Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 264

Speaking of handwriting, as I was yesterday, I have today finally started Book IV of this year’s journal, which is about right, as there’s just over a quarter of the year left to go. The last page of Book III is a sketch Alex did at work when she had a quiet moment the other week. She drew it on one of the carbon paper pads they have when taking orders, so she actually had three copies of it, and the one I have is on the pink sheet, the last of three, I think. I thought that was a fitting end to the third journal of the year.

I have already scrawled some things into the new journal, and, because I am no longer hampered by the bulk the journals acquired when I was still sticking the printouts of this blog into them (a separate ring binder for these now), I hope I’ll do more hand-written scrawling rather than either writing poems straight into this blog, or poems straight into my Word package and then pasting. It may also remove my need to self-censor just about everything I write. The truth is, of course, that I’m too disorganised to remember to carry my journals round with me all the time, with them being A5 sized, which is one reason I bought an A6 leather journal and paper for our holiday in Crete (which now seems an age ago, a different era, almost, with all the things that have happened and continue – oh, well). I do carry that one around with me more. My executor will have his/her job cut out sorting all this paper into manageable and accessible piles. Or s/he’ll just dump it on the British Library and let them sort it.

What I did scribble this morning is sort of relevant.

There’s always this conflict between my creativity and the crises and necessities around me (and the politics of the day, to be truthful, because I can’t not comment on them, or not think about them). But writing often means cutting yourself off from everything around you, and ye being a parent/husband/friend means at the same time having to be available and open, able to think and do at a moment’s notice. The balance, for me at least, is almost impossible to achieve, and I often feel like I’m running away when I withdraw into myself to do what I want and need to do. Being in solitude is feeling safe. But even then the ache in the pit of my stomach doesn’t go away, the fear that something awful will happen if I don’t find a solution to a particular problem, if I don’t do something about the problems and issues surrounding me, the problems others have. And that’s not just about work; in fact work probably takes second place to a lot of the other stuff (thank God for the flexibility I have).

I have a vague recollection of reading an excerpt of a biography of Samuel Beckett (I think) many years ago which spoke of how he cloistered himself away when he was writing, how difficult he was to approach when in the process of writing, how he hardly spoke, and how the corridor outside his room smelled of cigarette smoke and how the scent of his cigarettes followed him around everywhere. Not that I’m likening myself to the genius Beckett was. I may even have incorporated some of that memory into Tettig’s Jewels, and now that I write about it cannot recall if it’s truth or another imagined memory of mine. Can we ever really tell?

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS  – CHAPTER 216

The cackle sends shivers down Aggie’s spine. She wants to go and help the girl, and the rage inside her wants her to forget about her vow never to kill anyone, and go and put an end to Valentine. But she daren’t; not because she’s afraid, but because she has no idea what he is capable of. It would be no surprise if that man who managed to disguise himself and a weak and feeble and sweating man afraid of a sudden change in plans a week ago (was it really only a week ago), but who at the same time is trying to become master of the world, managed to outwit her and kill her, draw from somewhere a weapon she wouldn’t be able to resist. It would be no surprise at all if he had stationed more of his robot people on the stairs up to the White House, no surprise if there were some lurking around here right now, although Aggie can’t detect any.

Unable to move into the room or away from it, Aggie stands, frozen, watching through the slight gap between the door and the frame. Valentine’s humming to himself now, like he’s counting the bars of the tune Aggie doesn’t recognise.

The chair with the girl on spins around its axis quicker and quicker, until blood starts pouring from her nose, and then a thicker slime, red tinged with grey, some dripping down onto her t-shirt, most of it flying away with the force of the rotation. A thick band of it just hangs from her nose, and then the chair stops. Valentine walks up to the girl, her eyes still shining brightly with the light from the cuffs, cups her chin in his left hand. ‘I bet you enjoyed that little ride, my little one,’ Valentine says, pulls something from his trouser pocket with his right hand, something that briefly flashes in the light, something that looks to Aggie like a crochet needle, and pushes it up the girl’s nostril without hesitation, and pulls it out again, the hook now bringing with it a constant coherent stream of red and grey matter. Valentine keeps pulling until there’s an almost inaudible pop, and the brain hangs from the crochet needle, a discarded useless lump of stuff. Valentine drops it onto the floor, keeps shaking the needle until every last piece of mucus has dropped away.

‘And now it’s time for your resurrection,’ he says.

Is he performing for me? Aggie thinks. Does he know I’m here?

Valentine’s hand goes to his pocket again. This time, whatever it is he gets from his pocket is invisible to Aggie. He holds it between his thumb and index finger, whatever it is, pushes it into the girl’s nose, drives it further home with his needle, lets out a deep breath. ‘There.’ He steps away from her, off the podium, walks back to the far end of the room, only a few paces, flicks another invisible switch, and the chair begins to spin again, this time in the opposite direction, not as quickly as before. Two sharp clicks, one after the other, and the chair stops rotating, and the cuffs disappear. The girl’s eyes clear again.

‘Is that it?’ she says, stands up unsteadily.

‘Yes, my dear,’ Valentine says, at her side in a few bounds. ‘Even I underestimated your intelligence. Wait until the President hears about this.’ He holds his arm out to her. ‘Just mind your feet, Agata. It looks like you might have had a bit of a nosebleed.’

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