He drew the line at the menstrual blood I had gathered in a jar of Bonne Maman.
– What’m I sposed to do with that???
– Mix it in with the gravy.
His turn to flinch.
Later, she was in the papers. She had been strangled. Found in her bedroom. No sign of break and enter. They said it was murder but it’s not true; it was an accident.
– You didn’t kill her did you?
– No. Not I.
– I looked him straight in the eye. He took a long drag from his cigarette, exhaled into my face.
– I know you think you’ll always win a stare-down, like I know you can look a person straight in the eye and lie to their face. Did you or didn’t you?
– You decide.
I remember the exact moment my son, Thibault, was conceived. My wife wanted to have a child four years on into our marriage. I wasn’t so sure; I was already 40. Our whole time together had been one big party till then. Lots of drink, cigarettes and party.
Sleep on your right side, it will influence your dreams, she had picked up from God knows where. So she slept on her right side and dreamt of babies. Every time she thought she had fallen pregnant, she’d try out another one of her best friend’s recommendations. She peed in a goblet and added a large lump of salt. After two hours the salt still hadn’t melted so she wasn’t pregnant. She peed in a plastic box, put a brand new needle in it and put the lot in a cupboard away from sunlight. After eight hours the needle still hadn’t turned rusty or black, so she still wasn’t pregnant. After two years of larking around like this, we conducted some proper tests.
Everything was fine with her, it seemed. The doctor wanted to know if the same could be said for me. So, in I went to the hospital, they gave me a container, said,
‘Bring it back in 5 minutes.’
I went into a room where the tables were covered with porno mags and films. I must have wanked for about an hour, my hand even hurt, but not a drop came out. I went back the next day. Same story. The nurse was standing behind me, she kept coming over every few minutes:
‘Any better today? Come on, make an effort! Have you finished?’
For crying out loud! She should have come over and played with me a little, or let me have a sniff of her, that would’ve been much better.
‘there’s no way this is going to work.’
So they told me to wank off at home the following morning. On an empty stomach, mind, then bottle it and drive it straight over.
That’s what I did. The test results said that I had enough secretion and there was sperm, but that they were extremely tired. Is that any wonder, with the lifestyle we were leading?
We went for a week to the Costa del Sol and in that time I had nothing to drink cos the wine there was more like piss than anything else anyway. We ate well; I had lots of meat and just a bit of salad, not all that rice or potato stodge, and I did lots of sport everyday. Avocadoes and almonds were a regular. Loads of vitamin E in both. Good for your sperm. Zinc and selenium in almonds for that extra boost, tho I know that some swear by drinking the water you’d boiled your eggs in once it had cooled. Can you see me drinking continental tap water to foster the birth of my child? I’d be up at five whilst all the other holidaymakers were still snoring, I’d swim for an hour then go up for breakfast. And in the evening, I’d be sure to sprinkle a generous dose of fresh parsley on whatever I was eating; great for men’s reproductive health.
The second time we made love, there was something about the way her body reacted: I knew she had just fallen pregnant. On the flight back, she kept saying,
‘I feel sick, I’m gonna throw up!’
‘Oh, you and your bla-bla-bla!’
She didn’t believe me for a second.
‘When we get back, you’ll go to the chemist for a pregnancy test. I don’t want any more jars of piss in my cupboards, got it?’
The test came back positive. To be on the safe side, I sent her to do a blood test. Positive. I could tell the doctor exactly when the baby was conceived. Not simply the week, but the precise day and the precise hour. He believed me, because it is possible, but very few people are so tuned into their bodies let alone the body of another.
I know the exact moment when both my children were conceived; there was an energy, a reaction: I just knew it. And if I listen deep down in myself, I know that I was a father already at the age of 14. That 19-year-old I had, before my mother had explained to me coitus interruptus.
My wife went along with my biking mania. She did the license and I bought her a brand new Harley. We had money in those days. A brand new Harley with all the trimmings. And our son, Thibault, in his seat on the back.
