Sunday, 20 November 2011

Browning Pages


Browning pages
fingered
in the
golden sun

John Calder
untouchably
bolder & louder
than the gutless
contemporary
maggot-brained
publishing fodder
who still
to this day 
feed themselves
with figures
not words

In an ongoing
crusade to list
art the primary aim
not a monetary gain
makes still a flame
that can also
deceive the eye
flicker slightly

Browning pages
fingered
in the
golden sun

Not lost
in time
still here
like the great man
himself
refusing
to decay

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction - this poem is actually written by my fictional character Eddie Weller and will also appear in the forthcoming novel 'Barking Frog' ...

Breaking The News


Sweetheart
Sweetheart
Captain Beefheart

is dead

She burst
into tears
just like in
Ayia Napa

When I broke
the news about
Frank Zappa

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Bearded Dragon



The fact that it was eleven rugs down wasn’t an issue. It was the bad-mannered attitude of him/her. Before then though, I got shouted at.
          “Alan, stop picking at a fingernail and get to work.”
          “I am working.”
          “Not by my definition. There’s a customer over there looking at the rugs. She clearly needs your assistance – so may I suggest you get over there like right now.”
          That was some words exchanged between me and Duncan, my wanker boss. Speaking to me like he always speaks to me. Like he would know what work is. Never put in a decent shift in his life. Born with a silver spoon poked up his arse. He only got his position through nepotism; his uncle is Uncle Bob. 
          At Furniture Bob’s as well as sell beds and bedroom furniture we also have a reasonable supply of rugs to take-away. They are positioned at the rear of the store, in the left hand corner.
          Some sample full and medium sized rugs lay flat in a pile on a raised platform that has ample storage beneath for rolled rugs all wrapped in plastic. There are two large open-top cube towers set against the far wall that houses a selection of runners.
          The lady had her back to me as I approached. She appeared to be struggling to lift the pile; seemingly wanting to get at a rug midway down. It was no wonder she was struggling. The weight of so many rugs heaped on top of one another makes it impossible to flip over more than two or three at any given time. As I approached I couldn’t help but notice the bulging calf muscles beneath black stockings and perched red high heels.
          “Here, let me help you madam. Is there a style that has caught your eye?”
          We open late on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Being on a retail park it makes sense being open for business when there is a draw to our close neighbours –  Asda, Comet and Tiles U Can Trust. What I find about working late night is that it often brings out those who do not shop in the day. Late night is less peopled, less hassle. This is a time when you get introduced to people with large facial birth marks and disfigurements than you ever would during daylight.
          Her voice impacted my senses at exactly the same time as I appreciated such large hands, large hairy hands. The words, deep gruff words, came from out of a pink lipsticked mouth surrounded by stubble. The Blah Blah Blah villains in The Comic Strip Presents ‘Five Go Mad In Dorset’ immediately sprung to mind. I know of this old programme well. My dad brought me up on it. “This is true comedy son. This is the last bastion of true British talent.” He did like that show.
          “Yeah, BLAH BLAH BLAH, I like the Floral Garden one, BLAH BLAH BLAH, I’d like to see it in full if you don’t mind.”
          The Floral Garden rug in question was eleven rugs down. I lifted the top rug (a Paisley) from the right in its entirely so that it landed upside down on the medium stack immediately on the left. I repeated this action as I set about the next nine rugs that needed shifting in the following order: Organic Wave, Sheepskin, 3D Rose, Pink Damask, In Bloom, Geo Leaf, Wool Stripe, Green Spot and Silhouette Lion.
          I was thinking three thoughts in this order as I sweated with the rugs: 1) Little Britain. 2) Little Red Riding Hood 3) This job would be a hell of a lot easier if she/he mucked in and helped instead of standing there, grim-faced, just watching me struggle.
          Some sixty seconds minutes later.
          “Here you are,” I said, refraining from adding madam. Madman more like. “The Floral Garden.”
          “How much is it?”
          “One two five.”
          “One hundred and twenty-five?”
          “Yes.”
          “No, I won’t be paying that. How much is it in medium?”
          “Eighty-five.”
          “Have you got it in a runner?”
          I checked.
          “No, but I can order it in for you, I can order you the runner.”
          “How much is it, you didn’t say how much?”
          “Forty founds.”
          “No, I won’t be paying that.”
          The lady with the five o’clock shadow then stomped out of the store. A week later she was in again. Not in high heels, but in pink Reebok trainers.
          I didn’t speak to her on this occasion. It was Duncan. She wanted to buy a White Hungarian goose down duvet (single) but was arguing about ninety-nine pounds being too much, as was the slightly cheaper pure duck down and the even cheaper duck feather and down.
          “No, I won’t be paying that,” she eventually said and headed for the exit.
          I was going ask Duncan what he made of this lady, get his opinion about her stubble, see if he would lighten up for once. But when I went to catch his eye I noticed how he was marvelling at her arse before it disappeared from view out of the store, so I said nothing.

