Was ‘Badgerman’ A Premonition?

I forget all about ‘Badgerman’ until the next evening when I am out eating dinner with colleagues. I stop mid-forkful, mid-conversation, and outline the plot, and this telling of ‘Badgerman’ forces me to re-count the story in greater detail, a fact for which I am grateful later.

After dinner, I walk home through town. There is a trail of pizza, torn and violently redistributed across the pavement. The Police are talking to a shirtless guy who is about the same size as me.  I initially take him be the aggressor, but on overhearing snatches of their conversation I revise my opinion.  I carry on walking, glad that nothing has happened to me.

A friend and I have gone to look for something near a bridge. It is late at night, completely dark. We have torches. We get out of the car. A man rushes out of the darkness and attacks me. He is the same size as me, but has a badger’s head for a head. He grabs me, he has his hands on my shoulders and in defence I put my hands on his shoulders and now we are both pushing each other. My friend is on the bridge, shouting at me to hurry up, come and help him look for the thing. Badgerman and I are of exactly equal strength. It is taking all of my effort to repel him, I cannot shout to my friend. The man with a badger’s head for a head has his badger’s head just inches from my head, I am in no doubt that he wishes to bite me with his badger teeth.

Shortly after, I see some more friends outside a pub and we go to another pub and my route home becomes lengthier by a couple more pints. I text them later (“I’m putting you in a story about a dream I had.” “We were in your dream?” “No, you are in the story, but the story is kind of about the dream.” “So, is it kind of saying something about all stories being their own kind of dreams?” “I don’t know. It’s late. I just wanted to let you know that you were in it.”).

Advertisements

On The Shattering Of Eggs

On the defrosting of several chicken thighs,
chicken fillets, legs, bone-in chicken breasts
there was much chicken juice and then
we came to reconstruct the eggs so that
the insides of the eggs were on the outsides
it was like carefully dismantling volcanoes
to save the villagers from violent eruptions
and we realised at that point that we were
on ground as thin as thin-crust pizza and
that this was all soon after we had just had
the kitchen done out new.

Punchline

He had never been able to explain the joke to anyone else.  No one found it funny.  No one could even see how it worked, or was supposed to work. 
 
And yet, it made him laugh every time he thought of it.  He would sometimes write it down again, just for amusement.  And again.  And again. 
 
He would imagine someone else telling him the joke and he would imagine laughing.  In his imagination, he was imagining it being told by an imaginary person of his own imagining.  But even this construct could not comprehend the joke or tell it with sufficient conviction. 
 
He stood in front of a mirror.  He set up several mirrors so that several versions of himself could simultaneously chorus the joke, and an audience made up only of versions of himself crowed with laughter.  Each him caught the contagious laughter of each other him and the laughing carried on, around and around until the reflections were worn out. 
 
He wrote it in birthday cards and visitors books and on tax returns and any other pieces of paper on which he was asked to write.  
 
He would think of it, it would pop in to his head at moments when he was supposed to be thinking about something else and he would break down, be shushed, apologise, just about hold it together.   
 
No one understood why he was laughing, so he told them the joke, then he explained the joke, and they still didn’t understand why he was laughing, but at least they knew what he was laughing at. 
 
They knew the words of the joke, the raw materials from which it was built.  They could recite it, some of them.  It wasn’t a long joke.  It wasn’t difficult to remember, when you heard it so many times, when you read it on so many pieces of paper.
 
Some of them would even tell each other the joke and then laugh along.  They told it to him and he joined in with them, laughing longer then everyone else, his laughter coming from a different place.    
 
He waited until he was alone and told it to himself again, because no one told that joke better than him, and this time he laughed even longer and harder than before.
 
Someone found him, hours after he died of a heart attack.  They joked that he must have died from laughing at that damned joke of his, then they felt bad for laughing.  Not because it was disrespectful, but because they found this throwaway quip funnier than his joke.
 
