Richard Pierce

Life, Poetry, Politics, Writing

Day 317

Today I drove down to the old village to lay a wreath on behalf of Stradbroke Cricket Club on Remembrance Sunday. One of our own, James Grigg, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, which is why I do it. As I have said before, having, as a pacifist, conversations with a man who chose to serve his country was invariably interesting, and those conversations were full of mtual respect. The fact that we played cricket together probably also had a lot to do with it – I find that team sports breed maturity in most people, and a certain kind of love.

Talking of Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday – I don’t wear a poppy any more, not since Brexit, because since then wearing a poppy has become like shouting with the same voice as the racists and xenophobes who now dominate politics in the UK. I don’t show, and never have shown, my respect from a jingoistic, nationalistic perspective. Even though, each time I lay the Cricket Club’s wreath on Stradbroke War Memorial, I have tears in my eyes as I put my right hand over my heart, it’s not just for Griggsy that I’m crying. It’s for all those who died in wars started to glorify those in power in any country at war. Because that’s what wars are – the needless and vain attempt by those in power, those too cowardly to fight their expansionist, imperialistic, greedy battles for themselves. It’s never been a question of defending faith or country (because those are artificial constructs built to manacle the common people to a common xenophobic or religious cause) or good, because all war is evil, all war is illegal, and all wars bring misery to those who least need even more misery piling upon them. And the fact that the West has chosen to focus on the war in Ukraine and forget wars being fought where people of colour or people from minor ethnic groups are being persecuted just confirms the point in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Being back in the old village and seeing so many familiar faces was of course really nice, but it brought into great focus one of the things I’ve felt ever since we moved into Norwich.

 

THIS CITY

Going back to the old place
Was never like this, not a
Prolonged homecoming, along
The wide road lined by enormous
Houses and prep schools, dominated
On one side by the collage and its
Huge modern beautiful Arts
Complex, across the junction and
Past the old hospital, all flats
Now for the wealthy and sundry
Landlords who will countenance
No pets, down to the roundabout,
Off to the right to stop at
The always red traffic lights,
And along a windy street
Through terraces and fast
Food places until I reach the
Football stadium, a field of
Dreams of a sort, round the bend
Until the cathedral spire appears,
Past the railway station and its
Roccoco tower, more lights, the
Long straight of Riverside, and
Then up onto the S-bends through
What’s left of the Heath, into
The madness of Mousehold Lane,
And down the back streets of
Where the house is that has
Become home.

Going back to the old place
Never felt like coming home.
It was just somewhere we lived
For fifteen years. I miss the
People but not the place.
None of us are villagers.

R, 13/11/2022, 14:40

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 247

The writing breaks down there, into squiggles and edges, black scratches, that are unreadable, which don’t make sense. Aggie’s mind speeds up, and thoughts cascade into her in minute fractions of seconds, like when she sees the past, when she can live a whole youth, a whole life, faster than other humans live a millisecond. She asks herself if Valentine can read the thoughts of his robots, if his control is so complete that he registers and logs everything each of his monstrous creations see, hear, feel, smell, think, experience. If he’s somehow connected all the time, permanently to the armies he has created, even under that illusion of free will for this latest generation of for him disposable weapons, this generation of automatons. But she knows this one is not an automaton, that this one has tried to pull itself, himself, free from Valentine’s control and manipulations, and has failed, and now feels the pain of that failure. Unless it’s all just an act, pre-programmed into this sophisticated, human-like, human skin feeling, machine, to lure Aggie into some false sense of caring, of solidarity, of concern. She thinks of the money now in a bank account where even Valentine can’t reach it, and knows there must be a weakness in his plan just as there must be in hers. How to disconnect this thing without its destruction, without the destruction of the hotel? She is fumbling in the dark and has no answer.

Without thinking about it, she takes off her jacket with as little movement as possible, as quickly as possible.

He doesn’t turn round. Maybe his senses have been dullened by whatever he has done to say it’s too late for her to do anything about his death.

Aggie takes off her shirt. The room is warm, and she doesn’t shiver. Guilt is drilling into her head, and it hurts.

Still, he doesn’t move. If anything, his body sags a little, his shoulder slump. His motion is gone.

She pulls off the bra she hates to wear, remembers that she’s wearing the same clothes, same everything she put on to leave the house in Norwich less than two days ago. The time changes and assassinations have fried her sense of time. She feels her breasts bounce free of the restrictions invented by men, regardless of what written history says. She gets up, off the bed, stands in front of him, sees his eyes are closed, reaches out to touch his face, however odd and wrong it feels to her to be touching this perfect replica of Valentine. ‘Open your eyes,’ she whispers, lowers herself down to his level, her breasts touching his face, his cheeks, the fell of skin on skin so real she can’t accept that he’s not real. Her right hand sneaks down between his legs, feels him harden, despite himself, despite everything, lets it linger there, however distasteful it is to her, however unreal, unfaithful, and perverse she feels it to be, and tries not to think of Lily. She moves as far back as she can without letting go of him.

He opens his eyes, and she sees a world of pain and confusion in them, an incomprehension that crashes a shard of pain through her. Valentine is obviously not yet taking him over. Tears run down the robot’s face, or what appear to be tears. He opens his mouth to say something while his head trembles, but before he can even make a sound, his throat explodes with the silver sheen of tempered blades, and he falls backwards onto the bed, blood gushing from the four wounds made by the contraption of knives.

‘A more subtle death this time,’ Valentine’s voice issues from the squirning, dying machine. ‘Wouldn’t want to draw attention to ourselves now, would we? I’ll see you in Norwich, the scene of your biggest crime.’ The squirming stops, the eyes go dim. There is nothing she can do but get dressed again and leave.

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