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Ghosts


In its early afternoon solitude, the pub can be a peaceful home to come and have a pint and say a prayer to those missing. But you never know who might shatter that solitude, bring wildlife through that door.
          Meanwhile you should know this about me. I’m thirty-three years of age and I have always been in fear of ghosts. I truly believe they exist. Especially when wide-awake in the dark. And I have seen one. I was six-years-old and bore witness to something that scared the living shit out of me. A misty figure I saw while walking the short distance home alone from Martin Holmes house. It was early evening, April, and it had rained all day and the night was darkening. I saw this misty figure across the road and the thing turned its head my way, black eyes fixed on me – and yes it had eyes, black eyes – and those eyes planted in a body of foggy greyness had my breath escaping, my feet frozen to the spot. It then began to hover towards me and I was there in waiting, stuck, rooted, petrified, and he passed through me. I died for a second. The cold of him made me die. And then when I came back round, he had gone; I somehow got my breath back, I had survived.
          I gave him a name, that ghost. I called him Dave. Dave the Roman soldier. I think he passed on that information when he walked through me. What his name was and his line of duty when he was alive. I remember how I told mum that’s what he was. A Roman soldier. She had her fist stuffed up a chicken’s arse at the time and she smiled warmly and remarked how she believed me. That what I saw must have been what I had seen. For all her sweetness and smiles, I knew damned well right there and then that she didn’t believe me; yet another bond of trust, abused.
          Because of that experience with the Roman ghost – that was real to my eyes and my sensation of being – I still to this day do truly believe they exist. I wish that I had matured over the years to appreciate that in ghosts there was nothing to be afraid of. That they were after all, ex-life. But that wasn’t to be the case. As is the trademark in all of my life experiences, I remained forever spooked. So it didn’t help that on my first shift in the pub, I was told how the cellar was haunted.
          There had even been a TV crew of experts in here too. Three years ago. Some cable channel confirming that there was most definitely bad vibes at work within theses grim walls. And I don’t care what anyone else might tell you, I know what I heard when there was the sound of a barrel being dragged across the cellar floor when there was only me in the pub. I definitely know what I heard.
          Today was Friday. The afternoon. I was here one till six. Employed on three weekday afternoon shifts. And had been for a few weeks now. I had been signed off of work with depression for the best part of a year, but because of a misguided decision by the Secretary of State, I was now deemed fit for employment.
          Mr Moore stated that he has anxiety, depression and menieres disease, that he has problems walking, going up stairs, going down stairs, standing and sitting, bending and kneeling, hearing, a difficulty in coping with change, coping with social situations and propriety of behaviour. However, during assessment Mr Moore  was able to sit for thirty minutes and did not make any rocking movements and rose with no assistance. He stood for one minute independently without difficulty. He was able to bend to the floor and his gait was normal. He carried a normal size bag into the examination and had no trouble handling medication with both hands. Therefore he is quite able to queue and carry light goods. The Healthcare Professional summarised that Mr Moore’s anxiety and depression is mild and the tribunal confirms that Mr Moore is not entitled to Employment & Support Allowance…
          This was my first giant step back into society, albeit I was still signing on even if claiming benefit had been temporarily denied. The pub job was much needed cash-in-hand. And the current licensee – not to be confused with landlord – was an old school mate of my dad’s, so it seemed a natural enough life development when the vacancy was brought to my attention.
          You would think that with daylight – surely an enemy of ghosts – that this job was all a decent enough affair, a safe bet. For all intents and purposes, an afternoon was an easy shift. That’s how the job was sold to me. I mean, what ghosts and pub-fights statistically make the news in a weekday afternoon environment? Surely, not many if any. Which was good. Because I’m not good with violence either, never have been. My legs go first and then I just crumble into a heap. Quite literally before the first fist or boot has connected. And this is just me talking from a spectator’s viewpoint.
          I can’t help the way I am. And even though statistically fights rarely occur midweek on an afternoon shift, the fear of a sudden outbreak of alcohol-fuelled violence is never too far from my thoughts at all times while I’m stationed helplessly in a confined space behind the narrow length of the bar. Me, Colin Moore, still single and eating into my thirties and regularly out of sorts; I have always been low in spirits. But what I would give, would love to be able to save enough cash to move out of mum and dads. The pub work had to be viewed as a positive. A starter point. I had to remember that.
          Because the job was mine as long as I wanted it – that was the spoken contract – maybe I really could save enough to buy a VW Campervan. Just like the one Leonard has. Ride around the countryside all day behind the wheel, set up camp for the evening by the sea, beneath the stars; claim my independence once and for all. I guess I wouldn’t be depressed then.
          But for now the fact prevails. Ghosts and alcohol-fuelled violence are never too far from my thoughts at all times, what with me being the acting man in charge and with all the responsibilities that came with it. About the biggest drama to report so far I suppose was last week. Last week when those two young Goth girls tried to purchase WKD’s – they still had their school blazers on for crying out loud – and they resolutely stood their ground.
          “We are fucking eighteen you stinkin’ creep!” they both screamed.
          As they had failed to show the necessary proof of age, I showed them the door. They then began swearing and making disrespectful comments about me and even my family – surely, they didn’t really know my mum and dad? – and then when they eventually ran out of profanity, they stood resolute, arms folded, trying to imply that they were going nowhere until served. But I stood my ground too, but with a far firmer footing. I may have my many regrets in life, but on this occasion, no one was going to take the piss out of me.
          My father, nor I, suck cocks and I let it be known what I thought of such gutter-born accusations and they soon got the message. Take your foul evil tongues and gothic make-up out of my – out of Anton Berkovic’s house – and go outside and drown in the daylight. Prick-teaser bitches. I’d done well. Kick up the backside job done. It was just a shame however, that on that particular occasion there was no one else in the pub at the time. No one else to witness how contrary to popular conception, I am not a walkover.

