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I have never understood how a pain could be described as exquisite - until I went to the loo this morning. I had to lie down on my front for twenty minutes until the throbbing subsided. Hell and damnation. I have been stricken with piles. Hell and damnation. It’s just not fair. What’s more, my teeth hurt. Otherwise, I am feeling unreasonably cheerful. I have come to a decision which, when all is said and done, is monumental.
Eric and I went for a walk in Gunnersbury Park this morning, and he made several points. We were talking about love and marriage and children and everything. The sky was brilliant blue. It’s been a beautiful day altogether in fact.
“I know people always say that you simply can’t understand what it’s like until you’ve had one yourself,” said Eric, “but I’m telling you, man, it’s true. You just discover a whole new dimension of love. Really. You have to try it.”
A whole new dimension of love.
I liked the sound of that.
“I suppose the thing is,” I said, “that I’m, well, I just think I’d be a dreadful father.”
“Nonsense,” said Eric. “And anyway. So what? Lots of people are dreadful fathers. Look at my father. It never worried me. Look at Orson’s father, for God’s sake.”
“Look at Orson.”
“Yeah, well, you know what I’m saying. As long as you feed the little fuckers and make sure they’re warm - they’re no problem. I promise you.”
“It’s easy for you to say that.”
“Come on, Eric, you’re rolling in it.”
“That’s got nothing to do with it. The point is that you and Joan are made for each other. Why don’t you just marry her and have done with it?”
“I’m not getting married,” I said.
“Why on earth not?”
“I’m not standing up in front of a whole lot of people and making some oath which I have no possible way of knowing I can keep. I mean, how can you say you’ll love someone until death?”
“We did it,” said Eric.
“I’m not saying it’s wrong for you to do it. I’m just saying it would be wrong for me to do it. For me it would be hypocrisy.”
“Bullshit,” said Eric. “It’s time you joined the real world.”
“I don’t like the real world.”
“That’s because you don’t do anything in it.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Well, if I was you, the first thing I’d do is marry Joan. OK, if you don’t like the vows, keep your fingers crossed while you’re saying them. Then take it from there. You know. One day at a time and all that. At least then we wouldn’t have this threat of Joan dropping dead of starvation at any second.”
“She won’t,” I said.
“Crap,” said Eric.
“But I didn’t make her go on hunger strike.”
“That’s not the point. You’re the one who can make her come off it.”
“Alright,” I said, “so if some girl, some lunatic, her for instance ....” (I was referring to a sweaty girl in shorts who came thumping past at a lumbering jog.) “Suppose she happens to see you, decides she wants to marry you, and goes on hunger strike - are you then responsible?”
“The situation is completely different,” said Eric, somewhat testily. “You love Joan. And Joan loves you.”
We proceeded in silence to Eric’s BMW and climbed in. On the way back to his place, he offered me a job in this new video thing he’s setting up. He said he could pay me £15,000 a year and a car. I told him I didn’t know anything about video. Eric said I’d be able to do it standing on my head. I told him I’d think about it.
The only part of the house that isn’t open-plan, apart from the downstairs bog of course, is Eric’s office. He took me in there after lunch, which consisted of fish fingers, Cadbury’s Smash and Heinz tomato ketchup - Eric’s favourite food. Then he proceeded to fill me in on this new video company of his. He’s a very good salesman. He has an infectious line in enthusiasm.
“Look,” he said finally, “I just don’t have the time to run this thing myself and I need someone at the helm I can trust. I trust you.”
“I’d have to have a percentage,” I said, feeling very grown-up.
Eric pondered this for a moment, then he offered me 25%.
“That sounds pretty fair.”
“It is,” said Eric
Then the children came home with Mavis and put paid to any further intercourse. They wanted attention from their father. For the first time, I started to stop seeing them as unbearable nuisances and began seeing them as the providers of this whole new dimension of love, which Eric had mentioned on our walk. I watched him experiencing it. And I thought that I would like to experience it too.
Mavis did things in the kitchen department, while Dylan and Eric and I watched “Charlie Chan in Shanghai” on the box. Coco was goo-goo-gooing around on the floor. I observed that part of the appeal of Charlie Chan is the relationship he has with his Number One Son. I felt myself getting broodier and broodier.
Then Eric had to go and meet Chloe at the Hypgnosis party and did I want to come? Of course, someone like Eric has to be in the music business, as well as everything else. Eric’s trouble is that he is a sort of cross between Woody Allen and Richard Branson. Woody Branson! But he professes to loathe and despise both these characters. Allen he hates for having the unprecedented gall to look like him. Eric has absolutely no sense of humour on this point. And he hates Richard Branson for being richer than him. Richer Branson.
I passed on the party and went to join Dylan in front of the television. We watched a Bugs Bunny cartoon together. As it started, Dylan activated the video recorder with the remote control doodad. He did it with the ease of one who knew how to operate remote control video machines long before he could walk or even shit under his own steam. In the last line of the cartoon, Bugs Bunny said: “Well, like the man said, don’t take life too seriously - you’ll never get out of it alive.”
As soon as the cartoon ended, Dylan wound the tape back and played it again.
“Well, like the man said, don’t take life too seriously - you’ll never get out of it alive.”
Huh, I thought, unless you happen to be immortal.
Mavis summoned Dylan to the table for his supper - chipolatas and baked beans, followed by cherry Ski yoghurt - his flavour of the month. I watched him eat this, while Mavis put Coco to bed. I didn’t talk to Dylan, and Dylan didn’t talk to me while he ate. Instead he carried on a conversation with his E.T. doll, which he had leaning casually against the ketchup bottle.
I did say: “Are you looking forward to seeing E.T.?”
