Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Day 8

Woohoo! I am now officially one day's worth of words ahead, mainly because I don't reckon I'll get much done tomorrow night when I'm in Bristol. That's the trouble with NaNoWriMo, you can't take a day off, it's like the Terminator, it just doesn't stop.....

I didn’t go mad with the winnings, well, not after that night in the Beehive when I stood everyone in the place a drink. Thankfully, it being a Monday night there was only the two old boys who came in every night playing cribbage, Tony, who sat at the bar nearly every night making two pints last four hours (he accepted a large brandy off me though I noted) and Amanda the barmaid who had a soft spot for Shuggsy and came over for a chat when it was quiet. I was originally going to tell her that it was Shugs who had had a tickle on the horses, but he’s far too honest to keep up any kind of pretence for long and would have let it slip. It only leads to further confusion I find, so it was me who got Amanda’s hundred watt smile as she took her drink.
After a few pints, I’d brought up the possibility of buying a car. Even though neither Marlene or myself could drive, it would be handy as a runabout for Shugs to get us to the supermarket and he could use it to get to work during the week as well. Then, if we needed it, the car would be there to take mum or ourselves out at weekends. Surprisingly though, the big man wasn’t too keen on the idea. Eventually, after a couple more Guinness’s I teased it out of him. Although I had known Shuggsy since primary school, during our teens he had discovered drinking and had started hanging out with some lads from an estate a couple of miles from our house. During this time, I suspect that he got into trouble with the law a few times, his slowness and honesty getting him into more messes than sharper-witted and faster-talking lads found themselves in. There was also hints that he’d experimented with drugs, nothing too heavy, just a bit of weed and some speed as far as I could gather, but drugs really didn’t agree with Shuggsy, and he definitely became more aggressive and paranoid, which wasn’t like him at all, and for a while Marlene and me got a bit fed up with him. It all worked out in the end, when he left school and started earning he dropped these losers and the drugs and reverted to type. I sound like a right dullard, and I apologise if I do, I have tried pot a couple of times but it didn’t do anything for me, perhaps I’m just too boring and it only brought me up to a normal level and had no additional effect. Marlene is even worse than me, she tried a puff of someone’s joint once and nearly choked herself in an effort not to inhale and now she sticks to white wine and not to excess either. I don’t know if you’ve seen the film ‘Dazed and Confused’, it was Richard Linklater’s first film as director, and features Ben Affleck’s first appearance as an ‘actor’, but don’t be too hard on it, it’s one of those American high school ensemble films where not a lot happens, but is still pretty enjoyable for all that. Anyway, amongst all your usual party-hearty cliché jocks and cheerleaders, there’s three friends who spend nearly the entire film, driving around debating whether they should go to the end-of-year party or beer-blast or whatever the Septics call it. Not surprisingly they’re the geeks of the school and are driving around in a Honda or something while everyone else are in pick-ups or Chrysler Bastards or whatever. Of course, we immediately identified with these nerds and cheer whenever they come in. So now I was proposing to finally get our own Honda to go cruising in, I was a little disappointed that Shugs wasn’t enthusiastic. He finally revealed the reason after much cajoling, he’d once crashed a car he’d been joyriding in and legged it before the cops caught up with him.
“Yeah, but you didn’t have a licence then did you?” I reasoned.
“Aye, but I reckoned they’d know it were me.”
“How were they going to do that, did you have a camera on the dashboard or summat?” I asked.
“No but they would know it were stolen and they’d know who were nicking cars on the estate.”
“Yeah but they haven’t caught up with you since have they, I think after nearly twenty years the cops would have dropped you off the most wanted list.” I said. It was like pulling teeth sometimes, honestly.
“S’pose so but I don’t like driving that much,” Shugs said morosely. He was starting to get on my wick now.
“You were alright at the weekend, anyhow I’ll be paying for it all, the only thing is it’d be in your name and that. Plus you’d have to get a peaked hat!”
“Eh? What for like?” Jesus.
“Well if you’re going to chauffeur us around you’ll want to look the part won’t you,” I said, draining my pint and standing up to go for a burst.
“Aye, alright then. Sorry for being a mardy bastard George, ye’re a good lad.”
Thankful for Shuggsy’s ringing endorsement I went for a slash and garnered another pair of pints on the way back. I hoped that actually buying the car wasn’t going to be as hard work.

