Richard Pierce

Life, Politics, Writing

Day 59

I did manage to put the gravel where I wanted it. I didn’t find the chisel, though. Not that I looked very hard. I am not on of nature’s natural DIYers. And I’ve corrected yesterday’s post – it now correctly reads 16th century instead of 15th century. Accuracy error. That takes me back to a job I last did 16 years ago, but that’s another story.

Despite the mad flurry of activity in simple things yesterday, I didn’t sleep well at all, and actually finished that book about the 16th century at 1 am. And still sleep wouldn’t come. So I’m slightly rough at the edges this morning. First World problems. Barely more than one thousand miles away, poets like me have been awake in a war zone, attacked by a country it’s increasingly apparent is led by a murderous madman. ne thousand miles away is supposed to the the First World, too.

There are ironies all around. That the West feared it would be Trump who would accidentally or deliberately, in his madness, push the button. That the West’s racists and white supremacists are made in the image of Putin. That it’s taken a war in Ukraine to show that the EU does hold together, act together, and is a bloc of like-minded nations. It’s not ironic that the UK is being shown to be a third-rate country, with no serious influence or impact on the Europe it decided to leave and the Eastern Europe it decided to abandon. Our government’s policy is that you can only be a refugee to the UK from a war zone if you’re prepared to become a fruit picker. Maybe the irony is that Putin’s inhumanity is at the same level as Boris Johnson’s.

I took a break. I’m lucky to be able to take breaks.

This morning is not easing me gently into the new week. Bad weather forecast after a glorious weekend. The weather affects my moods. People’s words affect my moods. Ren said yesterday she marvelled at all the worlds I manage to keep in my head. That made me feel good, but then I think about the fact that none of them are real worlds, and that I have a real problem keeping the real world in my head, that I have a real problem with the real world, full stop. I remember, as a child, reading something in my parents’ right-wing newspaper about a woman being allergic to the 20th century and wondering how that was even possible. As I’ve grown older, I realise that it’s very possible for the mind to be allergic to any reality at all. That’s probably why I’m stuck in those imaginary worlds of mine most of the time. It’s just a good thing M and the children know how to find me in there.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 16

He types, sends the message. ‘And now?’

‘Wait for instructions. They’ll send some.’

‘How did you know I’d not already told them I failed?’

She raises an invisible eyebrow. ‘Even I don’t think you’re that much of an idiot.’

He takes another bite of his mid-night sandwich, looks past her. His phone pings while he’s still chewing.

Aggie picks it up before he can react.

Picture.

‘They want a picture of my body.’

‘Oh shit.’

‘Does this thing even take pictures?’ She turns the phone over in her hand. ‘What kind of second-hand shop did you get this from anyway? Second World War military surplus?’ Her memory turns over, and she feels briefly sick.

‘Limited budget,’ he says. He doesn’t notice her brief nausea. ‘And I’m sure it does.’

‘We’d better get back there then.’

‘What?’

‘They need proof. You’re going to give it to them.’ She jumps up, knocks the bread from his hand. ‘Get a move on.’

She slams the door behind them when they leave, but takes the time to lock up. ‘Come on!’ She sets off along the street at a sprint before she remembers that his legs are only half as long as his, circles back, picks him up before he know what’s happening, throws him over her shoulder and starts running again. He doesn’t even try to fight her. Five minutes later, she drops him to the ground where he only just manages to land on his feet. She gets her torch out this time, unpicks the lock in a second, pushes the outside door closed behind them, rushes through into the chapel.

‘How were you going to kill me?’ she says.

‘You’re not even sweating.’

‘Ladies glow. Fucking focus. How.’

‘Strangulation.’

‘Get on with it then.’

‘What?’ His voice echoes back its fear from the walls.

‘Strangle me then.’

‘What if?’

‘Jesus.’ She lies down on one of the memorial stones, arranges her limbs into an unnatural-looking position, twisted and chaotic. She bites the inside of her cheek, doesn’t feel any pain, lets the blood run out onto her pale lips. ‘Do it.’ A mumble not to rearrange the scarlet drift. Her eyes wide open, staring at the darkness descending from the decorated ceiling. Her mind disengages from her body, and she’s looking down on herself as a teenager, in a field of frozen snow, blood rushing out through her teeth and soaking into the snow, a group of men around her, gawping at her chaotic body and the red stain on her stomach, her then long hair melting the snow around her, and none of them helping her. Then they run away from her and leave her to die, leave her to turn the whiteness of winter into the black of a coagulated and messy ending. The flash from the phone brings her back. Her mouth is hurting now. She jumps back onto her feet, a sudden motion, uncoiled anger and sadness. ‘Let me see.’

She looks like a pathetic fallen giant in the picture, resolution poor, blood stark against her white skin and the white stone beneath her. ‘How do they expect you to get rid of me?’

He shrugs. ‘I didn’t ask.’

‘Who the fuck is paying you? Boris fucking Johnson? Greedy cheapskate.’

‘Erm.’ He scratches his head. ‘Sort of went freelance.’

‘And what about Control and staff shortages?’

‘I sort of made that up.’

‘Sort of?’

‘Well, I’m a gamer, and it sounded like the thing I should say.’

‘A gamer?’

‘Video games. That sort of thing.’

‘I know that.’ She rips the phone out of his hand. ‘There. I’ve sent it. Dickhead.’

‘That’s how they found me. I’m a student, still, and needed some money.’

‘So you thought you’d pretend you were a hitman?’

‘It seemed kind of cool.’

‘Killing people?’

‘Well, it’s money.’

‘And morals?’

‘Philosophy ends up telling you there aren’t really any morals.’

‘A philosophy student.’ She throws her hands up in the air. ‘Aren’t you supposed to have a beard and wear round glasses?’ She pulls a black cloth out of her pocket, wipes up the blood that’s pooled on the memorial stone.

‘That’s unfair.’

‘So sorry.’

‘Apology accepted.’

‘I didn’t mean it.’

‘Oh.’

‘You’re physically and emotionally inadequate, do you know that?’

‘I was only trying to …’ A tear runs down his face.

‘Oh, spare me.’

It’s not thunder that rolls through into the chapel. It’s the sound of the door being broken down.

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2 Comments

  1. Ren Powell

    1st March 2022 at 07:22

    What a gift. And yep M and the kids and all of us out here, actually, know where to find you and it is a comfort to all of us. A kind of filtering that softens the real world without making it untrue.

    1. Richard Pierce

      1st March 2022 at 09:11

      I don’t actually know what to say to that <3

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