Tuesday, 29 March 2011

even the bell, the namesake.


Another rumble is heard, it passes.

Greensides:                   I was supposed to see her tomorrow and give her the present then, maybe I should’ve waited until the morning.

                                    I only give her things because she needs them. I hate seeing her upset.
            A distant explosion is heard.

            The dog whines and barks.

Greensides lights a cigarette and begins to smoke.


Boyce:                         What was it like?

Greensides:                 What?

Boyce:                         Tonight, what was it like?

Greensides:                 Dark.

On the train I sat opposite a man with a dog...Collie I think. It had its black eyes on me the whole way, quiet and still as we sped past the estates near Bermondsey.

Charing Cross was packed to burst…a lot of people being moved by police back into the trains but the place was so busy and chaotic…

Outside there were horns, car horns of course but a brass band must’ve been there somewhere because I caught glimpses of men and women in red uniforms, all playing trumpets and trombones and tubas...God knows why they were there, but I followed them all down Whitehall to Parliament Square...and never in my life...the size of it all there, all those faces glowing in the light, all staring up at the clock-face and that music hanging in the air. People lined the statues, draped around Churchill and Mandela while the crowds pushed together on the grass. Blue lights flashed from the edges, a few faint sirens, but it felt like nothing, all of us anxiously watching the tower. My phone said five to ten.

A woman, must’ve been in her fifties, pressed up close to my side. I could feel the back of her hand against mine, her skin warm and I felt her move it up and down, just slightly but it was such a tender thing…so small in that place. 

                                    My lights gone out.

Boyce:                         Help yourself.

            Greensides helps himself to Boyce’s lighter, re-lighting his cigarette.

Greensides:                 It was a minute to ten; I could see people checking the time on their phones. I don’t know what we expected, nothing I guess.

Just a glowing circle up there with twelve numbers, no countdown, no movement, nothing. I could hear the woman next to me breathing, deep and low against my neck, her hand still pressed against my own…If I’m honest I felt myself get hard, just a little but hard nonetheless…all the blood down there tightening up like a knot….It was ten o’clock…and then, above our heads… the sound of it…The noise shot from the empty face…like thunder cracking amongst the sounds of its wound, split down the looming form; Big Ben’s open mouth choking on all that came from that hole.

            Greensides puts the cigarette out on the ashtray.

I tried to go back to the station, but it was too late then.
I didn’t see the woman again.                       

Boyce walks towards the floor and begins to pull up the boards with his hands.

Greensides moves to stop him.


Monday, 28 March 2011

"During the Vietnam War, every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high." - Kurt Vonnegut

The Minotaur

Yes, it’s true. Every detail, every fact. I’m a well travelled man with a well informed body, a sharpened mind. And, like you, I have a keen eye for beauty.

Who else can say it? Say that they have flown over the dark forests of Europe? That they have watched the volcanoes erupt on Java. That they have peered into the heart of Paris; into the spine of Toyko; into the womb of Buenos Aries? I have spied upon the giddy heights of the world from the cool metal enclosure of the cock-pit, leather on my glorious hide and countless dials at my command.

All these things I carry in my experienced eyes - An Atlas of the skies.

My suit, as you can see, is pressed and worn to perfection. My three-button navy-blue carried like the cloak of a king, closed over a white shirt and tie. A pair of black shoes shine under my straight, single front-pleat trousers, and my styled pilot cap rests on my head, casting a short black shadow. You know this to be true. You feel it in your heart and your blood quickens as you gaze upon my gallant form. Don’t be ashamed, it is not your fault - it could never be your fault. Beauty has no fault.

My scent is golden and my lips are jewels. Women have tasted them from London to Cairo, and so will you; lucky, lucky you.

It is true that I spend my time in the airport; that I walk along the concrete buildings and rest upon the plastic seats of the passenger lounge. Asterion in his labyrinth, you have passed me before and you will again. I lift my left leg and bring it to rest upon the surface of the right.

For two hours before a flight I sit in my pilot's chair, adjusting every sense to that environment; the cool glass of the flashing screens running under my gentle fingers and it is easy for me to become hard. As I press myself against the control-panel I think about what it is to be in that seat, the weight of the vessel and all the responsibility a man like me must take with him into the skies.

But then who could do it but me? You know this. You trust me already - that’s how trustworthy I am. I speak and you listen. We’re a well oiled machine, you and I. 

