Thursday, 16 June 2011

Aftermath, Part 4

James was pushing with all his might.  He didn’t care what women went through during childbirth, this was definitely worse, and he was definitely pushing harder.  The roof of the boot wouldn’t move, the back of the seats weren’t responding to his incessant punching and he was exhausted.  The chocolate raisins had been all well and good for the first half an hour, but now he felt ill, his mouth tasted like socks and old caravans and his stomach did not have a good rumble about it.  He was dangerously certain that he was now completely sober. 
He tried not cry and sat back for a rest.  And a little contemplation.  Would Morag wake up filled with regret?  She had work too.  Wherever the bloody hell work was to her.  He probably shouldn’t ever have got it out.  And to then put it on her pizza and make her publicly eat it was almost certainly a bad plan.  It didn’t really show him in the wise middle-class gentlemanly role he was going for. 
But she had said that she liked mushrooms, and working around idiotic children day to day meant that natural drug-related assumptions were understandable.  It’s not like he bought the stuff.  He merely confiscated a few magic mushrooms from a pupil and forgot to do anything with them, leaving them in his jacket pocket all weekend and all through Monday and Tuesday.  Well it said nowhere in his contract that he had to instantly report such matters.  Probably.  He’d never really read his contract.  He was a history teacher, he taught history.  He at least knew that much.
 In all fairness they were both very, very drunk by the time they’d made it to Hollywood Pizza at 3am (two meals in one night, this girl was getting the special treatment) and anyone that drunk who was trying to impress a clearly insane and maverick girl would do the same.  Magic Mushies, they were both children of the 80’s, it made sense at the time.  And she had ordered a veggie pizza anyway, so why not spice it up a little? 
Admittedly, her reaction had been a little adverse, but he was not blame.  Definitely not to blame.  Not entirely.  It didn’t constitute drugging her, how was he know that she didn’t take drugs?  He offered extra mushrooms, she said yes.  That was a verbal contract was it not?  He wasn’t to know that she’d disagree with the pavement and be upset over the sky.  She should have warned him.  That should have been in the notes on her profile.  The whole bloody point of online dating was that you knew what you were getting.   Tendencies towards bad trips surely constituted a serious medical condition that he should have been warned about?
But sod it.  He had the more pressing matter of his impending death to concern himself with before he worried about the illegal poisoning charges.  It’s not as if he date-raped her... he date-kissed her, but it was not his bloody fault... he didn’t know.
He sat back against the boot of the car.  There had to be something in here that would help him escape.  A crowbar?  Why did he not keep a crowbar in his boot for such emergencies?  What a foolish man he was.  From now on he was definitely always keeping a spare mobile phone and a crowbar in the boot at all times.  This had clearly always been something that might happen to a man like him. 
He put his hand in his jacket pocket on a hunt for more of those chocolate raisins, having already forgotten what a bad idea chocolate was a to dehydrated man.  He checked the wrong pocket and came across the wrong thing.  But oh how it was the right thing.  He’d forgotten all about the trip to the corner shop to buy fags.  Morag had been insistent that they smoke Lambert and Butler to remind her of the old days.  She’d taken the left over fags home.  He’d taken custody of the lighter. 
‘Right, mister made of steel but actually made of cardboard boot lid.  My man strength might not be able to beat you.  But my fire will’.  And so James click the lighter on, and began trying to set his own boot on fire, with himself locked in it.  The perfect plan. 

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Aftermath, Part 3

Part 7
There was an orderly queue outside the library when Morag blundered along the corridor clutching her key like a weapon.  By the looks of them they were mostly students or pensioners who had no other place to be. 
‘Sorry, sorry, I’m a bit late.  I had some trouble with...’ Morag tried to construct a legitimate reason why a responsible woman in her thirties might be late for her job on a Wednesday morning.  The old guys were giving her withering looks as if to point out that her excuse had better be good since they had too few hours left on this earth to stand outside a council library all morning.  ‘I... I had trouble with.’ Morag’s brain was refusing to cooperate, and a heavily pregnant teenager gave her a withering stare.  ‘I... was... I had.’  Morag stared at her key for a moment forgetting where her sentence was supposed to be going.  ‘I..... had trouble with childcare’.
No one reacted to this fantastically reasonable lie, she’d got away with it.  She stared at the motley crew of people with nowhere else to be and tried to pull herself together, these guys needed her.  An old man with a stained beige jumper looked pointedly at the key she was still brandishing wildly in the direction of her customers and Morag vaguely remembered why she was standing there.
‘Right!  Right Larry, I’ll be opening up now then’.  She nodded this fact wildly, as if this was confirmation for the group that everything was now ok, and turned around swiftly, her feet losing their grip with the earth a little as she did so.  She played the part of the middle-aged librarian badly, it had to be said. 

