Fragment #211 – 11 February 2020

It’s true that, until now, there was little in the way of discourse surrounding Joseph’s behaviour.  Some-someone must have slammed the door – what’s that?  NOTHING.

Joseph was not trustworthy.  We knew that.  We would never write: Joseph wasn’t trustworthy.  ‘Wasn’t’ is a word used either to obfuscate meaning or when discussing matters of friendship.  It wasn’t for Joseph.

 

HE

IS NOT

OUR FRIEND

 

And yet he’s there each month now.  We all are, we make the trip.  Marshall should have been dead by now.  He isn’t.  Nobody thinks he is being selfish, but how many times can we hold a last long boozy dreadful lunch?  It’s always the last one at the time, and now nobody has a healthy liver.  We’re ageing visibly, catching up to Marshall.  At least he has an excuse.  Cancer is an EXCUSE.

Oh we met when we were young.  We’re all friends now and have been for decades.  We know the names of each other’s CHILDREN, and have even been to their parties.  What’s that?  A car backing up?  Why is it so loud?

Joseph and Marshall either always hated each other or were the closest of everyone.  Depends who you ask.  Joseph says one thing.  Marshall won’t be able to answer soon enough.  But just don’t ask me.  I can’t take SIDES.  I can’t even decide between ice cream flavours.  I am not supposed to be the leader.

 

WHAT WAS THAT

 

We’re all dead eventually.  Marshall will be the first of us, I suppose, unless there’s some kind of an accident to one of us before – when?  Then.  What?  An ACCIDENT you say?

* * *

The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website.  I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.

Fragment #20 – 15 August 2014

It’s the drinking, Patrick said.  It does me in every time and yet I can’t seem to stop it.  There’s a glamour to it, or there was.  There was.  No longer.

To our left sits a young couple, the man timid, withdrawn, his shoulders bent inward as though they would touch if his collarbones vanished.  The woman was stunningly beautiful and effusive in voice and gesture, talking happily about her day while her partner slouched.  They were eating ramen, great bowls of it steaming in front of them, and by their chopsticks, beer.  There was nobody else in the little side restaurant except for the smiling fat cook, who came from behind the curtain door to the kitchen, passing out ladles of ramen soup and chortling to himself.  As was the case every time I have been here, money never seemed to change hands, people ate and ate, and the beer was always cold.

Patrick wasn’t eating, though there was a bowl in front of him.  His lips, cracked, opened to take in the neck of the seventh or eighth bottle of beer for the evening.  His nose was red and already webbing from the effects of alcohol, and his forehead was pale, dotted with eczema, his hair lank and greasy.

I start each day the same: today will matter.  At first I am aspirational, vowing to wake early to seize every minute.  4, 4:30, 5 – really early, with hours to spare before work, or my wife, or anything.  It’s time for me.  But then I can’t get out of bed, my mind is fuzzy from wine or beer, and so I bargain with myself, reason that perhaps night-time will be better.  I think of Proust, or Pamuk, or any of the thousand writers who stayed up late.  And so the day passes.  And then it is evening, I am thirsty, the day was long, the first glass is poured, and – bargaining again.  Tomorrow will be different, tomorrow I can wake early, tomorrow is a new day.  And then I fall asleep, and then the cycle starts anew.

Patrick looks at the couple, her so beautiful, him seemingly downtrodden and badgered, though there has been zero indication that such behaviour might come from her.  She catches our eye, stops talking and tells us with great venom to mind our own business.  I swear I hear her say ‘drunks’ as she returns to talking about her day.  The man glances briefly at us before lowering his eyes again.

It’s killing me, Patrick said.  And I can’t seem to stop.

* * *

The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website.  I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.

Fragment #205 – 1 November 2018

This particular piece was a flash I tried to have published in various places, but alas!  No bites, no interest.  And so, here it is.

A-and this is the story of, well, he doesn’t want to big-note himself, but it’s about him.  Me. Needless to say in recent times – and, I don’t want to complain here folks, but – he has the certain feeling of being watched, monitored.  Recorded. Catches glimpses of people staring at him out of the corner of his eye. Just yesterday, while walking in the city, he noticed that out of the forty or so people eating lunch, only thirty-eight appeared to be legit, above-the-line, cool.  And two were not. They had intentions and motives. And he’s not stupid, he knows-

-He’s not stupid, he knows.  Kids figure this stuff out early, far quicker than we think.  Gee, your son says, smiling brightly, holding up a plastic knock-off that is distinctly not the whizz-bang gaming console he has been angling for, pleading for, doing chores and extra jobs for, Gee, he says, Dad, this is exactly what I wanted!  And then you, you’re just dumb enough to believe him when he adds, This could be the best Christmas ever!, but after a little while you think: don’t push your luck, Chuck. Bad actors overdo it. Imposters. The kid pushed it too far and now they’ll have to replace him.  Overhead there’s nothing – no helicopters. In the water, nothing. On the tee-vee, nothing. No cameras, no microphones. You didn’t notice anyone swapping out your real son, but they must have. Actors are so good these days. Cheap, too. It’s a career like any other. Why, all you have to do is take up your chosen path and follow it, and-

-Take up your chosen path and follow it, is Dr. Capgras’ motto.  The doctor, lymphatic, coughs wetly and says that the more successful one is at thinking, the greater the rewards available compared to those who do not.  If Archimedes could balance the world on a pivot, he wheezes, then you can annihilate the universe with those thoughts of yours. Just find out what you are best at <wheezing> and do it.  Direct your attention away from paranoia and be productive for god’s sake. You nod, smile, and ignore the burning fires all around you both. What’s so funny, Dr. Capgras asks, and you say, If I’m laughing now it’s because I’ve a gentle heart-

-I’ve a gentle heart, it’s true, a-and I ain’t talking.  It’s too late.