Friday, 25 March 2011


I know the route to the middle. It’s the simplest thing in the world. When I was small, before I was allowed go in. I would study it from my bedroom window. I would imagine it, all the paths and contours. In my head I would run, in a white silk dress and bare feet, between the hedges, straight to the centre.
Dad told me that when I turned five I would be old enough to go inside. That night before my birthday I lay wide awake. I thought my heart would beat itself out of my chest. I knew the path, but I was scared. In the dark of my room I looked out at the unmoving shape. I watched the centre and thought of it as an empty city, long abandoned from the war. It was a city only for me, for me to run through its streets and for me to lie in its shade.
Morning came and Dad led me to the entrance. He said he would wait for me, and if I was to become lost, to call out his name. The hedges towered over my head, but I remembered the path and walked right, left, right, left...
I made it. I felt my lips tighten around my teeth as I grinned at the leaf walls, motionless and tamed below the open blue sky.  From the centre I could see the house, my home; it's old stone walls reaching up like fat toes. My lips were slightly parted, my neck exposed. My hand was pressed against my skin and I could feel the contours of my ribs. I squeezed the flesh gently between my thumb and fore-finger like a soft-boiled egg. I have a soft boiled egg every morning for breakfast and I thought of it sat in my eggcup waiting for me to cut it open with a knife. It didn’t say a thing; of course it didn’t, it was an egg. It didn’t howl, it didn’t whimper. It silently let me eat it, just like the day before, and the day before that. But today, for some reason today, I listened, hoping it would protest as I tapped its skull.
Left, right, left, right…I made my way back and couldn’t stop smiling. I had made it all on my own, in silence, with no-one’s help. When I got out I could see Dad on the other side of the living-room window. He smiled and waved and I smiled back, frozen on the grass.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Greensides:                   My friend Oscar, he won’t mind me telling the story, you know him /

Boyce:                          (From the hole) / No /

Greensides:                   / He’s a bit slow, was at school with us. You know Rita.

Boyce:                          Who’s Rita?

Greensides:                   His German girlfriend.

Boyce:                          Christ, are they still together?

Greensides:                   Yeah I know. Sickening isn’t it? She’s moved to Berlin now though, long distance thing.

Boyce:                          They not married yet?

Greensides:                   Not yet. They manage to keep it together though. He goes over there every few months and she comes over here every few months.

Boyce:                          Whatever works.

Greensides:                   Exactly, whatever works for them. And they’re a really nice couple, very much in love, you should see the way they stare at each other, there’s a definite intensity...Oscar does tend to stare a lot though.

Boyce:                          Lazy eye right?

Greensides:                   That’s it, lazy eye, always goes a-wandering in that head of his.

So it’s Oscar’s birthday and Rita gets him a nice new pair of trousers, very high quality, well fitting. She mails them over from Berlin, air mail, and, I don’t know if the cargo plane was uncharacteristically hot, or if they got wet, or whatever, but this lovely pair of trousers decides to shrink several sizes between Berlin and London. End up this big. (Greensides indicates around two feet using his hands)

Oscar on the morn of his birthday opens this soiled parcel and, the stupid fuck he is, thinks that these tiny trousers must be the latest German fashion.

God knows how he managed to squeeze himself into them, but he did, and, to be honest, it didn’t look that bad. It was generally more impressive than disgusting.

A whole week he managed in them, and people had kind of gotten used to it; the way he would waddle over with his belly just slightly folded over the top. Then, one day he’s queuing up in the post office, it’s Monday so it’s pretty busy, he’s there to post a small jar of toffees to Rita. She’d never eaten toffee before, can you believe that? Apparently she wasn’t allowed them as a child and fell into the habit of avoiding them for fear of tooth-rot. Oskar thought that was ridiculous, I mean nothing’s wrong with a moderate chew, and he came to the decision that a decorative jar of English toffee he’d spotted in Portobello road would make her rethink her childish fears and ergo she would build a stronger, deeper connection to Oskar, resulting in a bridge for the two of them that, although it was separated by the physical distance between London and Berlin, would transcend their previous adolescent lives and lead them to live solely in the present.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how things happened, but I do remember it was the first truly hot day of the year and Oskar is well known for his sweaty palms. When his time came to talk to the teller it seemed the act of both balancing the jar of toffee in one hand and pulling out his wallet from his back pocket with the other resulted in him dropping the wallet on the floor.

So he bent over.


Boyce:                          Yeah?