It wasn’t, funny the effect that the words ‘we’re paying cash’ have on a second hand car salesman. I had originally decided to buy from someone private but as neither myself or Shuggs really knew what we were looking for, we didn’t one to be ripped off with a ringer or something. In the end, we plumped for a dealers that had been going for as long as we’d lived in town so the chances were they weren’t going to take us for more than a test-ride. I’d budgeted three thousand for the lot, including insurance so we ended up having to compromise, and ended up with a Fiesta, which wasn’t either of our first choice, but the insurance was reasonably OK given that Shugs didn’t have any no-claims history. He looked a bit daft crammed into the driver’s seat, but with the seat pushed right back he could manage to reach the pedals alright. We had a couple of days to get used to the car, before Marlene rang from California sounding much brighter and telling us that she was flying home Thursday night, and would be at the airport early Friday morning. She sounded a little non-plussed when I told her that we’d pick her up but then went onto say her dad was home and settled in so she felt able to leave him with a clear conscience. I checked her arrival time and the terminal number and rang off feeling much better. I told Shuggsy who was made up as well, I think he was glad she was coming home if only because he was sick of the meagre portions I served up. Marlene always dished up huge meals when she did the cooking chores and of a better variety than my meat, veg and spud variants. Shugs wasn’t a fussy eater but when Marlene put a plate of her seafood risotto or Moroccan chicken in front of him, he gourmandised as if he was dining at the Ivy or somewhere.

I’m aware now that I promised some sort of explication of some of the more enigmatic things I’ve been alluding to earlier. Well, deep breath, here goes. I just hope I don’t lose to many of you here. Not because it’s difficult, it’s just, well, kind of weird. Just be thankful you’re not the one living with it.

I first got into trouble with the Dream Police long before Shuggsy had his first brushes with the real law. It would be convenient to suggest I first had trouble after da left, but it was happening some years before then. Ok, perhaps it was around puberty which would give some psychologists an easy way out. I have considered some kind of therapy over the years but since I learned to control their appearances I’ve been much better. I’m finding it hard enough to explain it here without being charged forty quid an hour for the pleasure anyway, so consider this psychoanalysis on the cheap. I only call them the Dream Police because, as the quick-witted amongst you will have already gathered, they only appear when I’m asleep. Just lately I’ve had the suspicion that they’ve managed to break that invisible barrier but that might just be my paranoia. There’s no way of predicting when they will come for me either, I’m not even aware that I’m dreaming sometimes when they appear. The closest thing I can come up with to describe what happens is Big Brother (the ‘1984’ version not the shite-awful Channel 4 programme). It’s like they know everything that I’m thinking, doing, yearning for, dreading or hoping for. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking now, because I’ve thought it as well; this is going to become One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with me ending up bouncing off the walls in Rampton. Well, you’re going to be disappointed, it hasn’t come to that. I remember the first time they came to me though, it was as if I couldn’t wake up and I can still feel the deep dread I had for days after it happened. In the intervening years, the anxiety I feel has lessened, but when I know they’re coming I can still relapse into some sort of coma in an effort to escape and it takes me at least an hour on waking to realise I’m conscious. For the first few times I was virtually catatonic in bed and you can imagine the problems that caused when I was supposed to be getting out of bed to go to school. Mum became quite skilful at ringing my form tutor and explaining my absences, but for some reason never sought medical help. Da thought going to the ‘quack’ was a sign of weakness for some reason and was always proud to announce that he’d never had a day sick in his twenty year fire fighting career, like he deserved some kind of fucking medal for it. So, I’ve basically had to face the Dream Police alone. And you wonder why I’ve never had any sort of relationship with a girl. I just know that if I spent the night with someone they’d come for me and I couldn’t face them the next day. The closest anyone has been was when I slept in Marlene’s room one night on the floor after we stayed up to watch all the Star Wars films on video. I had a visit from them (probably brought on from the Stormtrooper overdose) and was apparently thrashing around in my sleep, Marlene just thought it was a run-of-the-mill nightmare but was perturbed when I was still having it an hour later. She’d become apprehensive when she couldn’t wake me and was on the verge of calling an ambulance when I lay on my back with my eyes open but still remained in a stupor. When I finally came round she was kneeling next to me, breaking her heart because she thought I’d died. Of course, I played the big man and said I didn’t want to talk about it, but she was quiet around me for weeks after and eventually asked me what had happened. I told her, but I’m not sure she was totally convinced. Can’t say as I blame her, it sounds pretty screwed up to me and I’m sure you’re questioning my sanity right now. Well, I won’t mention it again for a while, just pretend it’s not happened if you like, believe me if it happens again, I’ll be sure and let you know.

