Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roachwork (2007)

To borrow one of those immortal turns of phrase: how times flies.

Here's one from the archives. I used to work in a pool hall ("duh"). The most disgusting pool hall on Earth, staffed by the select lazy elite. Bin bags were always left overnight. Crisp crumbs and food wrappers were resplendent on the floor. Dust spun amongst the tables like tumbleweed. Cockroaches ruled behind the counter; we were there to look after the place for 'em. One day I came to work, bored, or hungover, maybe a combination of the two, and because the hall was empty, like usual, I started a shock n awe campaign of heavy roach death spray bombing. I can only fear for the future medical histories of anyone who had a drink the week after that.

As I sprayed in my shaky handed ennui, a funny idea came into my head... this idea, and I wrote it down as the customers and regulars drifted in and started banging on the counter to grab my attention. I ignored them, of course, to persevere with writing this short story, which I share with you.... now! 

It's written in the first person but past tense because I am that damn good. 


Today, when I came into work at the Essex Street pool hall, I made a life-defining decision: I was sick of the cockroach infestation and was going to get rid of them, once and for all!

“But how am I going to do that, when so many others before me have all tried and all collectively failed?” I asked myself.

The answer was simple: a race to three in a match of pool.

The cockroaches agreed – but not after some coercion on my part – and the terms and conditions were set. World rules was the game, and, I was to face the head roach Wee Bonnie Jock MacSlime. If I won, the community of cockroaches was to leave forever. But if MacSlime triumphed, I had to pay them twenty dollars.

An epic contest ensued. The purity of the pot versus MacSlimes’ insidious, rope-a-dope pocket blocking and snooker strategy. The roach smothered his way to a 2 nil lead; and then I staged a heroic fight back, levelling the score at two all.

The pressure in the defining game was immense. Every time I came to the table, MacSlime would start chattering in his vile, high-pitched insectoid brogue. “Yar gonna miss!” “Did that hit a cushion laddie?” “Me ball moved first, ye Southern fook!” (I kept telling him I wasn’t English.)

MacSlime was getting desperate as his tactics, which had served him so well to begin with, felt apart. The proceedings culminated with the penultimate shot of the game: MacSlime fired a long black into the corner pocket, along the rail, and missed, setting up the ball for me to make an easy pot.

I was victorious! The score read three games to two, the cockroaches had to leave and were never to return. As they slowly packed up their belongings, whilst sadly looking over the hall one last time, MacSlime sidled up to me and asked in an inquiring, invasive tone: “One more game! Double or nothing?”

When I told him that made no sense, he replied back after some careful thought. “OK, tell ye what: I lose, we leave and ye get to keep me cue. I win; ye hand over forty in coin.”

Why did I accept? I could lie and say that the euphoria of the win had dulled my better instincts, or that I had been cooly persuaded into the rotten rematch. But the sad truth of the matter is that of pure arrogance; I thought I had his suffocating tactics beat (even if I was dubious as to whether he really did own that cue). 

A seven ball run out, off the break, proved me sadly wrong. (The sounds of celebration from the roaches was deafening when the eight ball dropped). That damn Jock MacSlime had been hustling me the entire time and now I was forty dollars out of pocket!

I really needed that money too; I had to buy fuel for my car so I could get home. This means I’m stuck at the pool hall with the roaches. Next time I’m spraying the bastards.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chapter 19. Untitled.

Not much to say. I've been non-posting for a while, but now here's a new section. As the last entry was chapter 17, obviously I've been writing in the "away-time". I have the feeling that this is barely a first draft - particular sentences and some turns of language are rubbing me the wrong way, but I'm right in the middle of writing so no time to edit and redit - but the clash of characters I find interesting. Maybe you will too? 