She sat behind the desk staring at the blank computer screen.   Checking the clock on the wall; she could confirm that she was over three hours late.  That was a new record.   Beth wouldn’t be in until lunchtime, due to real childcare arrangements.  Or perhaps she too had simply been out drinking all night on a Tuesday.  Who knew what the team of librarians secretly got up to?
Morag blundered about in her office attempting to construct a cup of coffee around her ‘filing system’ of piles of paper, books and floppy disks.  She knocked a pile of disks into the overflowing bin, poured coffee granules all over her (possibly) important paperwork and spilled some slightly iffy smelling milk all over a pile of leather bound Austen’s.  She noticed all of these minor problems, but didn’t really care.  She was shaking so badly that drinking the coffee was a near impossible task, but she had to try, for the sake of her exploding brain.  She sat at her desk clutching the cup for dear life and tried to work things out in her head. 
Her first port of call was to think back to the last thing she clearly remembered.  She and James had been propping up the bar in Weatherspoons, clutching the last of the pub’s supply of Penderyn.  She’d been trying to make James guess what her profession was.  What had he said?  Had he guessed right?  Morag vaguely recalled James’ appallingly stinted attempts at complimenting her by suggesting ‘model’ and ‘actress’ despite the fact that her face had by that point become puce, and her clothes were riding up and riding down in all the wrong places. 
Christ.  She put her head on the table and wrapped her arms around the back of her neck muttering ‘fuck fuck fuck’ to herself like a mantra. 
Morag sighed, uttered one last ‘fuck’ and looked up.
‘Larry.  Hello.’  Larry didn’t look especially pleased by the service Morag was failing to offer him, but then he didn’t look surprised either.  Morag scanned his books through and then allowed her head to crash back down onto the desk.  She instantly regretted the action, her ears started throbbing immediately and her coffee spilled and splashed all over her keyboard.   She didn’t move for a few minutes, allowing the coffee to simply drip down onto her trouser leg and scold her skin. 
Sighing, she eventually sat up and stared out across her empire.  The majority of the books were in the wrong place, the chairs were worn, drawn on and often three legged, the customers were in a similar state of disarray. 
‘Welcome to Ceredigion County Council’s dedicated scheme to improve services in Aberystwyth’
She muttered to herself.  She scratched her head and decided it was time to check her phone and see what horrors she’d decided to perform with it the night before.  Call logs revealed numerous calls to friends from school, friends from university, and other people she barely bothered to keep track of anymore.  That didn’t really matter.  The friends that did had long since learnt to expect drunken rambling- often tearful- two, three, and four a.m. calls from her.  They were always fairly good at placating her and persuading her to tumble into bed with a large glass of water on her bedside table. 
They certainly wouldn’t have encouraged her to drink Advocaat.  She must have been very rebellious then.  She checked her texts and discovered numerous entries from ‘Jmnss’.  Presumably this was an attempt at spelling the word James made by her at the end of the evening.  They ranged from soppy, to unspeakably pornographic, right round to soppy again.  The last text was from him, saying ‘on chipplu, gnneing chips andg closow agln’.  That could mean literally anything.  Closow?  Moscow maybe?  Why would he be talking about Moscow?  It said something about chips.  Chippy chips or casino chips? 
Her brain was hurting again, so she gave up and threw her phone over her shoulder into the office.  She’d just have to worry about that later.  Right now she needed a nap, and she was going to have one.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Aftermath Part 2. James.

