oh, well, whatever . . .

the magical slaughterhouse of the sun

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The Angel Gabriel and Dr Who didn’t show. Nor did the Dalek. The Arab has continued to come and go, as have his accomplices – Batman and Bob Marley.  Cheryl saw Robin Hood again. But not one of the listed runners has yet turned up for the race.

But Captain Hook has. He appeared last Wednesday afternoon and at around seven on Thursday evening. He was wearing a large feathered hat, a red velvet coat, white frills and knee breeches. He had long black curls, a thin black moustache and a cutlass slung from his hip. He also wore a black eye patch, suggesting the imposter wasn’t that familiar with the book and perhaps prone to stereotyping. The pirate was driving a silver Renault, a rusty automatic.

Meg Bomberg manages a team in another part of the building. Meg is a woman of substantial mass. She’s not the kind of woman you’d ever want to tangle with. She has spiky blonde hair and wears lots of denim. She enters every room as if it is a saloon in the Old West. Her feet flick outwards with every step – she sort of waddles – as if she’s kicking stray dogs from her path. She entered our team room on Friday as if she was looking for a shot of redeye and a game of faro.

‘Where’s Michelle?’ she asked.

‘’Whose askin’?’ I replied.

She noticed a bag of chocolate cinder toffee pieces on Lily’s desk. She swaggered over and took one. She looked at it for a moment, as an ape might look at a snot. She then popped it in her mouth and began to munch, like a bulldog chewing a wasp, as they say around here (in a very particular accent).

‘One of her clients has scratched my car,’ Meg said. ‘Scunner Walker.’

‘Really?’ I replied.

‘I think so.’

‘So what do you want Michelle to do about that?’ I asked.

‘I want her to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’

I nodded slowly. ‘Easier said than done,’ I pointed out. ‘Why don’t you report it to the police?’

‘How would I prove it was who I think it is?’

‘What evidence do you have?’

‘I saw him hanging around near my car yesterday, and – surprise, surprise – a lovely wiggly scratch has now appeared!’

‘So what makes you think it was him?’

‘Well, who the hell else would it be?!’

‘David Blaine?’ I was about to say. ‘Paul Daniels?’ The full list would be a long one, I suspected, and inevitably incomplete. I was about to begin proffering candidates of varying degrees of probability when we heard the sound of a scuffle in the street. It was none other than Scunner Walker himself, engaged in a fist fight with some other youth in black t-shirt and training pants. They momentarily fell together to the ground, heavily, like slaughtered animals. Scunner being first back to his feet began raining flailing blows down on his opponent. His opponent made it back to his feet and the two circled each other like prize fighters, flinging the occasional kick or wild hook at one another. There were three other young people there. None of them looked like intervening. A girl in a black Parka, high heels, footless tights and big silver hoop earrings was filming the event on her mobile phone and grinning inanely.

‘Call the police, Lily,’ I said. Just then Scunner took a clubbing blow to the left temple that dumped him back on to the tarmac.

‘Get in there!’ Meg said, gleefully.

Two or three people from the office were now outside and telling the youths that the police were on their way. The fight stopped and for a moment Scunner and his pale opponent stood bloody faced and panting, looking at each other like tigers in an alley. Then as quick as mist they melted away into the back lanes.

‘I’ll tell Michelle you want to see her,’ I said.

‘Forget it,’ Meg said. She took another piece of chocolate cinder toffee and sashayed off in the direction of Dry Gulch. Just as the door was closing a ball of tumbleweed blew into the room and I thought again of Hugo’s clock.

I went outside to see if all was well. Mr Zee was sitting in the waiting area with Apple and Sparky. Mandy was inside talking to Debs. When I came back inside I asked him how things were going.

‘They’re getting no better,’ he said. He went on to tell me that kids around the estate are now dressing themselves in white pillow cases with holes cut out for their arms and faces. They’re running around the estate in spooky little cliques carry plastic Kalashnikovs and pretending to be Flinty. Some of them like to make paper aeroplanes and fly them at people’s windows. Mr Zee says this has happened several times to them. One morning they found what seemed like a flock of them littered and fallen at the front of the house. Someone had put a red toy fire engine among them.

‘It’s scary,’ he said. ‘Apple thinks they’re butterflies. We can’t tell her what it’s really about. Did you hear about Hook?’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘He carries a sword too, I hear.’

Mr Zee nodded. I noticed that in his cloak pocket he had a book of poems by Charles Bukowski.

‘Do you like Bukowski?’ I asked.

He shrugged. ‘I’m not sure,’ he said. ‘I think I’m supposed to, aren’t I?’

‘Why? Do all Zorrs have to like Bukowski?’

‘No. Lorca is the poet laureate of Zorrs. He’s the one we all read.’

‘Good choice,’ I said.

‘I used to think Bukowski was a pretty impoverished poet,’ I said. ‘Thin on ideas, thin on wisdom, thin on beauty. Now I’m not so sure.’

Mandy came out with Debs. Apple went over to her and held her hand. Mandy told me she was okay. What scared her most were the phone calls, she said, but she didn’t want to change her number because if she did Flinty might turn up her door.

‘Did Zee tell you that we’ve been getting phone calls playing the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly?‘ she said. ‘We got it again at four o’clock last night.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘I heard about Captain Hook, though, and the kids in pillow cases. But not the new tune. Sounds like Flinty’s becoming a bit of a DJ, eh?’

On Saturday I went walking through the town. I walked through Ridley Park and then out along Wensleydale Terrace. I was wondering about social justice. I lay among the sand dunes near Gloucester Lodge Farm and listened to the sea. It was a beautiful day. The rampant yellow stars of the ragwort, the demure ivory heads of yarrow, the blinking violets . . . . all the dune flowers dazzled by the sun.

‘So, Twistan,’ I said, ‘Glasgow East gave Gunner Gordon a real bloody nose, eh? Do you think his days are numbered now?’

‘Yep, I weckon they are. Ah, but the woad is long and the stwuggle must go, my fwiend, the stwuggle must go on.’

‘You’re a such hoot, Twistan,’ I said. ‘You always say that.’  I whistled him a few bars of Ennio Morricone’s famous theme and we watched the gulls sliding across the blue sky high above us.


Written by yammering

July 28, 2008 at 11:15 pm

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