They began to notice that his absence had changed the structure of their world – their lives would work differently from now on.  A subtle realignment was already under way.
 
At the funeral, the joke was read out as part of the eulogy.  Everyone in attendance had heard it many times before and they knew it as something that had never made them laugh.  But this was a different world now, it was a slightly different shape.
 

This Might Be Nothing

Things are not good. We are both tired and broken. Have no energy.

All we want is enough hot water so we can have a shower each and then head out for a nice meal.  I turn on the tap and get a cold stream – I try to rub it with my hands, knowing this won’t warm it up, but feeling as though it should.

Outside it is never quite dry.  An infinite rain keeps on, the sky delivers one raindrop every minute, just as the second hand ticks round to the top of the clock.

Then a downpour every Wednesday, for the duration of the Wednesday.

Bright hot sunshine the rest of the time, too much really.

I go out for walks, just for a change of scene, but see nothing unusual.  The pavements are full of obstacles.  Groups of joggers run past me and I worry they are running away from something I should be running away from too.  Or dogs and dog walkers are meeting on a corner for some poochdrunk love-in, leads criss-crossing the pavement like an unsolved murder.  Otherwise it’ll just be someone driving moronically or parking their car insensibly.

When I sleep, I dream the numberplates of that day’s inconsiderate motorists.

It feels as though we have opted out of the passing of time.  We don’t really think any longer about what date it is or where we are in the month or the year.

I bring some flowers home and you say thank you thank you thank you oh thank you.  We put them in water.  I’m hoping that we can watch them slowly wilt and that will remind us about life and death.  Either that or they might act as a beacon to the universe – a tease to let us back in.

The cat comes in, talking some bullshit about what it has been doing, what it wants now.  We forgive its impetuousness instantly.

Out on my walk I see a fat and beautifully coloured beetle in the middle of the path and my first thought is that for months and months I have not seen anything like this, though I remember a time some time back when every time I set foot outside I would notice some remarkable bird or insect.

This might be nothing.

But I have to knock on the door of a random house and ask to borrow a pen and some scrap paper, just so I can write this down.

Social Media

The policy is to scrap a lot of this housing,
to discontinue a certain kind of face. They
throw windows and doors on a scrapheap –
the houses look like toothless, noseless old men,
the children look exactly the way
the children of the future will never look.

“You must leave all your belongings behind.”

“I’m sick of talking about dreaming.”

“In times long past there was no worrying
that something unfortunate might happen.”

“No danger. Hard work and adventures.”

Further Decorations Of The Captain

Anybody who had seen him on this travels to and from the ship – and the captain was a frequent user of the buses – would have assumed that this was a man who had lost all interest in life, a man who had been overwhelmed.  Like the lawn mower which sat abandoned halfway through his garden, the enemy grass grown up all around it and long ago victorious.

But the crew knew that the captain had stained glass dreams in his brain, pop songs in his stomach and they set about ensuring that this illumination was reflected about his person.  One day that wasn’t his birthday but must still have been an anniversary of some event in the captain’s life, they stole his clothes and set about encrusting his jacket with fractured shards of gleaming things.  They dangled shiny penny sculpture things from the cuffs of his sleeves, embellished the blank slate of his shirt with felt-tip pictures of things they dreamt up on the spot, planted spinning little windmill things in his hat and painted gleaming little planet things on to his shoes.

On the bus, the captain stared back at anyone who dared look again at this overwhelmed man.  A tether at the end of its tether.  What did they do to you, he could see people want to ask.  And he wanted the chance to tell them that it was none of their business – it had been done to him, not to them.

Dream w/ story (incl. story about story), Feb. 2017

There are two doppelgangers of my acquaintance.  It has been suggested (by me) that, since they look so similar, they could save money and merge to become one person.  They both tell me they would not want to give up their autonomy.  They have so much in common!

The two doppelgangers live in different countries and have never met, but have agreed to having lunch together, if I go to the trouble of arranging the whole thing.  I will also be allowed to take a picture.  It’s going to be pretty fantastic.