“I think you liked it. When we had sex and I was talking to you.”
“Yeah, I guess?”
“You were excited,” she answered for him.
She stopped and leant against the wall of a house, catching her breath. She produced the Drum pouch and searched for a paper.
He juggled the DVDs he was carrying, stacking the boxes into a neat, straight pile.
“How long are you going to be?”
“Not long, I only have to give back the movies. I’ll call you.”
As he waited, Sean read the blurb to Belle De Jour.
A young Paris housewife, Séverine,” he pronounced the name with a flourish, “grows bored with her stable husband. When she learns of the presence of a high-class brothel in her neighbourhood, she quietly goes to work there – but only during the day, until five o’clock in the afternoon.”
He spoke in a bad French accent.
“It is Bunuel’s Belle De Jour! Catherine Deneuve in her most famous role ev-er!”
He waved the case before her eyes and she grabbed it off him, scrutinising the package.
“That’s me! Can we watch it?”
“Bit late now, I have to return them today.”
She ran her hand over the reproduction of Catherine’s icy, blank face.
“This film is good too. It’s about a girl who suffers from schizophrenia. She starts to see doubles of everyone she knows, such as her boyfriend, and other apparitions. No one else can see them.” 
“What is it?”
Images. Robert Altman. And because seeing these doubles is making her distressed, she decides the best way to get rid of them is to… well, kill them off. She blows away a couple with a shotgun. There’s a really good scene where she’s happy to have shot one, and she’s skipping over the dead body, which is blown to bloody bits, and she’s whistling and singing.”
Rachel became both more excited and agitated as she listened.
“But at the end she stuffs up and accidentally kills the real version of her boyfriend, husband. Meaning she’s left with the evil double.”
“Can we watch these?? I really want to watch them!”
“They don’t work in the DVD player?”
“Oh yeah.”
He handed over the other films. She shuffled the DVD cases, absorbed in the images of movie stars and sets and different locales and eras, the cigarette long forgotten.
“I want to watch all these!” She stopped at the final DVD. “Well, maybe not that one.”
The film in question was Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The front cover was a photo of the entire female cast, their amply endowed, naked bodies covered in a collection of fur jackets. Sean retrieved the box from her.
“This one is about big tits and drugs,” he commented brusquely.
He read from the dust jacket:
Lance Rocke! Greek god and part-time actor. See how well he performs… The golden hair, the bedroom eyes, the firm young body. All are available for a price...’”
He smiled, remembering the scene of Lance lolling on a duvet, as that piece of narration played.
“I love that line: the bedroom eyes.
He tried to make his eyelids as droopy as possible.
“How are my bedroom eyes?” he asked her.
“Must be why my film career hasn’t taken off,” he joked.
“I was in a short film… as a Venetian princess.”
She reached out for him and he lent a hand to help her up off the pavement. He stacked the DVDs neatly again. She weaved her arm around his elbow. When they parted company at the lights, he was glad in the thought that she wouldn’t be with him at the Institute library.

When Sean entered the library, no greeting was forthcoming from the staff member manning the front desk. He dumped the DVDs in the return slot and walked through the security gates.
The girl working was the less plump of the two library assistants. He guessed that she was in her mid-twenties but wouldn’t have been surprised to find out she was closer to her early thirties. She struck him as nice, in a harmless, middle of the road, cipher-of-a-person sort of way. Books recently returned had attracted her full attention. She sluggishly scanned the items back into the system. He strained his mind to remember her name.
“Hey, Renee,” he guessed.
She looked up from the books and paused, staring at him. She always wore a grin, and for his tastes, too much makeup for someone so plain.
“Hey.” He scanned the lounge area of the room – all modern libraries had them, it was akin to a waiting area in an airport – and returned his attention to her. “How’s it been today?”
“Been busy?”
“Oh, you know!”
He nodded and drummed his fingers on the counter. There were no patrons browsing the shelves of the collection. A sole student from the dance academy across the road sat in front of a computer, adding Facebook friends.  
“I have to pick up some stuff… do I need a key card to get into the staff room?”
He had asked the question already knowing the answer.
“No, just go round the back. Someone will buzz you in.”
“Great. Thank you so much.”