(from the Book of Joseph, in Verses Nature. And because it’s Christmas, here’s a little something extra you won’t forget in a hurry…)
I had my first taste of it when just a wee boy. Been searching for that something ever since; that of innocence, inattentive of hygiene. A bit fish, a bit salmon… crevettes…
She was the daughter of the shopkeeper who owned the Sadna. Whenever mother went there to buy something, I’d be sure to come along cos I just had to get a glimpse of this little girl tho I saw her at school everyday, but when there was no school, I still had to find a way to see her. We were in love, see. No, really. I now happen to think that her father was rather partial to mother too, he kept slipping her freebies and their hands would brush. She told him of a garlic treatment she knew for warts and another one for hair loss: add five chopped cloves of garlic to three soup spoons of olive oil, soak the paste for two days then apply half an hour before washing your hair, she said. And for that extra shine, don’t throw away the water after you’ve cooked rice, massage it into your hair, leave it on for a while, then rinse.
You’re so knowledgeable, Madame! You know all the tricks of your trade. And I know all the tricks of mine…
Dirty little slimer.
Whilst he was working out ways of getting under mother’s skirt, I’d be half hidden behind mother and his daughter would be half hidden behind him. She’d come to my place after school when mother had gone to work for she knew I’d be alone. We’d get undressed, play mothers & fathers then eat whatever she’d pinched from the store, mostly pastilles Vichy. I tried to penetrate her and others later but it didn’t work. In the beginning I thought their hole was at the front.
Bernadette. My first sexual encounter. I was thirteen, she was forty and pregnant; in the fourth month, with her fourth child. A redheaded woman whose body was already exhausted.
She had called over to my mum to ask her, Hello, can you send the boy over to help me out, thank you so much. Of course I didn’t want to go. Word would get round that I was a good lad. I knew what that would mean; I’d be running errands for every old woman of the village and sitting out cups of tea and mounds of stale biscuits instead of getting real money for my pains. No thanks! Mother sent me off with a shove in the back and a clip on the ear. When I’m grown up, I thought, I’m gonna bash you lot back. You’ll see how nice it is!
Hardly had I got through the door, she grabbed me and ripped my clothes off. Bloody Nora! That day, I ran over to her house at least 9 times. Mother didn’t mind. One less mouth to feed this evening, she laughed, at least my children are proper Christians, she said, a clothes’ peg in her mouth.
The next time I saw him I told the curate that I could never become a clergyman.
‘Why not, my son?’
Live without sex? I’d rather go to hell in a hand cart.
‘Lick my clit. No, not like that, not so hasty.’
For a minute it bothered me that there was a baby up there jiggling around and watching us. But only for a minute. The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue. I didn’t know that. Bernadette did. She knew a lot. Bernadette says he would have taken my faith if he had said I could fuck around on the sly and still remain pious.
‘You can’t have it all, my dear, no one can. Mmmm, that’s nice. Now stick your tongue in. Can you whistle? Oh my lord, he can!’
He took my faith by not saying this, don’t you see? Those hypocrites fuck anything that moves, every widow, widower and child.
‘Indeed they do. Can you pop over tomorrow?’ She kissed me on the forehead before pushing me towards her front door. I stuck my finger in her one more time on the way out. I got a clip on the ear, but she was all smiles.
I reckon Bernadette knows what she’s talking about.
Everything came from the earth; potatoes, carrots, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, gherkins, redberries, strawberries, white cabbage, red cabbage, rhubarb, celery, mother would peel and boil into the night father would help in the garden. The old dirt cellar swallowed the fruit, adding the odours of their different skins to her mood, the jars shelved, glass eyes glistening iris of red green yellow marbles too big for the pocket.
Whilst we children broke our backs helping mother with our humble harvest our mates were off enjoying themselves. We caught them from the corner of the eye; the flash of their bikes, of fishing tackle, a hint you are unsure of so you turn your head a second; already gone. You buckle back down to pulling up potatoes to uprooting carrots only to plant them again in the cellar bury them alive and upright in sand so that they will survive the winter.
