Horrible Novel

My novel has become somewhat unruly. Until this morning, I hadn’t seen it for a couple of days.  Then when I came down for breakfast, there it was, waiting for me, crouching at the bottom of the stairs. But oh my goodness, how it had grown. It was at least seventeen times bigger than I remember and its mouth parts were out of all measure and proportion.

I must say, it halted me in my sleepy decent. I was a little confused as to what to do. Was I to brush past as if it were normal size and without huge fangs and teeth in their multitude. Or was I to flee, scampering up the stairs to exit through the bathroom window. In the end, it made the decision. For as I pondered my choices, it pounced.

Luckily, my martial arts have taught me much. And so with the agility God has favoured me, I ducked and the beast flew straight over my head. I saw its underbelly as it went in a high arc and my worst fears were actualised. Its gut was plump with far too many words and bulged with a peculiar menace. I estimated that it must be a hundred weight, if not more. A terrible thought entered my mind at that point: I had conjured a monster. I was Frankenstein, and this thing, my work.

As it flew over, I took my chance, dashed below and slipped in to the kitchen where I found two things: a broom and poker from my wood burning stove. With these weapons I charged in to the fray. And all was violent ugliness. It bit and scraped and hit out with a rank verbiage and a mouth so full of words. Yet I parried, deflected, spun on the axis of a dance made of martial arts and hopefulness, and for a moment thought myself to be winning.

But then it unleashed its poetry. Oh God, how that hurt. A thousand lashes of its rhyming tongue. A thousand passages of its disappointments. Its woes fired like missiles to strike me down. All that awfulness rolled in to one grievous assault. Its power knocked me to the ground. I was paralysed. And then, it sat upon me with its full weight. It was a ton at least. A ton of words. A ton of sentences. The whole unedited mass crushing the breath from my lungs. Surely I was about to die.

But no. From beneath I saw its weakness. Its binding was not well strung. In fact, it was still in its crapy little ring folder. I took the knife, that I keep in my pyjamas, and stuck it in the gap. The clasps pinged open; so full was it stuffed. And in a instant the beast was done. It disintegrated before my eyes. Pages spewed and fluttered in the air. The chapters shuffled like a deck of cards. The whole thing punctured and deflating as if it were composed of hot air and nothing more.

But when I saw it dismembered and pitiful, I couldn’t strike the killing blow. Instead my heart went out to it. I gathered up its limbs and appendages. I nursed it as best I could, applying hot poultices and wiping away its tears. I collected the spare words (there were many) and hung the sentences out to dry (they were wet with sweat). When I left it on the sofa, watching shit TV, it looked as close to happy as ever I’ve seen. And when I popped a warm blanket across its first page, for comfort and warmth, I think it almost smiled at me.

© Ben Truesdale and distilledvoice, 2015

The Rhinoceros Next Door

I mean really, what are they thinking? Their garden is tiny. I’m all for animal rights and rehoming strays, but a rhinoceros in suburban Oxford; that’s just not on!

Sometimes I think I’m going mad. I say this because no one else on my street seems to pay the slightest attention to the giant beast in their vicinity.  When the sun shines, my neighbours mill about on the road exchanging pleasantries, jars of plum jam, gossip etc, just as they always have. But no one ever mentions the rhinoceros. I’ve brought it up a few times but they just stare at me blankly as though I’ve spoken another language or were speaking out of turn. It makes me feel very uncomfortable so I’ve given up asking. There remains, of course, something unspoken in the air!

Bob and Joan, in whose garden the beast dwells, say hello to me every morning over the garden fence. And every morning there it is, right behind them. I wonder, do they not see my wild eyes flickering with confusion as the beast sways on its giant legs and snorts as it munches breakfast? How can they ignore its heavy breathing and occasional flatulence, passing off the whiff as just an unlucky farmyard breeze? And what about the truck loads of fodder arriving each day?

I mean, it would be fine if the rhinoceros had something to say: a point of view or a joke, even. God knows, I’ve tried to strike up conversation countless times. But it behaves as if it were from the jungle or the plain. Mostly it completely ignores my presence, even when I’ve been so kind as to offer it a mid morning coffee or an early evening beer (quite rude really). However, this morning there was something worse than being ignored.