The opening to a new book, 'A Man Lost His Eye' available to freeview from Joe England Books from tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Monkey


I am a very
necessary cynic
these warm
winter days

This is my alternative
& vital function
that is the alternative
to your ongoing
stupid jive

You dance & bounce
& shout about
like a wounded
monkey
let out of a cage
when should be caged
(& I’m not just
talking experiments)

As a monkey
you expect me
a monkey too
to immediately engage
in your dance & bounce
& to shout about
your wants & dreary needs
me, to bow
down & worship

You
are so out there
totally out there
is the demented assertion
of your being
what you keep shouting
right to this now
well believe it or not
I’m there too mate
banana in hand

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Patrick’s Thistle



I once had a friend
called Patrick
he had a stem
a hairy beanstalk
sprouting out
an inch and a half
from the surface
of his purple face
& on the tip
a perfectly symmetrical
grey fuzzy ball
trimmed around neatly
as it grew freely
out of that left cheek

‘It’s my thistle’
he would proudly inform
those inquisitive
glances that often
prevailed when we
strolled about town
pub to pub

‘It’s my thistle’
he would proudly proclaim
what with his
unrelenting love of
The Jags
not the band
but the team
Partick Thistle
the true love
of his life

I once had a friend
who broke the
golden rule
never shave when drunk
the act of the fool
he sliced off his thistle
his proud beanstalk
with a clumsy hand
& sharpened Bic

Red seeping through the
snowy white foam
then in shock & with
life draining he slipped
bashed his face
on the sink
knocked out
somehow he fell
into the bath
ran 2 hours previous
& drowned in
blood & cold water

This all on the
very day when
Partick beat Rangers
at Hamden

Thistle and body
were buried together
three days later
it didn’t rain but
there still weren’t
any known faces there
facts as the facts
I suppose