I never had a new bike let alone an old one; Onyx, Terrot, Peugot, where on the old posters the P looked like a bigger version of teh g to us children who’d just learned hoe to read so were the new authority on the matter. Mine were always put together from spares scrounged from the rag and bone man the children called le monstre. Others dashed by on their new gear. Some had new gear without making a show of it but if you know like I do what a bunch of snobs the French are, you’ll know this last lot was few in number. Me? My bike was put together from leftovers. A working-class family nourished from what the patch of earth behind the house yielded and you could pray till you were blue in the face; it didn’t cough up bikes.
After one month with all stoppers out and some six hundred revisions later, Verses Nature begins to look like the novel I have in my head. Ready to share some of it with you. Tatar is harmless here but be warned, he is raw and rigorous and likely to offend, but I’m going to let him have his say, along with the other characters. Like the how if not the what, but preferably the lot!
Erotic Diva Blakely Bennett had me on her site in the autumn:
What genre is your book? Do you write in other genres as well?
My books have been classified as women’s fiction, post-colonial fiction, British fiction. Adult fiction. Verses Nature won’t be easy to classify. I don’t mind as long as it ends up in the top ten (lol). Verses Nature has, as an overall theme, and in common with all of my fiction, the notion of self-interrogation and growth. It’s about carving out space for personal development. This can’t be done without also coming to terms with one’s sexuality – I know, I’ve tried! Sexuality, thus, plays a significant role in all my fiction. Doesn’t mean I write what generally goes as erotica, though. I don’t. I once tried to get a man to understand what I meant by the term intellectual erotica. When he still couldn’t get it, and I was at the end of my tether, I barked ‘high-brow rumpy-dumpy!’ He got it.
One of the main characters in Verses Nature is an old man called Tatar. Outspoken, verging on the vulgar. He’ll say:
Men shouldn’t assist at childbirth if you ask me. She’ll be screaming, farting, crapping, saying vile things to and about you and you, idiot, are sposed to just stand there saying Yes darling as you squeeze her hand or mop her friggin brow? Then there’s the pushing and gushing and out it plops as from a sewer. Puts a man off for life. You’ll never really want to be in there again, But we’re not allowed to say that about wifey, are we?
He’s full of tips: You should get Him not to wash for a while so he stinks of man, then you give him a royal blow job, he’ll spray like a whale, I swear.
Brüderchen lets himself in (time of day?), wipes his feet on the doormat, hangs up his dripping coat. His brother Tatar will be in his chair by the window. As always. In the kitchen, he prepares a pot of tea. The custard creams are soft but they will have to do. He checks the pills dispenser. Reads the note from the nurse. Good. It is all as it should be. Windows could do with a good wash but of course not on a day like this.
T : Brüderchen ! Back already.
Brüderchen places the tray on a table between them. Places, then, a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
How are we ?
T : Still here ! Still wondering how one can help oneself in a way that moves forward instead of merely being flight.
He reaches for a cup of tea. Gestures for a bit more milk and another lump of sugar, why not?
B : You think too much. Wait.
He hands his brother the cup. Their cups don’t match. One he recognizes from mother’s buffet. Limoges, no less. The other no doubt from some Bavarian pottery work. Sleek, white, with a smoothness of curve that seems at odds with a German temperament but upon a second glance, yes, there was a certain coldness of aesthetic.
T : No one’s right or wrong once the odds are set and I’ve found the next stone to jump onto, dear brother.
B : You’re doing this on purpose.
T : Sorry Lawrence !
He laughs. It is a laugh bordering on a cackle as he remembers the game he once played with the children. His eyes drift to his brother’s shoes. Brown shoes. Dark green socks. He reaches down the side of his chair for his book. His memoir. His brother’s face prepares itself.
