“I am getting a half -Van Gogh,” I say over the phone.
“A half -Van Gogh? What is that?”
“You know how Van Gogh lopped off his left ear after a fit of madness, or so it’s claimed?”
“Well, I’m getting half my left ear, the lobe lopped off.”
“Why? Why would you do that?”
“You said you would love me even if I had half my face missing.”
“I know but …”
Please Wait to be Called,
The sign said
So I did.
I waited and waited
At the head of the queue
outside the pearly gates
And when, growing impatient,
I stepped forward,
St. Peter held up his hand:
“There seems to be some problem,”
“You’ll have to wait a little longer,”
I stamped my feet a little
When a light flashed overhead
& a door opened behind
& I was whooshed back
To the operating theatre where the surgeons
Had revived me
One step from paradise.
“What are you staring at?”
“We are watching you unravelling.”
“There’s a word for that, a German word like watching people in road accidents”.
“Please don’t get distracted. Continue unravelling.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
“We’ve been watching you. You won’t be able to prevent it.”
They were right. I was like one of those wall-mounted paper towel dispensers.
Once the roll starts unravelling there’s no stopping it and I wasn’t done yet. There was still a metre or more of me to go.
I am reading a book of very strange stories.
One of them is called ‘Falling Awake’.
It is only six sentences long.
Here it is in its entirety:
I have no trouble falling asleep.
I have a lot of trouble falling awake.
Sometimes I sleep ten to twelve hours a day before snailing towards the light.
One day I will fall asleep and not fall awake or fall awake and not fall asleep.
Neither prospect daunts me.
I like adventures; no matter how short.
No one saw it coming. Least of all me. I was happily ensconced in a book when it EXPLODED. Such was its force that it blew the toupee off the man in front of me and propelled the stationary bus in which we were sitting two metres forward. The sneezer himself, a dread locked man in a canary yellow suit, whooshed around the aisle of the bus startling passengers until suitably deflated he flopped beside me flatulent as a whoopee cushion.
It’s Carol’s 70th so we have to go and I know what’s waiting for me as soon as we rock up. The Test! My partner doesn’t have to submit to it, nor do the younger males, only the senior ones. Each Xmas, Easter, special occasions, he waits for me. Bone-crusher Bowden.
We lock eyes, hands like deer lock antlers, while my partner settles down to chat..
He grips. I grip. Harder. Tighter. Grimace. Grunt. Grin. Faces redden. Eyes almost pop. “What are you men up to?” the women say. Then one of us weakens. It’s always me. He was a wharfie. I was a teacher but it’s getting closer. He’s losing his edge.
I’ll get you next time, I smile. Not on my watch, he says. But he doesn’t know. I’m working out at the gym. Can’t wait till Xmas.
Is it any good pleading? Thompson says.
For your life? Not really.
But you can’t just toss me aside like a dog carcass, not after all I’ve done for you.
You were more than serviceable, W admits. But you’ve served your purpose. You can’t argue with me.
Will it be painless?
Well, get it over with then.
One minute, W says.
He reaches into his satchel and pulls out his laptop.
Finish your drink, W says. Out with the old and in with the new, he smiles, keyboarding fiercely.
And with that, Thompson is gone.