DANDELION

A short story concerning itself with Aldred Manson, the proprietor of Andalusia Automobiles. By using eidetic powers Aldred travels the world in his busted and rusted wrecks looking for the love of his life.

That’s me. That thing. That naked mammal. That I was not consciously aware of that knowledge is not surprising, I am but a few hours old and such realisations had yet to start to formulate in my baby bubbly brain. But unbeknownst to me, at that time, I now realise, it was actually when the formulations began bubbling brightly. It was right there, right then, that my life’s situation was plotted and destined. Destiny dictated that my brother beside me died. Died from what they do not know. They suspected this that and the other. My mother later told me, she would say, “My son, my heart was broken in two. I thought I’d lost half forever. I thought forever I’d be broken and blue.  But now I see it, I see him in you. My son, my heart is mended. Mended, and with all of it I love you.” It was then, for the first time, that I suddenly saw my brother, to my right, tentatively levitating out of the cot. He looked incredible. My brother! Ladies and gentlemen, that’s my brother! Slowly he rose toward the ceiling. I could see no magicians in the room. I could see no strings. Slowly he ascended. Ascended. Ascended. Phut! Through the ceiling he disappeared. I waited. My eyes searched, darting here shooting there. I did not want that to be the last time I saw my brother. I did not want to be alone in this space. I did not know where I was or what I was meant to do. Then it happened. I too started to rise. I floated out of the cot. I floated in my brother’s slipstream. I rose and then, then I stopped, I simply hovered. I did not go through the ceiling. Instead I looked down. Looking down I could see my brother and I in two separate cots side-by-side. My brother was still, life-less. I too was still, but goggle-eyed looking up. But I was looking down... Boy, I had reached a great fucking height.

 

#

 

To look down from a great height, say from the place known as space, it don’t appear to be anything special. It don’t appear to be anything if the truth be told. But the nearer to Earth one gets then the more apparent the beauty becomes. I know most eyes are drawn to the Tibetan Plateau or the shifting ice caps but my eyes keep searching for three acres I call home. Home is a city of dead automobiles. Piled high, one on top another the dead decompose. Down in the darkness nature is dead too; some say it absconded with the first bust sump. But I say nature don’t give in that easily. It did persevere; but all that lingers nowadays is a solitary dandelion. I suspect its days are numbered. Talking of which, if you’re looking for parts for a 323F, a 22i, a C180 or a 535 then I got them. Feel free to meander through the labyrinth of crushed and twisted steel. Tread carefully though; those paths are carpeted with shattered windscreens. But tread confidently; no glass is hidden in the grass. These walls are four sometimes five cars high. A man could lose a day of his life rummaging. They say some men choose never to come out. I myself rarely leave; this caravan is where I reside. I know it’s not so clean but I have no reason for it to be so. But anyhows I have an announcement to make. It goes something like this, “I am a lucky man”. Can you hear that? I’m telling the truth. Hard to believe I know. A man who considers himself lucky is a rare phenomenon. But like I said, I’m telling the truth. How and why has this situation occurred? Well, I’m about to tell you; you better listen. Listening is something I can do; I can do it well. Often am I in the company of a stranger who happens to unfurl his history upon me. I do my best to hear his story without prejudice and boredom. I hope you’ll do the same for me.

 

#

 

My name is Aldred Manson. This salvage yard is my salvation. I simply salivate knowing that I got myself knocking on six hundred automobiles resident on my plot. Now I know you might be hard pushed to categorize any of these steel shapes as bona fide automobiles, I mean, take away a man’s heart and he ain’t nothing but a carcass, a disappearing one at that. Now I admit that my automobiles ain’t going anywhere particularly and that under the strictest terms of a definition that’s precisely your point, but my feelings is that I can still sit in this seat, hands upon the wheel, gazing through the invisible glass and as certain as I can be I am driving towards the horizon, my destination getting nearer and nearer, but as my destination gets closer I notice that the horizon stays put. That I’m aware of no folks ever reach their horizons; I suppose only an astronaut goes beyond them. But as I said, it ain’t just the astronaut that’s the lucky one ‘cos I too have seen this Earth, not from above and beyond but from sea level. Sometimes I am slightly above it and sometimes I am slightly below it but in general, I’ve seen it; all without stepping a single-foot out of my paradise, not twelve inches, yet I’ve seen miles and miles and miles. Like I said, I’m a lucky man. I know this ‘cos I have frequent visitors who keep me updated on the events of the outside. I got this bloke who pays me a visit calls himself Mole Digger. You might have guessed but in case you didn’t it’s Mole Digger by name and Mole Digger by profession. He don’t go digging for moles I’m told, I’m told that he goes digging in the manner of a mole. I too asked myself what profession demands that I dig like a mole. It turns out that it be a trade secret for him to inform a civilian such as myself. So I too am none the wiser regards this man’s enigmatic employment. I suspects Mole Digger is looking for the truth. It ain’t on the surface so he’s been tunnelling below. But listen, if I was that bothered I just needs to jump into one of my six hundred vehicles and drive on over to Mole Digger HQ and apply for a position. But I ain’t that bothered truth be told. I don’t give a rat’s ass what a Mole Digger does. One day Mole Digger told me this, he says, “Did you know that the Japanese performed vivisection on prisoners of war?”

 

#

 

Some people might observe that my plot on God’s green Earth, with its corrugated iron fence and coiled barbed wire sitting atop it, does indeed have certain similarities to that of a POW camp. I suppose they’d be right, it does. But not to my knowledge have I ever discovered a soldier hanging on the devil’s rope. I don’t know what I’d do if I did. I mean I ain’t in the middle of a war zone; for which I’m much appreciative of. What I am in the middle of though is describing my situation. The two dogs don’t help either; chained to the fence like they are. I know there is a school of thought that might suggest that my lack of trust is an indication that I myself am not to be trusted, I’d just say that often there are objections to the rule. By canny coincidence or by dint of higher command I do tend to find objectionable people contaminating my company, I just try to limit those occasions. Rarely am I blessed with agreeable acquaintances, the enlightened, the kind-hearted or the sincere. Mole Digger he stands alone, my trusted, loyal buddy. But I’ve come to accept that this is my lot. Not that I forget, that out there, out amongst the seven billion people on this planet there might, just might, be somebody for me. Not that I can control that. So I live here like a fox. Most nights I catch the fox leaving home. I do believe I’ve got a family buried deep amongst the tyres. The CCTV lets me know to watch out for activity. I have a connection with the fox you see. Both do our best to avoid humanity. It ain’t just foxes that the video catches. The cameras once alerted me to a gang of kids scurrying through like rodents. How they got in I ain’t got a clue but how does anybody know how a rodent gets where it does. I hoped to scare the bejesus out of these bastards. I switched off the flood lamp that cast down light upon the yard. Lifting the loud hailer I uttered these words, “I’m coming to fucking eat you boys.” I still chuckles to myself thinking about the hysterical panic that ensued.

