Hmm ... such elegance.
So, through the nimble nip 'n' fold of the night -- the mewling moon silicon-tucked like a plastic boob beneath the accommodating armpit of the cosmos -- I fumbled in the backseat of Lady Midnight's Volkswagen Golf (its battered side panels advertising Lust and Desolation, her latest lauded trashbook) for the manuscript she had scribbled.
Since my ignominious can-kicking at the Herb & Gardens Quarterly I had been tied to this skeletal soul-slashing femme guerre genius, whose darkly poetic blogs on the website Slam the Hacks had teased me to such heights of dizzying adulation, I pledged my love to her right then and there in a series of manic, gibbering comments.
All right, wait wait wait! Before I begin this, I have to explain who I am and how I found myself riding shotgun with this sleazy middle-aged authoress and what this has to do with you, dear reader. I trust that you, unlike myself, are a discerning know-it-all pimple whose patience is slack and whose time is paramount. I respect that despite all the wisdom you possess, oh sagely one, you are probably a stranger to the realm of the self-obsessed hack whose adolescent acne has blistered his face redder than a caucus of Commies.
You're a clever one, right? Well, listen up, sir/madam. I am the fluff in your jacket pocket that gets off on the kinky sweat in your pants: it brings me closer to your body, which I yearn to possess, dearly, daily. I am the encrusted milk around your puffy lips, shining in the subfusc hum of the morning. What am I talking about? I dunno. Just make sure you read this with that furrowed eyebrow o' yours, which rises so eagerly at every achingly despairing sentence, every horribly hackneyed metaphor, if not lowered, then at least, well ... reduced to a less mockingly steep incline.
So back to the car. Who is Lady Midnight? Her real name is Lucy Biatch. You might have heard of her outwith the realm of this piece of fiction -- she is a practitioner of the skronk novel, the postmodern blowjob, the lazy intellectual boogie-woogie, the Überbook. What? Let me explain. Her first novel, Hacks & Sharks, tore into the self-loathing soul of the sports writer, the low-paid brainless journo, the man I idolised.
Can you imagine waking up to the realisation your dreams and aspirations were little more than a steaming bowl of macaco turds? I mean, imagine wriggling through college with duff grades, duff friendships, duff ideas, then emerging at last from your murky little basin to achieve something you can take pride in -- something you can state, with certainty, is the greatest decision you've ever made -- to have someone, in a casual one-line quip, rip asunder your entire being. Sounds unpleasant, yes?
OK, I can see that maybe this sounds rather self-pitying and already you have the impression of an unassertive individual, perhaps even a cowardly and useless one. Oh, you self-critical fool! Hold on there! You know, there was a time when my factual, dry and uninspired writing mattered. It mattered to a small cloister of football players whose brains were so large, they practically swelled out their heads: The Yarmouth Winners.
Who were they and why should you care? Let me tell you, cynic. Why, they were the best football team in the world, that's who! Their centre forward was a man of such Gulliverian strength, such graceful soccerian skill, with taut rippling muscles and those trunky brown legs that I loved so much, oh oh ... no, no, no! I promised I would keep these fantasies to myself! Listen reader, dear cynical reader (don't furrow those eyebrows at me!), I'm not a 'gay' person (whatever that word means -- when I was a nipper it used to mean 'homosexual' ha-ha-ha) ... but I resent the slur. I'm not gay. Shut up.
Where was I?
Narrative control, my boy!
The car. I was in the car. But how did I get here? Right. Well, I used to write articles for the magazine M-E-N (people often thought this an acronym, but it wasn't -- although in the spirit of creativity, you are free to make up your own acronym jokes at home, like Macho Energised Ninnies or something ha-ha-ha-ha, anyway ...) I had a talent for full-page spreads of men together: showering, celebrating, at play, washing each other.
Women often told me that I was overcompensating for my lack of a father figure by pretending every man I met was a potential Dad. Nonsense! I mean, you (if you're a man) are hardly a suitable father figure, are you? I mean, could you honestly say (can any of us?) that we are capable of having children (not the men, of course, ha-ha-ha), raising them, and moulding them into regimented do-gooders and good-doers, huh? Really? Are we capable? I dunno.
