The phone wakes me up and sunlight almost blinds
me. I shield my eyes, and it's my father talking.
'Would you like to come over, Scott?'
he says in his polite voice, but trying his best to sound natural.
'Nah, I'm busy, Dad,' I say. 'I mean, I
told Dave that I would maybe see him today to help him work on his car.'
'Well I'll come over then,' he says.
'I'll give you a hand.'
'Nah, I'll be out,' I tell him. 'You'd
This goes on for a few minutes, and he
starts to get annoyed, which makes me nervous, and I imagine how his face looks. I keep
imagining Louise standing next to him, encouraging him to try, maybe saying things like
'ih's yir son', since she talks to my father like she really talks. In the end I give in
and tell him I'll be over.
Then I realise that I don't know the
day, so I ask him. This annoys him.
'It's Sunday,' he tells me. 'Sunday.'
I say 'Mass' and then 'bye' and I put
the phone down and try to shut my eyes but when I do the dream becomes clear and precise
and an energy seems to be growing in my arms but I can't fight it.
So I light a Marlboro and the early
morning nicotine makes me light headed.
The dream: I'm lying on the garage floor, the car behind me, engine
running, exhaust fumes rising to the ceiling. Dad's curved knife is in my hand and the
walls of the garage are black; next to me a small boy with blond hair gazes at the rafters
Without standing, I move until my body
intersects his north-south to east-west, like I'm holding him down for a wrestling count.
I support myself on my elbows, only lightly touching him.
I look into his face, and he's still
dreamily looking at the beams. I take the knife, which gleams from an unseen light, and
place it on the boy's right cheek, which is white, soft and unspoiled.
He starts to cry lightly, tears running
from the outside corners of each eye, down his cheeks, darkening the grey floor. Slowly I
press into the skin as the boy emits short, almost inaudible screams.
I look at him and for a moment I try to
remember something, a feeling of some sort.
But I don't.
On the way downstairs I pass the woman. She smiles and asks if I have any
washing to give her yet. I say no and pause, trying to remember her name, and she says
'Irene' bashfully, and I look at the acne scars on her cracked face and repeat 'Irene',
and then she tells me that I always forget. Every time.
I get into the car and sit for a few
minutes trying to decide which music to listen to, while a man struggles to keep his dog
under control. The dog growls and stares in my direction. I decide on 'This Magic Moment',
and drive the car the short distance to the Asda car park. I walk through the automatic
doors to the tobacconist, where I ask for eighty Marlboro and the girl smiles and tells me
that they're bad for my health. She then asks how much my jacket cost its like
one Liam Gallagher wears, apparently and I tell her.
'Loads ih money, ih?' she says, her
voice betraying some bitterness.
I don't reply, and she hands me my
cigarettes. On the way out, someone who went to school with me goes past, but luckily they
don't see me. The automatic doors seem to stay shut for an abnormal amount of time as I
Back in the car I put on 'Unfinished
Sympathy' and head for Smeaton.
I'm sitting in Dave's house and since he's talked about girls from school
who haven't seen me around anywhere at pubs and clubs, and laughed about it then told me
all about one time he fucked Susan in the not-too-distant past, we move on to a different
subject: a documentary which Dave caught by accident one day about the slaughter of the
Kurds in Iraq. This is my cue to join the conversation, adding my own unique contribution
to Dave's description of the Kurdish children lying gassed in the streets.
'There was a video from the Middle
East,' I tell him, 'a guy getting shot or something.'
'Aye,' he says, excited, leaning
forward. 'Ah 've seen sumhin like it before at ma pal's, Faces Of Death.'
'I'll get you it if you like,' I tell
'Where fae like?' Dave smiles again and
'Just somebody I know, and that.'
'Aye? Somebody thit pirates?'
'Get mi it, then
I say I will, then ask if it's okay to
play the piano for a while. He tells me to keep it quiet and I do. I play 'Asleep'. Dave
pretends he's interested, then changes the subject back to the videos.
'Ah seen this wan wi a guy giein issel
I start laughing and he joins
'Ih goat a rib removed or sumbin, yi
should see it.'
'I'd probably be able to get
'Ah've goat it,' he says. 'Yi want ti
take it wi yi?'
I tell him no and I look at him as he
assures me that he's not a faggot, he only thinks it's funny. He says he's heard about a
Red Hot & Dutch video featuring a girl fisting another, tying her to the bed and
whipping her and stuff in that vein. But he doesn't suppose I'll be able to get that, and
the answer is maybe not, but then again.
As I'm leaving, stepping into the car,
he smiles at me and says he never thought I'd know anybody like that. I say 'why not?' and
he just smiles and shrugs then says 'ah dunno.
'Repeat Failure' starts. Dave nods at
the CD player, grimaces, and asks me what is that shit I'm listening to. I tell him
nothing, then drive away.
