Author’s note : A few years ago my then agent Helen Donlon suggested I write fiction. I don’t consider myself a novelist, I wish I was, but I just can’t get with it. It doesn’t turn me on. Still below is an excerpt…Tragically I recently found out that Helen died. Far too young. R.I.P. Helen and thanks for the push. At least I found out I’m not a real writer…”
I am Charles Carver and I’m tired.
Camden, London. It’s five to eleven on a Tuesday morning in 1995 and I feel like I’ve never slept. I’m in my so called office above the Marathon Bar ‘Restaurant’- actually it’s just a kebab shop you can sit down and get fucked in at any time of day – and I’m fixating on the miles of sleep behind my eyes.
Somewhere, Sammy Davis Jnr. is playing but I’m fucked if I can find the source.
I know there’s a grapefruit and a half bottle of Blavod Black Vodka in the mini fridge in the corner but if I start drinking now, after an initial lift I’ll get even more tired. By the afternoon I’ll have to sleep or score some coke to knock me straight and I can’t do either because I need to work. There’s a client coming in at one. And I do need to work. I need to work so I can maintain an office to work from… And to buy Vodka to make me feel better when I’m not working. And when I’m working. And to buy blow to make me feel awake when I’m drunk and working. So I need to work so I can afford to get drunk on Blavod and score coke to stop me falling asleep on the job.
And…Fuck this Dante shit.
Where’s Henrik’s number? I’ll fix to score some Coke at noon and have a vodka now. Fuck the grapefruit, too. I need a drink. I’m tired. Really tired.
Sammy is singing ‘Spinning Wheel’ but again, I’m fucked if I know where from.
“What goes up/Must come down.” Sing it Sammy…
I need a drink before I call Henrik, who unusually for a dealer, has multiple other interests and gets up early. (Henrik is even in possession of a time machine for fuck’s sake. Yes you heard right. A thing that looks like a Porta – loo in his office that can take you back in time. Not forward. And not through space either…You can go as far back as you like but you’ll still come out in Camden. How’s that for a plot device? More of which later.)
Anyway. Nothing personal, Henrik but I’m already dreading calling you. I don’t feel like talking to anyone so early. Fuck it, the Blavod will take care of that. It’s one minute to eleven and so what? Like Ma used to say : “The pub’s are nearly open…”
I negotiate my way through the various boxes of old copies of Sounds, Look-in, Deadline, Ritz Magazine, Escape, Blitz, Weirdo, New sounds-New styles, Elle, Starlord, Spare Rib, Toxic, Crisis, Revolver, Inter-View and Time Out… the open files, the unopened mail, the closed files, all shadowed by the dead plant I never knew the name of that I bought in a fug at Woolworth’s two Christmas Eves ago.
I bend to the mini fridge and feel a sting in my lower right side. A pain I’ve had for five years that despite a Cat and ultrasound scan remains un -diagnosed. I’m so tired. So very very tired. Can I be out of breath already? I’m 34 years old and just starting to lose what looks I had, but not my health already, surely. Anyway. I open the fridge door. And there it is : The Vodka bottle chill against my hand. It feels like home, it feels like shaking hands with Henrik Kissinger in 1967 whatever that means. I’m starting to feel better already.
I don’t wait until I get back to the desk. I pour the Black stuff into a dirty promotional ‘Menswear’ mug that’s festering on top of the mini fridge. Menswear are a sorry bunch of mugs but as alcohol receptacles go they’ll do. The Blavod is so cold as to taste of nothing. It burns my throat and sets off a cosy black depth charge in my stomach, scouring the inside of my chest as it goes down. ‘Boof’ it says to my stomach. ‘Take that’!’ ‘OOf’. ‘Bam’ ‘Karplunk’ Et Al. Huge captions behind my eyes, cartoon bubbles in my gut. Like in the old Batman shows. I take another chug from the bottle. Black milk. The years of sleep behind my eyes momentarily disperse and then resettle into new patterns further away. I shake the sleep up again with another slug from the bottle. An Orchestra is tuning up in my skull. Another slug. This time there’s an uppercut to my esophagus. ‘Kapowee’! It’s a welcome pain. It reminds me of something…
Holding the bottle in my left hand I walk back to the desk and attempt to find Henrik’s number in one of the various address books I keep losing and replacing. I’ve got an hour to get to Henrik’s and back to prepare for the client. By prepare, I actually mean repair. Somehow, after another extended chug, I’ve spoken painlessly to Henrik – a conversation I’ve already forgotten – and am taking another gasp from the bottle which is now coming out in condensation. Sammy is singing “For once in my life/I have someone who needs me” somewhere on the periphery of something while I seem to have misplaced the Menswear mug. I find a multi pack of cafe crème on my desk and attempt to open the wrapper with my left hand whilst still holding the bottle in the right. A false economy. It doesn’t work and the multi pack scatters to the floor. But in doing so some flyers on the desk are moved about and I spy a pack already open. I plug my mouth with one. I’ll light it later. I fold the packet into my navy blue Cardin Blazer pocket. I need to be out of the door. I need to go. I don’t know where my keys are. Where’s my wallet? I take a final – for now- shot from the Vodka bottle that is alarmingly approaching room temperature. I think about taking it with me but it looks bad, a man of my reputation slugging from a bottle in the street at this hour.