Where was I? Yes. I was a talented writer. Unlike I do now, I never once deviated from the topic. My prose was the very definition of finesse, despite editors snipping several of my proudest passages (usually detailed descriptions of the Caravaggio-like torsos of these beautiful athletes, with their chiselled and distinctive bodies ... oh, the memories!) Once, after the publication of my biggest and greatest spread ever on Wigan Athletic goalie Chris Kirkland, while surfing the internet I came across this entry in Lucy's blog:
... and lest we forget the soccer hacks! Lo, no! I can't think of anything more depressing than these sweaty ball-fiddlers bashing their members at the touchline to some burly dropout whose ability to master a childhood game (duh, ball goes in net! Me kick ball in net! Uh huh huh!) earns him more in a minute than I earn in a frickin' month. But the hacks! Oh, they love it! Little wieners! They lap up these halfwits and their opinions on ball technique, kicking skills, their ability to stand on the pitch basking in their own unending magnificence as though what they do is an art form, as though they are gifted pioneers of Aristotelian brilliance. I'd like to see Ryan Giggs write an amusing blog like this on a daily basis, or spend two decades trying to get a frickin' book published -- fuck that curly wheezebag). These hacks have sold their artistic licence to Satan, who shoves them up his horny butt and shits forth measly little coins for them to live on. Let it be known that ALL SPORTS JOURNOS ARE WORTHLESS!
Having read this, shaken awake from the nightmare I had been living for a decade, I moved into horticultural supplements for moribund gardeners and bored-stiff housewives. The articles I wrote were riveting pieces on how to water an azalea, the finest juniper pruning methods and so on. I never once returned to the hideous grind of sports journalism. In the evening I would come home and pour over Lucy's Lady Midnight blog. I laughed and laughed and laughed at her biting wit and take-no-prisoners attitude.
Then I made those comments. She had changed my life more than Can't Stand the Rezillos by the Rezillos or the documentary on sports writer Jim 'Shaky' Hunt I had watched as a student. How was I supposed to encapsulate the swirl of feelings she created inside me in a few paltry comments? To my shame (and feel free to furrow those eyebrows now, reader!) I posted this:
good blog! really enjoyed. really touched me. i mean, sometimes i sit up for hours at night reading you ... you really have made a deep lasting impression on me ... sometimes i imagine us meeting and twining our minds in a sort of telepathic blood ritual ... like a fusion of death and intelligence ...
And so it began.
Keep it up! Come on!
The next day I had an e-mail in my inbox, which was bizarre, since I had posted the comment anonymously. Her message was brief: Meet me outside the petrol station. What petrol station? How was I supposed to know where to meet her? Well, that's when I got the first Mind Pellet. What is a Mind Pellet? Let me explain. Be patient for once. Relax! You're in reliable hands. If you've been following the story clearly enough so far, this next section shouldn't be too much of a stretch for you, you damn cynic!
Ha-ha-ha. I bet you'd love to be in this story, wouldn't you? Ha-ha-ha! Look, I know I shouldn't do this, but since you've been so sweet, feel free to toss yourself somewhere into the margins. Go on! I really don't mind. In fact, I welcome it. Ha-ha-ha!
Anyway ... a Mind Pellet is a telepathic attack from Lucy Biatch. When she wants you to do something NOW she sends you a Mind Pellet. You might notice the italicised sub-headings in this story. Well, those are her little interventions. Usually they're much stronger than that, but in this instance they're, well ... not. Ha-ha-ha! Look, I know you're getting sick of 'ha-ha-ha' but shut up, OK? Do you WANT me to revoke your margin self-insertion privileges, cynic? Do you? Then stop insinuating I'm gay!
So I went to the petrol station. She pulled up in an irrelevant make of car (it was blue, OK?) and accused me of homophobia.
"Leave them alone," she began, swishing back her shades. Her face contained the cheekbones of C&W legend Kate McGarrigle, the nose of Bergman starlet Bibi Andersson and the lips of the woman who used to bathe and feed me back when I was retarded.
