I did have a beard you know. It was a good one. I liked it. It was good to rub. Now its gone.
It wasn’t a purposeful robbery. There was no broken glass, the Chubb lock was unbothered, the cat flap unflapped. And when the men in white boiler suits came round, when they dusted the chin with a soft brush and peeled off the tape, the only prints they found were my own rubbin.
I don’t blame myself. I probably had to do it to pay for drugs or something. Maybe one day I’ll get it back. I keep checking gumtree and the small ads but no ones sellin. They’re probably fencing it to a middle man. My beard. Probably loading it into a lorry with some middle ranking oil paintings to offload to private collectors in Scandinavia.
It’s not the money you know. Easy come, easy go. It’s the memories. You can’t buy back the memories. Sure you can delete the blog posts but you can’t buy back the daydreams; the curious fingernailing of the deeper tundra, the knuckle rocks in the shrubbery of a good think, the beardy mid winter kiss, the Frostie crystals on the wispy bits above the scarf.
Maybe I’ll get a “fresh” one. But it won’t be the same. A “fresh” one. It will be far too young, no root structure. New turf on old hard core.
Shame on you, razor.
You flinty vagabond.
I jumped, I shot, I popped ’em in the hoop.
“The Engineered Soul” appearing in a raucous rail rattling anthology of train stories “Rustblind and Silverbright” by Eibonvale Press
Launch for “Rustblind and Silverbright” is at the Peckham Review Bookshop Thurs 4th July
“Cookie” appearing in “Astrologica” an anthology of star sign tales by Alchemy Press.
Back on the court now. Bouncing my ball, passing to Obama, him passing back with talcum powder hands, me taking aim at the hoop net, thinking better, bouncing the ball, marking time, crouching, leaning back, getting ready to heft those words into the hoop…
What I like most about five a side football is slumming in goal. When it’s my go I like to lean my tall back against the low crossbar, rest my arms either side, like a man about to launch into a swallow dive, and stare at the sky. The rest of the team don’t appreciate my Zen moment. “You are meant to try and save the ball Jet.”
But slumming on the goalposts is one of the simple and indulgent pleasures that highlight my week, like picking out the sugared raisins in a bowl of healthy muesli. It is purely because the rest of the team are so energised, trying to score goals, that my lack of commitment to saving them is so satisfying. I’m not a defeatist, I do want to win. But amidst all the winning and ambition there is a safe house of nonchalance There, in goal, I’m trapped within the game, thirty minutes each way. I can’t check my texts, write another short story, write another song, cycle to the shops, buy that thing, hop that scotch, deliver that important news. All I can do is wait in goal till its someone else’s turn to wait in goal. And it is a profound waste of wastefulness to let that moment pass unwasted. So what I do is I stare at the clouds. I’m not seeking meaning in them or some wacky abstract shape I’m just looking for the sake of looking; worthlessly, sensuously. In the dodgem car hustle of existence, this is the glorious second before the coin rolls into the slot and we zap about the funfair, ramming into our fellow man, like so much masochistic fodder.
Of course the rest of the lads don’t see it that way. They’ve started firing long range shots that ram straight into my body and not the net. And, well, we are there to play football… If I need a Zen moment I suppose I should lie in an empty field with the bumble bees. But the point is there are no goalposts in an empty field. And you need somewhere to rest your arms as the balls fire under your armpits. And your heart goes thumpety thumpety thumpety thump.
It’s Monday morning and I am in a cafe. I am a bad man. I repeat. Bad. The rest of the world is cleaning the streets, digging up clods of earth, ramming hedge funds into their foaming mouths, earning a living wage, earning an unlived wage, crying into soup cans, wiping baby mush from howling lips, delivering carpet, ripping out carpet and throwing it into skips, making chips, drumming fingernails on squeegee wiped counter-tops But me. I am in a cafe on Monday, oh glorious Monday, morning. Drinking very pale tea. WITHOUT SUGAR. I am a bad man, howling at the crescent moon not yet dipped into the dark of someone else’s pay-packet.
I am a vampire of the good times. I am a werewolf of the leisure industry. I am a unicyclist on a four lane highway eating carrot cake I barely deserve. I am a bad man with an ebay laptop.
They won’t put me in prison. But they might scrape my skin with a razor blade and send it for analysis.
Who is this human being? Who the hell does he think he is? Sitting in a cafe on a Monday morning. Drinking pale tea. WITHOUT SUGAR.
I am a bad man. And I like my carrot cake. And Mondays better get used to it.
And you Wednesday! Stop shaking in the corner with your thumb in your mouth ! I own the exclamation marks and it’s your turn next. You mid week slob.
I’ve got a beard. A lot of people do. But it has always been a badge of a kind of alternative living. “Shaving,” a beard suggests, “is for people with who want to slip more easily into the torpedo tube of modern life.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to push a bearded man into the torpedo tube of modern life. I have and I can tell you it’s not easy. They slip in ok up to the neck but as soon as you get to the bristle it’s no go. They jut up the chin and then it’s a bit like trying to fit a brillo pad into a Smartie tube.
Granted you often see submariners in moody continental TV docu dramas with a growth the size of a koala but they’re often the Commodores. They have a big old shrubbery face but all the ratings have smooth little adolescent chins.
And these are the poor fools who will be slipped into the torpedo tube of modern life and fired out into the cold Arctic waters.
Gillette may be the best a man can get. But he should expect to be fired from a torpedo tube on a transcontinental ballistic mission into the fury of global existence.
There’s a man round these parts taken to counting out the minutes with hand claps. He stands outside the local church marking time to a blues riff no one else can hear. Eyes closed. Slow. Every now and then a flute of steam comes out his nose like an upside down kettle.
Lunch time he’s going faster, smashing invisible blue bottles in his hands. By tea time his wrists are flapping so fast you can hardly see them. The blues riff has gone drum and bass. And then, at sunset, his hands fall off. They go hopping down the road like a clam.
I bend down to hear what he has to say. He doesn’t move, he doesn’t open his eyes, he doesn’t blink.
“Going to the sea,” he says, “those hands are going beachside.”
And he keeps clapping his arms without hands, applauding the silence.
Most days you can see his hands out at sea, flapping and clapping and snapping, cutting coupons from the sky.
You got to hand it to that bluesman. He cannot play the blues. But he cannot help but try.
There’s a magnificent review of “Automatic Safe Dog” at the fantastically named “I Read Odd Books” by Anita Dalton.
“I get lots of books sent my way and I have come across a lot of extremely talented writers. I think McDonald’s writing is very near genius… this book was a revelation. A murder mystery, a farce, a romance, a sketch of a lunatic world, a glimpse of an uncaring and venal societal and the way that small venal sins can become mortal sins if we let them go on too long. This is a long book, coming in at 270 pages. McDonald got me hooked… and he kept me reading. I devoured this book in three days because the hilarity and silliness thrilled me as I waited for the other shoe to drop. I can’t remember the last time a new book from an author unknown to me proved to be the sort of read I simply could not put down until finished. Highly recommended.”
Reviews like this are like gold snowflakes. They’re worth keeping. We spend most of our time staring at the sky, with our hands cupped round a puddle of melted ice.