Chick Litoris Dickorifice, Doc
As he watched the portly priest rush through the gates of the convent across the road and make a beeline for the public lavatory, Jason Cross shook his head in disgust.
'H'm... Abstinence in its basest of forms,' he muttered beneath his breath. Regardless of the fact that that which he witnessed often served to insult his sensibilities, he liked to sit out on the porch, weather permitting, and keep an eye on the comings and goings of the neighbourhood. More often than not it was the comings which held his attention.
'Did you say something?' enquired Evangeline Wilderness, his scantily clad companion. A roused feline, she sat up, stretched her lithe young body, and then smoothed her rucked-up black satin chemise over her slender sun-kissed hips.
'Thou shalt not masturbate!' thundered Jason. He scowled. Fine blond eyebrows met over pale blue eyes.
'I wasn't intending to,' replied Evangeline, her rocker creaking the porch floorboards with each push of her long, lissome legs.
'I wasn't talking about you.'
Jason stabbed out a finger. 'That fat bastard.'
'Where?' asked Evangeline, looking up from her book to find the street deserted.
'Father Davjak. Fat bastard. He's in the shitter again.'
'Best place for him.'
Jason lips turned up and he snorted in amusement. 'What are you reading?'
'Chick lit. It helps fill the void between—'
When a passing car backfired, Jason sprang to his feet and reached for his piece.
'Son of a bitch!'
With a deep sigh, he sat back down in his chair, his disappointment clear to see.
'Sports exhaust,' said Evangeline. She tipped her head to the side. 'A fart in a tin can.'
Jason snorted again. 'You're not unintelligent, Eve,' he said. 'For a woman, that is.'
'Wow, thanks, Jay!'
'Take it as a compliment.'
'I'll try my best.'
Jason shook his head and smirked. 'Coffee?'
'I'd prefer something a little stronger,' Evangeline replied. She chuckled and picked up her empty glass. The breeze was cool, her delicious lips moist, and the Chateau Mouton Rothschild still buzzing delightfully through her veins.
'It's a bit early for me,' said Jason. 'Perhaps later, eh?'
'I don't know about unintelligent,' said Jason, 'but sometimes you're far too clever for your own good.'
'Ah, now there is a compliment!'
'Yes, i suppose it is. And so, given your undeniable level of intellect - whatever level that may be - surely you must be able to see the logic in the ditching of the Old Testament?'
'Oh, good lord, Jason! What's brought this on?'
'Bloody Jehovah's Witnesses.'
'Oh dear! Have they been pestering you again?'
'Yes. This morning. While you were in the shower.' Jason frowned and looked towards the garden gate. 'There's just no stopping the buggers,' he continued resignedly. 'Save for a bullet in the head.'
'It's worth a try, I suppose.'
'So you agree with me?'
'About a bullet to the head?'
'About the Old Testament.'
'I can't say that I've given it much thought.'
'Perhaps it's time you did,' Jason suggested. 'The thing is jam-packed with mixed messages.'
'Yes—to the point where one must seriously question whether The Almighty, as depicted in the Christian Bible, the ''Word of God'', is not bipolar.'
'I didn't think that that was ever in question,' said a nonchalant Evangeline.
Licking the tip of her slender finger, she turned the page of her book and nestled deeper into the cushions of her wicker chair.
'I wonder,' she continued, without looking up, 'do you not consider your war on organised religion a somewhat one-sided affair?'
'They’re a soft target, I know,' replied Jason, 'yet still one worthy of a good kicking every now and then. However, I will admit that I walk a well-worn path.' He reached for his packet of cigarettes, but then thought better of it. 'Besides,' he continued, 'where would be the challenge in attacking disorganized religion?'
When the front door of the convent opened, Jason looked on with interest. Mother Superior Monique Bellucci stood in the doorway, smiling coquettishly as she tossed her long raven hair and waved to the driver of a United Dairies delivery van. Stepping down from the cab, the young, muscular milkman held up a family-sized carton of strawberry yoghurt and winked suggestively. Soon thereafter the couple disappeared within the inviting walls of the Convento de Santa Katerina Price.
Jason's scowl returned with a vengeance.
'How can it be that one can just stroll into a church and find Bibles lying about the place, where any impressionable fool might stumble upon them? It is beyond my powers of comprehension! God forbid that some simple-minded soul should actually pick up a copy and read it!'
Evangeline puckered her brow. 'Isn't that what libraries are for?'
'Precisely. Safer, too. I'm surprised Rome didn't brush the O.T. under the papal carpet years ago. Vast chunks of it, anyhow. Admittedly, they made a few alterations – where it suited their cause to do so – but ninety-nine per cent of the doggerel's still there.'