In order to arrange the meet-up, I have to make travel arrangements for them both and apply for various visas and permits.  In filling out these seemingly endless forms, I am not able to state the true reason for their visit as it seems… ridiculous, frivolous… and so I am forced to construct elaborate, serious-minded lies for which I draw up dry business plans to add an air of authentication to my claims.  The whole process is laborious and interminably boring and throughout the whole thing I keep in mind the end goal – how fantastic it will be to see my two acquaintances standing next to one another looking exactly the same.

Just when I have finally finished filling out the forms, I wake up.

*

I thought the rule was that you should not end a story with, “and then he woke up and it was all a dream,” but my tutor says it is more than that, she says, “don’t write about dreams, people get bored of hearing about other people’s dreams.”

But what if what you’re writing about is not the dream itself, but how you feel after the dream?  What if it’s about the effect the dream has on you?

She frowns.  Another rule is, “don’t write about writing.  Your readers don’t care how you wrote it, they just want a story.”

*

I went to the visa office to try and salvage some of my hard work.  I thought maybe the hours I had spent filling in their forms might come in use to someone, somewhere, somehow.  Maybe they could scoop up all that spent effort, pull it in to this reality and donate it to someone who needed to complete a boring task.

Maybe someone in the real world knew some doppelgangers.  As it turned out, I didn’t.  I was not acquainted with two people who looked exactly the same as one another, just lots of people who looked only like themselves.  When they stood next to one another, they looked entirely different to one another.

The visa office was located in the dead space underneath one of the cantilevered stands of the local football ground.  A long queue stretched towards the desk and when I looked at the faces of the people in the line they were all the same, or at least there only seemed to be four or five different models for faces from which their faces had been forged, and in my feverish paranoia the notion occurred to me that they were plants, placed in that queue to do nothing more than dissuade anyone from ever even thinking of bothering to make a visa application, a job which the dark, forboding environment was already doing rather well.

But in the gaps in the concrete there were these little fractal cacti growing, improbable bursts of bright colour and these quickly became a high point of this whole episode, though I could only see them – I was not able to verify their existence in reality.

Day #12039

May will see the next instalment of the Guernsey Literary Festival, with visits from everyone from Simon Singh to Jonathan Wilson to Clare Balding!  (Well, not everyone between each of those people, though maybe everyone between those people if they are all stood in one room sometime around the 11th-14th May, in Guernsey).  Anyway, a list of events can be found on the Litfest website.

I’ll be writing some pieces for the Litfest blog  and have already posted a review of Simon Singh’s ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem.’  There will surely be more writing about writing to be had, so keep your eyes peeled like potatoes.

Day #12038 – Goodreads Updates: Short Story Collections

Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, FineFine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams

Shortly after I read this and recommended it to a writer friend, I wrote in an email:

“Some of Diane Williams’ sentences make my head spin – it’s like someone deconstructing their thoughts on to the page, I found I could feel my brain putting things back together.”

I probably can’t add anything more insightful now. Some of Williams’ thoughts and trains of thought are just weird and exhilirating. These are stories you have to commit too fully and enjoy.

It Was Just YesterdayIt Was Just Yesterday by Mirja Unge

This is a wonderful set of short stories which I raced through because I was enjoying them so much. The narrator of each could be the same character – they share a sense of wonder, maybe a little naivety, a raw morality. Unge presents us with a constant stream of reality, events are presented to us, simply described, one after another, as if we are not to judge but merely observe.

The Doll's AlphabetThe Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova

This is a wunderkammer that thrums with life – the kind of life that is a bit deathy. If it is reminiscent of anything it is of Eraserhead, the 1978 debut film from David Lynch – it’s there in the sense of displacement, sense of terror in everyday living. These are stories that somehow make a noise – the steady churn of a bleak dystopian industrial landscape – but which are illuminated with chimes of luminescent gothic ornamentation.

View all my reviews