Part 5

James couldn’t get the car door open.  The sun had barely risen over Aberystwyth and he was already fighting with an inanimate object.  But the bloody thing knew he was pissed, it did.  It was trying to judge him for drink driving his way to a school and he wasn’t having it.  He was tugging at the handle with his backside poking out into the road in a most unattractive manner whilst trying not to think about what he’d been up to the night before.  He could still smell it.  The smell of shame was wafting off him and despite all the lynx he had in the house it was still pungent.  He just hoped his pupils would fail to notice.  His teeth were still red wine stained, his shirt was the same one he’d had on yesterday, minus the tie that he’d lost in the chippy.  His suit was wrinkled.

‘You pile of useless... you little.... just stop it’ he threw his briefcase at the door with a thunk.  He clicked the open button on his keys repeatedly, and whilst the locks flew up and down teasingly in the windows, the door’s would not yield.  He ran around to the passenger side, looking at his watch as he did so, 8.45am.  Good grief, the drive to work would take twenty minutes on a good day, but he was drunk.  Surely he should drive with a little more care than usual?   He pulled at the door to no avail.  For the love of God, this was becoming ridiculous.  He glanced back at the house considering calling for a taxi, and saw his cat sitting in the window looking at him.  He could have sworn the cat had a raised eyebrow.  Bastard thing.     

He dropped his briefcase to the driveway, and perused the situation.  The Reno was not working out quite as well as he had hoped.  The one time he needed it to operate, it wouldn’t.  A three door car and both doors were completely... wait.  He walked around to the back of the car.  He opened the boot, and glanced up and down the street of suburbia.  No one seemed to be watching.  He glanced back at the house.  The cat looked at him for a few well considered seconds before turning its back on him.  Sod it.  The cat was already judging him, and he had to get in somehow.  He clambered into the boot and crouched there considering his next move.  He tested the panel above his head, which seemed surprisingly solid, unlike all of the essential components to the Reno.  He tried pushing it a little harder with his fist, now sitting cross legged in the boot of his own car attempting to break in.  He heard a strange sound behind him, and was beginning to turn around to inspect the cause of the noise when it became swiftly apparent he was in great trouble.

The boot closed in his face, catching the edge of his shirt as it did so.  He simply sat there like a child for minutes on end. 
‘Oh’.  He gave the boot  a test poke, but of course it didn’t move an inch.  He felt about in the darkness, but of course the boot cover didn’t give either.  ‘Bollocks’.  And he began to laugh hysterically in the boot of his own car. 

Soon the smell of lynx became too much to bear and he realised he had to either get out of there or die in an aroma that claimed to smell like Africa.  It seemed unlikely that the smell in the boot had anything to with Africa, but a lot more to do with his sixth form’s common room.  He spun his body round, using his behind like the base of a turntable and tried to find some sort of a button that released him.  Surely after years worth of movies in which people were locked in boots to die the makers had thought to include a safety release?  Why on earth not?  Did they think that peoples shopping might come back to life and attempt to escape, disgruntling many Reno buyers?  He spun around grabbing at pieces of upholstery trying to pull, push, twist or generally prod at all of them.  Nothing seemed to work as a secret release button, but he did manage to locate a handful and slightly fluffy and aged chocolate raisins which he ate most of.  The other half he put in his jacket pocket, he couldn’t be sure how many hours he’d be trapped. 

He lay down in the boot of the car and considered the events of the night before.  Morag was clearly some kind of a she-devil.  She’d encouraged him to get drunk.  They’d drank the bar dry, literally in the case of the Penderyn Whisky.  She had insisted on getting her card out and between them they’d finished an entire bottle in two hours.  He recalled running to the bathroom and being sick.  And then... well... oh God.

He didn’t want to think about it.  If he did, he’d laugh, and that was most irresponsible given the seriousness of the situation.   He couldn’t help but smile at his recollection of the look on her face when he’d whipped it out.... but never mind that.  He had to find a way out.  He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out some half-melted chocolate raisins.  There had to be a way.  But this wasn’t so bad, why did people get so uptight on TV about being locked in boots?  Other then the fact that they were generally on their way to an inevitable death.  He couldn’t understand really.  He sat up and hit his head on the rock solid boot panel.  The blow seemed to set off a chain reaction in his head. 