 

#

 

At night I like to drive through a deserted city. I sit in my car of choice, sometimes random, sometimes deliberate. If it’s sandwiched between two, so be it. I clambers up the boot or the bonnet of one to get access to the other. My left hand steers while the right inserts a cigarette between my two cracked lips. Before long I am awash with the sights and sounds of downtown. Which town don’t strictly matter, it’s just downtown, any town. My sojourns, whether during the day or during the night, often lead me to contemplate. Contemplate, for those that are unaware, ain’t a town that is heavily populated; it ain’t a town full-stop. Contemplation itself can often direct me to places I don’t ordinarily want to go to. It don’t allow you to steer it left or steer it right. Once there I am there for the time that contemplation deems necessary, for good or for bad. What happens when I’m contemplating? Well I’ll tell you. I think about things. It ain’t a great revelation I know but you’d be surprised how many of us don’t bother to do it. What things do I think about? Well I don’t think about the time I ended up being sat next to a tramp, a hobo, a bum; a disparate soul who had the misfortune to stink. His blend was the usual mix of sperm, vomit and piss and I ain’t ashamed to admit that I gagged and I retched. When I’m out and about I can’t always control my companions or my destinations and on this occasion my passenger caused me to lose control of my eyesight, my retina glazed over, akin to water freezing over a lake, such was the strength of his stench. So I’m driving in a direction that I ain’t so sure is the right direction I aught to be heading, I mean, am I even on the goddamn road? I’m told the other senses get heightened on account that my box got five eggs and not six. But I ain’t so sure about that neither. You see my sense of smell was about as much use as a raincoat in hell. I was smelling one thing and one thing only, in fact I prayed to God that this sense would shut down, shut down too, shut down NOW. “Jesus Christ!” I exclaimed. Amongst this damnation all that I could hear was his creaking chest and the carbon dioxide whistling through his puss encrusted nostrils. A high-pitched screech that only Satan’s dog itself could hear. I suspect this motherfucking sense was magnified, magnified by a factor of fifty. Now tell me straight, what’s the point of taste when I’m driving deaf dumb and blind? The only thing of benefit to my current predicament was that my grip on the wheel was good; it felt fine and dandy. 

 

#

 

No, the times I like to remember are the times when I’m lost in thought. Deep is a place I like to frequent. That’s deep in thought and not deep in shit. Shit is a place I intend to avoid. But like I said, I don’t have much say in these matters. Sat alone inside a door-less Daihatsu I was pulled over by the police. Both my taillights were defunct. I knew this already as Mole Digger himself had taken the covers; he’d missed out on the bulbs, they were scavenged many moons ago. Why Mole Digger bought a Daihatsu I don’t rightly knows, but he did, idiot, Mole Digger don’t listen. Try as I could though, I was not hearing what the police officer was muttering about; I had gone one step deeper. My imagination took me from one imaginary situation into another. In reality I’m sat in the engine-less Daihatsu atop a Vauxhall Astra in the middle of my salvage yard. But now, copper shouting in my ear, I ain’t on a deserted road in Northumberland, I’m hurtling down the M6. Not having any doors made it quite difficult to hear the voice speaking through the hands-free contraption. Above and beyond the tornado-esque vibe I had created I occasionally caught the call. Shout I said, “SHOUT!” “THERE HAS BEEN A CAR CRASH. BELINDA IS DEAD. BELINDA IS DEAD!” I frowned. Appreciating irony under these circumstances is a tad tricky, so I didn’t. What I did appreciate though was that my brake-less Daihatsu was currently doing one hundred and twenty-three miles per hour. Hard to believe that a Daihatsu could break the speed limit, but as God is my co-pilot... But standing still back in the salvage yard I think about Belinda. Was Belinda my wife? Was Belinda beautiful? I think Belinda and I were happy. I have loved and lost but I was lucky to have loved in the first place.

 

#

 

Mole Digger couldn’t quite believe what he was gawking at. He said, “Are my eyes deceiving me?” I’s suspects they were had mine eyes not seen it for themselves. I know for certain that my two eyeballs tell me the truth, except that is when I’m in a place that I really ain’t; if you see my point. I know I’ve driven a Renault Fuego around the in-breeding backwater that is Sark. The fact that you and eye know that no automobiles exist on that hickory dickory eye’l means diddly-squat. Or does it? What is truth and what is fiction? Who gives a flying fandango? But as shit stinks there it was, right there, in the middle of our field of vision, a Triumph TR7, the colour of Colman’s mustard. Mole Digger caressed the blistered, burnt skin like it was Sophia Loren’s tanned thigh. Iron oxide bubbled and erupted forming pustule eye-lands upon Sophia’s hallucinatory hips. I hunkered down and admired this once ridiculed beauty; that is the TR7 and not Miss Loren you understand. She was pretty, real pretty; that is both the wedge from Speke as well as the Roman goddess. As my sight slid over the sumptuous simplicity of its design I wondered where I might end up tonight. Wherever it might be I suspects I’ll have an audience, an audience envious of my position. That is, sat snugly betwixt the buttocks of a bombshell. Shell-shocked Mole Digger is, “Can I have this car for free?” I spat on the ground. My aggressive action shook him. “Okay, okay, that was disrespectful. How about I exchange my vehicle, the Daihatsu and throw in two hundred pounds?” I slapped him hard across the face. Thwack! Combat fatigue permeated through every pore. Mole Digger was laughing uncontrollably. I left the berserk baboon babbling to prepare for my romantic dalliance. Without looking back over my shoulder I knew the fella was frothing at the mouth. The power of the automobile ladies and gentlemen, the power of the fucking automobile.

 

#

That night I ended up in Boca Raton. Stateside it was almost sunset. I’m told this town is some kind of spiritual home for the TR7. Not that I was bothered by that, what I was bothered by was that my companion was not who I’d hoped it would be. Unfortunately by my side sits what appears to be a chocolate brown Labrador; I believe it is smiling. Where do you want to go too? Woof woof! I smiled. Not that I speak the language but I guessed the dog was happy to go wherever I wanted to go. And thinking about it, I was quite happy to go wherever he wanted to go. I believe that’s what they call a harmonious relationship. The dog’s tongue flapped. I slid on my shades. Cruising down North Ocean Boulevard, the warm evening breeze styling my mop and his fur, I turned on the radio, “The summer wind, came blowin’ in, from across the sea. It lingered there, to touch your hair and walked with me...” The dog and I looked at each other. He woofed and I, I smiled... “Like painted kites, those days and nights – went flyin’ by. The world was new, beneath a blue – umbrella sky...”

 

#

 

This morning I awoke to the vibrations of my cat scratching itself; I joined in and scratched my crotch. The cat’s rhythm was brisk; I instead savoured mine and took a more gentle approach. I suspects you can imagine how one thing might lead to another for it’s been a long time since I buried any part of my body in a female’s pudenda. I did fear because of my reclusive nature that that experience will forever be damned resident in the domain of my imagination for why would a woman find herself on my property? Throw shit in my face where I stand if I ain’t telling the truth when I say that when I swung back the iron gates – I’d already known that a presence waited on the other side ‘cos those two dogs kept yackin’ – to my shock and dismay I finds myself staring at a woman. She herself was looking (not at me I may add, but at the two fucking loud-mouth mutts) for a carburettor for an ’87 Audi 4000. Normally this situation would simply require me to point a stubby oil-stained finger in the general direction. That said this weren’t your standard situation. I personally escorted the woman to where I knew the car rested, that I also knew that there weren’t no carburettor in it I kept between my jug-handle ears. Simply and suddenly walking alongside her made me have no sensations of my own; my opinions, my aches and pains, my hunger decided they no longer felt inclined to shout out about their gripes. For once they were on the same team. They agreed that all their present predicaments could be greatly eased by the introduction of a woman to the caravan. I spent the rest of that day phoning the breaker’s brotherhood in desperate search for that carburettor. The fact that I will lose £85 on the transaction is my speculation on the health, wealth and happiness of my future existence. But before my fat, nervous, fingers dialled the number I read aloud her name once more from that slip of newspaper. In that instance the dogs stopped barking and the birds started singing. “Can I speak to Bernadette please?”

