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vespertine

Под покровом ночи. Talk Like a Playa

‘Jeez,’ Charlie said, turning and looking out the back window.

Minty Fresh seemed to turn his full attention to driving safely now. ‘What the hell are those things?’

‘I call them sewer harpies. They’re the things that call to us from the storm sewers. They’re a lot stronger now than they used to be.’

‘They’re scary is what they are,’ said Minty.

‘I don’t know,’ Charlie said. ‘Have you gotten a good look at them? I mean, they got the badonkadonk out back and some fine ba-joopbadangs up front, know what I’m sayin’, dog? Buss a rock wid a playa?’ He offered his fist for Minty to buss him a rock, but alas, the mint one left him hangin’.

‘Stop that,’ Fresh said.

‘Sorry,’ Charlie said.

‘Talk Like a Playa in Ten Days or Less — Stone Thug Edition?’ Minty asked.

Charlie nodded. ‘We got the CD into the store a couple of months ago. I practice in the van. How am I doing?’

‘Your Negro-osity is uncanny. I had to keep checking to make sure you’re still white.’

Под покровом ночи. Working Outside

‘It’s outside work, isn’t it,’ said Tam, by way of explanation.

‘So?’ I asked.

‘English people don’t like working outside, do they?’

‘Well, I’ve been out in it all day,’ I said. ‘And I’m English.’

Tam looked at me. ‘I know that,’ he said. ‘But you’ve been with us, haven’t you?’

Под покровом ночи. Mountains

I said, ‘You shouldn’t drop litter, you know.’

‘Why not?’ said Tam.

‘Well,’ I replied. ‘You know. It looks bad, doesn’t it? Spoils the countryside and everything.’

‘That’s a load of shite and you know it,’ he said.

‘No it isn’t,’ I said. ‘You can’t just go chucking rubbish all over the place.’

‘You can if you want,’ said Tam. ‘All this stuff about litter is just English pathetic . . .’ He trailed off, and then started again. ‘This is Scotland. You’re in Scotland and these mountains have been here millions of years. It doesn’t make any difference, a few fag packets for fuck sake. That’s just English fucking pathetic shite.’

‘He’s right,’ said Richie.

‘Yeah . . . I suppose so,’ I said.

I couldn’t see any mountains.

Под покровом ночи. The Great Report

Later that evening I sat down, once more, to plot the framework of my Great Report. The clearing I’d made on my desktop was still there, untouched and un-encroached-on—save by a small, dead moth whose corpse had landed there after whatever parachute it had put its faith in had failed. I swept it aside; and, once again, the space was pristine, perfect, blank. Tabula rasa: I pronounced the words aloud as I surveyed the leather, breathing in its smell of cut grass and detergent. Just sitting before it, above it, filled me with a sense of infinite possibility. I pictured myself as an industrialist, viewing a clearing in the forest where his factory would go; or as an urban planner, given carte blanche to design from scratch a new, magnificent cosmopolis; a mathematician, a topologist or trigonometrist, contemplating space in its most pure and abstract form; an explorer, sea-discoverer, world-conqueror from centuries gone by, standing at his prow as his dominion-to-be hove into view: this virgin territory that he would shape after himself and make his own. Placing my laptop in the middle—the exact, geometric centre—of this clearing, I opened a fresh document and stretched its borders out until it filled my screen entirely. As I did this, though, just as the document’s expanding lower boundary reached the bottom of my screen, my finger momentarily lost contact with the glide-pad; when the finger made contact again, it caused the applications docked invisibly at the screen’s base to pop up, impinging on the clean neutrality both of the screen and of my mind. Trying to hide them once more, I accidentally tapped on the docked news page, which slipped from its box, inflating as it rose, like some malicious genie, taking the screen over—and in an instant, all the extraneous clutter, all the world-debris, that I’d so painstakingly eliminated flooded back into the clearing, ruining it.

Под покровом ночи. Where is Wellington?

‘The human bean,’ the Giant went on, ‘is coming in dillions of different flavours. For instance, human beans from Wales is tasting very whooshey of fish. There is something very fishy about Wales.’