‘Fucking fuck.  Holy christ of fuck.  Oh my good god.’ He began gasping for air and clutching at the corners of the boot.  He’d remembered why people became uptight in boots.  There wasn’t a great deal of air in boots.   

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Aftermath, Part 1

Morag awoke to the horror of her alarm.  It was the sound of her trying to play Ode to Joy on a piano, and it was truly and undeniably appalling stuff.  She’d been known to sleep through fire alarms, car alarms and burglar alarms, but never this alarm.  She rolled over onto her side preparing to leap out of bed and begin the morning chaos that was the ritual of her getting ready for work when something exploded in her head, making her retch violently and dash to the bathroom at an alarming and impressive speed. 

Clutching the sides of the toilet, her eyes streaming she tried to piece together how she came to be in this particular state.  A hangover was no surprise, more mornings consisted of hangovers than not, but she’d not been sick since she was twenty and discovered the joy of jaegerbombs.  Had she been drinking jaegerbombs again?  She sniffed the contents of the toilet suspiciously.  No, that wasn’t the smell of Jaeger.  Something smelt strange.  She leant against the bath and tried to conjure up some memories of the night before.  Weatherspoons, she remembered that much.  Wine.  Red wine, definitely.  The man had been wearing a suit hadn’t he?  He was nervous, she remembered that much. 

Morag used the toilet and the edge of the bath to slowly raise herself from the floor, and looked in the mirror with more than the usual amount of horror.  The blood vessels in her cheek had burst.  Shit, she looked... well... shit.  Her hair looked as if it was trying to escape from the horror of being her, and was therefore roaming in every direction other than downwards.  She put her hands up to attempt to smooth it into submission, once again noticing a strange smell wafting about her.  What on earth had she been drinking?  Whisky.  She remembered the whisky.  How many did they have?  Four or five maybe?  Doubles?  Probably all of them were doubles.  Well that was a lot of whisky.  But still? Vomiting at her age?  She considered brushing her teeth and having a shower, but both tasks seemed far too arduous for this hour, so she walked back into her bedroom, attempting to locate her phone.  She found it under a large mound of clothes and most of the contents of her handbag, which she’d for some reason decided to spread about on the floor.  She glanced at the time on the screen- 8.23am.  That was ok, she could easily get ready, recover from her state of near death and drive ten miles to work before 9am.   Well, it was probably humanly possible anyway. 

She decided to have a little lie down on the floor before she undertook any more morning tasks.  She lay down, the carpet marking her cheek, the cold radiator sticking into her spine and looked at the mess all over the floor.  She turned her head towards the window and saw sitting there on the windowsill the offending object.  An empty bottle of Advocaat.  She ran her tongue over her teeth and realised the strange smell was the smell of raw egg yolks combined with whiskey and left to age at the back of her drinks cupboards for three and half years.  It was almost entirely full when she had left the house to go on her date last night.  She’d drank an entire bottle of what was essentially aged custard with a hunt of good old whisky last night.  Why on earth had she done that? 

She sat up again, her head spinning even more now that it knew she had consumed an entire bottle of Advocaat, the custard scent on her tongue left her unsure if she should try to run to the toilet again.  She glanced down at the contents of her handbag and began attempting to put the assortment of crap she had spread over the floor back in it.  She threw her phone in, then grabbed her purse and checked the damage.  There didn’t appear to be any money in it, but then she couldn’t as such remember how much she had taken with her.  And she could well have been using her card all night.  She dropped the empty purse in the bag along with her keys and a handful of empty sweet wrappers and old receipts that she couldn’t be bothered to throw away.  Then she looked in shock at what had been hiding beneath the receipts.  Lambert and Butler?  Where the hell did those come from?  She hadn’t smoked since she was in University, she didn’t even like smoking.  She tentatively picked up the packet and looked inside.  There was one half smoked cigarette left, out of a packet of twenty.  Bloody hell.  She sniffed at her hair and another piece fell into place.  That would also explain the weird smell and the nausea.  But what could have made her drink Advocaat and smoke?  Had the date taken a turn for the worse that she no longer remembered?  She shook her head, and instantly regretted the violent movement, as fragments of her brain were dislodged and the smell of custard began to waft back into her mouth, she blundered back into the bathroom feeling truly bemused. 

