"There she was, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. I could have screamed. I could have run. I could have died of fright, but I was too frightened to die and thus leave myself defenceless"
There was something else in Mordan House now. Some other presence. I wasn’t sure what it was though. I couldn’t quite think about it because it wasn’t quite there. There was nothing for me really to go on; no real clues, just something peripheral and vague.
Thankfully, I had something more definite to think about. Captain Stink turned up today to sort out the electricity’s fluctuating whirliness, the droppy-outiness of its sparkular bits, the flighty ohms. In a way, I could have done without his presence, but also I think I needed it. And he was willing to work on New Year's Day. Not exactly an offer to turn down! But, no, it wasn’t his smell that was the house’s new presence. And it wasn’t his smell that I needed! Lord, no! What are you, reader, pure damn mental or something? No, I felt that I needed the human contact. Or, in this case, human proximity. How sad is that! I crave human love and affection. I crave for my life to be attached to the sinews of another’s soul and therein glow; I settle instead for general proximity to humans! The general localisation of one human being to another will do for me! What a sad, sad, incomplete bitch I’ve turned into!
So, to get the hit and rush I needed, I stood at the front door and watched the Stinky Deity, the Lord of the Flies, unloading things from his van. He had another man with him to help with the job. I quickly detected and identified his particular variant of heavy odour: caramelised diarrhoea of unwell goat! Ah, yes! The first I saw of this little pongy helper was his head buried inside the open bonnet of the van, while Le Grand Dieu Smelly was in the rear unloading and clanking great metal objects, all looking like tools for some giant’s dental examination. From both of them, I breathed in a tremendous malcontent of smells, a cornucopia of disquieting stenches. Well, it was human. Just!
Even their van appeared to stink. Its wheels had the harsh odour of old socks in damp shoes; from the open bonnet I could smell something of powerful halitosis, years of gum-infestation and the reek of germ-ridden tongue; from the rear doors there was a scent like dried-out elephant dung, an infected ear and yeast; around the little latch for the petrol nozzle there was something sticky and yellowy like antibiotic-fragranced urine tinged with something potently rancid like old cock perhaps. And around the van’s exterior there was mud clogging its pores and giving rise to a smell akin to contaminated, age-old grannie sweat embedded in a jaded vest. But, aside from all of that, it was quite a nice little van really!
"For the rest of the afternoon I was a slow-moving ball in a pinball machine, being bounced around by their movements, energies and smells. As they moved, I moved. As they sat down, I sat down. As one moved towards a door, I moved into a doorway. As another stepped away, I repositioned myself a little closer. It was a day-long process controlled by the dynamics of ricochet and magnetism"
The fact that King Smell of Smellvania had been, in some way, fraternising with my mother, no longer concerned me. He was just a typical human being – just another person giving in to the persuasive charms of the fawning old cow and her snooping. Or should that be grazing? The whole affair stank – but, in this situation, that was nothing new for me.
I was also tired, and focusing on their little pungent endeavours helped to keep me awake. They were like a couple of jars of smelling salts wafting me awake with every move they made. The reason for my tiredness was that I’d been up until very late – it was almost 4 o’clock before I had got to bed on Hogmanay. All through those hours, as I wrote yesterday's blog entry, I could sense something in Mordan House. Something pacing about, skulking, looking over my shoulder at me and generally loitering. Another snooper! Ah, yes, that’s exactly what my life needs! And another spectral one at that!
For the rest of the afternoon I was a slow-moving ball in a pinball machine, being bounced around by their movements, energies and smells. As they moved, I moved. As they sat down, I sat down. As one moved towards a door, I moved into a doorway. As another stepped away, I repositioned myself a little closer. It was a day-long process controlled by the dynamics of ricochet and magnetism. I knew it was all quite pathetic, but I didn’t really care.
We didn’t talk much either. I think they were thankful for this. We gravitated around the idea at first, but then all collectively gave up, and we just got on with things in silence. From time to time, the Smell Meister would mutter an instruction to the Smell Meister’s Apprentice and then that would be that for a time. And that’s how the Smell Meister, the Smell Meister’s Apprentice, and the Unsmelly Hanger-On of the Smellies (uh, me!), got through the afternoon in a miserable, pitiable sort of way.
Give it to him.
Stop. Who said that? The sweet, italicised voice tumbled down from the stairwell and slithered up to me like a melodious snake. What? Give him what?
You know what. Give it to him, Steph.
I looked at Prince Stinky of Stinkitania, and I knew instantly what the voice was telling me to do, although I didn’t know who or what it belonged to.
As I peered up the stairwell, a shadow loomed down, large, rectangular and non-specific. Just an ordinary shadow in many ways, but with a kind of sensibility to it. I peered into it, trying to discern shape. I couldn’t though. Just blackness shimmering slightly within blackness.