'I like the story about Jonah and the whale.'
'Fishy stories aside, Eve, I will concede that the O.T. has a few key elements. The creation of the world, for instance. The creation of man being another. However, it also contains the deluge, God's destruction of both mankind and his world. Toys and pram spring to mind.'
Evangeline nodded. 'Creation, destruction and annihilation, all in one handy volume. It beats a Mills and Boon!'
'And then there's the Decalogue; it reads like a list of criminal offenses. Exhibit four: ''Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above.'' Jason fidgeted in his chair. 'Why is it, then,' he continued, 'that this world has witnessed a never-ending supply of statues, icons, crucifixes and fetishes? Even pieces of dead saints!'
'It's consumerism gone mad,' conceded Evangeline.
'Exhibit five: ''Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.'' In answer to which I would like to draw your attention to “The Pope”.'
'No thanks. You can keep him.'
'Exhibit thirteen: ''Thou shalt not kill'',' continued Jason, clearly feeling himself to be on somewhat of a roll. 'A tad hypocritical, perhaps, when one considers the aforementioned deluge? Not to mention all the other cases of ''God's Mercy'', such as the Calamities. And what about the War in Heaven, eh? Talk about leading by example! The term ''Pot and Kettle'' springs to mind.'
'Indeed it does.'
'Exhibit fourteen: ''Thou shalt not commit adultery''. I believe that Joseph would have something to say about that particular commandment.'
'Undoubtedly. However, he's only a bit-part player in the great scheme of things. If you ask me, he's the literary equivalent of cannon fodder.'
'Exhibit seventeen: ''Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house''. Unless, that is, you're Jewish, and can argue that it is ''Promised Land''. I rest my case, your honour.'
'There's never been a bigger wig than you,' said Evangeline. She placed a bookmark in her paperback and set it down upon the table beside her chair.
'Oh, here comes Sister Rose,' Jason said excitedly, as he leaned forward on the porch swing to look around Evangeline. He grinned. 'She's real pretty.'
'The prettiest,' Evangeline agreed. Aroused feline, she continued to rock in her chair. 'She comes quite often, from what I hear.'
'Keeping you awake at night?'
'Only when you don't,' cooed Evangeline. As she spoke, she leaned forward and began to stroke Jason's upper leg. Many hours in the saddle had given him long, strong thigh muscles, across which her fingers danced in a most provocative manner. 'Would it stand up in court, do you think?'
'I realise that I may have a sad lack of information on some very important issues,' began Jason. 'So I must gather empirical data, so to speak, to allow me to make better informed statements.' He reached out to skim one finger along the swell of her bosom, just above the top of her chemise. 'In the meantime, however, I'm of a mind to fill your void.'
As he pulled Evangeline against him, he leaned in to nip at her earlobe, then whispered, 'How do you fancy working on a Mills and Boon?'
'I'd prefer something a little stronger,' she replied.
Jason wrapped his arms around her, kissed her cheek, her neck, and the tops of her sun-bronzed breasts. 'What did you have in mind?'
'Perhaps I could tempt you with a few chapters of a Jackie Collins,' suggested Evangeline Wilderness.
Strewn across the bedroom floor, detritus
of voracious desire, tatters of a scarlet
nightgown emulate scattered petals
of a silken rose.
Upon a bed of vice a fallen angel lies
- bracelet of thorns about her wrist,
snakes of smoke ascending from her slender fingertips.
Unblemished flesh a sun-kissed golden brown,
beads of sweat adorn her naked breasts
as avaricious fingers fly like arrows to her quivering lips.
Snakelike, a gluttonous tongue flicks
out, to cunnilinger at the mouth of ecstasy,
then probe the moist, enticing depths of bliss.
rail against deluging waves of rapture.
Darkness descends. And with it the angel
- that expertise gleaned from an apprenticeship
served on seaside rock
might bring her lover to bedizen her cheek
with the spoils of sated voracity.
Fallen, upon her knees,
an angel crafts the latest chapter
of her erotic treatise.
All Quiet on the Papal Font
The puppet king shuffled through Shyster City, an AK47 slung over his right shoulder and a host of tiny angels impaled on the thorns of his makeshift crown. In days of yore, he had been placed on high, that the hoi polloi might have someone to look up to. Ultimately, things hadn't turned out quite as planned; they strung wires through the holes in his hands and played him like an ill-tuned violin.
It was long past time for a little payback.
Stood on his balcony, a smug expression buried beneath the layers of make-up that brought a whisper of colour to his otherwise pallid, porcine features, Pope Pompous Filcher III waved to the faithful masses who stood in the square, wearing Cartier watches and Gucci sunglasses.