Who am I fucking kidding…
I find room for it on the magazine spunked thing that was once a desk. I tap the bulge atop my thigh. That’s my wallet. Forget the keys, I’ll leave the door open. I hope I have a lighter on me somewhere and then somehow am finally out of the door. When did leaving anywhere become such a military fucking operation? I’ll buy some more Blavod on the way back. Or maybe on the way there. Details. The devil is in the details…
Did I mention I was Tired?
Outside the morning is catching up with me. In fact, it’s gone already. I wade through a fresh afternoon that still looks like morning. I move onward searching for a lighter as the pavements below turn from Camden to Chalk farm but then I decide against the off licence and they become Camden again. The pavements are losing their morning sheen. The sun is upon us. The air is still nearly new. I kid myself it all is. This fresh Tuesday. New, I mean. The buses are running. People are starting to shop. The Birds above it all. The sky above them…My mind is wandering. I light a Cafe crème as I await a gap in the traffic, crossing the too wide road to Camden stables puffing as I go, feeling old yet ageless. No, aged. Feeling fucking tired.
Life has long since lost it’s lustre.
“Charles! How are you my friend? How’s business? You look exhausted. We have a cure for that. Ha ha.” Henrik lets me in and goes to the computer thing on his desk to tap the keyboard. He then looks up, takes off his tiny round glasses and rubs the lens with the sleeve of his purple hoodie. Somewhere a bass drum is pounding. Joss sticks fill the air with a Cunty bloom. Henrik is into cyber- something. His cave place is full of tubes that light up and things called glow sticks. He likes Sven Vath. I don’t know Sven Vath but I’m sure if I did I would hate Sven Vath. Henrik is friends with The Aphex twin. Or one of them, at least. I don’t know much about the Aphex twin apart from what a client told me once. The Twin lives in a converted bank, gets stoned and projects “Pong” (an ancient video game) onto the bank wall opposite his. Someday I’d like to pay Mr Aphex a visit…
“I’m fine Henrik. The usual. Please”.
I think Henrik is Norwegian. Or Scandinavian. I’m not sure what Scandinavia is. I have a vague idea it’s cold and Ash Blonde. I’m not big on Geography. Or Maths, physics or economics. But I’m especially dumb when it comes to Geography. I don’t know my North, South, East West either. Don’t know where they are I mean. Why the fuck would I…
“OK, Charles. Just a moment. Please.”
Henrik’s place is big and full of stuff, but unlike my office you get the idea that everything here has a purpose and he knows where everything is. He stoops to the computer keyboard once again and then gets up from that and the fibre glass desk and walks to a filing cabinet that’s just in front of the Porta Loo/Time machine.
“What’s this shit playing?” I ask Henrik as he unlocks the third draw down of a filing cabinet that has a digereedo leaning on it.
“This is The Future sound of London, Charles.”
“Some future..sounds like…sounds like a knees up at The Tomorrow’s world Christmas party, circa 1980.”
“No. That’s what they’re called, Charles. The Future sound of London. And actually they’d take that as a compliment. Three?”
“Yeah three. My favourite number.”
Henrik returns. Puts three little bags of white stuff on the desk.
“Put it on my account, Henrik” I tell him, thinking one isn’t enough and four is too many.
Henrik is already at the computer. “No. Its fine. Go ahead.”
I separate one bag from the others and bring out my Zippo. I bash the fuck out of that bag, crushing the rocks and the baby rocks. I know I should put a cloth over it to save the bag from splitting but I’m tired. Henrik pays no mind. I crush and obliterate some more and then reach into my left Cardin pocket where there are various McDonald’s straws cut down to size. Some cut with a scissors, some with a Bread knife, some bitten in half. I don’t bother racking up, just poke a straw into the bag. I sniff and gag. There follows a distant roar. Surf on sand. I gag again. Sammy flares in volume and shuts up.
I’m now very thirsty and not for water.
“Anyone used the time machine thing lately, Henrik?”
“Yeah. Some guys out of Paul Weller’s band. They went back to see a Small Faces gig or something. I warned them about the usual shit but they didn’t listen. When they got there they had no relevant currency. No money, I mean. Couldn’t get in the gig. The usual catastrophe…”
“Small Feces more like”. I return to the bag and gag again.
I’m slightly less tired.
Time to get to work…