Then one of the Stink Twins flicked a switch and the lights in the house went on, the one at the top of the stairs too. In the place where the shadow had stood there was nothing but the ordinary sight of wood and wall. Then the other of the Stink Twins tried it. Then they each tried it again and again. Each time, I looked again at the darkness up there, waiting to see if something revealed itself. And then it was clear that the men’s work was all done, and it was time for them to go. They gathered together their outsized dental instruments and I realised that my energy was about to have to break from theirs. The pinball game was over.
Give it to him. Do it!
I tugged a lock of hair. I tugged it so hard that the Sultan of Stench looked round at me quizzically. I brushed my hair with my hand and then fidgeted with my fingers and my foot burrowed into the floorboard beneath me. Then I ran - quickly into the living room - grabbed something from the table near the window – turned – skidded a bit – accelerated - and ran back to where the Manky Major was - now – I could see - heading out through the front door.
Give it to him now! Go on! Go! On! Yes! Yes!
“Stop!” He did. I noticed that his stench turned back to face me a second before he did. “Uh, I was wondering if you know a guy called James in the neighbouring town…” I said.
I tried to think of ways to describe James that a man would understand. I knew how I wanted to describe him: “You know, James! He has fingers that live on in your head long after they’ve moved in reality; his hair has a calmness about it and a simplicity and its sheen is dark but with something of cherry about it; his nose is straight but not long, it’s a nose you can trust, you’d stake your life’s savings, your soul even, on that nose! His chest sits a little back from the world, but you know that the rest of him doesn’t. When he moves his head, your soul aches a little with the force of it! His eyes are the colour of sand. His mouth is forceful like a small lion’s. James! You must know him now!”
Instead I opted for: “He … wears a brown jacket with roundish buttons. He … has … black shoes. Very black! Uh, he …”
“James? Johnston? Janey Ormsley’s nephew.”
Ormsley! Her again! “Yes, that will be him. James Johnston, yes.”
I felt that there was some shadow at my shoulder, almost breathing on me. I wanted to turn and shoo it away.
I continued as best I could: “Do you think you’ll see him? I … fixed … this for him. But I don’t know how to contact him or where he lives.”
"I tugged. So hard. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then too many times to count. All I was conscious of was the delicious, caustic sting across my scalp and down into my brain, again and again. Pulling at that hair as if I wanted it all out of my head. My body spinning in the hallway, slightly groaning, turning round and round as I pulled, buffeted now by self-loathing"
I stretched out my hand and offered my night’s work to the President of Pong. A full-sized, perfectly-knitted scarf of total woolly beauty. In a plastic bag, of course! What? Want that smelly bastard to touch it and make James think that I haven’t washed since Live Aid? Jeez, he probably already thinks I’m a down-and-out! Do I really want to add the scent of randy cancerous cat’s piss to his already besmeared impression of me?
“Sure,” he said. “Drop it off on the way.”
He said it quite simply, without affectation or nuance, as if it was like hammering in one more little nail in a sea of already hammered nails. I was pleased. He didn’t think anything of it. In no time at all he had turned to his van and climbed in beside his malodorous companion. I sighed.
Well done, Steph.
I had done it! I felt fantastic! Fantastic! And so relieved!
Well done! Well! Done!
I smiled down at my shoes and up around at the trees. The Duke of Dirt rolled down his window as I was turning to go back inside Mordan House, and shouted: “Fancy him, do you? Get in there!” And then he laughed, a sick, demented laugh from the bottom of his stinking soul where unwashed pants bob on a sea of spew. His companion laughed also, like a little grimy monkey, and I could see him kissing his own hand vulgarly and demonstrably. Their inane, cheap laughter was the last thing I heard as I slammed the door shut and they sped away, the van’s wheels crunching loudly into the snow and giving a grittiness to their cackles.
I tugged. So hard. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then too many times to count. All I was conscious of was the delicious, caustic sting across my scalp and down into my brain, again and again. Pulling at that hair as if I wanted it all out of my head. My body spinning in the hallway, slightly groaning, turning round and round as I pulled, buffeted now by self-loathing. Inside, under the stinging sensation, I felt anger, embarrassment, and such smallness and fragility of being as only bugs know.
"In heaven’s name, Steph. You’re pulling at that hair like some unselfconscious, frantically masturbating dog on a living room carpet in front of Grannie Myrtle and the twins! What is it you’ve got? Distemper or canker or some such shit?"
I stopped spinning, having gasped aloud and nearly lost my balance. There she was, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. I could have screamed. I could have run. I could have died of fright, but I was too frightened to die and thus leave myself defenceless. To quote Not Chicken George, one of my occasional commentators on this blog, it was “Kidman, man, Kidman”!