A circle of convex glass glinted in the sunlight. Cogwheels turned cogwheels turned cogwheels. Unfeeling hands moved clockwise. A dispassionate eye moved towards an iron sight.
Indifferent, time advanced.
As the Bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed five o'clock, five shots rang out: a bullet through each wrist; one through each ankle; one between the eyes.
The flailing arms and wailing hysteria of The Pope's adoring fans was promptly followed by a Mexican wave; the paparazzi were about to have a field day.
Conspiracy theorists would debate the day’s events for years to come: Smoke on a grassy knoll; spent cartridges from two different makes of semi-automatic; the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk; an Italian bolt-action rifle found on the 6th floor of a book depository; a King James Bible burning in a trashcan.
Seated at a glass-topped table outside a local bistro, enjoying the sun and going alfresco, Jeremiah Corns sipped an espresso and contemplated who best he could find to take the wrap for his latest venture. Who the stooge, the fall guy, the patsy? Gavrilo Princip? Too long in the grave; the paper's would never buy it. He knew only too well that the stench of death never truly leaves a body. No, he would need someone a little less stiff.
Perhaps I could resurrect my old associate Lee Harvey, he mused.
Frowning, Jeremiah threw in a few extra sweeteners and stirred anticlockwise; now that he had whacked both the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and The Pope, legitimate targets would be increasingly hard to come by.
Downing the remains of his coffee, The Machine Gun Messiah tossed a handful of greasy coins onto the table and strolled away through the hustle and bustle of Vatican Square, in search of a friendly bookmaker.
When next his mobile rang, Jeremiah Corns was taking a cold shower.
And They’re Off!
Reformed paedophile, Bishop Luigi Lacoste: 5 – 2
Alleged Serbian war criminal, Bishop Drago Milovanović: 7 – 1
Raving homosexual, Bishop Julian Pinkerton: 50 – 1
The Rag Publisher’s Nightmare Song
♫ — News unreported, robs me of me wrist.
News, headline-sized, life's pleasant views outnumber.
Lies, deadline-like, so tricky to resist;
I dream them up while in somnolent slumbers.
When I'm lying awake with a fearful headache brought on by a night of insobriety,
It's at these times I choose to invent headline news full of cases of base impropriety.
But then in my defence, sir, I mean no offence, sir, it's simply a way to sell papers:
it’s that most of the time there's a lack of sex crimes: scarce few porno-political capers.
Cut & Paste
Coroner attacks army inadequacies over blast that killed four in Iraq.
Coroner records verdict of unlawful killing for a Birmingham soldier and his colleague who died on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
From Origami to Papier-mâché
'There remains no limit to the amount of dead Ragheads one can throw at a front page,' said former drowned newspaper tycoon Rupert Maxwell-House. 'It’s all just a matter of timing.' He poured out a healthy measure of Chivas Regal and proceeded to unwrap a Cuban cigar. 'War has ever been a one-sided affair; objectivity all depends on which papers one reads.'
Jerry Cornhill leaned forward to shake the thin arthritic hand of a man whose nose was a map of the London underground. 'Thank you for finding the time to see me, Rupert,' he said.
'Anything for an old friend,' replied Maxwell-House. 'Though the stench of saltwater never leaves my nostrils, ever shall I be grateful for your prompt action in retrieving me from the locker of one D. Jones esquire.'
'Good disciples are hard to come by, Rupert. You of all people should know that. And believe you me, there are a lot worse things in life than smelling like a fishmonger. Besides, dead men have certain privileges, yes?'
Set like pearls in an oil spill, the tycoon’s small but vicious eyes gleamed. 'Tax evasion has never been so easy,' he beamed, and commenced to fiddle with something below the level of his leather-topped mahogany desk.
Jerry Cornhill raised an eyebrow. 'Are you texting or wanking, Rupert?'
'It is all much of a muchness,' replied “rag” head Maxwell-House. On the wall behind his desk was hung a monochrome montage of collectible newspaper headlines: The short-lived “Baby M” affair; the ill-fated civil war in Turkey; the “Free Lego Toy For Every Reader” promotion.
'It doesn’t take a genius to work out,' he continued, still fiddling furiously, 'that the lawful killing of Muslims in a theatre of war sells papers. It really is as simple as that. However, if one of their kind dies in a street fight, then we sell it as racially motivated. It’s all just a matter of swing. Sadly, in this world of consumer pulp, the shelf life of war can be measured in days, if not hours. Of course, there are those who would argue that the only good news is no news. However, in the absence of sensationalist journalism, the great unwashed and uneducated of the Lower Class would find themselves with nothing to read.'
