Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 99

For weeks now, I have been meaning to make a list headed Cause & Effect to work out why my body is malfunctioning so much at the moment. At its most basic, it’s all about hydration. Lack of hydration causes lack of throughput causes back pain. It went again last night in the wine aisle in the supermarket. I suppose that’s not the kind of hydration I’m talking about. At its most complex, the list would contain all the bad habits I have acquired since I was a baby and be a guide for stripping all those bad habits away and starting again with a clean slate, with a clean body. But life doesn’t work like that. Nothing does. We can’t make everything better that we’ve done wrong in the past, can’t reverse the effects of decades of living. Even if we’ve been the most clean-living person on the planet. Which I have not.

The words push themselves out with difficulty this morning. It’s a repeating record, for all of us who write, this question as to whether or not the words we do manage to spew out have any value whatsoever, to ourselves, to others. I think I too often underestimate the impact the world around me has on my moods, my well-being, my health. Even if I ignore the news most of the time, even f I try to be optimistic about the world’s future, it’s a fact that the wars are still there, that the mistreatment of the poor by the rich is still there, that the lies of the politicians are still there. And the most cynical part of me insists that even if we had a peaceful revolution, anywhere, some individual, or group of individuals, would put themselves at the head of that revolution and usurp it for their own benefit, and the whole cycle would start again. Ad infinitum.

I met a political historian the other day who has been looking at the development of the state in England in the 13th and 14th centuries. I can’t wait to read their book, even only to confirm my suspicions and certainty that all machines of state have come not from the need to develop laws which will allow universal benefits to all people but from the desire of the few to conquer and rule the many. A simplistic certainty, no doubt, but the simplest grains of fact are inevitably the greatest truth.

I now need to lever myself out of this chair, have some breakfast (to paraphrase TSE, ‘… time to wonder, “Do I dare eat the last croissant,” and “Do I dare have jam on it?”‘), and then document what Aggie decides to do next in whatever quest she is on.

It’s Saturday, and time is not standing still.



‘Will you?’ Aggie smiles, picks Anna up and hugs her.

‘Aggie, Aggie. Stop.’ Anna pushes against her. ‘Put me down.’

‘Sorry. Sorry.’ Aggie lets her go.

‘I can’t do it to command, you know,’ Anna says. ‘It was never something I could sit down and just do. It was always just a feeling, an intimation of what was about to happen. I told you I’ll try, but it might not work.’

‘I understand.’

‘Do you?’ The wind lashes Anna’s words from her mouth, and she spits out grains of dust. ‘What d you expect from this anyway? To be able to understand what’s going on? That won’t happen. We’re only just starting on this road. We don’t know what we’ll find in York?’ She closes her eyes for a second. ‘I don’t know what we’ll find.’ She looks around. ‘I don’t feel safe here.’

‘Let’s get the others and go then.’

‘I have a feeling they’ll be able to find us wherever we are, however hard we try to disappear.’

‘You mean the mentor?’

‘I don’t know. Valentine, the mentor, Putin.’

‘What do you know?’

Anna shrugs. ‘Nothing. I don’t know anything. Just that I was supposed to kill Zav and I didn’t, and that I’ll probably be punished for it.’

‘What did you do in Hong Kong?’

The wind is even stronger now.

Anna grabs Aggie’s hand. ‘We need to go inside now.’

They start walking. The sky darkens.

‘Triads and stuff,’ Anna says. ‘Bad things. I had no other way to survive.’ She looks at Aggie. ‘And I wasn’t going to sell my body, though God knows enough people wanted to buy it. I’d rather kill and be killed than that.’

They fall in through the door just as the first raindrops hit.

‘We get these storms now and again,’ the woman behind the counter says. ‘Evil things they are. And nothing in the way of ’em.’

Aggie smiles, feels it to be a crooked and unfriendly smile, but the woman smiles back at her.

‘Your coffee will be cold by now,’ Katharina says as Aggie and Anna get back to the table.

‘It’ll be fine,’ Aggie says, drains her cup in one go without sitting. ‘We need to go.’

‘In this?’ Zav says. His voice is almost inaudible under the noise of the rain and wind beating against the windows. ‘Much better to sit tight and wait it out.’

‘We don’t have the time,’ Aggie says.

‘No, we don’t,’ Anna says. ‘Come on.’ She looks at Marit. ‘I’ll drive if you don’t think you can manage it.’

Marit shakes her head. ‘I’ve had worse.’

‘That’s what all the girls say,’ Zav says.

They all stare at him without a word.

‘Can’t a man make a joke?’ he says.

‘The time for joking went a long time ago,’ Aggie says. She grabs a handful of cash from her pocket, walks across to the woman. ‘Thanks ever so much,’ she says.

‘Not driving in this, are you?’ the woman says.

‘We’re on a deadline,’ Aggie says.

‘Just take care then,’ the woman says. ‘There’s been many have crashed on this road even when the weather’s been fine. It looks nice and straight, but that’s the problem.’

‘We’ll be fine,’ Aggie says. ‘But thanks.’

The five of them run across to the car, soaked by the time they get there, jump in, close the doors, shake themselves off.

‘Ridiculous,’ Zav says.

‘I suppose Nanny would have carried an umbrella for you,’ Anna says.

‘I didn’t have a nanny,’ he says. ‘Don’t be stupid.’

‘Who’s lost their sense of humour now?’

‘This is all stupid,’ he says, and crosses his arms over his chest.

‘Seat belts,’ Marit says, laughter in her voice. ‘This could be a rough ride.’ She starts the car, heater on full, windscreen wipers at maximum speed, and still visibility s minimal. ‘A very rough ride.’

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