 

#

 

Stepping out I was whistling Dixie... “Thank you God.” I did not say that. I did not even hear it. Before me was a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Leaning against it was a cowboy. “Ain’t it just the finest day, ain’t it just the most perfect day?” I could not really disagree with the man so I said, “Yes sir, I believe it is.” “I’ve been casting my eye around these parts. Like the devil I’s been to’ing and fro’ing, to’ing to the gates of heaven and fro’ing from the drawbridge of hell and I gots to be honest with you Mr. Manson... may I call you Aldred?” I nodded. “Thank you.” Cowboy put his arm around my shoulders and walked me around to the back of the Oldsmobile. “I’m an honest individual, speaking the truth is what I do, so when I says this to you my friend, you knows it’s etched into the slabs of Mount Sinai. The truth is this; in my time I have seen sights that the devil himself should only be privy to, sights that crush a man’s hopes and dreams. But one sight that I seen that unquestionably restored a man’s hopes and dreams was friendship, companionship, a soul to share your burdens, your misdemeanours, and if lucky... Are you a lucky man Aldred?”  “I like to think so.” “I like to think you are too. Lets find out. If luck lives within you Aldred then love, love and its companions, passion and comfort, just might, just might come your way.” The boot flipped open. “You knows I speaks the truth Aldred, so you will have sensed that when I said “might” come your way, you sensed I was lying. You sensed, ““hold on a minute this man don’t seem to be telling me the truth.”” You sensed correctly. ‘Cos in this trunk I knows for certain that I got love, I’ve got love for you, but not just from me; this here is Roxette. She don’t look much yet but wait until I put a little air into her.” Over the kitchen table Roxette and I looked at each other for quite some time. Some people might say it seemed like an eternity. Eventually I leaned over and pushed my knife through her chest. Pfffffffffffff...

 

#

 

What I did felt violent. It felt like I shouldn’t have done what I did. Subconsciously did I do ‘cos I don’t have? I hope not. My predicament is mine and mine alone. I control my mind; it does what I want it to do. Except of course when it comes to plotting the destination of my astral sojourns. Except of course when it wants to take me to a place I don’t want to go to. KA-BAM! The kamikaze duck slammed into the side of my car. I was stunned. It was heading north folks but I was motoring east. Via the wing mirror the duck flopped and flapped but it flew not, altering its course to a southerly direction. I hammered the brakes, shifted gear and reversed towards the setting sun. I stood above the beautiful bird, the mallard green seemingly alive and zinging as a trickle of blood cut its way through the dense colour from the unseeing eyes, I... I cried ladies and gentlemen. Roadkill is heartbreaking. Shedding tears for a flattened pheasant some say is pathetic; “Get a grip.”  But guilt had grabbed me. Guilt had grabbed Aldred Manson. I am responsible for this death. “But it flew into you.” That it did. The divine wind targeted my vehicle; I did not close in on it. But without my presence on this here road this duck would be sat on a pond laughing at his predicament, his predicament being that he had all he ever wanted. That I am alive, alive with my discontentment is another of those fateful acts that got me goddamn groaning. Why can’t I make do with water? Why do I need a kappa-fuckin-chino? Back in the careering cabin I quaffed the cold coffee, the corpse beside me. Back home I built a pyre; the funeral flames climbed heavenward. I shouted out, “Thank those heavens...” ‘Cos I’m pleased to report, pleased to report ladies and gentlemen that once again that duck is flying, flying high, flying up, up and away.

 

#

 

Now I’m thinking, if I need something, something urgent, something like a new refrigerator and I get a call from the store manager saying, “Sir, we got your new refrigerator.” Then I’m thinking I’d be round first thing to collect it. If not first thing then maybe second thing, I’d maybe go just after lunch. Better still, on the way home after work. After work Mole Digger was thinking just that. The Daihatsu was in need of a dipstick. Despite only idiots purchasing Daihatsus I was clean out. So me and the idiot sat inside a Rover 3500 Vanden Plas and had ourselves a smoke. Me calling him an idiot is a term of affection. I, in a jocular fashion, punched Mole Digger on his arm to demonstrate this. It transpires though that the dipstick was simply an excuse. Mole Digger was being clever. “Idiot.” Mole Digger punched me. But regardless of two geezers bonding one of us wasn’t smiling. Mole Digger had something to say, something for my ears only, something like a secret... Outside life is still. Oak trees tentatively rustle. Oil slicks decorate footprint puddles. Olive-green paint peels. Obese spiders slink and scuttle and hide and wait. Overhauled engines stockpiled in a corner. Oozing fluids from a rusting tank. Orang-utan, no longer cuddly, but damp, dirty and discarded. On the other side the dogs kick up a fuss. Open-eyed I listened. The dogs go apeshit. Open-eyed I fidgets... I’ll be honest, my focus, my attention, my listening ear no longer operated at one hundred percent. I ain’t best pleased with that fact. That my closest friend was confiding in me a personal situation, a situation that deserved and demanded my utmost diplomacy, and here I was with a mind full of Bernadette, Bernadette, are them dogs barking at BERNADETTE?

 

#

 

I needed a distraction to occupy my time, from now until then. Then being the time when the collection occurs. What to do? I could go anywhere. Could I go to the moon? Probably. Tomorrow is the 1st of September. Today I was invaded by an army of ants. Today I got my distraction. I believe those ants took a leaf out of Emperor Napoleon’s book, literally, they seemed to be using the pages out of How To Make War to bridge escarpments. The element of surprise, as they say, screwed me. The inside of my caravan changed form. No longer was it solid and dormant but fluid and chaotic. A cacophony of a billion footsteps reverberated inside this normally empty void. I’ve know idea what purpose an ant might have inside my home, I mean, I have little or no food myself and what could be considered edible I suspects would not tempt an ant. Yellow Pack Beef Burgers require a lifetime of commitment and an ant ain’t got but ninety days and I suspects if he attempts to tackle that Yellow Pack then his ninety days are up. Up onto the table I leapt. Why I don’t know. Had I committed some kind of atrocity upon the ant? Had I somehow inadvertently desecrated the ant’s holy ground? If so it was unintentional for which I apologise. But let me say this, “I was here first.” I mean; I am forty-six years of age and I calculate that is equivalent to one hundred and eighty-six generations of ant. Now I know for certain that no creature lives in the same home that length of time so kindly retreat or my kindness will turn into retaliation. Hitler got forty-eight hours you guys get to make that decision NOW... Today is the 3rd of September. My caravan no longer appears to be my caravan. Where once my paraphernalia lay now lies nothing but no-man’s land. No wallpaper, no lampshade, no carpet. Thank goodness I’ve still got a grill ‘cos I’m feeling peckish after my two day exile into the wilderness. And lo-and-behold I got my eyes on the only recognisable object that survived Armageddon. That radioactive yellow packaging glows like an isotope in the darkness of doom.

 

#

I believe I once had a friend whose birthday was on the 3rd of September. His nickname was Dixon of Dock Green. Shortened now-and-again to Dixon or Dock, sometime later though it transformed into Cock. I also believe I had another friend called Bonehead. I have later come to realise that Bonehead is indeed a popular nickname for some kid who is perhaps more chimp than champ but at the time, in my secluded bubble, Bonehead was bamboozling me; haven’t we all got boneheads? But back to the beat, Dixon of Dock Green got his moniker through his thoughtful parents. Come tea time (that is evening meal) or bedtime or whatever the cacophonous blast from the ACME Thunderer could stop a cockroach; no doubt residents did see our gang as las cucarachas. Head bowed Dixon would labour up the hill, leaving behind him the hoots and hollers of ridicule. At school I remember a funny-looking fella who, for a few pence, would sing Prince Charming; this fragile snowflake of a child would be surrounded by the brutes and bullies, teasing and taunting, yet all the while singing, “ridicule is nothing to be scared of...” When I think of this masochistic exercise I wonder what the end result has become. In my daydreams I hopes he stands tall, but in my nightmares I fear, I fear he had to fall. During these times suicide amongst my contemporaries seemed the popular choice. Whenever I listen to Bingo-Master’s Break-Out! I think of Andy; “A hall full of cards left unfilled, ended his life with wine and pills, there’s a grave somewhere only partly filled...” The seven-inch that I play belonged to him. A direct connection; but why sever it? He himself was connected and confident, popular but independent, death is and was pointless. Did he figure something out that we all missed? I ain’t so sure. What I am sure about though is my eternal sadness; strange how an emotion can be as fresh today as it was forty years ago. I believe I once had a friend who died on the 4th of September; Andy gave Dixon, Bonehead and myself the elegant nickname: The Three Muskaqueers.

