Sunday, 15 April 2007

The Guy Fawkes man

This is a story based on a recurrent dream I used to have. I have not dreamed of it since I wrote down these words about two years ago.

The Guy Fawkes man

I sit in a room about twenty feet by six: on the plan of the great house it is little more than an annexe, a walk through to the rose garden. The swirling seventies wallpaper is torn and stained by decades of ups and downs, outbursts and implosions, its bright orange colours faded to a dull nicotine yellow. Even the reserved English need to leave their signatures on things, like scent-marking territories. None of us belong to this room, and few of us deserve it.

The chair is almost as old as the wallpaper. Its wooden arms are scratched and burned with cigarettes: in places the plastic canvas is torn from its fabric backing, and the white space is filled in with blue biro ink. Fountain pens are not allowed in this place: too dangerous.

In places, the chair is split and the foam rubber insides spill out like a disemboweled Guy Fawkes. I learned that in school. Guy Fawkes, hanged, drawn and quartered in 1606 for crimes against the King. They only teach you important things in school. Stands to reason, someone up there knows best and decides what is important for us to know. I know lots of things about Guy Fawkes.

I ramble on, no one seems to notice, let alone care. I gave up expecting care a long time ago. Still, this is my chair. I have to fight to keep it mine, of course. There are lots of border disputes. Younger pretenders to the throne, and all that. I stand my ground: I shout and swear and throw plastic cups of water. Glass is not allowed in this place: too dangerous.

Once that Slattery woman came and sat in my chair when I had gone for a whizz. I got back and I saw her grinning with those big fat lips and heaving shoulders. I threw myself at the chair, shouting and spitting. I called her a 'poxy cunny ho'. That got her off fast enough. How was I supposed to know? It wasn't my fault they had to sedate her to stop her cutting herself. She must have hidden the blade inside her clothes, because they are not allowed in this place.

After that I was pretty well left to myself, which pleases me just fine. Next time they try it, then they will be sorry. I am plotting. Remorse? No, not really. The Fluoxetine pretty much. Sentences are shorter than they used to be, and sort of hang in the air. I shiver more and my pee smells funny.

The roses in the rose garden are swaying in the breeze. The buds are swollen and ripe, full of spring rain. I have watched the rain fall. The red colour at the tip is spreading down the veins of the custard yellow petals. It looks like jam sponge; I like jam sponge. No one ever goes into the garden, no one ever smells the flowers, no one prunes the stems back. There are more flowers than leaves, but the plants are mostly thorns. I like these roses, they like being ignored. We ignore each other.

My view of the roses is blocked by the rain on the French windows. The doors are locked and bolted. Their white paint has faded to yellow by time and cigarettes. The grey-blue air of the room fights the light. Sometimes I see particles floating in the air, caught in a shaft of sunlight. Up and down, in and out, they move. The air is full of cancer viruses. I shout and shout, and people leave the room. I choose to stay, to protect my chair. I have this sense of responsibility. My shouting attracts the border guard with the red eyes and the needle. I suffer the chill, shake and pee on the chair. That marks it for a while, and I buy myself time.

Three days and nights of oblivion, living in slow motion in a world without dreams. Thirty-six hours of a numbness that starts in the middle of the inside of my head, and stretches down nerves and sinews to the tips of my fingers. Only my nails and hair grow bigger. The rest of me shrinks.

Thirty-six hours and I return in splendour to my chair: the Slattery ho moves to one side to proclaim my Coronation. Her arms are covered with long sleeves to hide the scratches. The chair smells like me: it is mine. We both understand this.

The retinue moves back a respectful distance, and I am alone with the French windows and the rose garden. The paint is peeling away from the glass. The putty is cracked and falling out, leaving gaps that are filling with settling ash and tar. The wood rots as condensation from the glass surface collects in small crevices. In the corners of the windows, soot and mould settle into layers.

I said to Catesby and Fawkes, 'what is the point of this venture? Why destroy the king and his parliament, if we are not to be made kings ourselves? They disagree, speaking of 'higher callings', but I think I made my point. The Wintour brothers certainly agreed with me. We talked about it as we walked round the rose garden. 'Let them do the deed and move in later', we agreed.

Slattery ho disturbs my meeting by holding her head and screeching. I am forced to take my leave of the conspirators to look at her. Evans, a brute of a man, has pushed his fist through the glass of the fish tank and has eaten the ho's goldfish. There is water, glass and blood on the floor of the main room. She groans in a deep rhythmic pattern, which synchronises the banging of her head on the wall. The wallpaper leaves a greasy yellow stain on her brow.

The border guards come with their restraining bands and needles. 'Show's over citizens, get back to your lives.' Slattery ho falls onto the floor in a fetal position and hugs onto her feet. Her groaning falls into a low persistent moaning.

The roses are filled with rain water, and the tips are turning brown with rot. This year they may fall unopened. The water fills up the spaces around the roots, and floods over the stone paving. Paving darkened by lichens and moss, undisturbed by the absence of walking feet. This is what is important, Evans the fish-eater is not.

I used to wander through the rooms of my brain unfettered and free. This room was where we shared our lives, the living room. That room was where I dreamed my plans, the map room. The Fluoxetine pretty much took residence. I live in the basement now, with the old newspapers and the broken toys. It is fine, I never needed all of that space.

I had a visitor once. She looked at me and smiled with those big fat lips. I shouted at those lips and called her a 'poxy cunny ho'. That got her off fast enough. How was I supposed to know she was my sister? It was not my fault, she should have announced herself. That's what Catesbury's servant would have done. She left quite quickly, with her business unfinished. No one calls these days without speaking to my secretary first. It is only proper.

In the rose garden, the rain falls faster and the thorns grow sharper.

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