Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Mean Bit of Arson

Previously, on SubGrubStreet:

Nathan found himself the prisoner of Sharon Plum, who seems to have confused him with the author of a bestselling series of bodice-rippers called Penury. Mistaking the Shoutyknackers File for the latest instalment she’s disappeared into the strange house to read it.

The squeak of wheels and a metallic rattling wakes me up. Heaving myself up onto by pillows I catch sight of Sharon manoeuvring a rusty barbecue into the room. She looks grim, stern, her face smouldering with repressed fury. A bottle of lighter fluid is tucked into her wide belt.

I have seen this film. I know what she’s going to do.

‘I am disappointed, Nathan,’ she says. ‘How can you misuse your talent like this?’ She slaps the file across my thighs in a way designed to cause me pain. It doesn’t hurt. I’m past caring.
‘Leave it out, Sharon, you’re not offended by that. The things I’ve seen you do (*).’
‘The profanity, Nathan, the bad language, the utterances of Onan, you dirty ducky.’
‘Dirty ducky? You used to shag the world’s most sex-crazed writer. You were his muse, for God’s sake.’
She gives me an odd look, like I’ve pricked some part of her conscience, and then swipes the file from the bed.
‘You will feel so much better, Nathan, the world must not see this. No one must know that the creator of Penury MacDonnergally has such disgusting thoughts. I’m your number one fan, Nathan.’
‘Just give me the file. It’s not even mine. You can’t burn it.’
She lifts the lid of the barbecue, slides the manuscript onto the grill and squirts it with lighter fluid.
‘Filthy filthy, wicked wicked,’ she mutters, ‘all those word for the sin of Onan.’
‘Give it here, Sharon. It’s not yours. Give it. I’m asking you nicely. Please.’

Of course, I don’t really want the Shoutyknackers File for its visionary content. It’s hardly the undiscovered journals of William Blake. If I weren’t trapped here with her I’d probably burn it myself. But, I haven’t finished it yet and for all I know it may hold the only clues to what has happened to me and what has happened to Jane (**).

‘Sharon, c’mon,’ I say. She’s lighting a match. ‘I’ll do anything you want … sorry, I’ll rephrase that. I’ll do some minor things if you ask me but only if you give it back to me.

Too late. Flames whoosh across the file. There’s an acrid stench and black fumes billow all over me, covering my white bedding in smuts and soot. Grey specks are fluttered around the room, lodging in the folds of the curtains and stippling the windowpanes. Sharon starts to stagger around the room, flailing her arms to put out the embers.
‘Bats, bats,’ she shouts. ‘Look out for the baby bats, Nathan.’
‘You’re not a bumpkin,’ I say as I watch all of Knackers’s miraculous pages crinkle and disintegrate. Sharon is hardly Saint Cyril, the destroyer of the Great Library at Alexandria but it’s still a mean bit of arson. Sharon wheels the barbecue out of the room, leaving me alone with the fumes. I’m used to this. I’ve been on the road with Big Dump, remember (***)?

When she returns she pulls up the occasional chair and sits there stroking the weird hams of her thighs. She looks all out of puff and depleted.

‘Where’s the Old Man, Sharon?’ I ask. I haven’t seen him since the day before I arrived (****). While I’ve been lying here I’ve been entertaining mad schemes of playing one off against the other but now I’m beginning to think he may not be here at all, in which case I’ve only got to come up with a risky and implausible strategy for outsmarting the writer-formerly-known as Sharon Plum. ‘C’mon, cheekychops, he must be around somewhere?’
‘You drove him away.’
‘No, I didn’t. He chased me down the road, twice.’
‘Not the helpful helpling. I paid the helpling and the helpling went back to the bog, the dirty ducky.’
‘Oh. That’s nice.’
‘You drove him away, Nathan, you drove my man away.’

Now I realize who she’s talking about. She’s talking about MacMahon. She’s talking about the Revelation, about what happened after the Death Metal Revelation, she’s talking about what happened after the end of Touching the Starfish (*****). Now she’s got my interest. Now I’ll have to be subtle and cunning.
‘So where is the fat Brummie philistine then?’
‘Ran off. When there was no money left. When he realized it wasn’t his.’
‘What wasn’t his?
‘You know. The thing.’
‘The Thing. What? The Thing from Another World. That Thing You Do.’
‘That’s why you’re here, Nathan. That’s why I had to find you. We’re going to start again, Nathan. Me, your number one fan and you the best writer in the world.’
‘Piss off, Sharon. Can I have a drink?’

Then I realize what she means. She suddenly produces a battered old typewriter from under the bed and a big packet of typing paper.
‘You’re going to write me another one, Nathan. You’re going to write me another Revelation. Then we will rule the world together just like he and I once ruled.’

Oh shit.

To Be Continued . . .

* See Touching the Starfish, pg. 278-279.
** See SubGrubStreet 33, The Shoutyknackers File.
*** See SubGrubStreet 6: Ginster Rustling with Big Dump
**** See SubGrubStreet 34: Bad Things Happen in the Snow.
***** See Touching the Starfish, esp the bit just before the end. .


Word Count – 2805

Sales – 0

Insults – 1

Next Week: Revelation 2

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