Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sticks


I'm lying with my cheek resting against the splintered wood (and the floor may as well be the wall) feeling like the air-lifted Christ in La DolceVita when he starts up again talking about his brother. I can hear him cooking up - I can hear him cooking up in infinitesimal detail (the lighter, the blackening spoon, the heat conducted up the spoon handle into his thumb and index finger, the desperate bubbles hissing like a kettle that needs filling, the cotton wool, the syringe) - and he gives no thought to me, prone on his floor, the airlifted Christ. He gives no thought to me and my high.

He starts in with his brother all over again.

His brother, you see, split up with his wife and was bitter. Only that was just the start of the story. I'd heard everything on the walk up from the caf'. He started in the caf' with it. The story of his brother. On the walk up, I paid attention because he had something that I wanted. He had something I wanted and he was prepared to share it with me because I was his friend.

I'm not his friend. I'll tell you that. I'm not his friend. The man is a junkie fuck.

On the walk up, I was prepared to listen but now I just wanted him to shut his shit up. It was really taking the edge off of my sting. The whine he had. He whines like a bomb. I'm a wartime family huddled in my semi-detached waiting to see if it hits me, wondering if we can make it tothe air-raid shelter if we leave now. The whining. I want the whining to stop.

He shuts up to pull the rubber tight around his arm and I can see everything without opening my eyes, as clear as a thumb-struck match. I can see him, the stick insect thin prick that he is, with his stick insect thin arm bare and the rubber pulling his mouth out of shape, making him look like he's having a stroke. At least the rubber clenched between his teeth shuts him up.

I cling to this silence the way a drowning man clings to a straw. I cling to this time and attempt to shut out the whistling in my ears (thewhistling that indicates this high is ending, the whistling that informs meof the most basic of facts: I need more to stay high for shorter and shorter periods of time). It is like deja vu and nostalgia already. I am still high but I can anticipate not being high and wanting to be high again.

I feel like an uncooked chicken breast left out first in the sun andthen later in the rain.

'Mi brother, right,' he says many years later.

He starts up again, but this time his voice is reverberating throughthe wood. My eyes are closed but I know he's on his back, eyes closed,needle hanging limp in his arm. Now would be the perfect time to try and hit again.

'Mi brother was told by his solicitor: the house 'ad to be sold, all possessions had to be split right down the middle, any monies 'ad to be divided evenly between the pair of them. Mi brother wa'nt having any of it.Mi brother 'ad a plan.'

His voice is like fucking termites buzzing through the wood to myhead. I am the set-down Christ and he is telling me about his brother's fucking marital difficulties. Worse, his voice, the termite drone of his voice, is compelling me, everything from the way he emphasises any word ofmore than two syllables to the clipped way in which he dispenses with any word wrong-headed enough to get in the way of his tale. I feel sick. My fingers want to shake.

'Vr plan. His plan. Went like this. There's this old girl who lived down the road, right? She was friendly with our mam. Any road: she agreed to take any and all money he could put her way and store it temporarily inher bank account. His plan was to spirit as much of his money as he could her way. He sold his car. Odds and ends. Bits and pieces. Furniture.'Lectrical Goods. Fucking everything. When the solicitors started rooten around, he wanted to make sure that half of everything want half of anything very much.'

I'm interested because I have to be. I want the needle from his arm.I want another shot at the title. I'm sitting up and - you should know, I'm as fuckin' hetero as the next man, but - the fuckin' thing looks like a cum-shot dick and I want it. It's the culmination of all my earthly desire.

I say yeah with an inflection, all Australian, like. It is the first time I have spoken in this room.

'This was monvths ago,' he says. 'You'd fink - the solicitors say we're gonna be evaluating your circumstances - you'd fink fings would happen relatively quick-like. Only monvths have gone by. Monvths. Mi brother has passed a fair bit of cash ola the old girl's way. She'd behaved herself, done what she said she would. Mi brother had a copy of her statements, right? Could see the money clockin' up. He fort it was better van a bank. He was feeling pretty damn pleased wiv himself. He told me -'

He pushes himself up on his elbow and looks my way.

'- He told me, right, that he fort the solicitors 'ad done 'im a right favour. He'd never have put away anywhere near as much if he'd stayed wiv vrr missus. As it was, he could see a tidy pile accumulatin'.'

Yeah, I say again with the same inflection, pushing myself up on to my elbow so I'm level with the big man and doing my best to look as interested as all fuck. I can hear a radio downstairs somewhere. Shawn Ryder saying It's there. It's fucking there alright. Hanging from the cunt's arm.

'Yeah,' he says. The reedy fuck starts to chuckle.

'Yeah. Then. Lastweek. The old girl pops her fucking clogs.'

His eyes are flashing, as much as eyes fogged up with shit could everflash. Think headlights in pea-soup.

Wharrapenned? I say, quietly. My fucking teeth are itching.

'Couple of kids broke into her house. You will'av read about it. They smashed the place up, raped the old girl, left her battered and bleedin' onvr kitchen floor. She dragged 'erself 'alfway up the stairs - turns out she was on medication for 'er 'art, vey fink she was tryin' to get 'er redpills and 'er green pills. Any road. She got 'alfway and no further. Vey found 'er at the foot of the stairs wiv 'er hip all smashed up and blood everywhere. Not a pretty sight apparently.' 'Worse fing, no -'

I cough, clear my throat and point - Can I...? - at his arm. CanI...? in a mouse-squeak. He doesn't hear me. He doesn't even fucking see me. The prick's caught up in his little story. 'Worse fing, no - mi brother 'as all of his money in the old girl's bank account. She's got all of his money and he's got no way of proving anything beyond a copy of her statements and what would that say. Where were you on vrr night in question, sir? You can see vrr police now, can't you?'

Stick insect starts to piss his knickers and I am overwhelmed with the necessity of laughing along with him. I want to kill him, though. Iwant to take whatever is close at hand and drive it through his face. I'd use the daylight filtering in through the window if I could. I'd spike golden rays of sunlight through his fucking eyes and teeth if I could.

As it is I grin like a cunt and make sure to pose my question in a more arresting tone.


Pete Wild

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