Friday, 4 March 2011

Weatherspoons Part 3

James was eating every chip as slowly as possible.  The longer he could draw out the eating, the longer the silence would be ok.  She’d polished off most of the bottle of wine herself, and he couldn’t help but approve, in an appalled manner, of her ability to drink the stuff.  It tasted how his cat’s litter stray smelt.  
‘How’s your...’ Morag trailed off, staring at James’ plate and trying to decide what the miscellaneous deep fried brown thing was.  
James stared down at his plate.  ‘Chicken burger.  I think.  Shouldn’t it be in a roll though, really?’.  He blushed instantly, were they actually having a conversation? 
‘I don’t know where it should be.  Anywhere but on a plate’
‘Do you... are you vegetarian then?’
Morag stared at him, a chip half way to her mouth flopping off her fork sadly.  James tried to meet her eyes, but found they started watering before he got close to looking at her face.  He looked down at her plate.  Steak and chips.
‘Oh.  Right.’  Probably a good time to stop talking now. ‘But you know, some people, some people just won’t eat chicken.  Battery farms and all that, sitting in their own shit all day, legs collapsing underneath them.  Pretty disgusting really, when you think about it, eating chicken’.  James glanced down at his chicken burger.  This conversation would take some saving, better think of something normal to say.  ‘They smell weird too.’
Morag let the chip fall from her fork.  A minute passed slowly as they both considered their plates of cheap food.  Morag was mentally trying to plan a swift exit, willing her phone to ring so she could pretend something terrible had happened to some imaginary loved one.  James had given up entirely on impressing the woman.  He got up;
‘I’m going to get a whisky.’
‘Fucking great idea.  Get me one too.’  She fumbled for her purse, ‘actually, make it a double, here’.  She shoved a ten pound note into his hand, squirming a little when her hand brushed his. 
‘Nah, it’s fine, I’ll get them’ he felt far more embarrassed then a metropolitan man should, taking money from a woman he was supposed to be on a date with, and put it back in her hand.
‘No, no, seriously, you paid for the food...’ they both glanced once again at the unfinished plates of anaemic chips and budget meat.  ‘Well, you paid for the wine then.  Just get me a double’.  She forced the note back into his hand.  Both of them now tired of looking at the scary food, James headed to the bar.

When he returned, Morag was pleasantly surprised to find two doubles of Penderyn plonked down in front of her.  He had another two to himself. He sighed as he contemplated his glass.
‘How long have you been doing this then?’
Morag snorted her whisky a little, ‘What do you mean?  Drinking?’
James began to feel worried all over again, took a swift gulp of Penderyn and thought fuck it, nothing I say can make it any worse.  And she’s probably half pissed by now anyway.
‘Online dating.  How long have you been doing this?’
Morag considered her drink.  How long was ok?  A few months?  A year?
‘Three years.’  She gulped the last of her first double.
‘Bloody hell.  Three?  And you already look so defeated?’ He downed the first glass ‘try four and a half years.’
Morag laughed.  ‘Wow, that is pathetic.  Cheers’ and the both picked up the second glasses of Penderyn as the waiter finally came to clear away the plates. 
‘Everything ok?’
‘Yeah, yeah, fine, thanks’.  Both looked at each other when he had left and started laughing. 
They both finished the last gulp of whisky at the same time.  James looked sadly at his empty glass.
‘No offence, but I really needed that’
Morag looked up at him, twirling her glass. ‘Don’t worry, the feeling’s mutual’.

Weatherspoons Part 2

James was twirling the menu around in his hands, feeling jittery.  Morag had been five minutes.  How long does it take for a woman to go to the loo?  What was she doing?  He could see the door, she hadn’t snuck out.  Shit, maybe I should go and look.  Too stalkerish?
He checked the time on his phone again.  Seven minutes.  He tried to distract himself by looking around the room.  An old couple nearby were both tucking into matching fish, chips and mushy peas with a cup of tea.  That reminded him- call dad, see how he is.  Tea.  Who the hell has tea with a meal these days? 