 

#

 

Seven days have passed. A hell-of-a-lot can happen in seven days. Seven days could be taken up with absolutely nothing but then again seven days is plenty enough to create a whole goddamn world. I’m a man who likes his coffee fresh and as I sit in my post-apocalyptic caravan with my hot Ethiopian brew between my hands I wondered, I wondered what had happened to the owner of this here carburettor. I had left several messages... “Uh, hello. It’s Aldred calling, from the breakers yard.” But I got nothing in return. That is until today... “Bernadette don’t live here no more.” “Oh. I got to get this carburettor to her.” “Would that be for the Audi?” “Yes.” “I’ll take that.” I had been speaking to Bernadette’s sister who informed me that Bernadette had departed. Not from this world but from this town. From what town to she didn’t know. If she had to hazard a guess she might say... “Patagonia.” “Patagonia ain’t a town.” Clunk... duuuuuuuuh. From one continent to another I supped my coffee contemplating the situation. Normally it would transpire that affections for another would grow as the two connected. That that generally required the two spending time together is a prerequisite. You see I ain’t never believed in the notion of ‘love at first sight’, to my understanding that be a bogus phenomenon. I reasoned ergo that the first woman to set foot into my world in eight years had simply befuddled my emotions. I did not know Bernadette. I did not know if she preferred a vanilla slice over a chocolate éclair. I did not know if she was thirty-nine, forty, forty-one, forty-two or forty-three. For all I knew she might even be forty-four years-of-age. So understanding this I deduced that instead of me thinking that Bernadette saw in me a man of beauty I accepted that she might not have paid me a second fucking thought. Then again that thought, whether fifth, sixth or seventh, don’t do a man any good. In fact, I’d hazard a guess, that umpteenth thought might lead a man to do an unspeakable act, but I ain’t speaking, I’m thinking, therefore - a loaded shotgun in the mouth for instance.

 

#

 

Then I remembered Belinda. Was Belinda Bernadette? Can the subconscious really predict future reality? I doubt it. Sat here, not in there, but in the cabin of this crane I questioned my prescience. I lowered the clamp and grasped and squished the metal shape of the Toyota Corolla and yanked it into the air. I rotated the crane one hundred and eighty degrees and dropped the unwanted where it crashed into the crusher. As I pressed the big red button and the walls started to close in I am reminded that a person’s heart can easily be manipulated. Why I should be experiencing such sentiments I don’t know. I mean I only had a vision whereby I did not see or speak to a woman but that a bond was suggested, and I only had a brief business encounter with a punter who also coincidently happened to be another woman. So why do I feel dejected? Is a man’s heart not capable of rational behaviour when coming into contact with a Bernice, a Bianca or a Brittany? Again I do not know. All that I does know is that I’m feeling a little sad and a little sorry for myself. “But this don’t sound like the attitudes of a man who considers himself lucky!” I hear you shout and I don’t suppose it does. Does that mean then, DOES THAT MEAN I was lucky not to have a woman in my life? If that is the case why am I so dispirited now? I definitely ain’t got no woman but it seems like I desperately want one. I’m a little confused. Maybe I ain’t that lucky after all. Watching the waste pushed out from the back of the crusher, the emergence of a metallic bale, that cold cube that’s fit for no purpose but once gave pleasure to a great many souls, I am again reminded that life ain’t a smooth mechanism, that life is full of constraints and restrictions. Whether or not the Lord has divvied up or allocated a number of moments, chances, I do not know. But it sure feels like I got a bum deal. It sure feels like I got no deal at all. It turns out friends and neighbours, it turns out that I ain’t a lucky man. It turns out that I am in fact, sad and lonely. 

 

#

 

Two-wheeled machines don’t often find themselves on my particular spot. But spot you will a Trojan Trobike from nineteen sixty-one. Not that this selection could guarantee my destination but small gestures like this do aid the outcome. Out I came having scoffed my burgers and gulped down my beer. My excitement was uncontainable. I kicked a ball with the dogs for a few minutes before chaining them up. The sun was setting. I was optimistic. The Trobike was in reasonably good shape. I say this because it actually worked. Everything was where it was supposed to be. I could, if I so chose to, I could ride it out of my place and down the B343. But on this occasion I decided upon an alternative route. I took hold of the handlebars and I closed my eyes. I breathed calmly... Three-wheeled machines won’t, and never will be spotted by someone spotting my particular spot. But spot me if you will on Ruta 40 driving a Heinkel Kabine. I hoped and I feared this would happen. Hoped because it had worked, feared because I looked like a fool. Living in a bubble is ok; driving one is not. I knew that Trojan built the Trobike under licence from Heinkel and I also knew that Los Cedros did the same in Argentina. As it is I am driving in the middle of nowhere. For those folks that don’t know, the middle of nowhere is indeed in Patagonia. I can see the ends of the earth. Many say they’d go to such lengths, but I am actually practicing and not just preaching. That I knew I was on Ruta 40 is inexplicable, ‘cos I’m but a simple man living a simple existence who had but a simple education, but I just know that when I’m out-and-about I just automatically knows these things. I can’t put it any better than that.

 

#

 

Meanwhile back at the ranch... I have, as you can imagine, often wondered what takes place as I’m out-and-about. Is my body sat rigid or limp, are my eyes open or shut, do I move or am I frozen? What would a trespasser see? Would he see a somnambulist or would he see a death? If I was desperately keen to find out I could set up a camera to capture this moment but I’m a tad superstitious. I don’t want to mess with my juju; just because I can don’t mean that I should… I have travelled north or should I have travelled south? I believe I’m driving through Falda del Carmen and I believe they used to assemble Condor missiles here. For that reason I’m confident Bernadette won’t be in this village of one hundred and eighty-three inhabitants... One hundred and eighty-three inhabitants? An investment of four hundred million dollars to make weapons in a village of one hundred and eighty-three inhabitants! Bernadette did not strike me as the confrontational type; perhaps that’s why she left where she was. Does she flee with a broken heart or does her ticker not tock for the dude left behind? Is it presumptuous of me to assume that at the core of the unexpected vamoose was a battle of deep affection? Possibly. But what else could it be? How about a change of scenery? That’s my situation, that’s why I do what I do. It ain’t too far-fetched too think others pursue this pastime so why not Bernadette? But something about her sister’s insistence to change the subject, I admit I am a stranger, I am not family, friend or foe for that matter, but to keep avoiding my sincere concern was a little suspicious. “NO IT WASN’T!” Eh? Oh...! No, I don’t suppose it was. I shake my head with a timid smile upon my reddening face. My-oh-my I have become slightly, or more accurately, extraordinarily over-imaginative and almost stalker-ish in my exuberance to discover this woman. I needs me another burger and a beer. Amen.

#

I opened my eyes and it was dark. The halogen flood lamp that towered above my caravan covered the plot in an insipid light. I eased my hands off the handlebars, pulled out my lighter the shape, but not the size, of a fire extinguisher and set light to a Berkeley Superking; dopamine greatly enhances the pondering process don’t you know. Despite the fog surrounding me my mind was crystal clear. “Time to let go” I says. Time indeed. I stubbed out the cigarette and left the Trobike. En route to my abode I spied the dandelion. I plucked up the root with its parachute ball intact and held it in front of my face. Gently I blew on the seeds and up went my wish. It appeared to me as the seeds floated up, up, up and away that they arranged themselves in such a display that Bernadette’s name hovered before my eyes. “Time to let go” I says. And on my command the nighttime breeze bustled the pods hither and thither. To the depths of the refrigerator I reached inside. Then, flipping back the ring pull I caught sight of the carburettor on the table sat beside a gift-wrapped package. I swallowed half the can of beer then reached for the present tearing it open to reveal a small box of chocolates. From the deckchair out front I threw, one-by-one, the sweets into the slavering, frenzied jaws of the unchained mutts. For some inexplicable reason the thought popped into my head of the fucker that shoots animals for sport. The graceful hippopotamus relaxing in the river not troubling a coot, oblivious to the chicken-shit fucker standing several hundred yards back with a high-powered rifle and with the seemingly innocuous action of curling up his index finger executes this majestic behemoth. My rage is fucking palpable. With Superking in hand I ponders how I reached this violent terminus. Did my mind deliberately transfer, or more precisely, deviate another emotion to mask Bernadette’s ghost? My growling mutt has locked its jaw on one end of a slimy, frazzled scrap of rope and I tugs at the other and I says; “Time to let go.” 