No one cared

As for me
I never went either
couldn’t get
the day off

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Plastic Reader


Family camping holiday
away from tents and
eco-toilets today
on a sea front instead:
windy Wittering

We’re all sat on the stones
drinking tea out of plastic
cups and watching the white flesh
turn blue on those emerging from
the cold sea in search of a towel
“You going in Sam?”
I toss my head savagely
no chance

Close to us a man is reading
a Kindle and we all regard
him for a while
he has a fixed frown of
doomed concentration
it’s either a difficult book
or he’s a poor reader
all impossible to tell
without a book cover
for guidance

We made Ann go to him
and ask what he was reading
“A Kindle,” he replied
and waved the slim case
in front of his stupid face
she came back and we made her
return to get the book title

Ann was there for too long
he showed her his white screen
they both frowned alot
and then Ann returned
broke the news
“He doesn’t know how
to turn the page,” she said

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Dead Fingers


I can feel the heat closing in as I reach out. She was cold and bony to touch, white strips like frosted chips, nails and surrounding skin savaged by time and teeth, absolute ruin. And that was just the fingers. Her face looked like the face a shovel had slapped in an open grave. It was flat, devoid of life, any humanity. Dark insect eyes sung of an empty pointlessness while her hair hung like burnt rope down the bone-face of her small head. A blistered lizard surface clung to a shrunken skull sat upon a collapsing bony body. Pathetic and vulnerable. Her song of the last twenty years. There was coughing. I was deafened by so much fucking coughing. The choking dead. All around me the choking dead. It made me sick just to be there. So near to it all. She offered me a cigarette. I pushed her diseased ghost hand away. I’ll fucking well smoke my own bitch, if you don’t fucking mind – I would have screamed all of that. But there were these others present. These others. Ten now I count, no, eleven, twelve including me. Others, who would have felt the need to engage, invade my space because I said something upsetting, that they didn’t want to hear. Spitting in my face and telling me how that was no way to speak to my mother. She wouldn’t’ve minded. She knows me and my trends. Of course she wouldn’t’ve minded. But they would. Wouldn’t they just. You see I know the type. Always ready to lecture without a lesson learned themselves. Spectacular bores. The world is crammed with these unfunny jokers. I don’t need advice. Their advice. Like I’d ever take guidance from the living dead and their visiting spawn of scum. They might as well all be put out of their misery. In one foul swoop. Look at the lot of them gathered here. In this pit of misery. Is this what our whole existence really points towards? Brittle, piss and shit stinking versions of former selves? It makes me sick. All of it. Life, death. It makes me sick. And then one of them is sick. I check my shoes for specks of yellow and red. Although I am spared I remain fixed in disgust. We are all held in the wilderness of our disgust for one another. As we wait. Wait for the end to come and smother the last breath of life so that there is no longer anything worth bothering about. Definitely now time for a fag. Are you sure you don’t want one of mine? Repetition, repetition. I exit without moving my lips. Glad that I can still make vital decisions for myself, stick to my own brand.

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Nothing Poetic


I was lodging
at a quite nice house
tea time
hand out the oven
into the mouth
total disaster

Timeline:
I was only checking
the fuckers were done

Lip pounding
blistered left side
of the top section
culprit, a demon hot chip

We were having
ham egg chips
the burning
turned me off my supper
my upper lip zone all
inflamed & angry
fucked me right off

& madness then prevailed

‘Why just me?’
blistered upper lip then part-whistled
‘why not him below too?’

‘Simon Weston would not
be impressed upper lip’
crunched 2 rows of united teeth
‘you’re a disgrace to this face.’

This exchange between teeth & upper lip
gave me a headache
made me think I really was mad
but also made me think about
how I was at least lodging
at a quite nice house

Landlord:
alcoholic money-taker
bitter old man from Sheffield
said he served on
HMS Sheffield
& was on that ship
when it got hit
but survived
(only in body
not mind)

He was in need of
company & money
I gave him both
of them needs &
I felt it polite
as I handed him
the plate not to mention
past and present fate

About my swollen lip
my burn

& also how I once
had my head caved in
both lips burst open
teeth cracked
one time in his hometown

Outside Hillsborough
on a cold wet Wednesday
(there was nothing poetic
in this: a truly shit night)

‘We’ve all suffered’
he then said
while chewing open-mouthed
on ham

I was startled
but then noticed he was
watching the news
about some massacre
in Amsterdam

‘Don’t think I’ll go
there then,’
I said to Ken (his name)
‘might try Madrid
as an alternative.’