* * *

The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website.  I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.

Fragment #204 – 10 September 2018

Two days ago the obituaries editor came round and asked if I would like to write about someone who had done something important to do with platelets.  I said yes; I need the money, and I am not afraid to learn on the job. Science and medicine have never really been to my interest or taste, but a thousand word obituary pays well enough, and everyone deserves some kind of memorialisation in death, right?

Most obituaries are written well in advance, and then touched up or modified throughout the years as their achievements and notoriety grow.  All of the newspapers in the world have an obituary ready and waiting for the Queen to die, and I don’t doubt that they’ve had some variation since she was at least in her twenties.  Maybe from the day she was born, I don’t know. Pity the writer who has to say something cheerful about a little dead baby in six or seven paragraphs. A big, important newspaper like the New York Times will have thousands of tributes written to mourn the living dead, and while I won’t go so far as to say it’s a ghoulish practice, there is, among obituary writers (we unhappy few) a certain sense of heightened mortality, and the uncomfortable awareness of the limitations of youth and time which comes from knowing that, at best, unless you are truly epochal, you’ll only make page B4.

I move on the edges, spend time with the mildly famous dead.  I write about those people who haven’t been looked at in a while and who, on balance, probably need a full rewrite.  Gustave Hinkler, who specialised in the methods by which platelets travel through the body, had an obituary that hadn’t been touched in twenty years.  Platelets, I learned, are disc-shaped cell fragments which exist in blood and help with clotting, and as I wrote I was uncomfortably aware of my blood coursing through my veins, and for a time I developed the habit of pressing my hand to my chest to feel my heart beat.  Still going – no obituary for me!

Portions of Hinkler’s obituary were still in German, a relic of the enthusiastic science buff who had written the first pass-through and neither him nor anybody else had bothered to translate his own notes upon his resignation.  

Who can blame him?  

* * *

The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website.  I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.

Fragment #203 – 6 September 2018

This particular piece was a flash I tried to have published in various places, but alas!  No bites, no interest.  And so, here it is.

And praise God, the priest said, his arms raised.  Gloria a Dios.  His throat was dry, and he wanted a drink.  An old woman, her ankles swollen, pressed his hand and said something in a dialect he couldn’t understand.  She spoke too fast. He was thirsty. The sun was already too hot, and it was only mid-morning. He lowered his arms, his skin loose and creping.  Vanity. I was handsome when I first came here, he thought. But what use are good looks for a clergyman? It mattered for donations, he still remembered fondly the young women who would touch his arm as their husbands filled the collection plate.  Gracias a tí, he would say as their eyes shone.  Warm fingers, light cotton clothing, sunlight.  But decades had past and the women were old and ugly now, like him, and their husbands were dead, and their children lived in Mexico City or America, where there were jobs, and money.  The old woman was the last to leave, and then he was alone in the small church. His eyes fell on the bottle tucked at the feet of the lectern. No. No. I won’t –

Time slipped.  He came abruptly awake in his chair in the living area attached to the church, the fans overhead rotating slowly, the blades low and white, with grime crusting the edges.  He had no idea how he got there until his eyes alighted on the glass, the bottle, the ruined lime quarters. Again, he thought. Again. De nuevo.  I thought I was done with all of this.

He had never really wanted anything, not even when young, virile, untethered to responsibility, unchained to the church.  Just the bottle, and God was supposed to help with that. He had buried his teacher here, an old, fat, kindly man who had taught him Spanish and admonished him to become embedded within the community.  We are people of the land, Padre Paco said, not just of Heaven. We must know them in order to show them the way. But neither man had known what to do as the town had dried up and people moved away. Paco had died, and he had.  Well. Estoy crudo.  Todos los días.  

Another bottle.  He was disappointed in himself, and the day was ruined, and his eyes ached, and it was only noon, but all of this was normal by now, and God was known to forgive even the most wretched of men.

* * *

The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website.  I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.

Fragment #121 – 19 March 2015

Eight years ago, during a deliriously hot summer where I spent the majority of my time at shopping centres and in libraries, in order to take advantage of the air conditioning they had on offer, I decided for whatever reason to read the entirety of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.  I wanted something, I told myself, to sink my teeth into, and at several thousand pages in length it seemed I would, at the very least, find myself suitably occupied for a sufficient amount of time.  I had just come off an extended session devoted to the works of Graham Greene, and consequently I had become taken ahold of by a vicious melancholy that I had been unable to shake.  I read the first two Dance books at a reasonable pace, finishing the first one Tuesday afternoon, and the second the following Wednesday morning.  But the third had me stumped.  The words swam and I couldn’t focus.  I found the characters and plot tiresome, and then, worse, I couldn’t remember what had happened to all of these people, or why they had such baffling motivations.  Who were these people?  What did they want?  A lady stopped me and asked if I was alright.  Of course, I told her, why?  But I don’t think she heard me because she stepped back, put her hand to her mouth, looked away from me, and then walked hurriedly away.  Who were these people?  I went to the McDonalds and asked the girl for a glass of water, and she screamed and pointed at me, and then a man came up to me and he shook his fist in my face.  I’m disintegrating, I said, help me, please.  I looked down and my shirt was dark with blood.

And, I don’t know.  Today I am much happier.  I read less, and I sing very often.  I consider myself a bit of a loner, yes, but nothing serious.  In the morning, when I wake up, I can hear birds outside my window, but try as I might I cannot see them.  I hope they are brown and blue.

* * *

The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website.  I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.