"All of a sudden, an idea formed in my head and it was lovely. I had made up my mind in a moment and it wasn’t for changing. I would leave Mordan House – get away from myself and the Kidman inside of me and the dead astronaut too"
The next morning I awoke cautiously, slowly, sluggishly. Cautiously – in case I prompted some peculiar event in my head by a sudden exertion of mind or body. Slowly – because I wanted time to think and listen, but also so that anyone beyond the posts of my bed might think that I hadn’t quite awoken, and, if I'm honest, because I was unsure if I wanted to wake up at all. Sluggishly – because I was mentally and emotionally exhausted; in fact, even my senses were frazzled, almost seared by too many impressions of a nature that could not be understood. I kept my head under the covers for so long, tilting in and out of sleep like a boat on rough waters; listening, sensing, and then dipping back down into a cold exhausted sea of disquiet.
Was she there? I heard nothing. Was it there? Nothing. After all, what was she? A someone or a thing? Gradually I moved my head out from the covers and looked around. Nothing. Or should that be 'no-one'?
I knew straightaway that I had to get out of Mordan House and regroup inside, and as quickly as possible. Doors were opening in my head, but refusing to close, and my mind refused to enter the spaces that it saw opening up; I would not enter the basement rooms, and I wouldn't enter the airlock of the spacecraft. I would not. I would not.
I don’t think I’ve ever dressed so quickly. I didn’t care what I wore, so long as the items covered me. I recall glimpsing colours and fabrics of different shapes and textures; some of those artefacts clashed viciously with each other and began to battle to the death, some cringed at coming into contact with each other before deciding to hiss and snarl in the other's direction. I, for my part, gave it no real thought, focused instead on getting out of the front door, car key in hand. No looking back, or sideways, or up. Down was the only direction for me. My limited vision didn’t fail; the car appeared before me, I got in and started the engine.
"I kept my head under the covers for so long, tilting in and out of sleep like a boat on rough waters; listening, sensing, and then dipping back down into a cold exhausted sea of disquiet"
One last look at the house. One last look? Why did I do that? I’d been doing so well! So incredibly well! I was so close to getting away from the ghosts of Mordan House, if only for a day, so why break a rule that was working so well for me? Why decide to look back at the blasted house?
Lo and behold, there she was. Kidman. Standing on the door-step and waving at me. Same look, same dress. No different really from the previous day. I must have looked stunned. Later, she told me I’d looked as if a man had just put his cock in my ear.
She called out to me.
“Steph! Listen! If you face any problems with either people or animals, remember three things - eyebrows, nose, puppies!”
As she said this, she pointed to the first two anatomical items while accentuating them and dramatically flaunting them, then she jutted out the third in almost military fashion.
“Always remember the ENP! They’re the Kidman rules, don’t you know!”
As I drove away over firm, compacted snow, I could see her repeating the ritual, this time without words, and not even looking in my direction. Eyebrows, nose, puppies. She was totally immersed in this world, this Kidmanian Theme Park – the park that she seemed unaware of me leaving! And, in the rear-view mirror, I saw her continue to repeat her mantra as my car drove through an alleyway of tall, overhanging trees, that seemed, for a while, to protect me from all things unnatural, from eyebrows, noses and puppies, dramatically displayed.
"... nose ..."
There was really only one place for me to go: the neighbouring town, 40 minutes drive away, to visit my old friend General Proximity! Uh, general proximity to human beings, that is! I suspect I'm not the only person in the world to do this kind of thing: hanging out around people, just to be loosely, generally where other people are. No real consideration for who they are or what they’re about. Just the close proximity seems to mean something. What sadness. What desperation. But, at the same time, how fundamentally, beautifully human to feel this way – to have this need.
"General Proximity is a good teacher, he reminds the jaded veterans what’s really going on inside of us all: bustle, noise, clamour - eternally rolling wheels of stone, and the sound of their turning booms across every landscape"
After arriving, the general proximity I chose was to sit in a café and watch people go by through the window. How still and uneventful we humans can appear to be when we view ourselves from the inside, how wound-down and how dreadfully near to stopping. But look at us from the outside and we all appear so full, so incessant, so charged up. Over-wound humanity, eternally and loudly ticking. General Proximity is a good teacher, he reminds the jaded veterans what’s really going on inside of us all: bustle, noise, clamour - eternally rolling wheels of stone, and the sound of their turning booms across every landscape.
Some, however, boom more loudly than others.
“That’s the woman who’s a vagrant – lives in a car and is in love with my James!”
It was the distinctive boom of Mrs Ormsley! My nemesis! Another freak with garrulous eyebrows! As if Kidman wasn’t enough! I immediately bristled at the sound of her voice and the knowledge that she was close by and talking about me.
Her voice came from the door of the café. I hadn’t seen her enter. From the corner of my eye I could see that she had entered with a much older lady, diminutive and hunched, and with an angled poise about her that made her entire body look like an ear trumpet that’s trying to hear the world around it.
"An idea formed in my head and it was lovely. I had made up my mind and it wasn’t for changing. I would leave Mordan House – to get away from myself and the Kidman inside of me and the dead astronaut too. But, before I left, if Mrs Ormsley spoke to me again, then I would hit her. Hard. Right across the face"
I didn’t turn round. I didn't dare. I could hear the older woman making murmuring sounds of agreement and dismay at Mrs Ormsley’s description of me.