‘Decent place, Ted’
Ken eventually said
before adding quick
‘what the fuck’s up
with your lip?’

Nervously I bit
on the good side
of my lower lip
& then blew determinedly
on a chunky chip
a long time seemed
to keep us both hostage
the tension rising
so regular this pressure
but no rhyme this time
a nightly occurrence
his northern abhorrence
of my lack of appreciation
of wars fought
his Falklands stretch
& the other night
me in the grip of his
stinky armpit headlock
for hours on end
no laughs; he wont even
use Old Spice
now Henry Cooper’s dead

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Jacob's Crackers


Had the sky fallen? thought Jacob as he munched on a cracker. What had fallen where the many crumbs that abseiled like golden dust down the front of his blue and white checked shirt. While he munched on another cracker, Jacob contemplated the end of the saga. That bloody saga that ended with a nosebleed and a headache. From Alpha to Omega; in a single night.
          His eyes ached and his eyelids hung heavy like the weight of hanging horses over a cliff face. The hairs on his forearms were stiff and prickly like cacti. Was this morning glory or morning dread? All around the land was still, desolate, at peace. This must be a positive sign, thought Jacob as he stood and stretched out his crumpled body, bones cracking, skin unfolding, followed by a long lethargic sigh that filled the room with renewed apprehension.
          Was Jacob standing on the threshold of a golden dawn? Whether he was or whether he was not, Jacob did not want to venture out; to move about, scream and shout. He had done enough of all that throughout the night, up until the coming of this new dawn.  Jacob poked his head up and looked out from behind the scratched window. The demons were invisible again. But so were lost souls.
          The landscape were deserted. The sun hidden, cowering behind a large black unmoving cloud. Then he could here a voice, deep and endless, calling out his name. Jacob now understood. He had been told to fully exit the shed and enter the garden. Jacob wisely contemplated the garden sheers for protection, but realised that such an act would be frowned upon as a ‘weakness of the soul’ – so he ditched the idea.
          Although the shed door was unlocked, he had felt safe behind the closed door. He name was called out again, only this time the voice had changed, words now seemingly spoken behind tightly applied shrink wrapping.
          “Mother?” he said as he remembered the story that she had once read to him when he was bad, those dark nights when he could not fall asleep.

“…Old Nat Crawley had a daughter he named Creepy.He never wanted a daughter. Nothing original in that. But that was his reason for keeping her locked away in the shed. He blackened the window. And left her alone, day and night; in the dark. Where she could be at home with the spiders.He wanted her to die. He wanted to forget. Wanted her to die. Just like the others. But his daughter survived. She was visited in the black of night by the ghost of her mother. The ghost of her mother told her daughter she must avenge. To do this, it was of paramount importance that she had to survive, gain strength. Therefore she had to eat. Creepy began eating bugs and soon learned to use her imagination to get by. Sometimes she pretended she was outside, at the fairground or by the seaside and cobwebs would become candy floss. One time during spring she ate the meat of a dead mouse while fooling herself that it was a chicken wing from KFC and when some mouse hair got trapped between her tiny dulling teeth she began to choke  and then she…”