'By “Lower Class”, Rupert, I assume that you mean everyone save for the Upper Class, yes?'
'Naturally,' replied Maxwell-House. 'After all, the all of them work, do they not? The Working Class and Middle Class are in actuality one in the same; working twenty-four seven, fingers to the bone, while we fat cats get all the cream. Middle Class is simply a no-prize awarded to the poor by we rich. It is a simple case of Robin Hood demanding of the peasants that they bend over and take one up the arse for Good King John.'
'On the subject of buggered,' began Jerry Corhill, 'the global economy is well and truly fucked up. I’ve been investing heavily in top of the range sports cars, prostitutes and designer men’s wear, then selling them on to the wealthy families of the OPEC nations; I had hoped to ease the burden on the credit-crunched man on the street.'
'And how is that working out for you?'
'Terribly; I just cannot get the morons off scratch cards.'
'Have you tried bingo?'
'Tried and failed, Rupert; every time someone called "House!", legions of eastern European and Arabic asylum seekers would suddenly appear from out the back of heavy goods vehicles, sll of them demanding the keys.'
'What about cold turkey?'
'The most obese populace in Europe will accept nothing short of burgers, chocolate and crisps.'
'The rehab clinic of today is far removed from that which it was!'
'On that, Rupert, we are agreed,' said Jerry. He brushed a speck of ash from off his sleeve and then moved to adjust a cuff link. 'I should have whacked the Fords when I had the chance.'
'Indeed,' said a consolatory Maxwell-House. He sipped at his whiskey. 'The working class, eh! Who but the taxman would have them? Still, if there weren’t any peasants, you’d have to invent them, yes?'
'Or import them.'
'Quite,' conceded Maxwell-Hose. He lit his cigar. 'They're the reason we have so many redtops; could you imagine the lower classes trying to muddle through a classic! David Copperfield? Moby-Dick? Ulysses? Don Quixote? War and Peace? To the peasant, peace holds little or no entertainment value.'
'They shall know no peace in my time,' said Jerry Cornhill.
'The word ''literature'' is as alien to them as the idea of safe sex - none more so than when it is written in shades of grey.'
'It really is such a sad state of affairs.'
'It certainly lends weight to the argument in support of selective breading,' offered Rupert Maxwell-House.
He drained his glass.
'Look, Jerry... As it’s you, I could probably stretch to giving your story a couple of days on the front page of one of my redtops. But, after that... Well, let’s just say that I have it on very good authority that the coalition has found itself a new target in the Middle East. Aside from that, there’s word on the mean streets of a new development in the case of the missing kiddie: a severed finger, or some-such. I should be able to maintain public interest in your exploits for a couple of days longer, with perhaps a small splash on page seven. But I can’t make any promises, Jerry; news is as news does, I'm afraid.'
'As long as I don’t find myself relegated to a side column on page three I’ll be a happy man,' said Jerry Cornhill. 'The bourgeoisie rarely see past tits.' With his eyes drifting towards the door, he stood up and adjusted his fly. 'It’s time I should be going.'
Rupert Maxwell-House jerked spastically and reached for a handkerchief. 'What next for the legendary Machine Gun Messiah?' he inquired optimistically. 'Some head of some foreign state? Perhaps another presidential cavalcade?'
Reaching inside the jacket of his Brioni three-piece suit, Jerry placed his piece on the desk. 'I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm,' he replied. 'I’m going to join a rock ’n’ roll band, camp out on the land, an’ try an’ get my soul free.'
'But that would be sacrilege, my dear boy! The news just wouldn’t be the same without your bumping off a monarch or two.'
Jerry Cornhill smiled a self-assured smile. 'Everything in time, Rupert. Everything in time.'
Further down the hill, outside the redbrick walls of the village primary school, single mothers stroll the pleasant paths that lead them past decorative flowerbeds set like picturesque, exotic islands in an untroubled sea of freshly mowed grass; each of them casting a nervous glance at a creature who, as if it reigns, scurries fearlessly to-and-fro about the schoolyard collecting discarded crisps and savoury tidbits; all this in earshot of their misfit offspring's caterwauls.
Inside the halls of learning impatient clocks await their call to chime. It is drawing close to home time.
'I read in this morning's paper,' began Eve, as she set about packing away Jeremy's tackle, 'that another member of the legion dollargod has shuffled away to push up daisies.'
'A soul that cannot be saved is best erased,' Jeremy replied sagely, fishing around in Eve's box for a reel of 10lb catgut and a chub float. 'Anyone I know?'
'Knew,' suggested Eve. 'Past tense.' She winked knowingly. 'In all probability, yes.'
