Tuesday 11 November 2014

November: The Eleventh

Our daily adventure continues right here with The Eleventh instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.
The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 Ltd


As it happened, I had not been in bed five minutes, when I heard voices in the hall. Thinking quickly, I turned out the light. Then people came into the flat, two people, who turned out to be Eric and Joan.
Joan came through into the bedroom. She came up close to me.
I grunted, turned over, and settled down again, rather convincingly I thought, for a non-Equity member.
She tip-toed out again and did not shut the doors behind her, so that I had no trouble gleaning the gist of their conversation.
“He’s asleep,” she said.
“I told you,” said Eric. “Ralph is simply not the suicidal type.”
I grinned. Eric, for all his American Express cards, is a prune.
“Well,” said Joan, “thanks for bringing me anyway.”
“Think nothing of it. You’re welcome to come back if you want.”
“I’ll stay. I think I’ll stay.”
“You want to know what I think?”
“What do you think, Eric?”
“He’s not worth it.”
Well, up yours, Eric, old son.
“Goodnight, Eric,” said Joan.
“Goodnight. Hey, Joan, be happy.”
Puke. I nearly vomited into my pillow.      
So Eric left, and Joan came to bed. She slipped into bed and cuddled up to my back. After a while I felt hot droplets between my shoulder blades and realised that Joan was crying.
“Hey,” I said, rolling onto my back and re-organising her in the crook of my arm, “what’s this?”
For some reason, this provoked even more tears, not to mention the occasional heaving sob.
“Why are you crying?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on. I bet you do.”
“It’s all so sad.”
Now there was a thought. I had never thought of it at all as being all so sad. Interesting, yes. Annoying, frustrating, yes. Funny? From time to time. But never sad. Certainly boring. Though one funny and indeed interesting thing is how funny and interesting boring things have become ever since I started writing them down in here. And do you know what I think? I think that if I hadn’t started writing them down in here, things wouldn’t have been as funny and interesting as they have been striking me as being, even though things were exactly the same. It’s amazing really. I never realised how interesting I was. As Joan quietly sobbed herself to sleep on my chest, I thought about all this.
The next thing I knew, I was back up on the parapet of Melrose Court. 
Now here’s a strange thing - I remember thinking, as I stood up on the parapet, that Joan and I were asleep in bed down there. I was looking down at our place. I was about to jump off, with a view to seeing whether or not I’m immortal, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and looked, and there on the corner, where two sides of the building meet in a right angle - there sat a blue cake. It was a plain round cake covered in blue icing - and I thought: I’ll take this cake and give it to Joan. That’s obviously the reason for it.
I can’t remember why exactly, but it took me hours to make my way home. It was afternoon when I arrived, and Mrs Dennis, Joan’s old nanny, was in the kitchen.
“Hello, dear,” she said.
Then she opened the oven and removed from it a blue cake, which was exactly the same as mine, but somewhat smaller. It occurs to me now that you wouldn’t actually put a fully iced cake in the oven. But at the time this struck me as being perfectly normal.
Nor was I surprised when moments later those two policemen from The Sweeney, Regan and Carter, rang the doorbell and said that they had been instructed to deliver a package to our address, guv. The package contained a third blue cake, slightly smaller still, but otherwise identical to the first two blue cakes.
I walked though into the bedroom, which turned out not to be our extremely messy bedroom, but Joan’s parents’ bedroom in their flat in Albert Hall Mansions, where they lived until they died. Joan was reclining in splendour in the four-poster bed. A fire was burning in the grate underneath the twin portraits of the Hendersons. I went to the foot of the bed.
Mrs Dennis then wheeled the blue cakes in on a trolley. We don’t have a trolley, but there you go.
“These blue cakes,” I said, “are a sign - that you should eat them and stop this ridiculous hunger strike.”
“Nonsense,” said Joan, “these blue cakes are in fact one blue wedding cake, and it is a sign that you should give into my demands and marry me.”
I looked at the blue cakes on the trolley and saw that they were indeed arranged on a tier, as per one blue wedding cake.
At which point, Miss Jackson stepped out of the closet, looking like the Wicked Witch of the West, when played by Alfred Hitchcock in drag, and said: “No, my pretties, you’re both wrong.”
She pointed a finger at me and cackled:
“Blue cake, blue cake, blue cake for tea,
“Three in one and one in three.
“Now you sleep. Awake and see,
“He is you and you are He.”
