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Small Town Boy

14 May 2001
Dan is getting nostalgic.

"This is the sign of Earth."

He is lying on a hill, sloping gently back to the factory town where he grew up. She straddles him, and reaches past his right ear. He catches a flash of dark blue nail polish as she scoops up a handful of the loamy soil.

"Open wide."

He does so. He is good. As she dribbles halfmud from a closed fist held above his mouth, he chokes it down. His arms are pinned beneath the sharp bones of her shins.

"Good boy. Good student. Swallow it."

If you haven't grown up in a small town, you don't really know what it's like.

The switching plant on the road out of town. Big, blocky building, where half the place used to work. You don't even know if it's still running. But every time you drive out to see friends in the villages, you have to pass it by.

The sign of Water. He holds his breath for as long as he can. Her loose white skirt is splayed upon the surface of the river, and when he opens his eyes he can see the white blur of her pale legs. She never lets her touch him. That would be wrong. But her hands are curled around the back of his neck, holding him in place. His chest is cracking. Her hands are so cold. His ears thud, thud.

Spasmodically, he coughs, and the water forces its way up into his nose and mouth, down his throat. Panicking, he straightens up suddenly, then bends back down, waist-deep in water, choking the air back into himself.

The open-handed slap does not surprise. But it does hurt.

"Stupid. Stupid waste. Now we'll have to do it all over again."

Local industries. Bells and bricks. It's hardly surprising they built a bell tower as a war memorial. For fifty pence you can go up it, and you can't even say that about the Convent girls anymore. And from the very top, you can see how abruptly the town stops, as if it ran out of energy all at once, and there's nothing to see but fields. Squares, squares, squares.

The sign of Air has been a surprise so far, but he never quite knew what happened next, anyway. On her knees, resting on her haunches on the bed, in imitation of his pose, she tilts her head and looks at him quizzically. Then rubs the tip of one finger across the top of her uncapped lipstick, in a frankly obscene gesture, then transfers the bloody smudge to his lips. Over. And. Over.

His mouth feels raw, bruised, ticklish, as she goes to work on his eyes. They butterfly closed as she pushes shadow on brutally, then flicker open as his lashes are pulled, teased, tortured into length and shape by mascara.

He's blushing by the time the blusher goes on, fiercely, looking anywhere but her. One cool, jewelled hand slides around to the back of his neck. Again. Holds him in place as she leans in towards him.

"Hey. Hey. Shhhh. It's OK. Look at me. Look at me."

Unselfconsciously batting his eyelids, he looks up from under his lashes. She smiles at him, warmly. Then her free hand comes up in a fist, and flattens into his face. The heavy silver ring on her index finger presses ruby upper lip into tooth until it splits like a snail. He tastes blood, and barely feels the next one go in under his ribs, but hears her.


Friday night, and everybody piles along the same sad road. Six pints in the Griffin, and stagger down to Echos' NiteSpot with your boots sloshing. Three vodka and Red Bulls, slow dance with someone else's wife, running battle along the Corn Exchange, ill-advised attempt to jump over a bollard, Casualty, six stitches, your own wife screaming at you until your eyeballs boil the next morning.

Every Friday night for twenty, thirty years.

She's clearly been using when he meets her for the sign of Fire. Her pupils are huge, and she sways in little half-dance steps as they head on down the stairs. He doesn't care. He needs it done.

She runs the flat, broad side of the flint shard around the skin of her neck over and over again, standing in front of him, stripped to the waist and arms cruciformed, holding on to the two hooks set in the wall. Striking the rough wall behind him, showering sparks onto his exposed skin, leaning close enough that he can smell her breath, her body, brandy and something else as she inverts the flint, tears open a dozen small wounds along his arms. He does not cry out. He does not let go off the hooks. His lips hasn't even had time to knit together yet, but he bites through it.

Maybe it's the blood, maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the look in his eyes, but that's it. She leans in and kisses him, hard, painfully hard, and as he starts to black out the flint punches into his flank and down. Broken. His chldren will ask about the scar. He'll tell a different story each time.

It's just not the kind of place I'd want to raise kids, you know. I mean, what is there for them to do? Just end up getting into trouble.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
30 October 2003. Dan writes: My only goal
9 October 2003. Dan writes: The Knot
18 September 2003. Dan writes: The Engelbart Elephant
28 August 2003. Dan writes: The Amity Index
7 August 2003. Dan writes: This Sporting Life
17 July 2003. Dan writes: Touch
26 June 2003. Dan writes: Metadata
5 June 2003. Dan writes: Street Mate
15 May 2003. Dan writes: Usher's Well
24 April 2003. Dan writes: Medicamenta
3 April 2003. Dan writes: Weapons of Mass Construction
13 March 2003. Dan writes: David Sneddon, Bukake Secret Agent
20 February 2003. Dan writes: Mary Sue
30 January 2003. Dan writes: Bait and Switch
9 January 2003. Dan writes: What Never Happened
19 December 2002. Dan writes: Sermon on the Mount the Face
28 November 2002. Dan writes: Ballroom Blitz
7 November 2002. Dan writes: The Photographer
17 October 2002. Dan writes: Diaphragmatic
26 September 2002. Dan writes: A life in the day
5 September 2002. Dan writes: Different Class
15 August 2002. Dan writes: Story and sequel
25 July 2002. Dan writes: Fellatious
4 July 2002. Dan writes: Skin Mag
10 June 2002. Dan writes: The Ibizan book of the Dead
16 May 2002. Dan writes: The Sissons Situation
22 April 2002. Dan writes: UpsideClown and Out in Hollywood
28 March 2002. Dan writes: Nereus' Daughters
4 March 2002. Dan writes: Diomedes
7 February 2002. Dan writes: Text Only
14 January 2002. Dan writes: Civil Engineering
20 December 2001. Dan writes: Nativity
26 November 2001. Dan writes: The Wedding Band
1 November 2001. Dan writes: what dreans mecum?
8 October 2001. Dan writes: Stop me if you've heard this one before
13 September 2001. Dan writes: Mother of the Muses
20 August 2001. Dan writes: I say I say I say
26 July 2001. Dan writes: Bigger, Better, Brother
2 July 2001. Dan writes: Hecatomb
7 June 2001. Dan writes: Dispassionate Leave
14 May 2001. Dan writes: Small Town Boy
19 April 2001. Dan writes: Maintaining the Driving Line
26 March 2001. Dan writes: Cut and Paste
1 March 2001. Dan writes: Redemption
5 February 2001. Dan writes: Blyton the Face of the Earth
8 January 2001. Dan writes: Smoke Signals
18 December 2000. Dan writes: The Loa Depths
23 November 2000. Dan writes: The Limits of Melissa Joan Hart
30 October 2000. Dan writes: Shiftwork
5 October 2000. Dan writes: Dawson
11 September 2000. Dan writes: Testing Times
17 August 2000. Dan writes: Onanova
3 July 2000. Dan writes: Roboto il Diavolo

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