'How much was he worth?'
'A decent enough bounty.'
'Small change, in today's market.'
'Every little helps,' suggested Jeremy. 'Money has e'er been mankind's god.'
'But can a man truly be deemed guilty of the sin of greed when the deities themselves crave wealth?'
'Not if the houses of the holy are anything to go by, no. Where was he shot.'
'In the head.'
'No, what I meant was—'
'Canary Wharf,' cut in Eve. 'A Dragunov sniper rifle was discovered in an office on the 7th floor of Poundstretcher House, beside which was lying an anatomically perfect reproduction of Lord Charles.'
'The ventriloquist's dummy?'
'A ventriloquist's dummy! Anatom—?'
'Indeed. Right down to his little quiff. It had his trademark monocle, too.
'A dummy hitman! It certainly is a first.'
'Don't try and kid me that you didn't have a hand in it, Jeremy.'
'I may have pulled a few strings, but... A Dragunov, you say? Russian! It has all the makings of the beginning of another cold war.'
'It even had a little wooden pecker,' added Eve, but Jeremy had already lost interest in the pseudo toff.
'There is little in this world as cold as a banker,' he said. 'Black, base-born, iniquitous men whose stock-in-trade is the abolition of man's liberty.'
'Whilst on the subject,' said Eve, 'do you prefer fishnets or—?'
'Fishnets,' Jeremy replied enthusiastically, not even waiting for Eve to finish her question. 'It goes without saying.'
'What's with this sudden craze for all things fishing?'
'A man's got to have a hobby, Eve. And it's hardly sudden: You may recall the time near Bethsaida when—'
'It's hardly the same.'
'This isn't anything to do with your trying to compete with the Miracle of the Herrings, is it?'
'Not that I'm aware of, no. And I'm pretty certain I'd know a pilchard if I tasted one,' Jeremy said emphatically.
Returning to the water's edge he dangled several lines in a stream of conciousness but came away with nothing more than an ill-conceived yarn about the one that had gotten away. It was at this juncture that he came to the conclusion that he was in dire need of a new telescopic sight.
Eve turned a caustic eye towards the shoal of brown trout. 'Are they taking the bait?' she inquired.
'Swallowing it hook, line and sinker,' replied Jeremy excitedly.
Across the sprawling lawns of Davina Dowager's Health Farm Resort sprawled the sun-bronzed widows of the financial world's deceased elite, all of whom were wrinkled beyond recognition and under treatment for alcohol abuse - while at the same time being treated for chronic depression, with chlormethiazole edisylate in tablet form.
'Ever has the promise of “Life Eternal” reeled in the disciples of desperation,' continued Jeremy.
'If a coffin dodger can swallow the concept of Heaven, then it can swallow just about anything,' suggested Eve.
'But have they swallowed it? Above them hangs faith's ultimate carrot - the infinite and eternal abode of their God, His angels, and the spirits of the righteous. Yet still the old wrinklies remain petrified by the very idea of their mortality.'
'Perhaps they're not feeling particularly righteous, Jeremy? After all, they are all of them gangsters' moles.'
'It has nothing to do with feelings of righteousness, Eve. Within their senile minds a war between common sense and blind faith rages, much as it has raged in the fragile minds of men since the advent of religion. It's logic verses theism. Botox verses the confession box.'
'It must be hard for the poor dears to muster up a coherent prayer with a face full of botulism.'
'Thank the Lord Harry for silent prayer, eh?!'
'On the subject of swallowing,' began Eve. 'I wonder if you fancy a quick—'
'Not now, Eve,' Jeremy chided. 'I have prunes to prune.'
CROSS? DAMNED STRAIGHT, I AM!
Tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, his flailed flesh weeping blood and twisted over broken bones, they dragged Jeremiah along the road to Camberwell and nailed his remains to a cross of wood whose timbers had been hand-hewn that very morning from the gnarled trunks of the wizened old men of olive who once stood tall and proud in the garden of Gresham Cemetery.
And at about the ninth hour, he cried out in a loud voice: "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God... Shit! This really hurts!"
It was then that his father chose to finally put in an appearance, saying unto him: "Oh where have you been, my blue eyed son? Where have you been, my darling young one?"
Jeremiah looked to the heavens and rolled his eyes. 'Where haven't I been,' he replied, the tone of his voice coloured by ire. 'It's been two thousand years, dad. Two thousand years as a wandering Jew: going unnoticed and unheard; going alfresco and, oft times, au naturel. I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains. Walked... nay, crawled on six crooked highways. Stepped in the middle of—'
'And what did you see,' interjected God. 'What did you see, my blue eyed son?'
