Staring at the wall. It was so close he could
have touched it. Plasterboard painted light orange, brush marks, streaks,
although you wouldn’t have noticed if you weren’t looking closely, if you
weren’t examining it. Then the angle where it met the other wall, the corner.
He could have touched that, too. Was this why he came here, to stare at walls
and the corners they form? The sheet of paper on the desk. He had decided to do
it the old way, longhand, but all he had managed was half a page. It wasn’t
good. He knew the importance of making a start, and the flow of words that
would inevitably follow – he wasn’t a beginner – but he couldn’t get his head
into it. He couldn’t get his head into it because his head was somewhere else.
His head was miles away, hundreds of them, where his body should have been... To read the rest of the story, go to Under The Fable
They met in the aisle between the lentils and
the tomato puree. It was a chance encounter; nothing had been planned. The look
on her face when she saw him, almost shock, before it turned into a smile. They
talked about the summer and how she had spent it. He tried not to react when
she mentioned her husband, as she always did, as if she could only define
herself in terms of her other half. Then she did something very strange indeed.
She offered him her hand and asked him to touch the skin, to feel it. He rubbed
his thumb along the edge of her index finger, trying to send a signal. Was that
what she wanted, a signal, some kind of confirmation? When he looked at her she
had turned her head away. She was blushing. He let go and the small talk
continued for a minute before they parted. They were shopping for lunch things.
By the time Large One, Derrick came on,
the place was heaving. It had nothing to do with Large One, Derrick. The word
was out that Shug Skinner was back in town.
FAW-KURT!’ Mooney bellowed into the microphone.
‘I shagged your
maw!’ shouted someone else. It was one of the Drive! fans, even though Drive!
had already left the building.
‘I’d drink your
pish!’ squeaked a wee lassie down the front. She’d been on the light box
out the tempo with a pair of brushes. He looked uncomfortable; he was trying to
avoid the spray coming at him off the snare. Then Mooney came in on the guitar,
and Stark on the fiddle. It sounded like The Dubliners meets Rising Damp. But
nobody cared what it sounded like, not even the Posse. It was backing music for
Shug. He didn’t, after all, have a clue about the lights, but he was a great
dancer. He was swaying alone in the middle of the floor, cradling the syringe
like it was his own true love. He danced expressively, almost balletically,
pushing the hunk of metal away then drawing it closer, as if he couldn’t bear
to let it go. It was quite a performance, Dug had to admit; Shug remained
focussed even through Stark’s countless bum notes.
The applause was
‘I! THANK! YOU!’
Mooney boomed. He pretended to tune his guitar till the noise died down. Then
he stepped back to the mike. ‘This yin’s for my auld dear!’ he said. ‘It’s
called The Slag!’ No one was listening. Shug was getting his photo taken with
his fans. He’d be in the Herald next week. Again. Mooney turned to his brother.
‘Can ye no get this baldy fucker to sit down?’ he said.
There was a
sudden ruckus at the door. Three men barged in. They looked identical: receding
hairlines, bloodstained white T-shirts and arms like thighs. Dug found himself
thinking of butchers, which was apt. It was the Bell Brothers. Their wee sister
was with them, crying, getting dragged along by the wrist.
Derrick Mooney cunt?’ shouted the largest brother. The meat cleaver he was
wielding had bits of mince hanging off it. Shug shot a glance at Dug, who
immediately pointed at the stage.
SINGER!’ Shug shouted, and led the charge. Grant scarpered. So did Stark.
Mooney tried to vault the drums, but got his feet caught in the snare. He
managed to get up before they reached him, though, his guitar banging off the
walls as he legged it out the fire escape. The Bell Brothers kicked the drums
out of the way, dragging their wee sister behind them.
Clatrell lost no
time picking the microphone off the floor. ‘Anybody for a wee bit Rapper’s
Delight?’ he said.
The joint was
soon pulsating, The Posse, the whole lot of them, keening like a flock of
Hasidic pigeons. Dug ordered another beer. He watched the remaining Drive! fans
sink their pints and leave. Shug Skinner poked his head through the fire door.