 

#

 

In bed I listened to the chatterings across 27MHz. CB radio is my ear to the ground. “But I don’t know if it occurred to him to take precautions.” “I don’t suppose it did ‘cos he now finds himself in a bucket of shit.” “I believe he’s looking at a stretch of between eight and twelve.” “Eight and twelve! Brother, let it be a warning to us all, take goddamn precautions.” “Copy that.” “I hears Sibelius went to Soi 6.” “He’ll be looking at more than eight to twelve if he don’t take precautions, the STDs down there rot a man’s dick.” I switched channels. “Hey baby, how’s it going?” “Not too bad.” “Really? You don’t sound too good sweetie.” “When you coming home?” “Tuesday.” “Can’t you come sooner, I miss you.” “I misses you too babe. But you know I got work to do.” “Can’t you take a holiday or go sick? Just this one time.” “We needs the money. Statutory Sick Pay don’t give you nothing, it don’t cover the costs.” “We’ll manage this week, please come home. I’m afraid.” “It’s gonna be okay sugar.” I switched channels again and then set fire to a cigarette. “If ever you feel like you’ve been abandoned in life then come and join The Church of Moses. Nobody is an outcast. All are equal. ““But what if I have sinned? What if I have broken God’s covenant, am I still welcome?”” Then you have indeed been abandoned my friend. Come find salvation...” I switched to a vacant channel. Silence. I sucked on my fag and as the leaves burnt bright an idea popped into my head. I grabbed the handset. I composed myself. “Bernadette, can you hear me? Are you out there?” Subtle fuzz. “I’ll take care of you. What I’ve got is paradise. I know most don’t see through the oil stains but I assure you I’ve got me a sanctuary, a sanctuary that’d be complete with you here Bernadette. I want you.” Pause. A dead void. “I don’t know why you’ve gone, why you’re running, but STOP! Don’t be frightened no more Bernadette. I think I love you.” The speaker cackles. “Hey buddy, there ain’t no Bernadette here. Go search some other place. Nobody lost here. We knows where we’re at. Get it? Now skedaddle. These airwaves ain’t here for your bleeding heart.”

 

#

 

Her name was Tracey. I handed over the eighty-five pounds. The Audi 4000 was in pristine condition. I asked if she needed any assistance with installation; she smiled and said no thanks, “I enjoy doing mechanics.” Tracey complemented me on my establishment; “This is a fine looking breakers yard you’ve got here.” I smiled and said thanks; “All it needs is the touch of a good woman.” Tracey was kind enough to give me a little update on the whereabouts of her sister, but still refused to tell me what caused her to vanish. And why was I so concerned anyhow? Bernadette said nothing about nobody. “Aren’t you concerned?” I asked. “Of course I’m concerned. Bernadette has had quite a few misfortunes in her life ever since she was but a pip-squeak. But I also know that she’s strong. She’s a competent human being is my sister.” It turns out she didn’t go to Patagonia after all ‘cos Tracey found her passport. This discovery made my search a tad easier, though still a tad ridiculous. That is the task and not the sentiment. That afternoon Mole Digger and I cleared a large area of debris and detritus and with the wrong end of a broom handle drew an outline of the United Kingdom in the dirt. I stuck a light bulb in at the point where Andalusia lies. PING!

 

#

 

“Carnforth!” “Carnforth?” “Carnforth!” Mole Digger stabbed the broom handle into the dirt. “Carnforth!” I thought about this. Bernadette liked cars. I like cars. I go to Carnforth. BOOM! Crash! Eeuurgh... Ka-shunt! BAM! Slap-BANG in the middle of a Banger’s race was I; they come here for one last joyride. Skreeeeeech... Ka-thud! DANG! But my Ford Mondeo was begging to be slaughtered – again. I had resurrected her against her will. Thud… Thud!... THUD! Fuck!... Eeeeeeeeeee... Klang! It suddenly occurred to me whilst being shunted that perhaps my mind had no interest in locating the lost and the disparate, or at least the side that allows me to do what it is I’m doing right now. BollokkkkX! BOOM!... Where’s my fucking crash helmet? Ka-chang. You see if Bernadette was here, where was she? Was she in one of the bangers? Was she watching from the banking? Either way I ain’t stepping foot outside and I’m certain my fucking mind knew that. Ssshhhhhhh... POP! Ffffffff... “Your engine’s on fire!” Eh? Did I hear Mole Digger? I can’t see him... I laugh about this now but at the time it was what you calls an inconvenience. Unbeknownst to me, back at Andalusia, Mole Digger had found me. Mole Digger was blowing cigarette smoke into my, what appeared to be, sleeping face; Mole Digger figured I suffered from narcolepsy. He had scrawled tit on my forehead. It took quite some effort and time to scrub that insult from my brow, ain’t that an inconvenience to be sure. Funny fucking guy is Mole Digger.

 

#

No more searching in the goddamn cars. No point you see. No, them cars has got their own goddamn agenda. What to do? Just forget it. Okay, I’ve forgot it. Forgot what? Who you kidding? This is true, I do, I remember, I remember everything. That’s my problem. Turn your problem into a pleasing predicament. Think positively. Self-pity belongs in the trash. That it does. That it’s easier said than done is a fact too. In times of confused clarity I choose to visit my parents. Not that they clarify the confusion, if anything, they exacerbate it. Both suffer from dementia. Married forty-four years and neither knows who the other is. At the home, the home for the elderly, mother/father can pass by father/mother in the corridor without so much as a nod and a wink. On my arrival a nurse unites them in front of me. “Who are you?” “I’m Aldred.” “Who’s this?” “That’s John.” “Who’s she?” “She’s Arlene.” “I ain’t Arlene.” “You’re not?” “No.” “Oh!” “I ain’t John neither.” “Who are you?” “I’m the joker.” “Who am I?” “You’re the postman.” “That’s nice.” “No it ain’t.” “Why?” “She’s your wife.” “My wife?” “I’m your son.” “Whose son?” “Derek’s son.” “Whose Derek?” “He’s an idiot.” “Derek?” “No, him.” “Me?” “The postman?” “Yep.” “I’m your son.” “Yeah right.” I look left and all around and I wonder, whose reality is the truth? In their universe I suspects I’m demented too. Dribbling and drooling, rocking and tap-toeing, gurning and sighing, here a tic, there a tic, everywhere a tic tic. Are these folks permanently in the places that I fleetingly frequent? As the body shrinks does the mind expand? Is it possible for me to find my utopia with Laura Esposto and see out my days (I’d have said Bernadette but bizarrely a fantasy too far so it seems) in Milano with my 33 Stradale? No wonder these dribblers and droolers don’t fight to come back. I’d gladly lie down and die with my prosperosa bellezza in paradiso than suffer paralysis of mind, body and spirit in the armchairs of death’s waiting room in Nelson, Lancashire. I’d say this is perhaps one of the saddest places on the planet. I look at these folks and they are simply waiting to die. Each night they pray, not for survival, but for death.

 

#

 

Three hours outside of Andalusia and I start to get the jitters. I calculated fifty minutes to go. My refrigerator was running low on provisions; that is beer, so a detour to the supermarket was a necessary torture. Supermarkets are grotesque. Granted, they are convenient, but grotesque you cannot dispute. Fortunately I should be in and out. Out in the sunshine. Out on my grounds, slouched in a deckchair, with my companions Heineken and Superking pondering my privileged position. I am, I’m back to thinking, I’m back to thinking I’m a lucky man. For one, I get to experience the English summer, especially the evenings. Stepping through the corrugated fence I enter no-man’s land. Being out on the edge of town Andalusia is surrounded on most sides by fields. A mile or so through the wheat and the barley I come to the River Spoon. Sitting on the bank as the sun sets I see a Tawny Owl sweeping and circling and scanning, a nervous Dragonfly switching direction suddenly, Grayling sucking down innocent invertebrates. Yellow Flag Iris’ sweeten the air, the sky at once Cadmium Orange, Violet and Cerulean Blue. Theodore Lukits would do it justice. And I say it again, and again, and again, I say it again, to all of you, “I’m a lucky man.” The checkout girl had me paralysed. I’m a lucky man. I got one hundred and forty-four cans and beauty like I’ve never seen before. I smiled and took my change and I said, “Thank you.”

