An extract from the novel Pete’s Underpants, by Bertie Marshall, published on October 28th by Dostoyevsky Wannabe.
The wall above my bed is littered with lines, phrases, some are mine, some quotes from other writers, all written by me using my black fountain pen;
the wallpaper is faded, grimy, a fern print from the late 1940s when this block of flats was built. ‘Pete, please visit me in dreams’, he’s taken up that invitation several times recently. Dead friends in dreams are frozen in the time of when you last saw them, he’s forever twenty one.
Other writing on the wall reads …
‘Elegance is frigid’
‘Baxter, Vera Baxter’
‘L’ Hotel ‘
‘ We don’t know where we’re going, but that’s no reason not to go’
‘make your rut a routine’ then the following paragraph … ‘We need to build a realm somewhere to meet again, on a road made entirely out of Siamese cat purrs, that vibrates with a thousand tongues, rough, pinky. On either side of the road, no ditches with dead bloated cows not in them, instead incredibly bright green bushes, made from the tears of green eyed sailors… at the centre of each bush, a huge glowing heart – the air humming with a hundred thousand lost sighs, The sky above, night, illuminated by falling stars in slow motion. Love’s genius at work in a wink of one of those stars.’
We must go into abstraction by any means necessary and so I went and they said I was going all over the place, so I went all over the place and to HOTEL TI-BOURG, ROOM 55; I’m on the top floor, the room just big enough for a double bed with its crisp white linen sheets and mustard brocade coverlet; the head of the bed set into an alcove, on each side table, a yellow beaded lamp. At the end of the bed, the room narrows into a thin corridor that leads to a tiny, luxurious bathroom tiled in black and white and a wall cabinet with three mirrors reflecting back the thin corridor as it funnels into nowhere.
The phone beside the bed rang, in fact, it purred. I caught the last purr.
“I have a call for you, shall I transfer it, Monsieur?’’.
I wait, a purring noise then a buzzing followed by silence then three clicks then a drone sound…
“Hel-lo!’’ I snap into the receiver .
“Hey’’ his voice …
“Where are you ?’’.
“Has something happened’’ I ask.
A big sigh whooshes down the line and into my ear.
“Hello, what’s happening ?’’ I ask him.
“Oh nothing’’ he says.
“You got it’’ he slurs.
Tick, tick, tick, tock, goes my little silver travelling clock on the side table.
“Hey’’ you mumble.
“You’re still there ?
“Always ‘’ he sighs .
“Have you done it yet?’’.
“I’m still thinking about it ‘’.
My attention is suddenly taken to the edge of the rug beside the bed, it looks like a lump of vomit, on closer inspection it looks half a mouse that some cat has puked up.
“You’ll never guess what I’m looking at ‘’.
“Hey’’ you breathe into my ear.
Should I get off the bed and investigate the strange lump on the floor?
“Do you want me to come over’’ he says as an afterthought. What was the thought he was after, after the thought, I wasn’t sure. I could hear the trickling of the fountain in the courtyard five stories below, all these things were taking my attention …
“I’m not where you think I am’’ I tell him.
“I know that’’ he replied sounding pissed off.
The water from the fountain was getting louder and now gushing.
“Is that rain?” he asked.
“No, its the fountain in the courtyard’’ I said.
It’s gone from a trickle to a gush, to empest the air.
“We could FaceTime” he offers.
“Can’t face time ‘’
“Don’t you want to see me ?’’.
“Of course I do – but where and in what tense, past present future?’’
“Woooaahhh ” he yells.
“What, what?’’ I yell.
“AHHH, a wasp just flew in!’’
As he said that, a pigeon smashed into the window a few feet from my face, stunned, it flew up, off, away. Down the phone, the sound of car brakes screeching.
“What’s happening?’’ I shout, what with the water gushing from the fountain, the thud of the pigeon against the window which seems to be on replay and I’m hearing wasps buzzing…
“Ok… I’ve pulled over …”.
Electricity crackling down the line…
“That wasp … one of yours ?’’ he says.
“Get your hair cut’’. I bellow down the receiver.
click, click, buzz, buzz, silence.
Bertie Marshall is a writer and performer of plays, poems, fiction and the memoir BERLIN BROMLEY about his role as a founder of the notorious Bromley Contingent of punk fans in the mid-1970s.