I awoke, and looked at Joan, who was licking her lips in her sleep. Then Joan woke up as well and the first thing she said was:
“I’ve just had this most incredible dream.”
“What about?” I asked.
I promise you. It’s absolutely true. When I pressed her as to details, all she could remember was that there was this blue cake, and she was eating it in the dream, and it was absolutely delicious.
“Was I in the dream?”
“I don’t think so, Ralph.”
“What about Mrs Dennis?”
“What shape was this cake of yours?”
“I don’t know. Square, I think. Or round. I can’t remember. Why?
“Oh, no reason. I just wondered,” I said.
I was thinking about this in the tube on the way to the bank. And I think I’ve come up with a rational explanation. It could have happened one of two ways. Either Joan was dreaming about blue cake first and spoke the words in her sleep, so that I, in my sleep, heard them and started weaving a dream about them - or it happened the other way around. There are other possible explanations, which are more fun and less convincing. Mind you, I’m fairly easily convinced.
There are ten tills in my local bank. Only one of them was being manned. And of course, I had to be behind some idiot who just happened to be paying in his last three years’ savings, in pennies. If I’d had a concealed poisoned spike in the toe-cap of my sneakers, this bloke would have got it in the back of the leg. The time will, believe me, when people will walk into banks toting shot-guns, not in order to rob them, but simply to get some kind of service.
On the way back from the bank, I couldn’t help noticing the headline on the front page of The Standard, which was being read by one of my fellow passengers: BREZHNEV IS DEAD.
“Well, well, well,” I thought.
I dropped in at the newsagents on the way home, to pick up one of these Standards, so I could glean the salient facts. While I was there, I stopped by the dirty magazine section. I wondered if Alison really was the kind of girl who appeared in magazines like this.
She is. I found her in Club International. I bought a copy, slipped it into my Standard and went home.
Joan was in the wicker lounger, under the darts board, reading Marcella Hazan’s Italian Cookery. She was eating an imaginary osso bucco.
“I don’t understand how you can read that and not eat,” I said.
“I’m still completely full from the blue cake,” she replied.
“Remember this morning? My dream.”
Of course I remembered.
“You found that filling, did you?”
“Well, I know it sounds odd, but as a matter of fact I did.”
I just stared at her.
“I wonder if that’s what breatharians do,” she wondered.
“Breatharians. People who live off air.”
“Bollocks,” I said.
“It’s true, Ralph. I read about them. They don’t need food or water or anything. They live off air, breath. That’s why they’re called Breatharians.”
“I’ll be very surprised if you turn out to be a Breatharian,” I said.
“You never know,” said Joan and returned her attention to her written osso bucco.
“Brezhnev’s dead,” I said, casually lifting up my Standard and leaving my Club International visible on the kitchen table.
“Good,” said Joan, but did not look up from her book.
“I just want you to know,” I said, “that as a result of your utterly unreasonable attitude to sex, food and everything, I have been driven to buying this pornographic magazine.”
“Poor you,” she said.
I picked it up and marched toward the bedroom.
“Wanker!” Joan shouted after me.
I went into the bedroom and shut the door.
And, as I say, there she was. I could not believe my eyes. I mean, she was revealing all, but ALL. Everything. In close-up. Extreme close-up. On the first page, it said over her picture: “I’m Honey .... call me.” And then I turned the page and it said: “Ring me on either of these two numbers and imagine my legs wrapped around you while we talk ....” And then I turned over again and it said - over a two-page spread of Alison lying on her back with her legs in the air: “My pussy’s getting wet just thinking about what I’m going to say to you .....”
I could see Alison Pitney’s block through the bedroom window.
“My pussy’s getting wet just thinking about what I’m going to say to you ....”
I picked up the phone and dialled the first number. Engaged. Ditto the second number. I tried off and on for about fifteen minutes. Engaged. Engaged. Engaged. All over Britain, people were phoning in with Alison spread out in front of them, telephone in one hand, dick in the other. How could she do it? I decided that Alison, or Honey, must either be very stupid or very brave.
Joan traipsed in.
“Who are you calling?”
“Nobody,” I said.
Joan wandered up to the bed, and looked at Alison.
“God,” said Joan, “what a dog.”
“Why’d’you say that?”
“You don’t mean to say you find that attractive?”
“I might do,” I said.
“Have you got a hard-on?”
“None of your business.”
Joan picked up the magazine. She thought “My pussy’s getting wet just thinking about what I’m going to say to you” was hilarious.
“Is this who you’ve been trying to call?”
“It’s engaged,” I said.
“Try again.”
Of course, she was desperate to hear what “Honey” had to say for herself. But both numbers were still engaged.