He walked straight up to Dug. ‘Nurse Buckle hasnae been in, has she?’ he said.
‘Eh,’ said Dug.
‘Don’t think so. Are you expecting her?’
‘Ye could say
that,’ said Shug, and inserted his needle into the leg of his overalls. ‘I’m no
really supposed to be out. Keep it to yerself, though!’
‘Got you,’ said
Dug, and watched his new friend disappear through the back of the stage.
Half an hour
later, Grant sloped in, followed by Stark.
‘Give us a hand
with the stuff, will you?’ said Stark.
Stark’s car was
parked round the back, next to a white Saab with a meat cleaver embedded in the
bonnet. They laid the drums carefully in the back; the newspapers were already
spread out. They had to leave the tailgate open – Grant’s bass drum was large.
Dug was about to climb in when Mooney shoved past him. ‘Come on, youse,’ he
said. ‘Handers. I want my money.’
him through the back door of the pub, into the kitchen. It wasn’t long before
the argument was in full flow.
fucking right ye’ll be paying me!’ Mooney said. He was hyperventilating. His
guitar was hanging off his shoulder, machine gun style. A few of the strings
were broken. It was obvious the Bell Brothers hadn’t caught up with him.
his ladle into a pot and stirred. The bass line was thudding through the wall.
‘See this soup?’ he said.
shaking with anger. ‘What about it?’ he said. There were bits of meat and
carrot floating on the surface, just visible through the steam.
‘If ye don’t
change yer tune,’ said Clatrell, ‘ye’ll be fucking wearing it.’
‘This is my Friday Night Delight,’ he continued.
‘Fuck the idiots through there in their baseball caps. Mutton broth, the kind
of soup that sticks to yer ribs, and other parts of yer body, if ye get my
drift. And ye know something else? I don’t need mouthy twats like you spoiling
‘Fuck yer soup,’
said Mooney. ‘You booked us...’
‘You cheeky monkey,’
said Clatrell, and scooped a load into a bowl. ‘You’re asking me for money? Ye
owe me five hunner quid for the fire door – mind you, you were too busy legging
it down the road to see the Bell Brothers tearing it off its hinges. And ye
can’t have missed the hatchet sticking out the bonnet of my new car.’
It was a case of
mistaken identity. Stark coughed. ‘There’s a good panel beater in Denny...’ he
Grant. ‘Dalrymple Bash ’n’ Dash? They’ve been on strike since June.’
Stark. He was blushing. ‘I didn’t know...’
himself at the table and tore a hunk of bread off a loaf. ‘Stark,’ he said.
‘Get the Mooney contingent out of my sight. I can’t eat when there’s pricks
like that watching me. Fancy a plate of soup, Dug? There’s plenty in the pot
for folk with jobs.’
It was not a delusion. The fact that he could articulate the thought and stand outside it, appreciating it in all its complexity, was proof. For months he had been picking up signs, which he had come to interpret as signals, as gestures of intent. He was the target. That was his interpretation. All he had to do was reciprocate, but that was the problem, one of the many. Recklessness was not in his nature. It would have been easy to say it had been beaten out of him, stamped on, squashed; we look for people to blame. He had never been a blamer, if it came to looking for culprits he had always come back to himself. But now he was flailing at the bottom of a pit before he had even dug it, as if a censor had requisitioned the best part of his brain and was controlling him, controlling his imagination, the only thing that was keeping him sane.
and turned till his wife told him to sleep downstairs. The rest of the night he
spent on the couch, the lights switched off, the television tuned to the comedy
channel, although he only caught fragments; it was difficult to concentrate on
the screen. Too many things were running around in his head, disjointed images
jostling for attention before shooting off on absurd tangents. Nothing made
sense, after a while the scenes began to overlap, there was so much going on,
too much information, all of it punctuated by the incongruous mirth of a laugh
His eyelids were closing. He fumbled for the
button on the remote. It was time to get ready.
I walked down to the square. Tam was on
the corner, leaning against his barrow and affecting the worst Irish accent I
had ever heard:
‘Get yer loovely
toilet paper here – all de way from ould Doublin!’