          “Mother?”
          “Jacob, is that you?”
          “Mother, but you’re dead.”
          “Always had a reason to find a negative, you haven’t changed.”
          “Is everyone dead now?”
          “Oh here he goes. Yes, of course everyone is dead.”
          “Am I the Daddy now?”
          “You certainly are.”
          Jacob opened the shed door and raised clenched fists towards the heavens.
          “Fucking well have that!” he said, triumphantly, fists still raised and shaking.
          Then the voice spoke and his arms fell.
          “So what exactly are you going to do now then, son?”
          Jacob paused to ponder.
          “I dunno. Mooch about, see what I can get up to.”
          “Oh Jacob. As much as it pains me to say this: but perhaps your father was right all along.”
          Jacob frowned towards the direction of where the voice of his mother appeared to travel from; northwards.
          “What do you mean?”
          “You know what he once said to me? Jacob is a selfish self-centred egotistical cunt and I can’t never deal with him woman; he’s your problem now.”
          Jacob had every right to be angry.
          “That’s not very nice. Fuck him though.”
          “You can’t say that about your father.”
          “Yes I can. You’re all fucking dead anyway. I’m the Daddy now.”
          Jacob would never hear the sound of his mother’s voice again.
          After a while of strolling around his deserted hometown, he suddenly began to appreciate how he would probably never hear another voice of anyone else ever again either.
          Hours before, this new and tranquil way of life had pleased him. But now Jacob was becoming depressed. Fuck it. Everyone really was dead. And this now presented Jacob with a harsh truth – how he knew that the dead couldn’t give two fucks that he was now the Daddy.
          Jacob collapsed face down in the road and began to cry. If only there was one living soul left alive in the world to run him over.


An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of poems and short fiction.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Gang of Miserable Capybara’s


