Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Penury Series

Previously, on SubGrubStreet:

Nathan Flack awoke from uneasy dreams to find he’d been rescued/incarcerated by Sharon Plum!

Of course, it might not be Sharon Plum, or least even though she’s probably the same underneath she might not be using that moniker now. She changes her name very frequently (*), with the trade winds, with each upsurge and low-pressure spell in the book trade and whatever schlock is rising up the hardback fiction charts. Last time we met she was presenting herself as Sharon McMahon (**). She seems to have dyed her hair a dowdy brown and it’s lightly curled at the ends. She’s wearing slacks and a housecoat and is grinning and grinning, one knuckle poked up against her bottom lip. The syringe hangs loose at her sides like a cigarette she’s forgotten she’d lit.

‘Don’t you try to sit up,’ she says. ‘You need to recuperate. You’ve had a terrible shock. You’re lucky to be alive.’
‘Don’t give me that, Sharon. Let me out of here.’ I raise my arms and try to force my way out of the restraints but they’re too strong.
‘Shh, shh, honeybun, wait-and-see-pie. If you’re lucky, you might walk again.’
‘You put me here, you stupid bint.’
‘Shh, shh.’ She places her pudgy finger to my lips. The jab comes in from the right.


When I come round again my legs ache and she’s sitting beside me on a chair.

‘You were in a terrible accident, Nathan, your car came off the road in that snowstorm, you were lucky I was driving right behind you. I know you go up to that lodge to write your books, the Penury series, and I just happened to be passing and then I see you careering all over the road. You really shouldn’t drink and then drive when there’s this weather a-coming in.’
‘Bollocks, Sharon. Where’s the Old Man? (***)’
‘It must all be very hazy, Nathan, you must still be hallucinating.’
‘Well, that’s a surprise. Just let me out of here, please. You can’t think you’re going to get away with this.’
‘Shh, honey, I’m your number one fan. Always have been. Always will be. You stay there and get well. We’ll talk later.’

She gets up and sidles towards the door. For the first time I notice that all sorts of homey samplers and appliquéd tat hangs on the walls. It’s as if the latest incarnation of the Writer-Formerly-Known-as-Sharon Plum is some sort of mental Sunday school madam. She’ll probably want to give me a vigorous pruning soon. She turns before she reaches the landing. She plucks a sheaf of paper from a stool.
‘Nathan, I found this in the wreckage. Is this what I think it is?’
‘Sharon, put that back, it’s not worth reading. Even you can’t rip that off (****).’
‘How could I ever think of ripping you off, Nathan, you’re the greatest writer in the world.’
‘No, I’m just better than you.’
‘The greatest writer in the world. Your Penury novels. I’ve read them all; get them all as soon as they’re published. Penury MacDonnergally, the bravest, most plucky and pretty and chaste and noble girl in the all the Highlands and Islands. Tell me, does she marry McGoat or Hamishick?’
‘You’re mad.’
‘Can I read it, Nathan? Can I be the first one to read it?’
‘It’s a load of old wank.’
‘Don’t be modest now.’
‘No, seriously. Put it back, Sharon. It’s not what you think.’
‘I’m no literary critic . . .’
‘You can say that again.’
‘. . . but I’ll read this tonight and tomorrow I’ll let you know what I think.’

Lenin’s Ghost. She’s so joyous and excited, like the parody of a child on an advert for Disneyland. She runs out the room, clutching The Shoutyknackers File to her chest. And then I realize what this could mean, given all the answers could still be in those pages.

To Be Continued . . .

* See Touching the Starfish, pg. 11-12.
** See Touching the Starfish, pg. 496.
*** See SubGrubStreet 34, Bad Things Always Happen in the Snow
**** See SubGrubStreet 33: The Shoutyknackers File


Word Count – 3655

Sales – 0

Insults – 1

Next Week: Revelation 2

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