulled up outside the old, red bricked building where Chris lived- a 
converted Victorian school that would have been worth millions if it wasn't 
sitting atop of one of Salford's most notorious streets- and got out without 
needing to run. The girl lay half-crunched up in a stupor between the seat 
and the door with her back to the driver.

"She lives on Chatsworth Road, mate. Not sure which number, but I'm sure 
she'll point it out once you wake her up. Nice one, pal."

We entered the building through the old "girls" entrance and started up 
the wide staircase that wound up the front of the building and fed off into 
two corridors at each floor. Chris lived on the 4th floor. It was strange to 
see, through the large bay windows that gave back out onto the car park 
down below, that by the time we had reached the 2nd floor the taxi had still 
to leave. When we reached Chris' floor, the taxi had gone and the girl was 
walking unsteadily towards the entrance of the building.

"Chris, check her out. She's going mad down there. She's going to put the 
glass through."
"Fuck her. She should've just gone home. She's not our problem. I'm not 
letting her in ours."

The noise from the banging on the glass rose up to us on the corridor of 
Chris' floor. Buzzing and swearing swelled the crescendo of noise as 
through randomly answered intercoms she could be heard screaming, 
"fucking scumbags." I looked down to see she had taken of one of her red, 
high-heeled shoes and was using it to pound the wooden frame of the 
door.

"Fuck me, Chris, we can't leave her out there on her own. Anything could 
happen to her and it'd come back to us."
"Fuck that. I already told you, I don't want her in mine. Nobody told her to 
get out of the taxi."
"Whatever, we can't leave her at the top of Langworthy Road at 3 in the 
morning."
"You're a fucking soft cunt."
"Yeah, I know. Don't worry about it, I'll sort it out."

Dirty fucking scum bag is what she said as I opened the door. A pair of 
dirty fucking scumbags is how she qualified it later when we got up to 
Chris' flat. Her hair was wet from the rain and clung to the side of her face. 
Her nipples stood out through the thin material of the red dress she wore 
under a long unbuttoned heavy black coat. She hobbled through the door, 
still carrying in one hand the shoe she had attacked it with. She was angry 
and looked wild, but I was sure that even before the "g" of scumbag had 
reached my ear that a twisted little smile had broken across her face as 
she spoke.

Chris ignored her sniping and only rolled his eyes when I teamed up with 
the girl and berated him for being such a bad person. The girl began to 
enjoy herself in the warmth of the small flat and asked about the coke she 
forgot she had thrown out of the taxi window earlier. Chris made a long 
joint of the most beautiful smelling skunk weed, and under a musty red 
cloud illuminated by the cheap, sporadically flashing Christmas tree lights, 
calm and silence briefly controlled the room.

"Is the butter too hard, or the bread too soft?"
"Say again."
"Is the butter too hard, or the bread too soft? It's a question. Are you two 
stupid?"
"Sam, what the fuck is she going on about?"

The girl laughed and fell back into the hard brown back cushions of the 2 
seater sofa we were sharing. Chris stood up from his chair and 
disappeared into the kitchen.

As the girl lay back, eyes closed and contented on the sofa, I ran my eyes 
along her. Up from the small nail polished pink toes, over her delicate 
ankles and along her toned legs, shadowed in the ghoulish half-light of the 
room. Onto the frail hem of the red dress that stuck tight to her, defining 
the litheness of her body, and running up into hooks of thin fabric over her 
shoulders, exposing skin and inviting me to continue searching, following 
the cut of the material as it stooped down toward her chest. From my angle 
the inner protection of a powder pink and white dotted bra could be seen 
shielding pert and slightly swollen breasts.

Chris walked in carrying a red, handless plastic bucket, the brand name 
half visible where somebody had unsuccessfully tried to rip it off, and 
placed it on the floor in front of the girl.

"Here you go. I don't know what you were going on about, but you're 
obviously feeling a bit sick. Do it in there if you don't think you can reach 
the bathroom."