My flat is cold, the way I like it. It is also empty and quiet. The only
noise comes from the road and, on weekdays, the school. Since I moved in the heater has
been idle. My walls feature pictures of models from the pages of various magazines I used
to buy, such as Loaded and FHM. Models like Cameron Diaz, Hope Sandoval, Fiona Apple, Edie
Sedgwick. Helena Christiansen is prominent; I like her eyes. She stands in a weird dress
in a sort of outlaw pose, the word 'Istante' printed underneath her.
I'm lying on my bed, listening to
screaming from a room somewhere in the building. My stomach aches with hunger but as I
walk towards the kitchen layers of my own flesh push against my body, and I feel sick and
disgusted. Songs of Praise flickers on the TV screen as I devour a Pot Noodle followed by
three Mars bars and a vanilla milkshake bought from McDonald's a while back. As the food
slides into my body I get the usual guilt, but I always need a reason to stick to a diet,
and at the moment there is none.
'Ir yi cummin doon?' he says, sounding
I ask him why.
'Fir the videos fir yir pal n that,
thit yi told mi ih wantit.'
I tell him that I'll leave immediately.
I put my jacket on and walk down the
stairs holding the remnants of my meal, which I plunge into one of the eight grey council
bins standing in rows behind the laundry room.
'Is that you?' a woman's voice asks as
I drop the rubbish in, but I don't answer.
The car glides down Overton Road past my old school, where I take a right
and head towards the hospital. Towards Chinatown the area changes visibly; graffiti
everywhere, litter and broken glass scattered in the park. I stop in the hospital car park
and walk over the grassy area, ignoring some shouts from a group of young girls.
'Aboot fuckin time,' Mike says as I
walk down his path. It's only been five minutes.
'Ah've goat thum, they're up the
His head jerks to the side. I walk past
him into the small corridor. 'Alright?' I say to Lee who runs and grabs my knees, but he
just smiles at me innocently until Mike pulls him away by the arm and says he'll join me
in a minute.
I walk into Lee's room. The videos are
stacked almost level with my chest, partially obscuring a Teletubbies poster. I count ten
copies of The Executioner and ten of Faces Of Death and then Mike shouts 'what di yi
think?' and I say 'I don't know'.
'Keepin thum for Gerard,' he tells me.
'Yi seen thum?'
'Heard of them. In the paper.'
'What the fuck ir yi laughin it?'
'Nothing.' I try to stop smiling.
'There's some darkie guy,' he says,
'bungee-jumpin, jumps wi the cord or whatever n it's too long, fuckin bang.' He slams his
hands together and smiles.
'An execution in America, gas.'
'Yeah?' I pick up one of the tapes and
turn it around. I scan down the pile, going down on one knee to pull out a Titanic pirate,
its cover a photocopy of the front page of Empire magazine.
'How many wis yir pal wantin?' Mike
I tell him I don't know for sure, maybe
a couple of each.
'Yi goat the money?' he asks.
I say I'll get it to him once the
videos are sold. He reluctantly accepts and I get ready to leave. Mike tells me that the
next work we'll be doing is in a few days, or maybe tomorrow, and I tell him that
everything is fine no matter what time it is.
'It'll probably be the morn,' he tells
Just before I leave I hear Shirley
screaming obscenities, followed by Lee screaming, followed by Karen asking Shirley to calm
'Fuckin Christ!' Mike rolls his eyes.
'Some fuckin life, ih?' His voice changes to a whisper. 'Still on fir the morn, though,
I want to tell him he should look out
for the kid a bit more, but instead I nod and then leave, feeling a little something I
can't quite describe to myself. As I walk, the pain from the man in the park the other
night forces me to alter the distance between my legs. I start to think of Mass.
The kneeling throughout begins to hurt my knees but I smile and try to use
it to mask the other pain. All the time I'm looking at Christ's feet, at the blood slowly
dripping from the angry red wounds with the slight hint of metallic silver peering
The priest cracks a joke and people
laugh politely and I'm starting to feel tired though I shouldn't be. Three babies cry. I
notice a man as he swallows the Eucharist. I don't take the host. When we kneel for the
last time I cushion my head with my arms, shut my eyes and try to think, but I can only
think about Lee and his Teletubbies, and the videos currently lying in my car.
An altar boy rings a bell at the wrong
time. His face turns red and the other altar boys stare and smirk. The priest looks
sympathetic and continues with his sermon. Something about the Third World and how God is
thinking of the starving. Something about how we should try to help.
'Right, head for Glenrothes,' Mike says as he gets in, huffing and puffing
like a large walrus. I'm listening to Elvis Costello sing 'Good Year For The Roses', the
slide guitar making me feel warm and calm.