 

#

 

Here I am, as anticipated. Lit, not with light that has travelled ninety-three million miles, but with a tungsten filament star twenty yards above my head. What is present and correct though are my comrades, my brothers-in-hands as it were, alcohol and nicotine. Joining us al-fresco is CB. The night is still and I am hypnotised by the sidestream smoke that rises up from the burning tip of the cigarette, winding and slithering its way yonder to Blunderbore’s domain: Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a pathetic man. Be he ‘live or be he dead; does anybody care? Thought not, I’ll just stay in bed. I squeezed the trigger on the microphone. “Bernadette, tonight I’ll say goodbye. Tonight I got to accept that your spirit is free. A caged tiger ain’t but a zombie and I ain’t into the habit of zombiefying anything. As much as it saddens me I believe it’s time to leave you in peace. Peace, love and respect. Take care of yourself. Over and out.” I let go of the trigger. Static. Fumbling. “Thank Christ buddy! Maybe we’ll all get a little peace around here, night after goddamn night, ““Bernadette, where are you? Bernadette, come on home.”” Mary mother of God! Frankly buddy I ain’t surprised one iota that Bernadette ain’t fucking coming back! I feel like running away myself...” Channel thirty-eight was silent. “Switching to thirty-eight ain’t gonna help. I’m wise to your tactics buddy...” Thirty-nine. “Hey buddy, take your weeping ass to the moon...” Forty. “I ain’t Einstein, I don’t need no Einstein to figure out your methods, stupid. Listen, I got some advice, I know a place on Anderson Street where a man can explode his canon...” One. “You ungrateful pussy. I’m trying to ease your pain...” Two. “Hello Aldred.” I stopped breathing. Had I heard that? Or had I heard, “Motherfucker, if I eye-balls you I’m gonna kick your fucking ass to Kingdom come...”? Then I heard it again, “Aldred, speak to me.” 

 

#

 

The cock crows. Not that I have a cock. A cock that crows that is. What I got though is an old-fashioned alarm clock, one that strikes a hammer against a bell. I showered. I shaved. I presented myself to the best of my capabilities. Hair combed. Teeth brushed. I acknowledge that this routine element might be somewhat presumptuous. Shoes polished. Suit flattened. I do not own an iron but I own a board. Underneath my mattress, ‘cos of a slight issue with sciatica, I got a three foot by six foot piece of plywood. The cock crowed again. This time though from within the GPO 746 rotary dial. I picked up the phone. “Sorry, I ain’t open for business today.” I then waited. Whilst waiting I wondered what the weather might be offering up this afternoon. I wondered for approximately four seconds. My brain wasn’t interested in no small talk. It was only interested in one topic of conversation. But chatting about that topic caused me to sweat and sweating was the last thing I wanted to do having just spent a bar of soap eradicating the previous weeks’ worth. Instead I sang a song, “Tooling down the highway doing seventy-nine I’m a twin pipe papa and I’m doing fine...” My vocal chords continued to throw out the lyrics but my brain had chosen to occupy itself with something else. That all of a sudden both voice and thought collided was no act of fate, “I jump in my rod about a quarter to nine I gotta make a date with that chick of mine...” Bernadette was due at a quarter to fucking nine begorrah! I open at eight thirty but she said I’ll come about a quarter to fucking nine! Ain’t the brain a crafty character? He’s the boss. I have a little under fifty minutes to go but I retreated. I succumbed. I raised my hands in supplication and I shouted out, “You win! I’m all yours!” My freshly groomed hair became lank, my pampered complexion magenta, my pristine shirt stained. I ran my clammy hands under the cold tap to ease my suffering and this seemingly inconsequential act of defiance was indeed inconsequential. With five minutes to go I looked like a roasted pig.

 

#

The cocks barked. I knew it was coming but I spun around in alarm regardless. Levitating through the gates was my angel, Bernadette. The mayhem from the kennels simply faded away, ears pricked, spittle flew, fangs bared, jaws snapped, legs sprang and chains snatched but all in silence. Bernadette smiled at me. I don’t believe there is a prettier sight in the whole of history. Whether or not this was my brain rewarding my complete compliance previously I do not know but either way it was much appreciated, for this incredible entrance appeared to me in slow motion. My brain had bestowed upon me a moment so sublime, so heavenly that I found myself dropping to my knees in gratitude. I could be wrong, I could be right, but I think my eyes were about to give away my vulnerability, then, before I burst into tears, Bernadette mirrored my gesture. The two legless gunslingers faced each other twenty paces apart. I had the disadvantage; the low morning sunshine silhouetted my opponent and shone directly into my sight. I bared my teeth, not in snarl, but in overwhelming joy. My vision now clearer my eyes radiated happiness. Bernadette started to crawl towards me; her eyes locked on mine. The drummer boy in my chest was pounding those skins like a jackhammer. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. BANG! My heart rate must be one hundred and eighty beats per minute. The kimono dragon was ten yards nearer but still ten away. It too bore no menace. I could see she was as happy as Larry. Then again Larry couldn’t be happier than me. Okay then, Bernadette was as happy as Aldred. Oh-oh! What if she ain’t? What if she’s only sixty percent as happy? What? What you talking about Willis? I ain’t interested in doubt and negativity, shoo! Git! Five yards. My Lord! I hadn’t forgotten, but here I’m reminded, what stupendous eyes, emeralds the size of the Lesotho Promise. Her red hair back-lit confirms her halo. Then it happened, finally, face-to-face. Hallelujah! From afar it looks a frozen frame. Both motionless/shaking/nervous/excited/deaf/mute. But I plucked up the courage. I tentatively lifted my hand to caress her cool skin and she moved into it, eyes closed. I leant forward. My lips hesitated, they knew the consequences, they knew that this moment was God granting his creation bliss; they were savouring this for eternity. I kissed Bernadette.

 

#

 

And so began the courtship, a vessel that I’m naïve at navigating. Attendance of an all-boys’ school was the cause of my inability to interact with girls. I believe I was nineteen before I had what could be considered a conversation with a girl; the tally has since quadrupled. Bernadette got class and intelligence so I began talking about what I know, the automobile. Yet despite walking and talking and dilly-dallying through the yard I got to thinking about those four occasions. I certainly recollect the first; it was to do with negotiating a price. The second was to do with crabs; I found the nurse to be very informative. The third involved short back and sides and the fourth a trip to the trichologist; I was prescribed an insecticide. Standing back I noticed a recurring pattern developing so I backed off further, I retreated from the ladies for quite a few years, hence the miniscule amounts of tete-a-tete with womenfolk. Okay, I hold my hands up. The small figure mentioned is of course a slight underestimation but believe me now, it ain’t far from the truth. “Is it true?” asked Bernadette. “Indeed it is. They live over by that mountain of tyres. Been coming back here for five years. I’d like to tell you Bernadette that I’m as loyal as a fox.” She smiled and kissed my cheek. I’m thinking twice about thinking about this again but here goes; I nearly pissed my pants! Not ‘cos of laughter or fear but ‘cos every goddamn muscle and sinew in my entire body succumbed; it was like some dude cut the strings. My head lolled, my arms dropped, my knees buckled and I collapsed. Actually I didn’t collapse. Fortunately Bernadette took hold of my hands and steadied me. This time she kissed my lips. This time I did collapse.