Marlene was suitably impressed when her ‘taxi’ turned up at the airport. She thought it was a rental car at first and wanted to know the truth when I told her about my bit of luck. In the end I had to show her the betting return slip to convince her and even then I think she thought I was making it up as some elaborate hoax to make her feel better after what she’d been through. So I took us all out for a meal which would have been described in comics as slap-up. I always wondered why it was called that, if anyone had slapped me up at the end of four courses and coffee I would have definitely done a Mr Creosote and filled a few buckets. She looked good, sort of tanned, although Marlene didn’t really go brown, just a strange shade of white with a hint of orange, the only sign that she’d been exposed to the Californian sun was the hundreds of freckles which had broken out on her face and arms. She had a glow to her, which I partly put down to having seen that her dad was recovering and the break which had certainly done her good, even though the circumstances were not ideal. I filled her in on what me and the big man had been up to, and by the time we reached home she had stopped talking and was flaked out on the back seat of the Fiesta. Shugs carried her into the house and in the gloom of the October night, it kind of looked like Frankenstein’s monster carrying his bride back to the laboratory when he ascended the stairs and lay her gently under her duvet.
“Jet lag, I expect,” he said, coming down stairs.
“Mm,” I assented, I had my head in Be Lucky! again reading Professor Pubes’ latest sterling advice, which the widower had highlighted:

All lucky people have two things in common: First, they are constantly thinking up creative ways to improve the odds that more in life will go their way. Second, when they get what they want, they act as baffled as others are by their good fortune. It's precisely this artful combination of behind-the-scenes assertiveness coupled with onstage humility that makes them seem lucky. Micromanage the forces that can steer good luck your way-and then act like an innocent victim when good fortune leaps into your arms.

Well fuck-a-doodle-do, with self-help like that I was going to have to a hell of a lot more visualising of me jumping up and down with fistfuls of cash. The next paragraph made more sense, in that actually was written in English, not Wankese;

after someone has finished speaking to you, you should pause three seconds before replying, while looking into their eyes. This shows you have focused upon hearing and understanding them. Don't be thinking about what you are going to say in reply, just concentrate on listening. Or, as they say, are you listening or just waiting to talk?

It didn’t seem to have a lot to do with luck, but was reasonably good advice nonetheless. One of my more annoying traits, so Marlene had told me, was that I always seemed to be working out some smartass thing to say as other people were talking and often interrupted as they were speaking. I wasn’t being rude I don’t think, although it certainly appeared that way, I just genuinely didn’t want to forget what I was going to say and often blurted out like somebody with Tourette’s. I decided to practise the pause technique on Marlene when she came round.

Daily Word Count: 2,594
Total Word Count: 15,044
% above target: 12.81%
Word to go: 34,956
Word of the Day: gourmandise


Post a Comment

<< Home