Just as he was getting really desperate, eight minutes! Morag re-appeared.  She was wearing loosely fitting black trousers, and a grey, clingy top.  That was fine, she looked nice.  But eight minutes earlier, that top was red and blue.  And loose fitting.  And she was wearing jeans.  He just looked at her, looked at her clothes, and words failed him.

‘Are you going to get us some drinks then?’  She looked at him.  He was still staring at her grey top.  She looked down at her cleavage, looked at him and smiled, waiting patiently for him to finish. 
‘You’re... you.   You look nice’ he continued to stare.
‘Thanks.  Bottle of red?’. 
‘James?’ She looked down at her cleavage too, ‘You can stop now’.
He looked back up at her face.  He wasn’t entirely sure what to say.  So he got up and went to the bar, glancing back at this lunatic woman who didn’t seem to have noticed she’d changed her entire outfit.  Were those shoes even the same ones she’s had on eight minutes ago?

He stood in the cue for the bar, glancing around.  On his last date here he’d had the displeasure of meeting a group of his students.   The barmaid gave him a stare as he approached
‘Bottle of  house red’
‘And two glasses?’


Morag continued to study the menu, and with James out of sight, allowed herself a smile.  It was always a good idea on these blind dates to be the insane one, there needs to be one, and it’s better to be that person than be with that person.  The shit day didn’t look to be getting any better.  The man was wearing a suit for Christ’s sake, did he even bother to change once for this date?  Could do with a whisky, but it’s not ok to come across as the drinker.  Not like the last time.  Mind, might as well just get pissed anyway, the man was a teacher, what the hell were they going to talk about?  Doubt there’s going to be a lot in common.  Bet he’s got a fucking cat as well.

Part 1. Weatherspoons.

He was once described as a man with a cat and a cabinet full of whisky.  She’d never been to his house, never seen his whisky and never met the cat, but James Hendry had the kind of accidental transparency that meant it was not necessary to know his life.  You knew his type.  She was another of his online dating escapades, and this one was going just about as well as any other. 

James had once again chosen a chain pub, the chain pub which offered the cheapest most cheerful something-and-chips options in town.  He hoped there was something under a tenner that could please anyone, and on teachers wages, hoped she wasn’t going for a repeat performance of the last three women he took here.  They’d all ordered the sirloin steak, and all insisted they share a bottle of wine.  None of them were whisky drinkers. 

Morag shrugged off her coat and tried to hold her spine straight in the cheap hunched-backed chairs.  At least hold yourself like you want to be here.   Fuck, Weatherspoons, really?  This is what is deemed taken a lady out to eat in this town?

‘It’s warmer in here than it, uh, normally is’.  His voice cracked and despite his best attempts his hands were already twitching uncontrollably. He gulped, feeling his throat contemplate a coughing fit.
‘You come here a lot then?’.   She started to build a tower out of the beer mats, between them creating the perfect stereotypical scene of man-meets-woman awkwardness. 
‘No, no...’  He gulped again, ‘I took my Mam here a few weeks ago’.  She had barely looked up from her beer mat taj-mahal, and he was beginning to hope she’d order a 10oz steak, just so he could avoid any further conversation.  ‘You... what do you do’?
‘It says on my profile’
Shit.  He hadn’t even got past the picture and the age.  Come to think of it, how old was she?   She was bloody smiling at him.  At least he hoped that was a smile.  Was she angry?  He could never tell with these women.
‘Come on, Sir, you’re a teacher, and I am a...’  She held the palm of her hand out to him, as if waiting for him to deposit the answer there.  She was still slightly smiling.  He just sat there stunned, opened his mouth.  Closed it again. They were normally so quiet and dull he looked and felt like the big I-am next to them.  He wondered if this was odd behaviour or if he was even more out of practice than his mam had suggested.  Then she got up swiftly, grabbing her bag.  James leapt up, hitting his knee on the way and then didn’t know what to do.  She stood by their table with her bag, looking at him.  He stood there.  She smiled, yet a-bloody-gain.
‘I’m just going to the loo.  Are you coming?’  She looked him up and down, and without allowing him a response, strolled away.
He looked down and realised his napkin was hanging lopsidedly from his belt.  Suddenly feeling very self-conscious he removed it and sat down.  He gulped again.