"Leave whom alone?" I asked (proud that 'whom' was used in lieu of 'who' -- people misuse this, don't they? Hee-hee-hee. I bet you misuse it, don't you? Anyway ... you're looking good. Is that a new shirt?)
"The homosexuals. Leave them be. How would you like it if I persecuted you? Or maybe you would like it?" she asked.
Her face wrinkled up. Gone were the nuances of the previous faces I just mentioned, replaced instead with a rustic pulchritude more akin to the Deal sisters (from the magnificent mid-90s alt-rock combo the Breeders) or Richard Prior's ex-wife.
"Wee-ee-ll, I dunno baby!" I didn't say. What I did say was: "Me-unno."
"What does that mean?" she asked, traces of Kate McGarrigle reforming. Her question aroused me.
OK. Break. Let's pause for reflection.
What? Why are you stopping?
Sometimes when I step outside myself (I'm Nigellikins, nice to meat chew) and step into another skin, the universe expands itself into myriad colours -- spatial eruptions streaming into an endless cathode daze throughout the universe -- words, poems, thoughts, dreams of an infinitely enriching culture reproducing within ME at the click of a pen. This narrative would be a lie without these pauses, cynic. These are moments of poignant reflection at the staggering ethereal presence of the Creator in our lives. The power of the Creator to flip us into a spinning flux of wonderment at the cluck of a node. What Creator?
"So you've finally managed to introduce me?" she asked. She knew about this story before it was even written.
"Yes. Are you -- "
"Lady Midnight. Queen Sass 'n' Brass. The big-nippled milkmaid of prosaic illumination. Get in the car. I have things to confide in you, oh sorry mad soul brother. Get in!"
I got in.
"I got in. Wow. Electrifying prose, Nigel! Listen, you're infatuated with me for two reasons. The first reason is this: I am woman. Your name is Nigel, which is loathed by everyone who isn't named Nigel. Read: everyone. You are the only Nigel left in the universe. Reason number two: You cannot write a compelling story. You are a vacant vessel for ideas and sketches. Your complete indifference to the world around you has rendered your prose a self-conscious vacuum of recurring characters, endlessly regenerating insults, candidly bland outbursts and vacuous pouches of the imagination, into which your words disintegrate like random air-bubbles from abandoned sentences."
"You cannibalise your characters. Remember that witty trait from your story Pinocchio's Breasts where the she-Pinocchio's nipples extended every time she told a lie? Yes -- ha-ha-ha-ha. But, you wretch ... that should have been the end of it! Why is it resurfacing now?"
Two spikes burst from Lucy's shirt (which was not as nice as your shirt, dear reader. Really, you are looking well. Listen, I know this is rather forward of me, but um ... would you care to go out to dinner with me?) and pierced two holes in the windscreen.
"Lucy," I said breathily, "I've met someone."
"The reader. We're going to dinner tonight at Frampsi's Bistro."
"Oh no you're not! I'm driving you somewhere safe, where we can oil your self-loathing valves with redemption juice. I'm taking you to the Land of the Hugging Daddies."
Oh yeah. Lucy rules.
The Land of the Hugging Daddies was an archipelago just off the Isle of Cuddling Mummies (of course). Occupying the entire island were over two thousand fathers looking for sons to adopt. Lucy thought I needed a father figure. You don't think that, cynic? No. I don't imagine so. Oh, what's that? You don't like being called a cynic? Oh, I am sorry! Listen, tell you what -- my treat. Dinner's on me tonight, OK? Do you like bisque?
"Be quiet, Nigel. This is important. Right. We're entering the first village now. This'll do. These Dads don't care what low-rent hacks they bang up in their grotty backrooms."
Lucy applied pressure to the brake pedal and stopped the car (see, I've never driven before, I'm not sure how it works! Ho-ho-ho-ho!)
"Shut up, Nigel! For goodness sake! You're such a frunch! OK, meet George. This is your new dad." Oh no.
My bile ducts jumped and leaped and skipped and hopped and backflipped into bloody oblivion. George had the cheekbones of sportswriter Jim 'Shaky' Hunt, the teeth of Wigan Athletic goalie Chris Kirkland and components of his face resembled all eleven members of The Yarmouth Winners.