DO AS THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE
A poor man who had lost all he had cherished set up home on the street not too far from a church. Every day the good people of the neighbourhood walked by. The priest walked by. The doctor walked by. The citizens with their secure salaries walked by the poor man who had lost all he had cherished and so had set up home on the street.
One day a newcomer, just moved in on the first floor across the road, saw the poor man who had lost all he had cherished. When she walked by, she said Hello. The poor man replied. The next time she asked How are you? The poor man replied with a laugh.
Often when the newcomer came home, there he was the poor man, skin and bones rattling inside a threadbare coat pinned to a thick strip of cardboard by what was left of his rump.
His name, he said, was Jonny. He said It’s actually something else but you can’t pronounce it, so everyone calls me Jonny. Jonny was not from these parts. Through fate or malice he had ended up here far from his native land in Eastern Europe. Sometimes he wasn’t sitting there when she walked by and her thoughts would stretch out to him, wondering whether he were still alive.
One day it was so terribly cold she brought him a hat. On another it was so terribly windy she gave him two jumpers, of which he pulled on one and cushioned his arse with the other. One day Jonny was no longer there and she was worried indeed. Relieved she was to see him the following morning as she stood on her balcony after checking the cupboards to see what was absolutely necessary, for she was but a poor student herself and every cent counted.
On her way to Iceland with a small knapsack for her groceries she said Hello. Cold was the morning but the walk would do her good and the bus-fare saved could be better spent.
He was no longer there upon her return. Great was her disappointment. Three times she stepped onto her balcony, only to have to confirm: the spot across the road remained vacant.
Shortly before the good people of the town began to return to their ordered evenings, the poor man who had lost all he had cherished placed his cardboard, his jumper and his illegible plastic bag on their spot not too far from the church.
Hello Jonny, how are you?
Jonny looked up to see the newcomer stamping her feet to cheat the cold.
I bought you a frozen pizza. I’ll bring it down in a bit.
Thanks. Kind of you. But I’d rather a cup of coffee if it’s alright.
The two old men exchange a glance; a brothers’ glance. We are left behind.
T : A fistful of ideas clutched at and shoved upon you. Influencing the core and making its peace unbearable. Only by then it is monstrous… But who cares ?
Soft custard creams and weak tea for yesterday’s gourmet. He turns the page.
ON THE ROCKS
there was this young woman who lived in a shoe with hubby & 4 kids (churchy they were too); sunday in choir, weekdays for hire, marriage needs patching? by God she’s your man!
monday at 10? candles & Rescue®, Bach blossoms or prayers? the power the glory o’ the goodbook? what then?
in fine catholic fashion (i.e.) modest in passion you’ll wend your way home to subdue to His will
thursday at 3? oh, school, silly me; friday at two ought to do? till then duty awaits, there’s 1)wifedom to kill 2)orgasms to fake 3)tempting stashes for pills to update
our catholic counsellor locks up – gotta dash – her lover is waiting to open her latch, they’re cousins but so what, he’s better than him, believe me, King doth cum
– and’s partial to rim –
He was supposed to be an old man, sinking into himself as he returned to the soil, the imprint of his rump in the musty armchair that would end up in a flea market, after that in student digs. He should be repenting like everyone else. Not. This.
T : I don’t have the strength for insignificance. I’ll leave the rest of you to be ordinary.
The old hate flickered, he’s a wimp, he thought. Nothing has he dared.
B : You and your cosmic ambitions. A pile of dust and dark matter. It doesn’t matter.
T : That’s grand, coming from you of all people. Would you dare to say that in your finery on a Sunday ? You’ve always been a bit of a coward, haven’t you. You don’t believe the half of what you say or do. Remember the big boy from next door? I don’t know why I even bother with you but who else have I got ? The women, constantly colliding with their sentiments? Come off it. They don’t know how to listen. If only we could send them to war, they’d come back being useful. No, Brüderchen. I have only you.
