Friday, 29 May 2009

Old dog, new tricks 2

David knew he was a cliché. A man of his age hanging round with a woman twenty years his junior. It was pathetic, doomed and irresistible. It was also adultery, but he put that on ice. He and his wife went back a long way; theirs had been a primeval romance and they had evolved, he told himself, into different species.

It was different with Katie, a junior executive in a sister department at his conglomerate. With Katie, there was passion, originality, lots of laughs. She didn’t think he was a played-out irritation, she thought he was worldly and capable. She admired him, and she told him so. Nobody had done either of those things for years, if ever. This had to be the real thing.

He bought a baseball cap. And an i-pod, which he could just about operate, without breaking it or dislocating his thumb. He tried to follow, understand and tolerate TV dramas, documentaries about dogs coming back from the dead and the extraordinary effectiveness of the primal scream. An essential part of his pre-sex supplication was an update on modern culture and Katie required him to hold his own, before she held his for him.

He ate vegetarian meals. He folded up the bigotries of decades and threw them away. In return he got a new life, a reborn vitality and an entirely new sense of self worth.

Until one day Katie told him they’d have to stop. And went off to a different job and persons of her own age.

David thought he ought to be grown up about this, but he found that in his time with Katie, he’d forgotten how. He wished he could be an old dog again, but the new tricks kept getting in the way.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Old dog, new tricks.

Colin had spent twenty five years as an engineer. He started off in the field and ended up doing fifteen years air-conditioned soft labour in middle-management in the Gulf. He built up a prodigious set of golfing stories, a confirmed way of doing things, and very few friends. The longer he stayed in place, the more he was singled out as a target by other, younger, hungrier engineers. They felt he was cocooned. They felt he had been cocooned years ago, and had dried out in there. He was best hoovered up discreetly.

Colin continued to pump out his complacent bonhomie, with his short-sleeved drip-dry shirts and multicolour biro, until finally he was sucked up by someone in human resources, based in Houston, and spat out at Heathrow, with a small remittance and no career prospects.

He found a job as a limo driver; shuttling those still rampant on the career ladder to the airport or other significant destinations. He always had an anecdote handy; a cheerful recollection from his past to mirror or cap whatever the suit in the back seat was going through. He was cordially detested by those who bothered to listen to his observations and advice.

Until one day the culls began, and the suits in the back seat began to look ashen and stressed. As the days went on, they talked about downsizing, changing careers, opting out, trying anything

“Whatever you do,” advised Colin, “Don’t touch the chauffeur business. It’s a disaster.”

This time he had his eye on the competition.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Absurdly mismatched pairs 3

It was quite a shock when Julie discovered she had been discreetly possessed by Lucifer. She tried to offset this by casting off her Goth regalia and impersonating a lyrical hippie girl in love with the universe and at one with nature. She had some hope that Satan would be so disgusted by an insipid flower child, that he’d vacate the premises and move somewhere more appropriate. Like Gillian from next door, who already had a wall eye and seemed eminently suitable.

Satan on the other hand, seemed to enjoy the street theatre, the haikus, the incense and even the brown rice. He whispered observations on the stylistic limitations of Khalil Gibran and the advantages of bestiality but in the main seemed content with a passive role. Maybe it was the marihuana, maybe the patchouli, but Julie’s demonic possession stayed a relatively balanced affair.

Until the third day of a music festival out in the country when Julie’s tepee collapsed under the continuous torrential rain and she found herself wading through mud on the first day of her period, with her sanitary protection stolen along with her handbag by persons unknown.

She was queuing in the rain for the overflowing ladies portocabin behind a number of similarly bedraggled women, when a girl in teased hair and patchwork tights pushed in front of her and told her, drunkenly, to “get over it.”. Julie took her by her satin lapels and wrenched out her throat with her teeth.

As the interloper’s arterial blood pumped across the mire, the queue seemed to clear instantly and Julie was safely ensconced on the loo when the police arrived. She opened the door on a tableau of gore and disapproval.

“Whatever possessed you?” cried someone.

“Just a friend.” replied Julie.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Life imitating art 1

Daniel Morris was quite a useful fast bowler. He played for the Sunday side of Swafham and was counted on to dispose of the major threats amongst the opposition, so that Swafham’s captain, the portly Reverend Kershaw and his fellow opener, Constable Burrows, could amble out and safely knock off the required runs. They would then retire to the Dog and Pheasant, for a few pints and a gloat.

Swafham’s success made them an irritation in the fixtures table, but their beautiful ground offset the inevitable pasting from Morris’s bowling and the trundling run acquisition of Kershaw and Burrows.

One day they were drawn against a side of mini-celebrities, past sportsmen, media personalities and the inevitable recuperated rock legend. The mini-celebrities provided champagne and orange juice at pre-match drinks, but Morris was careful to restrict himself to the orange juice. To the inexplicable amusement of the recuperated rock legend, he sunk three glasses in succession.

Half way through his run-up, Daniel Morris felt an elation he had never experienced before; his legs felt immensely powerful, his chest expansive, his arms supple and strong. The ball felt like a metal projectile weighted perfectly in his hand. The breath streamed through his nostrils in an icy gush. He focused past the dwarfish umpire to the awaiting batsman.

The batsman seemed to morph into an excoriated form of David Gower. His face became a fleshy blur. His legs, encased in bandage-like pads, straddled the wicket. He gave a hallucinatory leer and flexed goatish muscles.

The effect was raw, venomous and terrifying. Without knowing what impelled him, Daniel Morris shrieked with terror and speeding ever faster, raced down the length of the wicket, past the crouching batsman, past the keeper, over the boundary ropes and across the fields.

He has retired from the game.