Chris sat back down into his chair; happy with himself at his own joke. I 
laughed and the girl opened one eye, sat back up from the sofa, placed 
her head between her hands and took in a deep breath. Sitting like this, 
her hair fell forward shrouding her face in a blonde veil, and her body 
became a weird beautiful object; headless, passive and brilliant.

"I murdered him, the bastard. It cost 2.6 and I got away with it all."

I moved slightly from my position next to her, shifting my weight on to my 
left side, to try and see her a little better. She threw back her head, 
splaying her hair back, around and behind her, and looked manically 
around the room as though taking in her surroundings for the first time. 
Chris' eyes opened wide in hilarity and he kicked the bucket closer to her.

"What the fuck are you on?" his voice a perversion of his own- high 
pitched and whiney, infected by the girl's madness.
"Who you talking about", I said. "Who did you murder? Where?"
"Who do you think? My fucking husband. In Sweden."
"What? You murdered your husband in Sweden, but got away with it. What 
cost 2.6?"
"The Trial."

I felt sorry for her, but I was amazed. I wanted to put my arms around her 
and make her be calm. I wanted to take her away from this shit hole; 
somewhere where she wasn't mad, or where we could be mad together. I 
wanted to take off her clothes, lie her down on a huge white bed and kiss 
her until she understood that there were only her and I in that world.

Chris had worked himself up into a frenzy of his own and disappeared 
again into the kitchen, then reappeared holding a large kitchen knife that 
he  placed on the coffee table in front of me and the girl.

"It'll be alright", he said with a sickening tone, then sat back down still in his 
chair, willing himself not to laugh.

My stomach turned and real fear gripped me. However many days of 
sleepless nights and long forgotten amounts of drugs and drink were 
being ended right now with this girl and this new madness. I believed in the 
dizzying grip of the moment that, yes, maybe this was the way things 
sometimes ended. A joke isn't a joke if it isn't understood. I looked at the 
black handle of the knife, inches from the girl's hands, and imagined her 
reaching out and thrusting it into my stomach; blood seeping out of me 
slowly in silence, the girl lying back, relaxed against the sofa as though 
nothing had happened, Chris confused, me dying.

"Chris, you're a fucking idiot."

Chris laughed, stood up, picked up the bucket and placed it in front of me.

"I snorted his ashes on camera."

Chris' face bubbled up in a hot flush and his eye brows melted away under 
the strain. A pig's grunt shuddered its way through his body, erupting in a 
wild uncontrolled laughter. Maybe it was because I was sitting next to her, 
but I was calm, trying to take it all in. Chris had lost it.

"Oh, fuck. Fucking hell. I've pissed. Oh, fuck me. Sam, no shit, look at my 
pants- I've pissed in my own pants."

My turn to laugh again. I looked back at the girl who seemed oblivious to 
everything apart from the madness that was going on inside her head.

"Look, look what you've made him do. He's pissed himself because of your 
daft stories. Are you alright? Do you want a drink or something?"

Chris left the room to change his soiled trousers and she seemed to look 
at me properly for the first time. A sly grin, the same as the one I thought I 
had seen when I opened the door, rode its way slowly up her face.

"What's your name?"
"I'm Sam. Do you not remember? I'm the one who went down to get you 
from the street."

She didn't reply, but moved towards me slowly and kissed me softly on the 
lips. We fell back together into the sofa and she lay quietly in my arms, 
running her hand across my chest before tracing out the features of my 
face.

"Right, she's going to have to get off. I'm getting my head down."
"Fuck off, Chris."
"No. No way. My Mam could come home at anytime and she'd go mad if 
you two were in here."
"Why you being a dick?"
"I'm not, but the fun's over", he said as he switched on the main light. "You 
can stay on the sofa, but she's going to have to get a taxi."