If I think of myself as Queen B it becomes more bearable…
B : You think too much. Who cares. Maybe I do. Just a little bit. Maybe I don’t. If you weren’t such a self-centred creature, if you cared only a fraction for those whom you want so much to care for you, and for the world as opposed to what the world can give you, then you wouldn’t care that the world doesn’t care.
T : JesusTalk, Brüderchen. If this is so then I must confess that I do not love this world. I love one or two bees, let’s say, but the world ? I do not love it.
B : Love begins where it becomes unconditional, don’t you think?
What he had given, over the years ! He had no reason for self-reproach. Or pity. This place had a bad effect on him. He could already imagine the house, sold, renovated, filled with the colour and life of young souls with new dreams, with tomorrow, not pampers for adults, crumbs in the cupboards. Pills. Lies.
B : You were saying : you’re not writing for the world but for a few bees in it. Think about whether you love your one or two bees enough to make honey.
T : Brüderchen ?
B : Hmmm ?
T : Say Motherfucker
B : Motherfucker ?
T : Louder
B : Why ?
T : Do you remember Lake Hanau?
B : Of course I do. Do you remember Ciudad?
He might as well make himself useful. Kitchen was a mess. Holes in the rubber gloves but no one threw them away. He’d take the bin out with him when he went. With a bit of luck his brother would be sleeping by the time he’d finished.
human desires are like the world of the dead – there is always room for more.
I was there. I was there when she died. Can’t you remember? Too many were there, who didn’t care, just there to appear to care. And to eat at our expense.
She was beautiful. Beauty in a woman without good judgement is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.
Hanau. Everyday, a soul-shaking memory emerges again from somewhere unknown.
The rooms upstairs were never used now. The bed had been brought downstairs. Quick sweep. The smell of old carpet. There was bound to be perfectly good oiled floorboards underneath. He did like the chimney places. Remember how much we hated having to go out to fetch the wood? Remember when there was no wood left and mother wouldn’t ask where we’d brought it home from?
The big boy from next door.
Bacterial hologram on the loo seat like a tie-dye (even worse underneath), couldn’t be from either of them. Could only be the nurse. She wasn’t being paid to clean or offer polite conversation but for other services and she was always in a hurry, he supposed. He put the useless gloves on for this job. They had a disgusting cold wetness on the inside.
He was sleeping. Thank goodness. The diary had fallen to the floor:
heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away
think before you speak, and don’t make any rash promises to God. He is in heaven and you are on earth, so don’t say any more than you have to.
doubt opens up succulent warmwounds presaging nothing that can be held within words
I’m afraid only eyes are worth this quick story
because words are like nomads, they come and go
Brüderchen is everything to me. Never let him know.
Well well well…
It was in the news: a man their mother knew strangled his wife, raped her post mortem, buried her in their cellar (is it rape if she’s dead?). A ten ton Tessa, how did he, half her size, get her down the stairs? Neighbours knew nothing. Of course. Life goes on, don’t it hurry. People like you and me. Like those dashing past this very window, Brüderchen thought, fleeing their own private skeletons.
He heard him fart in his sleep. It would be too rude to leave without saying goodbye properly. He made more noise than need be (bustling by the window. How can I make the world outside come in through his eyes?). When that didn’t work, he shook his brother.
T : Brüderchen ?
B : Hmmm ?
T : Will you say it once, from the pulpit ? Once. For me. For Queen B ?
I’m just full of ideas, me. I could be a billionaire if I were money-loving enough, instead of being an early pensioner with an invalidity permit and 500 euros a month from the State for my pains. Phoenix, Arizona. Not a single decent antique shop. They were buying their antiques from New York, or wherever… Imagine, 350,000 inhabitants, as it was at the time, and not a single antique shop… I had stock back home worth over 2 million francs at a time when $1 was 5 francs.
But there was my wife. She didn’t want to go in the end.