 

#

 

The scene was set; the scene was al-fresco. Bunting and Chinese lanterns created a magical vibe. The decorative tablecloth decorated the candle-lit table, which awaited its meal. “Aldred Manson, I want to make certain that you know that this situation isn’t one-sided. I too am as happy as you.” “You are?” “Are too. I see what it is, not what it isn’t. It isn’t hollow. It isn’t brittle. You shine the light Aldred; you shine the light. You heal my fractures. I know it’s been but hours but my bones is healing. And as far as I can see...” Looking about the yard. Then nodding at me. “It’s down to you. You’re doing that, doing that with the person you are. “I am?” “Yup.” She lifted her glass. Thank you Aldred. I says, “Thank you Bernadette.” She says, “No, thank you.” I says, “My pleasure, thank you...” Thankfully our meal arrived. Pizza Boy slided them pizzas right out of the box onto the plates. I thanked Pizza Boy. Then slid him a tenner accompanied by a wink. Pizza Boy appeared uncertain what had just happened. “Ain’t it on the account?” “It is; that’s for you.” “For me?” “Yup.” “Really?” I smiled at Pizza Boy. “Err... thanks.” “Don’t thank me. Thank Bernadette.” “Thank you Bernadette.” “No, no, no, thank Aldred.” Pizza Boy backed his way back onto his moped and fled the scene. I’d say he flew out them gates but his moped was screeching doing fifteen. I thanked the Lord for what we were about to receive. Amen. Bernadette lifted a glass once more and I lifted mine. Right there and then I knew she would do for me what I would do for her. 

 

#

 

Eventually I was told the reasons why. I did not coerce nor did I question. But at the conclusion I empathised. In fact I was distraught. I should have been consoling Bernadette but I was inconsolable myself. I know that sadness and heartache abound in our world, most of it caused by man, but when nature is the culprit the combustible rage has no fixed target, no place to explode upon, leaving two unjust sentences to suffer. Hard to believe I know but Bernadette ain’t been married. It’s hard to explain why the stars stay put in the universe yet harder still to explain why a woman cannot conceive. Rejected by nature and rejected by love. Bernadette adopted, adopted twins, conjoined twins. By their eighth birthday it was deemed vital to attempt separation. The boys – Matthew and Mark - shared the heart. Bernadette knew both would not survive but both didn’t survive. The heart could not be split. It could not support the two but neither could it cope alone. Although the procedure physically set them apart Bernadette decided that the boys be buried as one. The anniversary of this dark and depressing date was the day my dear Bernadette departed. 

 

#

 

Burning bright the flames illuminated the night. Bernadette and I sat round the fire. I had unchained the mutts who were now sleeping at the heat, dog-tired from doing nothing. One mutt was dreaming. Was I? In bed, but not asleep, I had often dreamed of such a moment. Lying together, my loved one and I, we listened to the haunting, chilling cries of the Andalusian foxes. Through the dirty window we peered as ma and pa prepared for gathering and killing. “Do you know how many pups they got?” “Somewhere between two and four I’d say.” “They make a beautiful couple.” I thought so do we Bernadette, so do we. Bernadette hugged me tight. Breakfast in bed. She was a gorgeous sight, sleepy and puffed-up. It was only tea and toast but a better meal I’ve never had. I’m a lucky man. 

 

#

 

Bernadette took the Audi to go get some things. Things: an object that I need not, cannot, or do not wish to give a specific name to. But I say why? Not that I wish to keep something back it’s simply me being bone-idle. Okay, Bernadette gone to get a change of clothes and a toothbrush. That thing says something don’t you think? Things is also often used to illustrate a man’s predicament. For instance, I am happy so one thing I feel like doing is tap-dancing. Not that I tap particularly well but as an expression of my feelings it does a damn fine job. If I was to start hootering and a hollering at the same time then this thing would accentuate those feelings further. A person or thing such as Mole Digger could walk onto my plot and know instantly that I am a joyous man. “You look like a joyous man Aldred, what’s taken place?” At which point I could, whilst still tapping, tell him that I have finally found something real. No more fantasising for me. What I got now is REAL, real pretty to boot... But I’s got to be a little sensitive at this juncture. Mole Digger’s secret finally deserved some respect. I hadn’t known but Mole Digger was a polygamist; he shared his wife with four other men. Despite being the first, the one and only, he was now the last in line. By the time Mrs. Mole Digger’s attentions turned to him she was beat. She’d also discovered the delights of having Mole Digger watch her make love to one of the other husbands; apparently she found this quite a turn-on. Despite loving his wife dearly he decided to move out. He said that if he stayed he’d kill her. I suspects this is what they call hyperbole; I mean Mole Digger couldn’t kill an ant.

 

#

 

The shrill ringing tone of the old GPO 746 rotary dial could not upset my rhythm. Unstoppable was I. My syncopated movements were hypnotic. I eased my way on over to the phone still hootering and a hollering. Yeehaw! I picked up the receiver and I hootered and hollered down the line, “Andalusian Automobiles, how may I help you?” “This is Sergeant Smith we got us two wrecked vehicles situated on the old Staining back road, head-on collision, both vehicles written-off. Three fatalities. The vehicles need to be shifted.” Despite the macabre consequences I was still tapping away like billy-o. Some twenty percent of my stock comes from such horrific incidents and I have learned over the years to pay my respects by respectfully treating the cars back on my plot. “What type of vehicles Sergeant Smith?” “An ‘03 Saxo and an ‘87 Audi 4000.” So, although my feet were still shim-shamming, two-stepping and flea-hopping the thing on my face that adds to accentuate the illustration of my inner emotions, that is, my expression, changed. The beaming smile slowly slid away in slow motion. Other facial muscles began twitching. The thing being communicated was becoming confused and chaotic. Then, unpredictably, tears strolled down my cheeks. All the while, ladies and gentlemen, I kept dancing.

 

#

 

So here I am. Floating, floating above the fields. Where precisely I don’t rightly knows. My vision seems a little blurry, up in the clouds I appear to be. But I begs your pardon. What I said there ain’t strictly true, no sir. For I knows exactly where I am. Judging by the sun’s situation my bearings reckon I’m just about hovering above fifty-three degrees forty-eight minutes and fifty-two point nine six seconds north of the equator and two degrees fifty-eight minutes and fifty-three point seven two seconds west of the Prime Meridian, that is, to you and me, the old Staining back road. But I’m bullshitting about those bearings, bullshitting not about their accuracy angels and demons, for they do position me correctly, how I know I don’t know, but I knows it’s the old Staining back road ‘cos down below, through the haze, I vaguely sees the aftermath of a head-on collision between an ’03 Saxo and an ’87 Audi 4000. My visibility improved. From this lower altitude, I now clearly sees, the smoke and the steam having dispersed, a teenage corpse, bloodied and mutilated lying lifeless on the concertinaed bonnet of the Saxo. I felt no pity for that motherfucker, no pity at all. What I did feel though was the jitters. The thought of Bernadette’s body would normally be a jubilant sight. But the jitters got me all jumpy. I expect, back home, that my body is no longer jigging and jiving, having collapsed from exhaustion; a man can only tippety-tap for so long. But here, my mind was jibbering and jelly-like. Focussed yet petrified. I descended with trepidation. My omnipotent eye took me down, down to eye-level. I did not need to peer through the window as there was no window to peer through; shattered the instant the cars collided. Nevertheless I peered, frightened at what I’d find. And then... And then I saw my Bernadette. Eyes open but seeing nothing. She was pinned to her seat. The engine had been pushed back forcing the steering wheel and column into Bernadette’s chest. An ’87 Audi 4000 don’t have no air bags. Bernadette’s smashed rib cage had ripped and punctured her lungs. I believe she drowned on her own blood.  