I popped out to put the washing on the line and saw the rhinoceros rubbing its flank against my neighbours garage. I called out a hello and its ears twitched. I thought it might grace me with a chat. However, it did not. Instead it positioned its rump in my direction, lifted its tail, muttered something under its breath and then farted the fart of a two ton ruminator, which if you’ve not had the pleasure, is like the worst, moist hairdryer with a bowl of yesterdays sodden muesli thrown in to the mix. I would say that I was aghast but actually I was thickly coated. I felt like a fish-finger dipped in chocolate and showered in nuts. Only my two frightened eyes blinked naked of the foul and outrageous ejector. And so peppered, I felt an urge for sweet cleanliness that only a man thus dipped can know. I slid and dripped my sorry way to the bathroom, a shameful trail upon the kitchen floor.

Later on, when I’d cleaned up (in body if not in mind), I retaliated with a volley of insults thrown over the fence. But the beast is thick skinned indeed and swished me away, dismissing me with its tail.

I’m going to call the council. I really am. I mean, I’ve heard and used the elephant in the room metaphor many times, but a rhinoceros in the back garden is quite another thing.

© Ben Truesdale and distilledvoice, 2015

Dr Paradox

Dr Paradox lives at number 13. I don’t know what he does all day but it appears he doesn’t work. I have coffee with him every Tuesday at eleven, sharp. He is a stickler for timeliness but remarkably relaxed when I’m late.

It’s hard to tell his age: somewhere between 1 and 89. That sounds ridiculous, I know. But you’ve not seen him. He sometimes wears a white moustache and sometimes a bib. He has one enormous bushy eyebrow while the other is trimmed. His skin looks soft as a babies and wrinkled with age. Often he wears a white robe in his house though when I’ve seen him in town he wears jeans and t-shirt. I think the robe may be for my benefit. Everyone else on the street just knows him as John, but he insists I refer to him as Dr Paradox.

I usually go over accompanied by my cat. He invites me in and we sit in his lounge. He’s had an enormous bath fitted in one corner and sometimes we sit in that – but bizarrely without any water and fully clothed. He often remarks on the beautiful buoyancy of air: how warm it is, how clean it makes you feel etc. He says that he only fully appreciates it when understood through the context of an empty bath. Generally, that cats don’t join us in the bath. I forgot to mention, he has a cat too. It’s named Inverse and he’s a ginger tom. I’m not sure if our cats get on or not. They seem to spend an awful lot of time attempting to out-squint each other or they play the strange mind game that cats enjoy, where they try to make each other invisible. And it appears that sometimes it works.

Generally on my arrival, Dr Paradox will ask if I’d like a coffee. To which my answer is invariably: yes. His stock response is: yes, but do you? My answer is: yes, I’d like a coffee. He then answers: yes, but do you really want a coffee? This interplay usually results (eventually) in a coffee, though not always. To be honest, I’ve not got the slightest clue what he’s up to and while it’s unfailingly annoying, some part of me enjoys it very much. Sometimes, even though I’ve asked for coffee he brings me tea instead, which I drink without complaint lest I have to go through the whole process again.

The weird thing is: I always feel refreshed after my visits. The coffee (when I get one) is great but somehow there is more to it than that. It’s as if the air really is buoyant and cleansing and contains a warmth, just as he says it does.

© Ben Truesdale and distilledvoice, 2015

A Wandering Poet

Today I fancied the life of a wandering bard and poet. And so with a spring in my step and the birds tweeting in the joyous air I selected my favourite knapsack, packed it with green cheese and a hunk or two of bread, some fine olives and a red apple, and slung it on a pole.

With provisions aplenty I went out the door, not forgetting my poets peaked cap, complete with a feather for inspiration. And of course I wore my best bard-ish jerkin, to keep me warm around the midriff and hopeful in mind. I went not empty handed: a book of plain pages clasped in my fingers, my quill expectant and quivering.

I strolled a good league before I met a (would be) patron in the village of Cowley. He leant nonchalant against a wall with fermentation thick about his person, a beverage loose in his hand. He smoked a Woodbine and had rummy eyes to see the world around. I thought him decent enough for a try of the rhythm in my mind. And so I said to him:

“Good sir, toss me a ducat and I shall sing a merry tune or write a rhyme in this book here, that once done will be yours for the keeping.”

And to this he said: “fuck off.”

“Good sir,” I said, “which ditch have you dug for those words that come tumbling, for I should have them for my book.”

And he said: “fuck off you twat.”

And I smiled and said:  “you sir, are a wit. I know it. You play with me as if I were a child. At first I thought those words were dirt, but you use them so well. They fall off your lip like watery cascade. They flow as nature’s voice in wind and breeze alike. Pray do tell me some more.”

And to this he said (you’ve guessed it): “Fuck off.”

And so with a salute and a smile I went on my merry way.

© Ben Truesdale and distilledvoice, 2015