I know exactly what it is I am going to get because the item in question has already been agreed with Carnaby. So I should not take long and after then, I will venture home to rest and prepare for my evening with Florence. But as I approach the Virgin Megastore my eyes fall upon the wonder of the bookstore opposite and hypnotically it is there that I enter first. I assertively recognise the crucial role in how I must go to work and passively distance myself from every violent image that is still fresh and loitering in my current memory; and how instead I should remember exactly who I ultimately really am, that I am a writer, that I am of peace, that I am at home here. Yes, at home here in this wonderful shop of books. I begin to feel better already. I head over to the left, towards the giant bank of bookshelves that house a fully comprehensive selection of quality modern and classic fiction and immediately set about patrolling the corridor of books, browsing, contemplating, pensive, deeply, browsing over such important pondering as to my next intellectual advance, the future road to my next essential read, the continuation of my in-house schooling. And it was there in that same shallow corridor that I was crudely interrupted as I comfortably flicked through a book of short stories by the famous emotionally tortured European author Franz Kafka. My sound waves and nearby space invaded by an immediately perceived worthless family. Rich, pompous, loud and wholesomely ugly. An unsightly unit if ever I have seen one. A small close knit threesome that shuffled together in their own close proximity, like they are all stuck at the wrists by glue. Ma + Pa + Boy Junior. They were so close by to my sacred space that I just had to inspect in greater detail. I carefully rose my holy gaze from the page, oh my word. Take a look at that my good friends. All of them, the worthless family with their stinking wealth. The worthless family with tiny matching bodies and huge heads. Huge heads with faces that provide them with the disconcerting appearance of a walking upright family of Capybara’s. Tiny bodies with huge heads like a mutant strain of the alien image we have all grown to love so much. But not this. Oh no. No love can be thinly spread to encompass these terrible creatures of the damned.
The Ma, well she moaned. Loudly. She moaned so all in the aisle could hear how the copy of ‘A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man’ by James Joyce that she held aloft was dog-eared. Oh my word. No one leaves the store until the culprit is hung drawn and quartered. This was not good. This was not good for anyone there in the bookstore during this painful punctuation of daily life. No, not good. I looked to see their expressions. I just couldn’t help myself. So I looked to see their expressions and saw the anger, the disbelief, the impatient searching for help. Help that would address this dismay, the dismay of the dog-eared book held aloft in Ma’s hands. So an assistant was called out for once again, this time the volume on the invisible megaphone, the loud hailer from hell, was increased and proved to be a highly effective action. Help advanced from a far corner of shelter. 
The victim, the shop assistant – a neat ageing typical librarian type with short curly grey to brown to grey hair, a white powered face that badly hid the years, gold reamed glasses which housed and protected two wide Owl like eyes forever blinking, a neat red and blue flowery Marks and Spencer type of old lady blouse, a grey skirt that fell bellow the knees, and beneath that, brown sexless stockings. She approaches the scene far too confidently. She was totally unaware that she, the owl, was to be bullied so cruelly by a brutal gang of miserable Capybara’s that just loved their books to be free from dust, fingerprints and abandoned folds. And boy did they cut her down. In public. She was humiliated when they implied that the book was placed on the shelf from the outset in such an impoverished condition and demanded a proper new copy plus compensation for the inconvenience. This mighty book was for her son. He is presently at a nearby sixth form college. We also get to hear on how he was been reading daily for months and it is excitingly perceived to be the right time for him to get ready and all set to approach, to read, seriously read, a certain James Joyce no doubt. They appear to have such well thought out and thoroughly approved plans for their son. Yes indeed. For he apparently has such potential.
While criminally frozen in the bookstore, I am positively sure my bottom jaw is hanging in a partially drunken detached disgrace. For they are now proclaiming like the lunatics that they must surely be, how they are positively certain in a positive healthy way, that this transparent adolescent hideous idiot before us, will certainly more than likely, definitely one day become a great writer of great books. And, oh yes there is an ‘and’ to all this. And, these books, these books written by the baby Capybara, they will be sacred books that no righteous house of books would ever dare display dog-eared.
          Well the owl blinked and flapped and disappeared only to return moments later empty handed, while proclaiming in a returning firm way (a returning firm way that also happened to be the dear close cousin of a grave undertone) that unfortunately that particular book was the only copy currently in stock. Do you dig motherfuckers? Seemingly not. Look, she nursed, there really are no others. But get a load of this. An order could be placed. It may even be here by next weekend. I beg your pardon? Next weekend? No. No. No. Not good enough. The dear boy, he must have and hold and he must read this book NOW. Today, this afternoon, before nightfall. He must learn every damn word and then appropriately translate into French and then from French into Latin and then from Latin into the punishment of German. And all by the coming Tuesday. And you stand there before us, a stupid goggle-eyed fool of an owl blinking and speaking insulting empty words of ‘next weekend?’ How dare you. How dare.
And so, Ma, the actual angry bitter Ma who is the forefront victim of injustice, well she happens to present a case for some form of fantastic discount, and she is told in no uncertain turns that they do not accommodate compensation or discounts for pre-sales – it is just a fact of life. Ever so slightly damaged books do happen to find loving homes (and may I use this opportunity to say what we all want to say from the darkness of our hearts: God bless all you good loving people who purchase ever so slightly damaged goods without complaint, while paying in full the retailers listed price). For the good loving people are the prevailing foundations of our civilisation that most of us contemptibly prevail to stamp and spit all over. But still, in the cut and trust of paper and hardback transportation this is unfortunately the way some books arrive from the warehouse. The process and risk of failure can really be so delicate and thus you can one time in a million get the odd subtle imperfection. It happens. Deal with it. But no. They continue to bemoan such ill fortune met with such shocking customer service.
So the assistant again tried to pacify the situation, but this time Pa moved in, big bold pipe smoking Pa (only he did not smoke a pipe but take it from me he sounded and looked like he probably does), and Pa, yes big bad Pa, he moved in, his cruel, bullying tone nothing short of unrestrained anger and so we wait for the inevitable arriving words of how: “I was in the RAF and I am so going to smack you in the mouth if you don’t get this sorted and while I hate to hit a woman the fact of the issue still prevails: someone needs to wake up to the seriousness of this situation.”
I, Rome Street, presently now also house an unhealthy unrestrained anger that one would not readily expect to see from such a passionately and publicly non-smoker of pipes. My anger is rising because this Pa, he just does not like NO for an answer. No sir. No he does not. No he cannot stomach such unprofessional negativity. Therefore he bluntly rudely abusively continues to demand what he obviously cannot have. A substantial discount on the list price.
What a fool of the damned.
The brave honesty of the gentle book service provider has already been spelt out five times and counting. What incredible new madness of the day therefore prevails. We have shot a million miles a second in hyper space and we are all so far past a controlled belittlement of this dear poor helpful-in- her-helplessness woman, running spinning zooming fast towards a new form of anarchy and the store is as near as it will ever be to witness the raw free terror of fists and clubs and I really do not like what is occurring. No. Not one disgusting crumb of it. Just then my phone rang. It was Caravan Cooper. But the phone must stay in my pocket because I could not let this go.           Immediately, with raised volume, I intrude: “Dog-eared?” I said. Silence from all four prostrate figures. “Dog-eared I said,” I said again. But this time my voice is met with pain, a long pensive silence that mocked me in vain. “Now look here.” I roared at the four. Breathing in, I approached for more. Many now flocked in through the door. I raised my head and powered my chest and proceeded to thump my angry breast. All in the duty of a humble passing guest. I coughed out loud, standing proud.
Silence. More silence. Perfect.
And then I viciously began:

“Even if dog-eared, harpoon speared,
Soaked in beer or by a million tears,
Shredded from fear, perhaps half eaten by a deer?
If the print, the writers words,
His story, his efforts, blessed be the birds,
If all are fit to view in earnest,
In calculating merriment from the fire in the furnace,
In sentences of finished drafts,
In paragraphs of printed dance,
Of day and night and love, perchance?
If all of the aforementioned are duly met,
I’ll buy the damned book, so you will need not fret.”

          Sometime not very much later at all actually, and I am surveying the scene of the necessity of my battle and I am instantly (and obviously) pleased to be on fire with such a passionate display of natural flowing watery brilliance. But pray, something truly worthy must have surely followed your excellent improvisation you ask? Rome, now come on. A quite masterful and splendid deliverance yes, but please, please do not stall us. Please tell. Please tell us what followed? Okay, okay, calm down. I will reveal all: My friends, what followed, what followed was a fountain of endless joy. The house, this marvellous house, this colourful auditorium of life and its spectators of silent participant, all of whom had been cemented, transfixed in wonderment, the anticipation of this now endless fountain of joy. The house, how it roared its muted approval of the mighty Rome Street. Not merely now just a novelist, but also a quite breathtaking poet. A gifted young poet. Whose poetry is of such stunning high quality. Street level poetry emancipated from sentimentality and nonsense by England’s most refreshing new young writer and a man capable of improvising at will, with or without invitation. What a man this Rome Street
is, the Capybara tribe want to announce, congratulate. What a writer of fiction, what a poet. But are they true of this rampant cutting opinion? Why, they must be. For they are none other than the famous Capybara’s, the readers of James Joyce, the writer of dog-eared books, for they are the holy, the thinkers, the crusaders of contemplation. Of course, how can anyone question that they would not know how to identify true talent. They would tell you how true talent will always succeed in time. And I so wanted the moment to last, to crawl along wounded, slowly, therefore allowing me the treasure of golden time to gain so much more recognition, to be honoured and accepted, to be gloried by educated minorities, talked about positively at select diner parties, the man, this Rome Street, the man who is the only S stocked under S worth buying and reading and discussing in book clubs. Oh yes, these are the days. This is what I have been waiting for. But alas my phone, my phone, my present bane, the enemy of the poet of the bookstore, it would not stop its jingle jangle jingle. It would not stop throughout. And thus I was rendered with no other choice but to surrender to its call.
          “Fucking hell, Streety. What the fuck’s going on?”
          No indeed. It would not have ever stopped.
          “Streety. Where the fuck are you?”
          I would never have ever chased away that jingle jangle jingle.
          “Erm, nothing, nowhere. I’m in a shop.”
          “A shop? What fucking shop?”
          “Just…a shop,” I softly concealed as I misplaced the Kafka book on the shelving, avoiding all eyes and all shapes and all noise. Kafka, a good fellow, and right now because of me he was presently suffering under E, forcefully planted in between Ben Elton and another Ben Elton. I would apologise and explain my reckless but necessary albeit damming action to Kafka at a more appropriate, more convenient interval.
          “Well, I’ve moved on and I’m now over in The Card Trick and it’s your fucking round. So get your arse in gear and get over here quick. You’ve been ages. I’m well cunted off with you.”
          I promptly left the shop assistant and the Capybara’s and a tidy upward march soon became a manic collapsing race as I purposely moved out of the store, pausing momentarily to remind myself to get the CD for mum (which I did) before heading east and towards the overhead jet black thunder cloud that appropriately sat mean looking, high and directly above The Card Trick public house. But all was not fully lost and bad. At least I had not wasted £6.99 on a book by James Joyce that I knew I would never get round to reading. A book that was dog-eared too. Shocking stuff. After my returning words with Kafka, my deep apology, I will make note never to shop in there again.


This is an extract from King of the Zulus by Joe England