 

#

 

Imagine Giant Haystacks daintily grasping pawn betwixt middle finger, forefinger and thumb and gracefully sliding it up to e4. A colossus has the capability to be dainty. Sat in the cabin of my crane I gingerly eased the fingers of the hydraulic grab around the roof of the Audi and plucked it from the back of my wagon and placed it down akin to a feather falling from the heavens. Amen. But what were praying upon my mind were my intentions, I intended to do this but should I do that? What is the correct ceremonial procedure? I absolutely refuse to allow this corpse to be ravaged by carrion. That’s why I’m thinking about cremation. Where the fuck has my luck gone? Contentment to rapture to desolation at the speed of light; light-headed was I. Staring at the wreckage made me thirsty, not for water nor for knowledge. No, I had a thirst for the good life. Unfortunately I was dehydrating. How to rehydrate? Time to ponder; I ignited a cigarette. Flip. Zip. Tsssss. “My red corpsuckles are in mass confusion...” I smiles and shakes my head disbelievingly. Aldred Manson’s existence seems to be entwined within that song. My pondering concluded; like the mortician I decided to prepare the deceased for final viewing. Who’s viewing in particular it don’t matter; it just seems the right thing to do. I stripped the other Audi of all its good parts and transferred them over to Bernadette’s car, including replacing the broken windows. There weren’t much I could do with the caved-in front; cosmetically I had done what I could do. Night fell. Beer in hand I lit my ceremonial smoke. The foxes sang a lament on my behalf. I appreciated that. I ground the spent butt into the dirt and stood. Inside and behind the wheel was a tight fit. Preparation is paramount at this juncture. Filling the tank with the correct stimuli, as previously repeated, can help foster a fulfilling fantasy. I closed my eyes. Did I close them for one minute or one hour? I don’t know. But when I finally lifted the lids I’d jumped back in fucking time. The Panzerfunkwagen SDKFZ 261 was bouncing across no man’s land. I myself was like a pinball inside this metal tank. Arms and legs akimbo I managed to twist my head to see who my commandant would be... Sat beside me was The Desert Fox! “Schneller! Schneller! Fahren wie Teufel hat einen feurigscharf-Poker in Ihrem stinkenden Arsch gesteckt.” Just in case you didn’t quite figure that out he said, “Faster! Faster! Drive like the Devil has put a fiery hot poker in your stinking ass.”

 

#

 

This morning the sun rose majestically. The dawn of a new day once again symbolises fresh hope for all those ready to receive. In the lapel of my jacket I placed a China pink, itself symbolic of my aching heart. I’d buffed up pretty well considering. Well-to-do I looked. “Whose head you put a gun to?” Mole Digger would have mocked if Mole Digger had’ve been present. My best man would have straightened my tie, decorated with the Bristol insignia, the 412 is sublime, but I straightened it myself. Outside I slid the flexible plastic piping over the exhaust. Clunking the door shut I checked the duct tape sealing the window. Without too much procrastination – for my tank is full – I turned over the ignition. The 4000 grumbled. To my left the carbon monoxide began spilling into the cockpit. I took a deep breath. Despite the glorious morning a mist had begun to creep over the yard. I inhaled proudly once more. The sun started to set. The mist thickened.  Nightfall fell. WHOOSH! I was thundering through a forest, the car was flying down a dirt track. Crowds lined the embankments. This time though I played it cool. I reached into my breast pocket, a little clumsily I’ll admit, and pulled out a soft pack of Lucky Strikes and tapped up a cigarette, popping it between my lips. The fire extinguisher threw out a golden shape and via the cigarette I sucked hard on the flame. Casually I exhaled. I’d have blown smoke-rings if I could, then, Fonz-like I turned to face my passenger. The co-pilot was wearing a helmet. Muffled navigational instructions were accompanied by wild gesticulations for me to watch the road. BOOM! The car smashed into a dip and we bounced, once, twice, three times. I grappled with the wheel. I turned to face my co-pilot again. The visor flipped back... “YEEHAW!” I’m not sure how many minutes or hours later it was when Mole Digger clambered over the barbed wire but the Audi was still ticking over. Opening the driver’s side door he looked horrified. I hopes I gets the chance to apologise to him. I hopes we’ll meet again. WHOOSH! KA-THUD! I smashed the car into a tree. Outside we inspected the damage. Bernadette took off her helmet. A big smile resonated upon her face. I mirrored her pleasure. She leant forward and tenderly kissed me on the lips then stepped back and bowed elegantly. Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, good listeners you all, as an expression of her feelings my Bernadette began to tap-dance. TAP-DANCE! Agog was I. I too stood. I bowed, not-so-elegantly and my friends, my neighbours, I followed in beautiful Bernadette’s fumbling footsteps.

 

#

 

Next thing I know I’m being given mouth-to-mouth by Mole Digger. The oil on his hands and fingers was smeared all over my pale puss. My vision was murky but I had a clarity of thought quite unprecedented. One hears stories about those close to snuffing it becoming translucent in mind, body and spirit and I must say that despite not wanting to live I’m suddenly aware that rash decisions can be made under such dark clouds. That spending a day or two weighing up the good and the bad might tactically be a clever thing to do. For I can attempt to kill myself any day of the week, although Sundays would give me the best odds as my St. John’s Ambulance volunteer here would be volunteering elsewhere. But why do I need time to re-think? Surely I had made the right decision this morning and come next Sunday I’ll make the same one again. Would Andy, if given the breath of life once more, opt to pop the pills for as long as it shall take? I don’t know. Maybe that sign in that graveyard might have read something else. Mole Digger handed me a cup of tea. The inside of the caravan felt alien to me; where is my home now? “Now I’m quite happy Aldred to let you go but I has to know the reasons why. It’s a man’s instincts to rescue a friend who’s in deep shit. So I apologise if the reasons you give me are sound. But until I hear them you ain’t going but no place without my permission.” I did, I appreciated Mole Digger’s concern. But try as I did, I couldn’t speak the reasons why. A man sometimes keeps what’s deep inside deep inside. Some kind of electric fence protected the inner sanctum, a jolt of the jitters for even stepping foot close to the perimeter. I suppose it’s this in-built facility that allows one man to perform vivisection on another. Myself I’d be more than happy to have a power cut, which was my intentions. That’s it! Just explain that to my friend. Ain’t that enough of a reason why? I sipped the hot brew. “This is a fine cup of tea Mole Digger.”

 

#

 

I’m sat in the North Yorkshire Moors. I got fed up with the beach at Blackpool. Beneath me is a chair and beneath that is a carpet, a design that’s called AP54017 Hospitality. I’ve reached eighty-eight years old. These old folks’ homes still retain that unpleasant predictability known as death. Where the walls should be I can see the Ribblehead viaduct. Now and again a few of my non compos mentis inmates decide they’ve had enough and set off towards the remote landscape only to bump into the wall. Like a tortoise perplexed by a mirror, they persist in trying to move forward until a nurse repositions them, gently guiding their shoulders in the direction of the chair. I’m not sure if what’s on the walls is holographic or jiggery-pokery but it sure is convincing. Therapeutic theory has progressed a great deal don’t you know… Sunday came and went. Now I’m here. Sane. Dementia ignored me. I look upon with envy those who are lost to lunacy. I too wish to escape, to go on the run. With age my eidetic powers withered away. I have long forgotten what Bernadette looked like. I was never able to share her company again without doing what needed doing. I tried painting portraits from memory but I suspects they ain’t nothing like that beauty that blinded me. Did I make the right decision, each Sunday and every Sunday since? God knows! It ain’t ‘cos it’s the day of resurrection that’s for sure. I know plenty of folks that have disembarked on the seventh (or is that first?) day of the week. No, my listener, my safe passage was blocked by an incredibly inconvenient force, a motherfucker called persistence. That persistence was more interested in persisting in life than in death has, as you can imagine, irked me a little; that I persisted one way and not the other brought happiness to no one neither, not an iota nowhere... No, I apologise, I am wrong about that. To my right sits a fella called Mole Digger. He is oozing and slobbering and twitching but upon his face is a gaze that informs me, that somewhere, my friend and I, that’s right, my friend and I share a beer and a smoke and admire the stupendous contours of Sophia Loren.