All of a sudden, an idea formed in my head and it was lovely. I had made up my mind in a moment and it wasn’t for changing. I would leave Mordan House – get away from myself and the Kidman inside of me and the dead astronaut too. But before I left, if Mrs Ormsley spoke to me again, then I would hit her. Hard. Right across the face. And with a fist clenched. And not the way women usually clench a fist: with the thumb sticking right up and all the fingers looking like they’ve been caught in some piece of industrial machinery, and with the clear indication that what they actually plan to do is hit you with their wrists! No, a proper punch. Well, dammit, as best as I could muster!
Mrs Ormsley continued: “I’ve heard also that she squats in Mordan House.”
“Squats?” said the older lady. “Mordan House is a long way to go just for a pee!”
“No, squats. You know, lives there illegally!”
The older woman suddenly understood: “Ah, yes. Illegally.”
I prepared myself for the words that would surely come, close at my ear and unmistakeably directed at me. So direct that there would be nothing that I could do but welly her, lay into her with my handy fists, clock her a hard one, perhaps in the gut, perhaps to her middle-aged woman’s highly susceptible glass jaw. I felt my fists tighten into spindly balls of hard fire. Okay, they were more like welts of irritation – but I suspected that I could do some real damage with these little baby hammers! And I suspect, lovely reader, that you too, as you read this, are willing me to carry out such an act of necessary, justified violence.
“Hello, luvvie!” she said insipidly and from behind me. At the same time, I felt an insistent couple of taps on my shoulder. I was amazed at how quickly I reeled round in my seat; eyebrows, nose and puppies aligned threateningly in true Kidman fashion – only to be stopped instantly from laying into the old bitch by a sight I had not expected.
“How are you today?” she said.
Smack her, Stephanie! Do her right there where she stands!
I can hear you, dear reader, I can hear you. But you don’t understand what's just happened …
“Uh, fine. Thank you. And, uh, how are you?” I asked.
Fine? Thank you? Nail her. Flatten her. Get stuck in right now with the little baby hammers!
No, it’s not like that, anymore, reader. You see …
“Oh, dear!" Mrs Ormsley continued, "You look as if fashion crept up on you during the night and shot you!”
“Um, yes. I dressed rather quickly this morning,” was my diffident, tolerant and accepting reply.
What do we want? Little baby hammers! When do we want them? Now!
No, reader. I can’t. I can’t possibly. It’s all gone wrong!
“Quickly? Behind some anaemic bush just before a police car drove by with a searchlight on? Yes, that’ll get you to throw just about anything on quickly, all set for another mad-cap scramble across the hills! I guess you have to move quickly in your precarious social position! You’re like the woman in ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ – but you’re nowhere near the river Clyde!”
Mrs Ormsley had amused herself and she laughed accordingly, as did the wrinkly ball beside her, her entire body appearing to crunch in and out, as if something invisible had her in its mouth. I didn’t reply. I was too busy staring. Staring at the woolly scarf around her neck. The subtlety of tones, the straightness of its edges, the perfection of its length. She must have seen me looking.
Did she just put them away? The little baby hammers? Did Stephanie really just put them away?
“Oh, the scarf! Yes, I hear you helped James to make it for me! That was so very kind. Very kind.” She fiddled with it and cocked her head like a vain budgie perched at a mirror in its cage. Then she sniffed the scarf and said, “Still the slightest scent of something like badger! Can't get rid of it! Do you sleep with badgers? Or are you a little like Tarzan, but raised by a family of badgers? Is that it?” She giggled fakely as if at a garden party.
"If I was to win the affections of James, then I needed my self back again. And not my empty self. A replete, sumptuous, exotic, shining self, full of diamonds, pearls and all manner of other scintillating baubles!"
The little old lady had sidled up close in order to hear better and she was nodding her head. “Oh, that's badger alright! That’s what I said earlier!” Then she pointed at herself purposefully. “And I should know the smell of badger!” she said, before slipping back into listening with every part of her, from her ears to her feet. Mrs Ormsley coughed at this remark and looked uncomfortable. I had no idea why.
There were other things said, little compliments tempered by little insults. One eyebrow stuff, then the other eyebrow stuff – you know the Ormsley script by now. But all I could think of was that James had received my scarf and had liked it enough to pass it on to his aunt! He’d held it! He’d liked it! He’d given it as a present!
So here I was, finding once again that my plans to leave Mordan House had been scuppered. Why? Because my confidence in myself was damaged beyond easy repair. If I was to win the affections of James, then I needed my self back again. And not my empty self. A replete, sumptuous, exotic, shining self, full of diamonds, pearls and all manner of other scintillating baubles!
One possible path formed itself in my mind: if I could find one clue to tell me that Kidman was right about the mystery of the dead astronaut, then I might begin to recover. If I found the key or keys to the basement rooms, and found something in them that was useful to the mystery, then maybe I would begin to affect a return from the doorstep of the great city of Madness. This was the methodology I hit upon to turn away, geographically, from Madness and all its lights and its advertising and its eye-catching spectacles. What I needed was to begin to construct an attractive self that James might love. Yes. Love. Love was very much in my mind, and fizzing though my entire body more deliciously than something illegal. We all have to live for something, it seems. And something in me needed to live too. No matter what was in my past. Love – it was as good a reason as any. Although the irony was not lost on me, that I would need to use an element of my near-madness to help steer me away from madness. That element was Kidman. Strong, forthright, resilient, astute Kidman. The woman who was everything that I wasn't.
Love? Huh! Blog entry would have been better if the old bitch had got a punch!
Yes, reader, I hear you. But just forget about the little baby hammers, okay? I didn’t use them. Just deal with it.