Richard Pierce

Life, Sport, Writing

Day 230

Oddly, stupidly, weirdly, although I’ve retired from playing cricket, I am still shadow batting and shadow batting in my garden. But something has changed in the last few days. When I used to shadow bat when I played, each shot, defensive or not, was accompanied with a clicking of the tongue that I can’t even recreate now or when I’m not actually playing a shot. But the last few times I’ve stood in the garden and moved my feet and arms in that perfect ballet that batting is, an explosive noise has come from my mouth, akin to one you might make when imitating comedy bomb, and the shots have been far more aggressive and effusive and straight than most of my attacking shots in the middle. I don’t know why, but the thought has crossed my mind of just offering myself up as batting cannon fodder for bowlers who want to practice (when my foot is fixed), so I’d still be retired but useful to others (and myself). To those of you to whom this is Double Dutch, sorry. The game still occupies many of my thoughts, just without the negative impacts of actually playing matches.

On other matters, it’s been another frustrating, stuck in the same place kind of day, one I had originally been looking forward to, what with grown-up conversations in front of a microphone with a friend and beers afterwards. Instead, some self-censored things (and not work) just go round in circles I can’t make sense of, and my frustration levels increase to the almost unbearable. This is when I miss sport the most, when I need something to take some brute force out on. It’ll just have to be the keyboard.

Two nice things happened. Someone I know through work (though I’ve never met her) got married a few weeks ago, and sent me some pics of her wedding, and of some sketches she’d done while on honeymoon. The wedding pictures made me cry, because weddings always make me cry (and because the look of happiness on her and her husband’s face were a joy to behold), and one of er sketches in particular (of a rock) reminded me vividly of Edward Wilson’s sketches. And just now, I’d gone to the wine aisle in the local big supermarket, and a lady was in front of the wine I wanted to get, doing her self-checkout stuff with the handheld thingummy, so I waited patiently until she noticed me. “Am I in your way,” she said. “No, not at all, but thanks for moving,” I said. She thanked me for being so patient and moved out of the way, and I said that I didn’t see any point in putting people under pressure. She told me that many people do, though. “Not me.” There was a guy stacking the shelves who came up to us and said “That was such a wholesome moment,” at which we all collapsed laughing. Nice. Perhaps I’m too nice, and that’s the whole problem with all these going round in circles things. Who knows.

And, finally, those of you new to the blog, Aggie has been living on these pages since Day 47ish, and will continue to do so until the end of November, when all the chapters will disappear, the last month be written in secret, and the full book be available to buy at some point next year. And I can’t do 24 like “previously in Aggie’s Art of Happiness recaps, because I can’t remember what’s happened most of the time, nor all the characters that have invaded that part of my head. All that smoothing out is for the second edit.



Aggie keeps on pressing down on his skull, feels the fault lines with the tips of her fingers, how they move and vibrate. The red mist in front of her now, and she keeps pressing down on the unconscious man’s head, hears the plates of his skull crate and crunch against each other. And the red mist disappears, and the head begins to glow at her, the head, jammed between her hands like in a vice, and here eyes change the dark into something different, something so alien to her she almost lets go of him, almost steps back and runs. But she doesn’t, holds still instead, breathing through the pain in her own brain, against the humming, the screaming that’s flooding through her. Is it him? Is he screaming because of the pain she’s inflicting on him, because he’s afraid of dying a second time. And then she sees it, the whole three-dimensionality of what her eyes are seeing or creating or inventing, and she realises she’s looking in through his skull, past the ragged and hurriedly-fixed cracks, past the entry and exit wounds of the high-velocity bullet from the gun Lilibet had, right into the very centre of him, and there’s nothing there, no brain mass, no coursing thrumming neurons, no firing synapses, nothing but a vacant and empty space, except for the few wires that emanate from the tiny core suspended by those wires in the middle of the his skull’s cavity.

She smells the rot now, the decay the body must have carried with it all the way down here from York, albeit suppressed by the deep freeze they must have kept him in, until they thawed him out, unless they put him into a freezing cold car and let him drive himself down the motorways, losing rotten bodily fluids all the way, and clambering with his dead arms and legs into the cathedral somehow, and finding his way, with his leprous flesh clinging to his bones, up into the vacant space halfway up that stone arch. And the acid he was firing, it’s the same thing they were keeping in those old control devices, to self-destruct like that sniper they sat down in the restaurant until he melted. And he’d still been alive, much more alive than this one. The cruelty of it all breaks her heart, and the sadness mingles with anger at men like Valentine who would take the world and do with it what they wanted without ever once thinking of anyone they might hurt and kill and maim along the way. Because it’s all for power, for self-glorification, even if that glory only comes when they look into the mirror at themselves and tell themselves they rule the world, because they have more and better than anyone else.

And still the skull glows, and still the tiny box inside his head sends signals along the wires to whatever parts of him they’re connected to, and still her eyes see the monstrosity in its entirety while her nose gets more and more full of the stench until she thinks she’s going to vomit. But she knows now, she knows that he’s not here, Tom’s not here, and the bits of his brain that were him aren’t here either, and nor is his soul. So she takes on last deep breath, though her mouth so she doesn’t inhale more of the putrid scent, and crushes his empty skull until it shatters along those old fault lines and new, until one of her hands can grab the box that’s resurrected him, and snatches it, and lets the head drop onto the altar cloth, and flings herself under the altar, through the hatch, which closes the moment she’s past it, and lands in the tunnel on her feet, and breathes normally again, her prize still in her hand.

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