He ignored me.
Someone had just picked up a sample. The transaction was completed, much to
‘What’s with the
brogue?’ I said.
‘Ever seen green
bog roll?’ he said. ‘Course ye have. This lot, however, haven’t. Call it a
Celtic sales pitch.’
‘But they can’t
speak English,’ I reminded him.
He jingled the
coins in his hand. ‘Away wichi!’ he said. ‘Dey loove de ould blarney.
We still had
half a family pack at the flat. I was about to explain this when my attention
was seized by the sight of two men in leather caps pushing a barrow, larger than
Tam’s, into the square. They took a furtive look round, parked and carefully
removed the tarpaulin that was covering their wares.
something ye don’t see every day,’ said Tam, and scratched his head through
A periscope was
lying inside an inflatable dinghy.
‘I hope their
patter’s good,’ he said, and looked at his own merchandise. ‘My stuff’s more
household oriented,’ he added.
I left him to
argue the toss with the competition, who were nudging their barrow closer. Tara
was sipping a gin tonic outside the Astoria. She wasn’t alone. I sat at the
next table and ordered a coffee. Maybe I’d chance a beer later. I’d be staying
off the retsina, though.
there, Tara?’ I said. No reaction. I reached over to the old man who was parked
next to her. He was fiddling with the rims on his wheelchair. ‘Pleased to meet
you,’ I said. He mumbled something into his toga and looked at Tara, who patted
she said. ‘You don’t need to know who it is.’
‘Hnn?’ he said.
The old boy was addled beyond repair. It must have been frustrating for Tara,
who, at fifty, had needs that couldn’t be fulfilled by her husband. She had a fucking big house, though, so maybe
it was worth being married to a cripple.
‘How are things,
Tara?’ I said.
She was still
stroking his hand. ‘Don’t try to ingratiate yourself with me, you cad,’ she
said. ‘You can forget about the exams.’
I had to smile.
Did she really think I was holding out for employment at her bribefest? And I’d
never been called a cad before. It sounded totally ridiculous. ‘I was just
being civil,’ I said. At this point, I lied. ‘I usually stay on speaking terms
with women I’ve...’
‘Oh don’t say
raised his hands quickly to his ears. ‘Hnnnnnnn?!’ he went.
‘Does he speak
English?’ I said.
‘What’s it to
you?’ she said.
‘Thought not,’ I
said. ‘He doesn’t like the sound of raised voices, though, does he?’ He
reminded me of Priam for some reason. Fair enough, here we were in the land of
Homer, and there was, of course, the toga. I felt that he wasn’t as articulate
as he could have been, however. We plumb
the depths of human degradation...
‘Call yourself a
man?’ Tara huffed. She was talking to me, not him.
‘You should be
thanking me,’ I said. Priam leaned forwards until his face was hovering above a
soup plate of brown liquid. He vacuumed froth through a straw.
‘You don’t know
how to satisfy a woman,’ she said, and wiped his chin with a tissue. Again, I
assumed the remark was directed at me. Oh, dear, I thought. It was turning into
one of those conversations. The ones where no holds are barred.
‘I’ve never had
any complaints,’ I said. ‘Lots of moans, though.’
‘I’ve never seen
a smaller one in my life,’ she said.
Oh, please, I
thought. ‘I almost saw your anus,’ I told her.
Priam, with the
straw in his mouth, turned to me and Hnnnnned.
‘Yes,’ I said to
him. ‘Her arse is so flabby I wasn’t sure if it was her bumhole or her belly
‘Hah!’ he went;
the straw flew out of his mouth and sailed over my shoulder.
This wasn’t me.
It was as if someone was making me say these things. But she was asking for it.
work in TEFL again,’ she said, and wiped her eyes with the tissue. ‘I’ll make
sure of that.’
threaten me,’ I said. ‘Who do you think you are?’
‘You’ll find out
if you ever apply for a job with the Council,’ she said.
