The Church of Mrs Bins
13 August 2001
It used to be just my own fingernails I bit. I'm not sure why. It wasn't like an addiction, but it was compulsive. I'd chew them down to the quick, at any spare moment, and given a few more minutes they'd be red raw and sometimes bleeding.
(That's the funny thing about spare time, you never know what to do. I don't mean hobby time, or odd ex-hobby time when you do it anyway because you've bought the kit and you're bloody well going to use it, even if it does mean diving in that freezing water. I mean that half an hour waiting for the bus, outside so you can't even pop off for a crafty wank or cup of tea or something. Proper free time. Nailbiting time.)
That was how it started, before I joined, and left, the Church of Mrs Bins.
I'd seen an advert on the Underground. Packed in on a Saturday, wedged between the Belgian Offical Oblivious Society and Mr Stinky from world of the Crap Beards, I caught a glance of a beautific face, printed eyes passively resting on me. This of course was Mrs Bins, and I needn't describe her, but she drew me away from the pain and irritation I was feeling as Junior Oblivious slammed into my legs every time the train changed speed.
Children in public places: why? Children demanding to know about boats and pretending they're being sick. And I quote: "Why lat boat id sinkin? Whoooi? Why lat boat id why it whooooooi?" Fucking hell. "Whor it pirate boat id boat id sinking? Whoi?"
My rough feelings about children can be summed up by the following points in human history when the attitude to children has somehow been correct: Minoa (sacrifice); North Korea (eat); wartime London (send them hundreds of miles away to "be safe" and get jobs); the classic children's novel The Water Babies (pop them in a river).
Mrs Bins cured me. Or rather, the Church did. Mrs Bins herself had been dead a good thirty years, having founded the sect in the days when Charlie Parker the masked jazz vigilante was still swinging round the city. But the Church - or to give it its full name, The Church of Mrs Bins and her Nine Lovely Daughters - the Church lived on.
Oh, those daughters. They represent everything that was, everything there is, and everything that is to be. You recall, naturally, the tune: "Mrs Bins's daughter three/ is the Holy Trin-it-y" -- if you don't hold the last word it doesn't scan. Father, Son and Holy Ghost, rolled up, plump and sunny. To celebrate our god: Once a year we kill her. Once a week we eat her. Metaphorically, so we don't really, but once it happened. "One down, eight to go!" said Mrs Bins, mouth full. But she was only kidding.
Daughter number five cured me of my hatred of children. Five is the great machine, cogs and chains, loops within loops within loops; the engine, the clockwork, the tick-tock of life. Oh, beautiful daughter five. I prayed to her night and day. From her I understood. She showed me life, educated and illustrated, put me in charge of the community creche.
Which was where I picked up my taste for the younger fingernail.
It was all downhill from there. The first time they saw those toddler's bloody fingers, they tried to be understanding. The second time these weren't so pleased. Daughter number six is the Leopard, the judgement of humankind by the universe, the objective morality. Six snarled, judged me, booted me out.
I was desparate then. I stood outside the vast oak doors, invoking Mrs Bins, begging daughter Two (Mercy) to let me in. They didn't. For two weeks I stood there, alternately chewing my fingers and beating on the gate. But they turned away. Turned away from their son.
Daughter number nine is Death.
Sorry, did I say Death? I meant Deaf. She closed her ears to my calls. That door never opened, no matter how much I wailed.
The police picked me up from the streets, a scrawny bloody mess. I don't remember any of that time, but I'm told I'd chewed my fingers almost to the first knuckle, and was searching bins for nailclippings. When they took me in, I'd leapt on a passerby, lips pulled back, teeth fierce.
I was deprogrammed in only a month or two. Now I understand that the Church of Mrs Bins is little more than a cult, and no matter how voluptuous her daughters, they don't represent the Nine Figments of Reality. If only I'd known that before. As a side-effect, I was also cured of my desire for self-abuse, and my craving for fingernails.
I work in a shoe-shop now.