It started the way it always started…
Sunday afternoon. Dinner out of the way. Spliff lit and going good. Can of Tennent’s open and foaming at the hole. That glorious floaty feeling when life doesn’t feel quite so shit after all.
I had an idea for a new story. I wound a sheet of paper into my ancient Olivetti and typed the title.
STAINS IN MY UNDERPANTS, HELL-HOUND ON MY TRAIL
I took some smoke down and chased it with a mouthful of beer. Nice. I put my fingers back on the keys.
* creee-eeakkk *
I looked up at the ceiling – at the cobwebs, the cracks, the nicotine-yellowed paint. Like an MRI scan of my lungs.
I looked back at the page.
I started typing.
Jack finished jerking off and tucked himself back in again, before the neighbours saw. He tossed the tissue in the garbage, then sat in the chair by the window and lit a…
* creeee-eeeakkk *
…cigarette. As he puffed smoke, he looked around at the place – at the relics of his life. The broken…
* cre-eeakk – creak *
…sticks of furniture, the junk-shop trinkets, the beer-stained carpet, the mould growing up the walls like black cancer..
* creak – creak – creak – creak – creak *
And BANG went my bubble.
Another few seconds and the moaning started, working in with the rhythm of the creaking. Then the tempo increased and the moan rose up the scale. On and on, in a rapturous crescendo…
* creak-uhh – creak-uhh – creak-ahhh – creak-uhh – creak-AHHH – creak-yeah – creak-uhh *
I picked up the can and took a big chug, imagining the scene upstairs.
Bev and Steve.
Him like some pallid, hollow-eyed stick insect, pinned to the mattress by her quivering bulk – like a squid engulfing a sardine. He told me they were trying for a kid. Christ! Trying? How hard could it be? They did plenty of training for it. They could have shagged their way through a fucking marathon. Which is what it was, of course. A Fucking Marathon. All twenty-six-point-two miles of it.
Every fucking day.
* creak-yeah – creak-yeah – creak-fuckmesteve – yeah *
Internet porn was less graphic. And you could always turn down the volume. You knew the script, anyway. It wasn’t much to learn.
I got up and went to the window. Outside, it was like a Lowry painting come to life and set by the sea. A few daft bastards on the promenade, scarfed and fleeced up, slanting into the November cold. Pissy sun dribbling through. Seagulls wheeling in the wind like tossed away chip wrappers. A beer-froth of tide on the beach. The pier stretching out across the freezing waves like a runway for suicides.
Partly it was jealousy, of course. After almost a year, even Bev Datlen’s pachyderm physics might have made sense to me. Maybe I could have offered to help out. Maybe his ammo wasn’t standard issue. I didn’t want to think about it too much.
* creak-fuck – creak-yeah – creak-ahh – creak-yeah – creak-JEEZus – creak-uhh – creak-yeah – creak-YESSSSSSSSS… *
I realised how freezing it was in there. The heat was all upstairs. All my heat and theirs, too. And hot air wasn’t the only thing rising.
I pulled on my jacket and trainers. It was time to join the daft bastards out there. Clear my head a bit. Get a top-up for the meter. Forget about what was going on in other people’s lives.
Think about the next thing.
Whatever the fuck that was…