The new blog section on this site has given me the space to think about sharing works in progress.
I am not sure if this is what the blog space will remain – I may yet return to crafting a series of inane thoughts and rants about who serves my coffee and how.
But for now it may be an opportunity to reflect on the direction of new work I try and develop. I have been thinking about (read: wrestling with) ideas for a longer form family drama/saga centering on the strained relationships between siblings that come to blows over how the will is to be settled after the loss of the last living parent.
At this stage, the last standing oldie is Fred. Who I started to sketch out here:
* * *
In a way, Fred is alone in the at the bistro. Around him the children run and dart through the tables, jostling between the too narrow spaces as they try to escape the poison tip of whoever is in…..Or worse, an adults firmer clutch that may capture and mute them, render them immobile in a seat in front of some soggy nuggets and chips.
He sees their mouths gapping and open, gap toothed grins and small lips still rosy, not drained or cracked dry by age and the sun. Mouths that make wide shapes as they shriek or laugh, or make staccato machine gun sounds that grate on adult’s ears, but not his.
He can only guess at the sounds made now. One ear gone and the other on its way out.
He sits at the head of the table, his chair pushed back a full body length away while the others lean in; their elbows amongst a clutter of drinks abandoned to melting ice and lonely pink straws, discarded chip packets and drowned cardboard coasters.
The sounds he can hear all coalesce together. He used to wish he had one of those fine tuning dials for his ears, so he could find the thread in the mangled sound of human voices, or follow what was going on on the telly.…but he does know that the bistro is playing loud music because he can hear the dull repetition of driving drums.
He pushes his chair back further - an old habit so automatic now that he is no longer aware of doing it. He sips on the beer that has gone warm from being cradled in his mug of hand instead of being rested on the table.
The skittering kids catch his eye again and he grins and beckons his grandson over with one if his ginormous paws.
“Ere” he says, and flips him some gold coins fetched from his pocket. “Go play one them games”
Their delighted faces small fuel for the fire to get him through the rest of this lunch his kids insist on dragging him to, even though they know he will sit there, pushing away from the table, talking to no one.
His daughter, Chantel, has brought the new husband, Darren, with her this time and Fred sits watching him, noticing how he orders Chantel around and doesn’t lift a finger when the baby starts acting up.
He stews in sonic isolation, spurred on by the memory of how Darren blew a few grand of Chantel’s savings on the horses.
He feels himself growing irritated with his warm beer, and briefly wonders if the others are talking about him. He’s tired of the pitying looks they give as they shuffle past him on the way to the bar, only ever asking if he’s right for another. He notices that the swirl and swish of muted sound feels worse from the succession of warm beers he’s had.
When its Darren’s shout Fred sees him slip out for another fag. It’s the second time he’s done it and it pisses Fred off.
After the round has been safely purchased by someone else, Darren comes and flops back at the table. Fred scrapes his chair forward across the tiles, causing everyone to stop and look up.
“There’s a bunch of Keno tickets there, mate” he says to Darren, roughly pushing the little plastic box full of tickets and stubby pencils towards him.
“Why dontcha go and put a few bets on, ay?”
Freds face cracks open, his too sharp incisors and missing teeth making for a crooked grin that his kids know as the beginning of something not funny.
They seek other out in this familiar feeling of tension, both clocking the empty glasses around Fred.
“What?” he says, noticing them looking. Knowing that the table’s conversation has stopped and people’s attention have turned to him now.
“The man likes a bet doesn’t he? Doncha Darren? So have bet mate, bet the lot”. Fred laughs maliciously and no one joins him.
“Dad….” Shantel appeals, but trails off, never sure how to appease him.
“C’mon Fred” Darren says. “Take it easy hey, probably had a few…”
It is the only nudge needed to bring the flash of anger through Fred. He feels it like a charge. He wants to let the throttle out, unleash the torrent inside.
“Nah, I wont be told to take it easy mate. Not by some no good fucking gambler”. The full force of anger in his voice.
His son, Murray, is up on his feet.
“Rightio Dad, that’s enough”.
He makes to move towards him, reaches a hand out like a horse whisperer would to a riled up horse. But Fred bucks and pulls himself back too quickly, accidently knocking one of his beer glasses off the table. It shatters on the tiles below.
Even Fred knows that the table, and those around them, are silent now. Everyone is immobile. No lips moving, no kids mouths making playful shapes. Just eyes shifting uncomfortably and that bastard Darren shaking his head at him, like he’s some kind of lame dog to be pitied.
Murray moves around the table and takes him by the elbow. “Lets get out of here”, he says into his good ear, and Fred lets himself be moved away.
And as they walk out towards the exit Fred passes a speaker, positioned perfectly at the height of his better ear and for the first time that day he hears something crisp and clear.
An old Elvis track singing something about being high classed.
He is pierced by it. Suddenly overcome by how much he misses hearing things.
It’s a physical pain that he could almost buckle under. It sickens him to be wretched and useless; helpless in his own body’s desertion of him.
The feelings swell up like a wave, threatening to topple him over. But he pushes them back down quickly.
“That Darren”, he mutters to Murray, “he’s a fucken’ no hoper”.