Sawn Off Tales
What You Know Is There
If he was serious about finding someone to share his life he should take up some pastime. 'And one,' his therapist added sternly, 'that a woman might share,' referring, unfairly he thought, to his collection of electric and manual drills.
The card was in the Chorlton post-office. A new therapy for a new age. Registered practitioner.
'It's a mixture of dance and acupuncture,' the lady on the phone told him. 'We call it dance-upuncture. The tutor is very very intelligent, very very sensitive, very in the moment, very evolved; more than her linear years.'
'Sounds like a laugh,' he said. 'Book me in.'
The police made him draw a picture. The girl poised delicately in an arabesque, the trip on the stool, the collision, the fall, the blood. But he couldn't draw the needles. Always draw what you see, the police artist kept saying. Not what you know is there.
I saw him every day, sucking on a tube of superstrength or curled up like a fetus in his tattered sleeping bag, and I thought about our armadillos munching his vegetables, our pumas tearing into slabs of glistening steak, our zebras in their warm straw beds and I called him over and said come with me.
I placed him in an empty orangutan unit and told him to stay out of sight during opening times. I put two solvent abusers in with the giraffes and the muttering shopping-trolley woman onto gibbon island.
But the shopping-trolley woman kept showing her bottom to school children and the boss called me in. He was pleased with my intervention but could the new guests be given educational classes like art, music and dance so that the public could watch? This would be the zoo finally putting something back into the community.
Where We Left Off
At 12.30 every weekday he visited HMV and stood in the same place for exactly four minutes. Because that's where he last saw her, eleven years, three months and two days ago. The F section of rock and pop. Blue demin jacket, red jumper, red bag.
He hadn't seen her since. So today, when she appeared in different clothes and a much-altered hairstyle he was at first unsure if it was her.
But it was. He knew exactly what he was going to say, had rehearsed it every day in front of a mirror, but suddenly his mouth was dry and the words tumbled out as an incoherent squawk. She just stared at him and stalked out of the shop.
He would continue his mission. The faint expression of disdain that had crossed her face all those years ago when she came across that CD by The Fall was unforgivable.
If that's a triangle, my arse is a dodecahedron. Ray had lots of lines like that, killer lines, lines he appeared to have invented on the spot but had really spent ages preparing. That's why his friends considered him hilarious, going so far as to say he could make it as a stand-up. He would wait months for the right circumstances to use a killer line. On National Take-Your-Kids-To-Work-Day a killer line came into his head involving a famous secure hospital for paedophiles. But the name of the institution wouldn't come, so he waited a year till the day came round again.
But today it fell apart. Marketing-Alison waved a teabag saying what shape is this, and he was about to deliver when Sales-Mark burst in with a pyramid quip. Ray had a competitor. But worse, the undetonated killer line was still inside him — what damage could it do?
Her nose had a cute little ridge and he stroked it with his thumb. 'I think Sharon suspects,' he said.
She looked into his eyes. Tips of her red hair clung to his face with static. 'As long as we're careful, Richard.'
Driving back, Richard couldn't stop thinking about her. The car was bathed in her perfume, Hugo Boss surrounded him like a ready-brek halo. That's when he panicked. He sniffed his fingers and rubbed them on the seat but the smell wouldn't shift. What could he do? Sharon would be onto him like a hyena. His eyes fell on the half-eaten cheese baguette sweating on the dash. He stopped the car on a dark bridge, removed his shirt and, remembering something about pulse points, applied slimy sandwich filling to his wrists, throat and under his arms. He relaxed and shoved his seat into recline. Below him chains of crimson tail-lights danced and he felt he was floating over a fairy grotto.
Life Just Bounces
The salesman's skin glistened with sweat. 'Where's the big money?' he cried.
'Bouncy castles!' we replied.
'Correctamundo!' His legs quivered like a manic preacher's. 'And I know that those of you who respect yourselves as people will sign up today.'
The words of the presentation echoed in his head as he stared at the rusted generator and sagging vinyl edifice that covered his lawn. All his redundancy, everything, sunk into this. Rowena would kill him. He had no van to transport it and no money for advertising.
He switched on the power, the generator throbbed and clunked, and slowly the gaudy plastic puddle rose up to become a quivering enchanted fairy palace. He thought about the others back at work, the ones who had been kept on. Then he flicked off his shoes and jumped in. He bounced. It was good, bouncing away. The salesman was right. Everybody wants to bounce.
Pretty, ain't it?
Mrs. Kalinsky spoke through wreaths of smoke from the cigarette she had permanently cocked at the side of her head. 'This is Alfred.' The fat pampered cat looked up at her. 'He's insured for two grand.' Her long nylon-clad legs made a hissing sound as she crossed and uncrossed them. 'Double if he gets run over.' She stroked the flabby ball of fur. Bars of shadow from the Venetian blinds made her expression unreadable.
But I couldn't go through with it. Then two weeks later a ginger tom got flattened on the A556 out of Eccles. I scraped him into a bin bag, dyed him Alfred's colour, and took him to Mrs. Kalinsky's vet.
I didn't seen Mrs. Kalinsky again for weeks and I never got my cut. Then from the window of the police van I saw her with the vet in a restaurant, drinking wine. And laughing.
It was a last minute cancellation so one day we're in a travel agent's, the next frying in coconut oil under a saturated blue sky.
But I couldn't relax. 'I can't stop thinking,' I said, 'about the people who cancelled. The bloke was a container driver, like the ones who drop off at the yard.' She looked blank. 'Heart attack. Smashed through the central reservation.'
She squeezed her eyes against the sun. 'Don't think about it.'
'This is his holiday. We should go home.'
She didn't agree. So we trailed round the market, the pearl factory, the melon farm, the barbeque, neither of us having the heart for it.
'I wonder what he would have thought of it,' I said.
'The container driver?'
'I don't think he'd have liked it,' she said
'He'd have bloody hated it,' I said and began to dance to the pulse of the Bontempi organ.
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