Tam threw his
barrow into the bushes. He didn’t bother to chain it up. ‘That’s me fucked,’ he
said, and crashed down into a chair. ‘Ever had a pistol pressed to yer ribs?
Awright there, Stanley?’
‘Ooh, aow’s it
goin’, Tam?’ It was the old man. The accent was more Stoke than Troy. I felt
like a complete idiot. He poked me on the forearm. ‘Aow’s it goin’, shaggah?’
‘Get this,’ said
Tam. ‘That’s the Commies moved in. Tell me this. How’s me selling toilet paper
going to affect sales of Russian Navy knock-off? Eh? Tell me.’
‘Tara,’ I said.
‘I’m sorry if I upset you.’
‘I mean it,’ I
said. ‘I didn’t come here to make enemies. I’ll be gone in a matter of days...’
She wailed into her gin tonic. Stanley gripped my forearm. His knuckles looked
like polished marbles. ‘You want to stop ’ere, lad,’ he said. ‘She likes a
Tam looked at me
and closed an eye, like a camera shutter.
Stanley,’ I said. ‘But I think I know the man to help you out. You’ll be
meeting him shortly.’
Costas Lapavitsas, a professor of economics at SOAS, London, and a newly-elected SYRIZA MP, has written a blog post expressing his concerns about the Greek government's handling of negotiations with the Eurogroup. Towards the end of the post, he makes the following points:
'In light of the Eurogroup statement, I ask -
National Reconstruction Plan
How will the National Reconstruction plan be funded when the 3 billion euros from the Financial Stability Fund is now outwith Greek control? That these funds have now been removed puts all the more pressure on recovering large amounts from tax evasion and debt collection in a short period of time. How feasible is this?
How will a debt write-off be effected when Greece is committed to fulfill - fully and promptly - all its financial obligations to its partners? End to Austerity
How will Austerity be ended when Greece is committed to achieve 'appropriate' primary surpluses in order to make the current massive debt 'sustainable'? The 'sustainability' of the debt - as evaluated by the Troika - was what caused the mad chase after primary surpluses. As the debt will not be significantly reduced, how will we put an end to primary surpluses which are destructive for the Greek economy and which are the very substance of austerity?
Inspection and Fiscal Cost
How will there be any progressive change in the country when the 'Institutions' will implement strict inspections and prohibit unilateral actions [on the part of the Greek government]. Will the 'Institutions' allow the implementation of the 'Thessaloniki' pledges, given that they may have a direct or indirect fiscal cost?
What exactly will change in the next four months of the 'extension' that will improve our negotiating position with our partners? What will prevent a worsening of the political, economic and social conditions in the country?
These moments are crucial for society, the nation and, of course, for the Left. The democratic justification of the government is founded on the SYRIZA manifesto. The least that is required is an open discussion amongst party cadres and within the Parliamentary Group. We must give immediate answers to these questions if we are to maintain the huge support and dynamic given to us by the Greek people. The answers we give over the next few days will affect the future of the country and of society.'
...find themselves washed up on a desert island. They have no recollection how they got there. Sylvia, the ageing Matriarch, lies on the beach all day stroking a pair of worn tap dancing shoes. The abundance of sand makes tap dancing impossible, which is just as well considering she suffers from advanced osteoporosis in her left leg. Her eldest son, Sigmund, has strung a length of vine, like a washing line, between two trees and spends his time drying out sheets of tracing paper, which he packs neatly in a leather suitcase every evening. Every morning he wakes to find this suitcase bobbing in the surf. Sigmund has delusions of musicianship - his ambition is to play the comb professionally. Unfortunately, he spends so much time drying out tracing paper that he has yet to fashion a comb out of the driftwood which litters the beach. The middle son, Wilbur, wanders the island incessantly while clutching a tubular metal bed-head. More - much more - about him later. Grant, at twenty-five the baby of the family, is the only Grillparzer to realise that their situation is a mere figment of someone's imagination, even though he is aware that they as people are very real. He sits all day at the fire, which he managed to light by rubbing two sticks together, thinking of ways to come into contact with whoever put them in this position.