The intercom buzzed and I walked the girl down to the car park and the 
waiting car. There wasn't anything to say. The sun was coming up but 
there was little light and the drizzle had persisted. Chris had broken 
something when he switched on the light. Everything was too ugly and well 
defined, even in the half-light of the dawn. The only thing to do was to all 
go our separate ways.

"What's your name", I asked her.
"Amy. Bye, Sam."

I couldn't sleep on the piece of shit sofa in Chris' living room and when it 
was time for the first bus, I noisily banged about the flat looking for loose 
change for my fare. I hated his flat in the light. All over it were little statues 
of Mary and Joseph. A nativity scene beside the tree. And on the wall in 
the living room, a large painting of Jesus Christ bearing his Sacred Heart.

Before leaving I rearranged all the religious paraphernalia into some sort 
of twisted alter in the middle of the living room floor. I found candles in the 
kitchen and using the bucket and knife Chris had had so much fun with 
earlier, I set up a macabre scene that looked ripe for blood letting and 
religious sacrifice. Chris would sleep until at least 4 and I knew his Mum 
would be the first person to make this discovery. Merry Xmas.

Puddles of water ran through the aisle of the 37 bus that I took back home. 
Drops of rain formed like worthless diamonds outside the window then 
dropped intermittently to form little rivers that seeped through the 
seemingly sealed window frames. The smell was damp and the driver was 
a shadow of a man who must have only existed behind the wheel of his 
bus. Outside the window, all the people and things were infused by a dull 
sheen of grey. I kept my head at an uncomfortable angle to avoid seeing 
my own reflection in the glass. I thought of Amy and her red dress, her 
white skin, her blonde hair and her madness.

The following Sunday, I found myself alone at the bar of the pub we used 
to drink in. I was leaving for Italy the next day but unsure as to why. A tap 
on my shoulder and I turned round to find Amy smiling. Next to her was a 
small foreign looking man.

"Sam, how are you? Let me introduce you to my husband, Paolo."
"Ok, shit. Paolo, I've heard a lot about you. You look different than I had 
imagined."

About an hour later, Amy found me again at the bar. She squeezed my 
hand and told me that Paolo had left.

"That's funny. You must have been surprised by his resurrection. I'd 
stopped believing in that shit, but I think you've reaffirmed my faith."
"I know, it's a miracle. Why don't you come back to my house and I'll 
explain it all."
"I can't. I have to wake up early in the morning, I'm moving to Italy."
"Can I come?"
"No, I don't think you can. But I suppose I could wake up a little earlier in 
the morning, or maybe just not sleep at all. Let's go."

The taxis pulled up outside the pub simultaneously. Same coloured cars. 
One empty for pick up. One full for drop off. The drop off was at the front 
of the two. As I walked to the second car, my ex-girlfriend stumbled from 
the first. She lived with her fianc√©, but called me constantly, and on nights 
like these often ended up spending at least part of the night at my flat.

I dived back into the pub, anxious to avoid confrontation. Amy stood 
confused in the doorway, and then came back in to find me. I hid from her 
behind one of the wood and glass partitions that split up the pub and 
decided that moving to Italy was probably a good idea after all. A prod in 
the back and I was faced with my ex. She was halfway drunk and struggled 
to maintain her anger as she put her arm around my waist and pulled me 
towards her.

"Who's that girl you were with at the door?"
"It was nobody. I was looking for Chris."
"It looked like you were waiting for a taxi with her to me."

I noticed the taxi still waiting in the car park and pulled my ex outside 
quickly and into the car with me.

"26 Acacia Terrace, please."

My ex fell back onto me drunkenly. I kissed her forehead and ran my 
fingers through her beautiful, long black hair. Outside the window of the 
car, the sun had still to set and there was no rain, but it seemed to me that 
the life outside was only a poor imitation of something else that I could no 
longer remember ever having truly existed before. I caught a glimpse of 
Amy's blonde hair in the doorway as we pulled out of the car park. I turned 
away quickly, fell further back into the seat, and caught the reflection of my 
face in the rear view mirror.
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