Greensides:                   I’ve never made a pair of trousers. I do not know the intricacies required to stitch the seams and I do not know how you attach a metal zip to the material. However, it seems that although an average trouser is adequately able to support a comfortable relationship between itself and an individual’s genitals, continuous close contact results in some tender consequences. According to the surgeon, when Oscar bent over it was like pressing a pastry cutter into a soft mound of dough.


And, now, he has a zip in his penis. 

Boyce:                          Is he okay?

Greensides:                   He’s fine...well, not really.

            Greensides finishes his apple.

                                    I don’t think he can have kids now.

            Greensides throws the apple core into the hole.

            The apple hits Boyce’s head.

Boyce:                          Help me up.   

            Greensides walks to the hole, crouches down next to it and after a few seconds
reaches down into it. 

He pulls up Boyce.

Boyce leans on his sledgehammer.

Greensides:                   This zip, in his manhood, what a thing.

I saw Rita not long ago; bumped into her down Oxford Street - funny how that happens, right? She was visiting Oskar. We ended up going for a drink and she told me all about his condition. I told her it sounded fucking mad, to have a zip like that down there. She swore to God that it was the truth. She admitted that, at first, it became a real issue in their relationship. I mean, can you imagine?

They’re both all right with it now; mostly forget it’s even there. But every so often…Rita said this after a few drinks…every so often when they’re in bed they open it up.

Normally Oskar doesn’t like it being touched…it’s very sensitive you see…he takes quite a bit of convincing. But if Rita lies him down just right, and if she gently pulls it open…

Greensides mimes opening a zip.

It’s like looking into a black hole. 

Names of Birds

When I finally got on the tube....

It took me forty minutes to get down the stairs, all 175, there was a line of people spiraling under. We’re to go home, I could see them all down The Strand, yellow jackets and black helmets, directing us to the station. I definitely got the message. A lot of angry people and it’s way too silent on the hour. But two stops in this guy spits right on the other guy’s face, right in the middle of the carriage. Both of them wearing well fitted suits and suddenly he has one of his Brogues on the other’s skull.

All of us watching his foot go up and down, again and again; Jesus, the stuff that came out of that crack.


It’s the lack of information, that’s the worst part.

They’ll make you stand there for forty minutes, and not a single word of information. Lots of us there, like, a load of us there, but do they say anything? No, of course not.

They just expect you to wait. The…that board with all the times on it. I had to keep walking all the way down the platform to check it, and it’s just…it’s just rows of ‘wait for information’.

And that’s fine, I don’t mind…I mean you can understand it…but you hear the banging, real loud, you can hear it on the platform and you hear it getting closer…and they stopped letting people in…I mean you couldn’t see the floor for people but… to not let people in…I do understand it, I do…but when you can hear it, so close…and the look in people’s eyes…white and round and open.

There were kids there, and everyone forgets...

It’s a dirty joke, the cheek of it to steal our hours.


James:                          I have a technique. What man doesn’t? Jesus, we all need something to do, don’t we? Something to bring a smile to our lips. The moan against the chest, little flutter of eyelids. Control for the fingers, keep that hand steady, steady still all the way down. Pressed tight in the dark. But what more?
“Surely” you plead, “Surely” you cry, “We need more than that.” And you say that with such conviction, Like it’s the easiest thing in the world to have any more than that.

Finds Jess, after she has been thrown into the river.

I made her. Opened up the door and there she was. Perfectly formed.

James walks through the crowd, who part for him.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me describe her:
She stands doe-eyed under warm lights with hair falling from yellow to brown. Skin lying fawn-like over her words. I hear the faint cry of a wild animal and she appears, smiling across the ground. She undresses and I watch a string of orange lights leading from her feet to mine. Snowskin away from my fingers, yet I feel the strength of images in her eyes and all I want to do is speak. All I want to do is speak. But I never can, and she always disappears.  
Snowskin left in the water.
Born alive; thing of the imagination.
But who can say, who can truly say?

My sea-eyed girl,
Come into the arms of your ever-loving man.

James embraces Jess.
Jess kisses him.
James becomes visibly on edge.

So I go back into those doors. Even with you, my love. And I’m hoping to be done with it all, but here it keeps on coming.

James smiles and calms.

A thing of my own, made under bedroom sheets.
It’s a story for me to tell, And my God, I tell it well.

James kisses Jess on the neck.

But I feel long and I feel hard and this thing lies down on the river bed.

James pushes Jess down into the water. Everyone is watching, silent.
James undoes his belt.
James advances on Jess in the water.
He is violent and he is aggressive.
He almost drowns Jess, but stops before she can be killed.
She stands gasping.
He is shaking.
He leaves.