To which he replied somewhat snootily: “I’ve already seen it.”
“But it’s not out yet,” I said.
“I saw it ages ago,” said Dylan.
“In America ..... with daddy.”
That put me firmly in my place. It was so strange to think that here was a person who thought of Eric as daddy.
But would my son be immortal? I suppose I could always shoot him and see. No, I’d just have to wait. Of course, if I did know, I would never have to worry about him getting run over, or overdosing on drugs, or getting fantastically depressed and jumping off a tall building. But I couldn’t risk shooting him just on the off chance. I’d have to wait and see. I reckon that by the time the kid’s 150 or so, I’ll be able to stop worrying.
I’ve just thought of something - re this business of both parents having to be immortal, if you want to have immortal children. What if this hunger strike of Joan’s goes on and on and on and on and it turns out that she’s immortal too? And all this has been meant to happen? Of course, it would be awful if she dies. But if she does die, I will at least then know that she is or was only mortal - and consequently not the girl for me. How would I find my immortal partner, should Joan not prove to be the one? Unless I’m very lucky, I foresee all sorts of problems.
Either one tells the girl, or one does not. In the first place ..... well, imagine it -
Me: “I want to marry you.”
Her: “I want to marry you too.”
Me: “There’s only one problem.”
Her: “What is it, darling?”
Me: “You see, the thing is, I’m immortal - and I can only marry one who is also immortal - if we are to have immortal children. In order to ascertain whether you are immortal or not, I’m going to have to shoot you. If you come back to life as yourself again, we can get married.”
I can’t see it. I can’t see any girl who isn’t a raving lunatic going for it. Even if I didn’t tell her, just proposed and when she said yes, shot her regardless - well, as I say, fraught with difficulties.
Mavis took Dylan off to bed and when she came back downstairs, she ripped my clothes off, threw me onto the Corbusier chaise longue and ………. as if.
Apart from the fact that Mavis is a grimly efficient young woman, of the type that mugs muggers, the pain in my bum was playing up. I decided to go for a bath.
After the bath, I was feeling much better, though my teeth were hurting again.
There was a knock at the bathroom door. Mavis. She was not after my body. She wanted to know whether I’d like something to eat. She was making spaghetti.
“No thanks,” I said, emerging from the bathroom, which separates the guest room from her room on the top floor. If the truth be known, I could certainly have done with a large bowl of spaghetti, but I feared I would not be able to think of anything to say to Mavis. So I said: “Actually my teeth hurt and I’m not feeling so hot.”
Of course, I broke a cardinal rule here - never volunteer any information about anything, even if it’s true. Moments later, the telephone rang. Mavis called me downstairs. It was Eric, saying that they were going to Langan’s and why didn’t I join them there. I could just have done with one of their spinach soufflés with anchovy sauce, but having told Mavis that I was too far gone to handle her spaghetti, I did not have the heart to effect a miraculous recovery at the drop of a better offer.
I’d never been to Langan’s before I met Joan. It was quite a momentous occasion. I asked the waiter for a side plate and Joan muttered underneath her breath: “You don’t have side plates here.”
I turned to the waiter, whom I had asked to bring the article of crockery in question. He was hovering there, waiting to see what the outcome of this altercation between Joan and me might be.
“What are you waiting for?” I snapped.
“It pays the rent, sir,” said this waiter.
Well, I laughed, and Joan laughed, and off he went, and I never got my side plate.
On the way home, Joan said: “I don’t think I could ever really love someone who asked for a side plate at Langan’s.”
Dear old Joan.
I went up to my room, the guest room, and I looked at myself in the mirror there and I said to myself: “Well, Ralph, you certainly have changed your tune.” And I have. I’ve decided to become a father.
There. I’ve written it down. I’ve been lying on this bed, scribbling away. And finally I’ve managed to write it down.
I am going to be a father!
I’ll take this fucking job of Eric’s. £15,000 per annum. Car. 25% of the business. I’ll be able to buy a video. And an electric guitar. I can go on holiday - and join the R.A.C. club. And I’ll be able to buy Joan presents and take her on surprise jaunts to Paris. God, it’s true what the man said: a man without cash is like a car without gas - useless. I could have an American Express card and charge things. I must go and give Joan the good news.
I bumped into Mavis on the way downstairs. She was coming up to tell me that if I could keep an eye on the kids she’d like to pop out. And out she popped to wherever it is people like her pop off to. I supposed that Joan was still chez Orson, went into Eric’s office and dialled the number. Orson answered.
“Hi there,” I said, cheerfully.
“What do you want?” said Orson in a far from friendly tone of voice.
“Is Joan there? I want to speak to her.”
“Wake her up. I’ve got some good news for her.”
“Come on, Orson. Go and get her.”
“What do you mean - no?”
“What I said. I’m not waking her up.”
“Oh. Well I want to tell her something.”
“I don’t want to tell you. I want to tell Joan.”
“Well, she’s asleep.”
“I’ll tell you what,” I said. “I’ll come round for breakfast tomorrow morning.”
“Where are you?”
“At Eric’s. I’ll be there tomorrow morning for breakfast. I’ll bring croissant. Joan likes croissant.”
“Aha,” said Orson. “So you’ve given in.”
“Aha yourself. I’m coming round for breakfast – and I’m breaking Joan’s fast.”
And that’s it. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to be a father.
If it’s a son, I shall call him Cosmo.
Dear little Cosmo, at this very moment you are just one of some three hundred million sperms swimming around in my balls. But one of them is you, and I love you already. You hear that, you little fucker?
Cosmo Conway. Cosmo Conway. Cosmo Conway. You have to admit, Cosmo Conway’s a pretty cool name
And if you’re a girl?
How about Aretha?