'Well, among other things I saw a new-born baby with wild wolves around it,' Jeremiah replied, recalling the young feral boy, Ramu, who he had met in the 1950s during his time in Lucknow, India. 'I saw a room full of men,' he continued, 'with their hammers a bleedin’. Saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children.'
'Brixton,' Jeremiah murmured absently. 'Where black is the colour, and none is the number.'
'Go figure,' said God. He tut-tutted and then added, 'Oy vey, that it should have come to this!'
'Move along, sir' said a passing Bobby. 'Nothing to see here.'
Retrieving a Filofax from the folds of his long, flowing robe, God licked the tip of his pencil and then wrote the policeman's name at the bottom of a list headed ''Sudden Heart Attack''.
'So what now, dad? inquired Jeremiah. 'Are you going to be there for me, this time? Will you be there to hold me like the River Jordan: Carry me; kiss me and free me; save me; heal me and bathe me? E-Hee! Ow! Will you be there when I need you? Will you still love me tomorrow?'
'Yes, of course. Trust me, son. Everything will be different — in time. However, and as the great Cat Stevens once said in the days before he became a Muzzie: "It's not time to make a change. Just relax, take it easy. You're still young - that's your fault - and there's so much you have to know. Find a girl. Settle down. If you want, you can marry. Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy." Comprendez? Good. Now, what I want you to do is to go up to Bethnal Green and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from the realm of human life, again. And, just in case you're in any doubt... that means that you must build a temple to me, the One True God.'
Jeremiah took a deep breath and said: 'Father, tell me, honestly, is it correct that we are one in the same. That the two of us form two thirds of The Holy Trinity?'
'Aye, my son. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The father is the son and the son the father - I think I might have stolen that from Jor-El, but it's—'
'In which case,' cut in Jeremiah, 'you can build your own poxy temple, you lazy git. And then, perhaps, when you've done with that, you could suffer a turn on this sodding cross.'
The Doppler wail of sirens heralded the arrival of a team of paramedics who, sadly, could do nothing to save the unfortunate PC6688870.
'My arms are bloody killing me!' groaned Jeremiah, but his father had stopped listening - or, perhaps, he was all through with talking to himself?
DEAD MAN WALKING
'Someone's been digging up graves again,' said Yvonne Cain, as she sashayed into the drawing room wearing a lavender mini dress by Polly Shrimpton, black platform boots by Benny Belucci, and a seriously hot white Biba hat by Yves Saint-Moritz. Dropping several overfull multi-coloured carrier bags onto the cream shag pile carpet she then made for the 'Art Deco' inspired drinks cabinet by the late Luigi Longevitti.
Jerry Corndell looked up from his copy of Petrolhead Monthly. 'Where?'
'St. Mark's,' replied Yvonne. 'The undead are up in arms about it — even those without arms.'
'It's the thought that counts.'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'Fix me a cocktail, would you, cara mia,' said Jerry, reaching for the packet of Black Panthers which sat at the centre of a faux marble coffee table designed and built by the late Toby McGuinness. 'I hate to think how you would react,' he continued, peeling away the cellophane seal, 'if you returned home from a hard day's shopping only to discover that, while you were out, someone had broken into your house and gone down your drawers.'
Yvonne arched a brow of disapproval. 'I would like to see someone try,' she hissed in a voice laced with venom, menace written in the depths of her eyes.
'So would I,' said Jerry and grinned mischievously.
'What will be your poison, my love? Wine mixed with gall?'
Yvonne brightened. 'Coming right up,' she chirruped sweetly.
'So, where did your shopping trip take you to?'
Jerry fiddled with a cuff. 'Good choice. Busy?'
'No. Not really. Pretty quiet, actually. High street retailers are finding it tough at the moment, what with most of their clientèle being dead - although the charity shops seem to be making the most of things.'
'Go easy on the Tabasco, eh, mon chéri.'
Yvonne unscrewed the top from a bottle of Stolichnaya Elit. 'You've got to feel sorry for the poor zombies, haven't you.'
'Have you,' replied Jerry nonchalantly.
'Sometimes, my love, you can be so cold,' chided Yvonne. 'Worcester sauce?'
'A dash.' Jerry lit his cigarette with a table lighter by Syzygy International. 'I'm sorry, Eve,' he continued, 'but I have no sympathy for the undead. You give them that which ever they have craved, that which they prayed long and hard for, both day and night, and what do the buggers do, eh? They wander around, bile dribbling from their fetid maws, moaning and groaning and eating one another's brains out, that's what.' He drew hard on his nicotine-heavy smoke. 'Frankly, my dear, I find their attitude towards eternal life quite appalling.'