Ile de la Réunion – I fell in love with the place. Found a splendid piece of land with a view of paradise covered with these magnificent old trees whose flowers remind you of those plants we sell here mainly at Christmas time. The property fell in terraces and the idea was to build a house on each terrace and let them out as holiday homes. Or maybe to the military stationed there; they’d be reliable clients. He wanted 775,000FFR, which was a wad of money even in them days. Down payment? No way, but my word, which was good enough. I had the land all measured out and back home secured a credit of two million, then organized a whole troupe of people to get this project born.
The appointment was for Monday at 10am. 10am came and went, ten thirty… Where the hell is he? I asked the notary. Be patient, monsieur, he soothed. This is Monday and you are in Réunion, not in France. Here, things get done at a different pace. Listen, I said, already feeling uneasy. I have worked my balls off for the last months, and I have just flown 9,000km to be here. Where the hell is he? Later, much later, the proprietor turned up. Ah, monsieur, bonjour! So, we are ready for the sale? Well, monsieur… erm, monsieur, we will have to round up the price a little bit… Round up the price a little bit, he’d said… Monsieur, monsieur, my property is worth at least 1,000,000FFR, monsieur…
I was the first to have a tent up during those winter flea markets where you’d stamp your feet and freeze your balls off waiting for clients to stroll by. They’d stop at my stall so as to be out of the rain. And whilst they were there, and the rain out there, they’d browse around a bit. And find things to buy. Of course. Within no time, all the other vendors had tents up, so that the whole place looked like a friggin Bedouin camp.
Clear night, thumb-top of a moon, a back-lit sky.
Moon-fingers lay down their same routine
on the side deck and the threshold, the white keys
and the black keys.
Bird hush and bird song. A cassia flower falls.
I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I wanted to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.
I want to be entered and picked clean
And the wind says “What?” to me.
And the castor beans, with their little earrings of death,
say “What?” to me.
And the stars start out on their cold slide through the dark.
And the gears notch and the engines wheel.
(Clear Night, by Charles Wright)
First discovered this poem on Amy Jo Sprague’s blog. The second stanza ‘throes’ me. Re-re-re-read. Like the title, the light/dark tango of it which I grew to love in the paintings of Magritte. Second stanza: re-read.
Full moon recently. Pulls in more ways than one:
I want to feel your nose in my lips
your nails in my flesh
your teeth on my hips
your breath in my face
your tongue –
wherever it fits…
I want to feel your dick in my ass
you come in my throat
you spit on my skin
your balls beat me raw…
your hand pin me down
and Master me
I want to hear you moan
I want to see pain on your face
ride me to a froth
whip me with your Man till
I spit blood
Will bathe you with the purity
of my softest womanhood
purring with gratitude…
But first, you polish me
if you want to see my genie
If you want to see me shine.
(from, The Red Room by Joan Barbara Simon)
Joan stays locked in when the moon’s out. Need I say why? And no, it doesn’t wear off with age. It gets worse, cos you’re still interested but who’s still interested in you? I’ve been giving my ex-wives tips on how to pull a bloke on the internet. So much for you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. If I were twenty years younger, I’d open a brothel for senior citizens of both sexes, say seventy and upwards. These mature specimens of the human animal’ve got the finish line in sight, cash in their pockets, assorted ailments to forget, if only for that moment… and ungrateful brats as offspring. Above all, thirst. It’d be a runner. Especially with the women. With my neighbour for starters. I’m not taken in by her impenetrable purple rinse, her 40den tights, the orthopedic shoes or the slight limp, she’s no nice-nelly, take my word for it; course, no one’s been near her labia minora for decades but she was a real old slag in her day. Brittle hips weren’t her problem back then, I know a few who’ll vouch for that! When she did what she termed the fandango on your ramrod guess what else she clung to, calling them her castanets? Said she had him steaming like a horse after a hard race. The way she looks at me even today. Teeth tarnished. Slack wet slit where her mouth should be. Gives me the creeps. She’d pay. Bet she would.