National Event

They told me it was in the papers. They told me it was shouted from the rooftops, that there were articles, plays, commemorative plaques and symphonies. There were pictures of me in every country, in every church and under every stone. My name was gold and it was dust. I was told that my crime was the worst. I was to be fed to a lion. I was shown a picture; magnificent beast, creeping through the night, each stride lain down like a swift slice to the leaves and dirt.

Sat alone, deep underground. No more than a lump of flesh. I remember the lion. My fingers move against the cold stone and if I strain my ears I can hear the faint sound of wind, blowing softly through the cracks of the cell. But I can’t see a thing. Not a thing.

The stadium was planned. There would be helicopters in the sky and police in the crowd. Some called for my legs to be broken, smashed by a blunt hammer. There were those that wished for my eyes to be cut and scooped from my skull. They wanted my arms pulled from my sockets. The tickets sold out. The world had its eyes on the city; an example of economic and cultural superiority, of truly modern architectural planning. The designs were hailed as forward thinking. The surrounding area became a hotspot for business expansion.

I try to scream but all that comes out is hot air and saliva. I haven’t stood for years, my ankles grown into stone.

A lion was chosen from a televised series of auditions. He was paid to endorse food products. He came to see me. I had never seen a lion before. He wore a shirt and told me it wasn’t personal, that he didn’t want to seem inhuman. I nodded and shook his paw.

News spread of an execution on the continent. A mass murderer was fed to a bear. He was photogenic, hairy, broad, a hit with the ladies. He released his own perfume, had an affair with a politician and published an autobiography. His claws were like knives. The murderer died after seven hours of prolonged mutilation. It was spoken of for weeks.

My arms have become string. I rarely lift them. Sometimes I stretch as far as I can, up into the dark, and try to feel the soft breath of a waiting figure, or a gentle bird above my head; its hard beak like a nail in the stone wall.

The lion came back a year later. He spoke a lot and I listened to everything he said. I think he had been drinking. His wife was pregnant and he was afraid. He didn’t know who to talk to. He pulled out a tissue and wiped his cheek. His paws were golden and he let me touch them. I smiled and he cried again.

When I sleep I dream of a mouth, raised above the city, its tongue like a wire, touching the ground, and people climb up, masses of legs and faces, all moving upwards. The city left silent as wet lips smile over empty houses and forgotten parks.

The lion came again. His wife had left him, taking full custody of the child. She had written an article about their relationship; all the details, all the ups and downs. I held his paw. He wept into my side. I could feel the tears run down my skin, dripping into a puddle around my big toe. I pressed my hands into his fur; it felt good against my fingertips. I wanted to dive into his mane, to swim in the golden hair and wrap my body in the soft tender streams.

The lips slowly part, a black hole in the sky.

They forgot the details of my crime. I changed from the devil to a ghost; no-one remembered my name. I was whispered about in school-yards, church-halls, and sewing-circles. The stadium was complete but nothing happened. It was left unlit, the shops were all shut. The streets full of rubble. Soon the guards stopped visiting me. I was slid food through a hatch, sometimes I saw a hand, but most of the time I just heard footsteps, the tray entering and footsteps once more.

I was told that the lion had broken down. He had lost sponsorship from the stadium. He tried to become an actor, but couldn’t get work. He was involved in a violent incident on a train from London Bridge. He spent a week in jail. He couldn’t go on. He spent his days walking around the city with a suitcase, but it was only full of paperclips and apple cores. I heard he left weeping into the night, carrying a knife.

A roar, slicing through the backbone, blowing people down to the ground. An animal sound, full of hair and teeth.

On the headline news it was announced that an old celebrity who had fallen on hard times was involved in a murder. The public wouldn’t stand for it. They saw the state of the city and blamed it on him. He was an animal. He was a monster. Something had to be done. It was revealed in the papers that this creature was once affiliated with the stadium; the eye-sore, the embarrassment, the waste of money.

The last I heard, the lion was tied to a stake in the ground. A firing squad was instructed to fill him full of bullets until there was more metal than meat. No-one came to watch, miles and miles of seats lay empty. The strips of skin and bone were scooped into a bag and thrown in the river. The stadium was demolished; forgotten. The area renovated. They built new accommodation.

Now I can’t see anything, nothing at all. I’ve forgotten how big the room is, it’s all black. I just sit in this little patch and try not to move.