'Yes, I know how ungrateful they must appear, Jerry, but... grave robbing?! Surely everyone is entitled to a little privacy?'
'Not in my book.'
'I can fully understand why you might feel a certain amount of animosity towards the undead, Jerry. But—'
'Of course I can.'
'Because you are, after all, the original dead man walking.'
'That's not entirely true.'
'No. Osiris is one of the earliest examples of a resurrecting god. Tammuz, too, was identified as a practitioner of resurrection. Even Mithra, the Iranian god of light and wisdom did it before me.'
'That's just hearsay, isn't it?'
'Isn't it always?'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'And then there is the argument as to whether a god, or, in my case, a son of god, can really be classed as a man; walking, or otherwise.'
'Regardless; resurrection's a neat trick if you can master it,' said Yvonne and handed Jerry his Bloody Mary. As she sat down on the arm of the settee her dress rode up, revealing the filly lace tops of her white stockings. 'Talking of your book,' she continued, tugging at her hemline, 'you don't think that maybe your dad could be involved in some way, do you?'
'What, with grave robbing?'
'No, Eve, I do not. I know how he likes to have a bit of a tinker, but he's no Frankenstein. Besides, I think he's given up on that sort of thing since the fiasco with Homo sapiens. They never did turn out quite the way he wanted them to.'
'Certainly not in his image, no - I never did understand what possessed him to use a monkey in the recipe.'
'I think he was all out of dinosaurs at the time and so had to make do with second best.'
SWING TO THE RIGHT
Decked out in patriotic red, white and blue bunting, the colonnaded interior of the festival hall throbbed to the sound of live music. ''Somewhere, beyond the sea, somewhere, waiting for me,'' sang Captain Tommy Lockheed, the Bobby Darin-lookalike front-man of West Point swing band The Starfighters. ''My lover stands on golden sand...''
Easing his way through a throng of straining pink blouses adorned with ''Vote for Peace'' button badges, Jermain Carpenter made his way towards the dais. It was as much as he could do to keep his hands by his sides.
♫—“...If I could fly like birds on high...”
Warren Peace thrust out his right arm, attached to which were five sunburned pork sausages adorned with a collection of gaudy rings fashioned from rhodium-plated platinum.
'Jermain, old friend!' he beamed. 'I haven't seen you since way back when... when... when...'
'Wednesday,' cut in Jermain. 'Slaughterville, Oklahoma.'
'Really! Is it as long ago as that?' muttered the deputy vice-president. 'Time flies when you're having fund-raisers.' Uncoupling his hand from Jermain's he scratched his furrowed brow. 'Life on the road is certainly no cake tin. Quite often I wake up in bed not knowing when and where I am.'
'I speak from experience when I advise you to put from your mind such basic existential questions as ''What time is it'', ''Where am I'' and ''How long have I been here?''. Put aside questions of where, when, why and how, Warren, because it is only when a man questions who he is that he can be said to have truly lost his way.'
'I hear you there, JC. Of course, I know exactly who I am and, armed with that knowledge, can state most categorically that I'm nobody's fool but my own.'
Jermain Carpenter removed a white handkerchief from the breast pocket of his white DuBois blazer and began slowly to wipe his hand. 'I'm glad to hear it, Warren,' he said. 'After all, you're soon to follow in the footsteps of such legendary statesmen as George Dubbya and Cowboy Ronnie. Even a chap of your caliber may find it challenging to live up to the high standard set by them.'
'Believe you me, JC, I'll make this nation great again, or die trying.'
'You won't be the first.'
♫—“...Then straight to her arms I'd go sailing....”
'Indeed I won't. But let foreigners and faggots do their worst, Jermain, old friend, because, rest assured, they cannot keep a good man downtrodden. Nor, for that matter, his nation.'
'The notion of nation undergoes a subtle mutation with each new generation born of immigration,' suggested Jermain, as a pair of buttons bobbed by, tantalisingly close. Sensing that there had been little conviction in the Republican's voice when he spoke the word “faggots”, he leered lasciviously.
'Regardless,' continued Peace steadfastly. 'It is in the name of nation that the American people strive for concord through conflict. Should the cowardly terrorist strike again while our back is turned to the wind, then he will find himself stuck between a rock and a fireplace. For, like the flamingo, we shall rise up from the ashes of despair to wage bloody war on he and his children. And his children's children. And his children's children's children.'
♫—“...I know beyond a doubt, my heart will lead me there soon...”
Republican candidate Warren Peace drained his tumbler. 'Let us not forget that revenge has ever been a dish best served—'
'Have you tried vichyssoise?' cut in Jermain.
'No. No, I haven't.'