‘You mean whales,’ Sophie said. ‘Wales is something quite different.’

‘Wales is whales,’ the Giant said. ‘Don’t gobblefunk around with words. I will now give you another example. Human beans from Jersey has a most disgustable woolly tickle on the tongue,’ the Giant said. ‘Human beans from Jersey is tasting of cardigans.’

‘You mean jerseys,’ Sophie said.

‘You are once again gobblefunking!’ the Giant shouted. ‘Don’t do it! This is a serious and snitching subject. May I continue?’

‘Please do,’ Sophie said.

‘Danes from Denmark is tasting ever so much of dogs,’ the Giant went on.

‘Of course,’ Sophie said. ‘They taste of great danes.’

‘Wrong!’ cried the Giant, slapping his thigh. ‘Danes from Denmark is tasting doggy because they is tasting of labradors!’

‘Then what do the people of Labrador taste of?’ Sophie asked.

‘Danes,’ the Giant cried, triumphantly. ‘Great danes!’

‘Aren’t you getting a bit mixed up?’ Sophie said.

‘I is a very mixed-up Giant,’ the Giant said. ‘But I does do my best. And I is not nearly as mixed up as the other giants. I know one who gallops all the way to Wellington for his supper.’

‘Wellington?’ Sophie said. ‘Where is Wellington?’

‘Your head is full of squashed flies,’ the Giant said. ‘Wellington is in New Zealand. The human beans in Wellington has an especially scrumdiddlyumptious taste, so says the Welly-eating Giant.’

‘What do the people of Wellington taste of?’ Sophie asked.

‘Boots,’ the Giant said.

‘Of course,’ Sophie said. ‘I should have known.’

Под покровом ночи. What do you think of that now?

He lit the cigarette and sucked at it and smiled covertly at me.

‘Well, now,’ he said again. He had his little lamp beside him on the table and he played his fingers on it.

‘That is a fine day,’ I said. ‘What are you doing with a lamp in the white morning?’

‘I can give you a question as good as that,’ he responded. ‘Can you notify me of the meaning of a bulbul?’

‘A bulbul?’

‘What would you say a bulbul is?’

This conundrum did not interest me but I pretended to rack my brains and screwed my face in perplexity until I felt it half the size it should be.

‘Not one of those ladies who take money?’ I said.

‘No.’

‘Not the brass knobs on a German steam organ?’

‘Not the knobs.’

‘Nothing to do with the independence of America or suchlike?’

‘No.’

‘A mechanical engine for winding clocks?’

‘No.’

‘A tumour, or the lather in a cow’s mouth, or those elastic articles that ladies wear?’

‘Not them by a long chalk.’

‘Not an eastern musical instrument played by Arabs?’ He clapped his hands.

‘Not that but very near it,’ he smiled, ‘something next door to it. You are a cordial intelligible man. A bulbul is a Persian nightingale. What do you think of that now?’

Под покровом ночи. Stretch me?

‘Do you mean that I should be locked in the cell and kept there and hidden from the world?’

‘You surely heard the instructions of the Inspector?’ [...]

‘Is this all a joke for entertainment purposes?’

‘If you take it that way I will be indefinitely beholden to you,’ said the Sergeant earnestly, ‘and I will remember you with real emotion. It would be a noble gesture and an unutterable piece of supreme excellence on the part of the deceased.’

‘What!’ I cried.

‘You must recollect that to turn everything to your own advantage is one of the regulations of true wisdom as I informed you privately. It is the following of this rule on my part that makes you a murderer this today evening.

The Inspector required a captured prisoner as the least tiniest minimum for his inferior bonhomie and mal d’esprit. It was your personal misfortune to be present adjacently at the time but it was likewise my personal good fortune and good luck. There is no option but to stretch you for the serious offence.’

‘Stretch me?’

‘Hang you by the windpipe before high breakfast time.’

‘That is most unfair,’ I stuttered, ‘it is unjust…rotten…fiendish.’ My voice rose to a thin tremolo of fear.