"No ... it can't be! Stay away from me! I don't want those tormenting thoughts again! Those athletes, those rippling muscles, those Caravaggio-like torsos, that pectoral resplendence! Oh, take him away!"
I'm not gay.
"See Nigel, there's something rotten in your character that needs to be addressed. There's some fusty mind disease burrowing into your cerebral cortices, gnawing at your sanity. What is this 'ha-ha-ha' bullshit? You're cackling like a deep-fried maniac. You need to confront your repressed sexuality. You need to come to terms with the fact that you aren't the strutting proponent of geek chic you thought you were, but a closet ..."
"Don't you dare say it!"
"Nigel, you're a ..."
I'm not gay.
I ran from the wretched bitch, far from the Land of the Hugging Daddies, far from the cooing voices of discontent dropping their innuendo-laden hints in my head, towards you, dear reader. You came through for me. And now we meet at Frampsi's Bistro. You're looking delightful! New perfume? No please, after you! This is nice, isn't it? What are you having? I hear the bisque is lovely. Did I ever tell you I used to be a sportswriter? Well, I didn't like it really. No, it wasn't for me. I couldn't see past those men with their rippling muscles and startling biceps and ... well, shall we, um ... order? Are you having the bisque? That soup looks strange doesn't it? Hee-hee-hee. What? What do you mean by that? What are you implying? Look, I've put that period of my life behind me now. It's not resurfacing like some cranky old ox! I'm not sticking around if you're going to take that attitude. Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry! Please don't go. I've been under so much pressure lately. See, I'm writing this story about meeting this idol of mine, and it's tormenting me. Sometimes I feel I've lost all control of it entirely and that the person I'm writing about has taken over. She's called Lucy Biatch. No, she's not prettier than you. Honestly. You're beautiful. I'm not just flattering you. Really, you radiate beauty. You have a serene inner glow that makes you special. I'm really attracted to you ...
Pfft. I'm bored. Do something interesting.
... so this is my pad! It's a modest dwelling really, but it suits my needs. Do you like my Morrissey posters? They're from the '94 Vauxhall & I tour. Can I get you something to drink? Sorry, I only have orangeade. Shall we sit down on the couch? Yes, I like them. What are you doing? Hang on there, I'm not sure I'm ready for this! Could you give me a minute to prepare? OK, that's nice. Just keep doing that. You don't have to put your hand there, really. That previous thing you were doing was nice. Oh, this is pleasant. I'm not quite sure it's my cup of tea, but I can see you're eager so I won't interrupt you. No, I am interested in doing it, I just need a little motivation. No, it has nothing to do with you at all. No, wait ... don't go. I do want to do this, honestly. It's just ... I don't arouse easily. Oh, that's insulting! What are you implying? I think it would be better if you left then. Go on, go! I'm sorry I ever asked you out now!
So you left me, dear reader! You flung accusations at me I won't dare repeat! You led me on a merry dance, flaunting your charms at me and tricking me into thinking you cared for me! Well, that's it between us! I never want to see you again! Good riddance!
"Don't you think that's rather foolish, Nigel? Who, pray tell, is going to read this drivel now? Look, come out to my car. I have something to show you," Lucy said, appearing from the next room.
"How did you get in here?"
"Car. Come out to it. Now. And for your information, it's a Volkswagen Golf."
I pulled my trousers up (oh, how you laugh at that, reader! Yes, you left me looking like a fool in my chequered blue underpants -- )
"Nigel -- the readers are gone. Let it go. The thing I want to show you is a better version of this story. It's in my glove compartment there. Go fetchie," she said, pouting (I swear some Alison Krauss formed around her eyelids then). I retrieved the story from her mucky Golf and ... and ... and ...
"What is this?"
The m-m-manuscript r-r-r-read:
Nigel is gay.
Nigel is gay.
Nigel is gay.
Nigel is gay.
"Read it, Nigel."
"Nigel is g-g-gay ..."
"Well done. Now don't you feel much better after that?"
"Good. Now let's put this silly story behind us and move on."
-- M.J. Nicholls