♫—“...Happy we'll be, beyond the sea...”
'I suspect that cold turkey's not something you've had to suffer, JC, but take it from someone who served in the cook house aboard a troop carrier during the Third Gulf War: Live life to the full, buddy, because you're a long time in the gravy.'
'Grave,' corrected Jermain insistently.
'Our economy? Indeed: Hence these fund-raisers. War's a costly business.'
'Of course, in my case it was only a few days.'
'The grave. War, however, I intend to savour. A few decades would be nice. There's simply no point in rushing these things.'
'I couldn't agree with you more, JC. I've always maintained that if a job's worth doing it's worth doing for a six-figure salary. I'm all in favour of a century-long crusade. A millennium, even. A man cannot expect to make his fortune overnight.'
♫—“...We'll meet beyond the shore. We'll kiss, just as before...”
The Republican plucked his fifth tumbler of bourbon from the tray of a passing waitress and scanned the room for people he considered non-hostiles. 'The world is our oil depot,' he mumbled, from behind a smile.
♫—“...and never again I'll go sailing.”
As the band struck up the last note a ripple of applause spread through the hall.
'Here's one you'll know,' said Captain Lockheed. 'A song made famous by a true American hero. A man who, save for a perforated eardrum, would have been in Europe in nineteen-forty-four, kicking Nazi butt with the rest of our brave boys, not sitting back home, surrounded by beautiful women, raking in filthy lucre. The only child of Catholic Italian immigrants, Frankie epitomised...'
Jermain Carpenter's eyes were drawn to a large red button pinned to a tantalisingly over-stuffed blouse.
'I understand, Warren, that you struggled to raise support during your foray in Fanny, West Virgnia,' he said, reaching out with his right hand. To his joy, the young woman reacted favourably. 'Word is,' he continued, fondling away merrily, 'that it turned out much like the fiasco in Faggarts Crossroads, North Carolina—where, according to your critics, you lacked direction.'
♫—“And now, the end is here... and so I face the final curtain...”
Warren Peace sniffed his bourbon. 'It is of little consequence,' he said. 'I'm still ahead in the polls. My getting a foothold in Fanny would merely have been the icing on the cakewalk. NC is a different matter altogether. I had grand designs for the place. As it was, I ran it up the flagpole to see if it would float. It didn't. ''Ce la rie''—as they say in Louisiana. My experience in Faggarts has taught me never to count my chickens before they're hatchets.'
He took a sip of his bourbon and looked around the room again out of boredom. 'I hear you've been poking about in Big Beaver, Pennsylvania.'
'A man has to have his little pleasures in life, Warren,' beamed Jermain, his right hand thrust inside the blouse of the young, buxom Republican cheerleader.
♫—“The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”
What a Wonderful World
When Soviet tanks rolled through Walsall, Jerald Cornwallis witnessed a young mother crushed beneath caterpillar tracks; her baby buggy squashed like a gnat on a windscreen.
After breakfast, he lounged on a bench, cheerily, nibbling at a rusk, with candy floss vapour trails drifting in the blue sky above him. And he thought to himself how peaceful it was.
When Yankee bombs rained down on Harrow, Sheering and Newtownabbey, he gazed out over fields of spiralling soot to see two young lovers, entwined, beneath the skeletal remains of an umbrella - their naked, writhing bodies fused in one final, dying embrace - above whom swooped a pair of amorous swallows. And he thought to himself how serene they appeared. Near them, in the ash, half sunk, the bones of a fat man and little boy lay. Two friends, shaking hands, saying: "How do you do?"
When firebombs sleeted down on Debden, he turned his back on the pillars of salt and recalled a time when a bobby stood on every street corner: Sergeant Dixon's opening soliloquy, to camera, "Good evening, all"; shiny vending machines that dispensed Cadbury's chocolate bars, cigarettes, Mickey milkshakes and "loverly" Jubblies.
Then, when bombs fell like winter snow on Peckham, he drew thick, black velvet curtains on this wonderful world, wound up his old gramophone, placed a well-worn Satchmo Louis Armstrong upon the turntable and settled back to walk a path into a vale of silence.
The times they are changed now.
Jerald Cornwallis sees no more trees of green, red roses, skies of blue and clouds of white. He finds the day is so blessed bright; the colours of the rainbow seared upon the faces of the people. He hears babies cry; but shall not watch them grow. Nought but a lazy eye remains to disclose where London stood; what powerful race once dwelt in that annihilated place? They are gone, all of them gone.
Jerald sits alone now, moodily, nibbling on the crumb of a memory, and thinks to himself: Who, from amongst the dead, shall sing of all the wonders I have seen?