Then Chloe turned up with Coco and Dylan. So I went out. I walked up the road to the call-box. I looked in the L-R, and there she was: Alison Pitney, Melrose Court. I rang the number, but there was no reply. Perhaps, I thought, she’s up on the roof. So I walked round there.
There was no reply when I knocked. I tried the roof. No sign. I checked the corner of the parapet up there to see if there was a smear of blue icing or some other tell-tale sign. But there was not.
Seeing as I was up there, should I throw myself over the edge?
Not now. I wasn’t in the mood. I walked back down to Alison’s floor, tried the bell again. She answered it. Fresh from the bath. Hair in a towel turban. Steaming slightly.
“Ah,” she said. “The MW. ”
I said: “Hello, Honey.”
She laughed: “I know what you’ve been reading, you naughty boy.”
“Can I come in?”
“You can, for a minute. I’m on my way out. Got a job.”
She told me to make myself useful and put the kettle on, while she got dressed, so I went into the kitchenette and filled the kettle, found the mugs and the teabags and the milk.
“No thanks. Bring it through to the bedroom.”
I don’t know what I was expecting, some kind of femme fatale-ish boudoir, black satin sheets, red velvet curtains, you know, but it wasn’t like that at all. It reminded me of my sister’s room, when we were growing up. Teddy bears and a rag doll on the primrose candlewick bedspread. Rod Stewart and Donna Summer posters on the wall. It was confusing. She was wearing a t-shirt. She may or may not have been wearing knickers
“Just stick it down anywhere,” she said, reaching for a pair of jeans.
“So, what did you think of my pix?”
She sat on the bed and pulled on the jeans. No knickers.
“Well, I thought they were very nice.”
She laughed: “Did ya phone up?”
“I couldn’t get through.”
“It’s always jammed,” she said proudly, buttoning up. “Chuck us them boots, will ya?”
“What exactly do you say?” I inquired, passing her the boots in question, which were the kind of cowboy boots that would have had Joan sneering “King’s Road Shop Girl”, had she passed her in the street.
“It’s not me. It’s recorded.”
“I gathered that. I mean, but it’s your voice.”
The boots were on, cowboy boots. She stood up.
“What do you say then?”
“Oh, you know.”
“No I don’t. Come on. What do you say?”
“Well I don’t say all that much really. I mainly pretend that I’m coming, and then I pant quite a lot.”
She opened a drawer and pulled out a pullover and proceeded to pull it over her head.
“Don’t you mind?”
Well, you know, the thought of all those men ....”
“What? Wanking off over me?”
“Well. Yes. Don’t you mind.”
“Would you mind if I told you that ‘alf the population was wanking off over a photograph of you?”
I considered this. When I came to think about it, I didn’t think I’d mind in the least.
“Well,” said Alison, “there you go. Why should I mind? It’s a laugh, innit? All those wankers.”
“Yeah,” I said, ambiguously, wondering whether I was included in this onanist army she found so amusing.
She tied her hair into a pony tail, went into the living-room, pulled on a leather jacket that was hanging on the back of a chair, picked up a bag and was ready to go.
As we were going down in the lift, she said she was going to a new club tonight and did I want to come too?
“What kind of a club?”
“You know. A night club. Few drinks. Bit of bop. Be a laugh. I’ll put your name on the door.”
I thought about this for a bit, then said: “Not tonight, thanks.”
On the one hand, I can’t afford to go to night clubs. On the other hand, I hate night clubs. But on the third hand, I wouldn’t have minded going. Then, on the fourth hand, can you see me having a bit of a bop?
“What are you doing tomorrow night?” I asked.
We arrived at the ground floor.
“Shall we do something then? Maybe go to a film?”
“That’d be fun.”
I said I’d come and pick her up at sevenish. Then she gave me a peck on the cheek and strode off in the direction of the tube. Watching her go, you’d never in a million years guess what she did for a living. It really might be worth marrying Alison, just to see the look on my mother’s face, when she discovered what her daughter-in-law’s metier was.
I walked home.
Chloe had just left. She had to put the brats to bed.
Joan surprised me by offering to cook me dinner.
“Aha,” I said.
“Don’t get any ideas,” said Joan. “I just feel like cooking something.”
Talk about brinkmanship.
I had a bath, and by the time I had emerged from it, Joan had produced a perfect soufflé. Astonishing.
“I bet you licked the spoon,” I said.
“I did not.”
Strangely enough, I believed her.
Then Joan went to bed. I tucked her in. 
Back in the kitchen, I took the Club International out of my tuck box and opened it at Alison’s spread, but it seemed weird now that I knew the girl, and we had a date to go to the pictures.
So I put the magazine away in my tuck box and fetched this out - and here I am, at the end of yet another day.

See you tomorrow for another instalment..

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