'Christ!' Mike says. 'Fuckin ah telt
you, ah fuckin telt yi!'
He's angry about the money.
I don't want to tell him yet again that
Dave was away at dinner with Susan last night, that it would have been uncouth of my dear
self to waltz into his romantic rendezvous and dump a couple of 'snuff films' down in
front of him. But the shouting is drowning out the slide guitars so I turn the music off
and tell him for a third time.
'You gie mi the fuckin money, then,' he
I laugh before telling him no, then I
ask him how Gerard gets the videos and he says he orders them or gets them for friends.
'Thir no the video-shoap legal wans,'
he tells me when I inquire, 'these wans ir pirates.'
He then tells me about another rich
faggot he heard about from Gerard, a lawyer or a magistrate, he's not sure which, but a
textbook closet case whichever way.
'Ih likes guid lookin wans,' he tells
me with a smile on his face. 'So you're oot ya fat bastard!'
As we're passing the huge sunflowers on
the outskirts of the town Mike tells me he got another letter from the council.
'What about?' I ask.
'What di yi think?'
He shakes his head. 'Thi complained
'What kind of noise?'
'Music too loud, Shirley wis playin
Whitney Houston. Lee tae though. The ither week.'
'Lee hit Shirley wi a golf club.'
I start to laugh. After a few seconds
Mike loosens up and joins in.
'No hard like, bit she telt um no tae
do it, shi'd just gave um a row, shi telt um "you dinnae fuckin dae that", n
shi'd pointed it um, and the wee cunt went n done it, hit her oan the leg.'
'Yeah?' I'm still laughing. 'What did
He lights a Lambert & Butlers and
stares out the window.
We drive around a private estate, while
Mike tries to work out which house it is. He says it isn't Gerard's anyway, he's only
renting it for now. Finally we pull up outside a detached bungalow.
'Mind, be awright wi um,' Mike tells
me. He taps the dashboard three or four times, surveying the area, not listening to my
voice say 'it isn't as if he's Kubrick'.
I get out and walk towards the door,
and Mike complains about something but I ignore him and ring the bell.
'Come in,' a miserable looking guy
He leads us to a games room which has a
pool table and a large TV. A girl with blond hair is being fucked in the arse by a hairy
guy. The guy who let us in goes and stands behind the camera, which is still running. The
director guy, who must be Gerard, sits on the floor, level with the girl. He looks at the
carpet, a completely bored expression on his face. Once the guy has come on her face -
which, even to me, looks disgusting - they stop shooting and Gerard gets up from his
position on the floor. Mike introduces us.
'Hello,' he says, very polite.
'Nice to meet you,' I say.
The hairy guy leaves, along with the
girl. Mike starts talking to Gerard, and I take my top off. Gerard smiles at me, a smile
which Mike catches, a smile which changes his expression to one of disappointment.
'Jesus,' Mike says, half to Gerard,
half to me, 'you've pit oan weight ya fat cunt.'
I don't say anything. Gerard laughs
Two guys come shuffling in, one all
calm and collected and the other looking like he's expecting to be tortured, or even
executed. Gerard winks to both of them and Mike smiles, and I sit and smoke, trying to
blow rings. Gerard introduces me to the two. Stevie is the nervous one, Mark the confident
one. These won't be their real names. I ask Gerard for my lines, joking, of course, and
Gerard says 'just do Shakespeare' and Stevie laughs nervously.
I sit down on the footstool and Gerard
leans over. He has some lights set up. Just lamps without the shades, but they'll do, he
'They'll do alright,' I tell him he's
like my boxing coach or something, and he smiles and pats my face before walking the short
distance to Stevie and Mark and telling them what he wants.
Afterwards I use tissues to wipe the semen off my back, but it stays
sticky. I ask Gerard if I can take a shower, but he says 'you must be joking' and I'm not
sure if he's serious or not.
I get dressed and go through to the
kitchen and drink some water straight from the tap, trying to get rid of the taste.
As I'm gargling I notice a woman
sitting down, staring at me.
'Hi,' I say to her. 'You a pal of
She looks at me, her lip raised
slightly like she's shocked. Then she smiles, amused. I gargle again, then spit. Mike
comes through with Gerard, ending a private conversation by saying 'aye' two or three
times in reply to Gerard's quiet, constant whisper.
'Here,' Gerard says, handing me a brown
envelope with my name in capitals, in blue ink.
I open the envelope and count them,
fifteen ten pound notes.
'What about petrol money?' I say,
ironically, but neither of them gets the irony.
'Petrol money?' Mike says, looking at
Gerard to see if he's laughing. 'The fat bastard wants petrol money! Jesus Christ! Whit's
the world cummin ti?'