‘It is the way we work in this part of the country,’ explained the Sergeant.

Под покровом ночи. All right... gay

Ed So, what’s the plan?

Shaun Right. We take Pete’s car, we drive over to mum’s, we go in, take care of Phillip [I’m so sorry, Phillip!], then we grab mum, we go over to Liz’s place, hole up, have a cup of tea and wait for all this to blow over.

Ed Why have we got to go to Liz’s?

Shaun Because we do.

Ed But she dumped you!

Shaun I have to know if she’s all right!

Ed Why?

Shaun Because I love her!

Ed All right... gay. I’m not staying there, though.

Shaun Why not?

Ed If we hole up, I wanna be somewhere familiar, I wanna know where the exits are, and I wanna be allowed to smoke.

Shaun Okay. Take Pete’s car, go around mum’s, go in, deal with Phillip [Sorry, Phillip!], grab mum, go to Liz’s, pick her up, bring her back here, have a cup of tea and wait for all this to blow over.

Ed Perfect!

Shaun No, no, no, no, wait, we can’t bring her back here.

Ed Why not?

Shaun Well, it’s not really safe, is it?

Ed Yeah, look at the state of it.

Shaun Where’s safe? Where’s familiar?

Ed Where can I smoke?

Shaun Take car, go to mum’s, kill Phil [Sorry!], grab Liz, go to the ’Winchester’, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

Ed Yeah, boyyyeee!

Под покровом ночи. I am rooted, but I flow

He fills our plates, and as we eat, we talk about everything except for how he’s feeling. I tell him what he’s missed in U.S. Geography and talk about the places left to wander. I give him his birthday present, a first edition of The Waves I found in a little bookstore in New York. I inscribed it: You make me feel gold, flowing too. I love you. Ultraviolet Remarkey-able.

Он кладет еду на тарелки, мы ужинаем и говорим обо всем на свете, но только не о его самочувствии. Я рассказываю о том, что он пропустил на уроках географии США, о тех местах, которые остались для путешествий. Потом вручаю ему подарок на день рождения, это первое издание «Волн», которое я обнаружила в маленьком книжном магазинчике в Нью-Йорке. Я подписала его: «Ты тоже заставляешь меня чувствовать себя так, будто это я вся в золоте и теку. Я люблю тебя. Ультрафиолет Марки-Ни-Одной-Помарки».

Oh, stop it, я вся теку. Кровавыми слезами.

А вот как было у Вирджинии Вулф:

The black-and-white figures of unknown men look at me as I lean forward; as I turn aside to look at a picture, they turn too. Their hands go fluttering to their ties. They touch their waistcoats, their pocket-handkerchiefs. They are very young. They are anxious to make a good impression. I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me. I am arch, gay, languid, melancholy by turns. I am rooted, but I flow. All gold, flowing that way, I say to this one, “Come.” Rippling black, I say to that one, “No.” One breaks off from his station under the glass cabinet. He approaches. He makes towards me. This is the most exciting moment I have ever known. I flutter. I ripple. I stream like a plant in the river, flowing this way, flowing that way, but rooted, so that he may come to me. “Come,” I say, “come.” Pale, with dark hair, the one who is coming is melancholy, romantic. And I am arch and fluent and capricious; for he is melancholy, he is romantic. He is here; he stands at my side.

Под покровом ночи. London

I spend the rest of lunch hour talking to them about my favorite spots back home—Honest Jon’s, Rough Trade East, and Out on the Floor, the record shops I hang out in. I tell them about my mean but sexy Irish girlfriend, Fiona, and my best blokes, Tam and Natz. By the time lunch is through, I’ve created a universe I can see down to the last detail—the Sex Pistols and Joy Division posters on my wall, the fags I smoke out the window of the flat Fiona and I share, the nights spent playing music at the Hope and Anchor and the Halfmoon, the days devoted to cutting records at Abbey Road studios. When the bell rings and Charlie says, “Let’s go, you todger,” I feel homesick for this London I left behind.

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