Mike talks about Gerard all the way back from his house: about Gerard's
scams, his videos, the people he knows. 'Loads ay rich cunts! Fuckin millionaires... Yi
dae guid wi him...'
'If I just need him,' I tell Mike,
laughing again, 'then why do I give you the money?
'Cause if yi dinnae,' Mike says
seriously, trying to threaten me, 'then yi'lI no fuckin' work again, right?'
I just look at his flabby, ageing face
and laugh, which pisses him off. He starts on about the money again. I ignore him.
'By the way,' I say, 'what were you
talking about, with Gerard?'
'When I was cleaning up. It sounded
like you were agreeing with him about something.'
My reflection in the windscreen smiles.
'Fuck-all ti dae wi you. Jist wonderin
the best wiy ti kill yi on camera. Oanly fuckin thing yi're guid fir.'
'N aboot the money fir the videos,
ah'll jist take it the noo n you kin see yir mate'
I tell him to get fucked. By that time
we're in Chinatown. Lee is playing out front, a rash covering his chin. Karen sits on the
steps, smoking a joint, and Shirley leans against the wall, a cigarette clasped between
her middle and index fingers.
'Awright, Scott?' Karen says as I get
out of the car.
'Fine,' I say nervously.
She offers me the joint and I take it.
I ask her about the drug situation and she tells me the area is dry as far as dope is
concerned but that smack is plentiful, along with speed and ecstasy.
'FUCKIN STOAP IT!' Shirley shouts at
I ask Karen what the situation is with
jellies and she tells me they're fine, so I ask her to buy me some and give her the money.
She leaves. Mike asks where she's going, and I tell him.
'Hard luck, the place is dry fir blaw
'I wanted jellies, Mike.'
'Ah nivir knew, fuckwit!'
Lee picks up a piece of shit. Shirley
grabs his arm tightly and attempts to pull him towards the steps, but Lee tries to break
free and Shirley throws him against the fence. Lee hits the fence, bounces back in a
You've Been Framed! moment and lands in the dirt, then he screams and Shirley runs and
pulls him to his feet by his arm, before complaining about the dirt on his clothes and
slapping his buttocks maybe four or five times. His screaming gets louder.
Karen comes up and gives me the
fluorescent jellies with a smile. I smile back. 'Shi cannae handle um,' Karen says sadly,
'ih's a wee bastard sometimes, n shi cannae handle um.'
I'm sitting in McDonald's in a seat right across from an ugly boy and an
ugly girl, both around my age, both eating value meals, one Big Mac, the other McChicken,
and I'm sad for them, sort of. I don't know why. Maybe it's the way they try to look
lovingly into each other's eyes with faces almost frozen in acceptance, in defeat. As I
watch them I think of the moment the realisation hit them, I don't know what I mean but
something which hit them, making them realise. See everything how it is and how it will
Or maybe it's the way the dark puddle
next to the kerb reflects the McDonald's golden arches. The way the image shimmers with
the soft wind. Or the way the stars look tonight and the way the faces behind the counter
look, the way the young people in cars progress through the drive-in section with bright
expectant faces, wasted on dope or smack for the night and now hungry, their expressions
beaming like those of young children.
Maybe the Temazepam taking its toll.
Then the door opens and a girl with
green incandescent eyes comes in. I am amazed at the grace with which she walks and the
way her uniform only adds to her beauty. Her skin is dark tan like the women I dream of
and the eyes, in conjunction with the cheekbones, the pretty mouth, the eyelashes and the
golden brown hair, look sad and tragic and in a way timeless, like she'll be photographed
one day and the photograph will set into stone a fleeting moment, a look, just a thing...
I get so bad and so yearning I can't eat. I leave my half-finished Big Mac meal lying on
the table and walk to the toilets where I swallow three more jellies with a little cold
My heart beats fast and something
inside of me wants to go back, to see the girl, to talk to her.
But I go home with Tom Waits, a song
that mentions wounded eyes and I think of her again, but wish I hadn't.
'Dreaming, dream dream dream,' a man's voice is saying gently, and I'm
lying on the floor, still wet from the shower, watching the hilarious ceiling, listening
to the rain fall outside. 'Dreaming, dream dream dream.'
Before long I'm listening to sad
melancholy soul music: 'Walk On By', the Ruby Curtis version. When the middle section
arrives, that blissful easy feeling I used to have, when maybe my mother would tell me
about Santa's reindeer is welcomed back into my skin and my bones. And I'm smiling like a
clown and thinking of how the snow would fall softly outside my window at night, and how I
would see it from my window before catching a flake in my hand and feeling it melt on my
warm skin... the way I could never sleep until my body commanded me after that feeling...
the way I would dream about the next day, about the sledge, the snowball fight, the
The way we would run, aged around
fourteen, on acid, at the North Sea, the white swell looking like horses.