Friday, October 25, 2013

The Gull - A Short Story

Jane was sitting on the terrace of the Italian villa that she and Bob had hired for the week. She was eating a combination of breakfast foods and lunch foods, at a time of the morning somewhere between the two meals.

She sighed and stretched her body out in her wicker chair as the sigh turned into a yawn. Morning sunlight glinted off the glass table, and she briefly caught the slightly acrid, sweet smell of the cypress trees nearby that were swaying gently in the breeze.

Bob was still in the shower; she could hear him singing a tasteful slowed-down version of the Macarena. He would come and join her later, or she would shower when he had finished. They would walk together down to the lake, through the pine forest.

Suddenly a massive gull landed on her breakfast table, making the coffee pot rattle. One of its talons, or is that just for eagles?, landed in her bowl of Mulino Bianco.

Jane shrieked, but not loud enough for Bob to hear her. "Heeey - Macarena, wah HAI", he trilled in the distance, blithely.

Jane was now sitting deep in her seat. She studied the bird, which looked right back at her with a 'Don't fuck with me' expression. It was very menacing, and reminded her a bit of her uncle Arthur. It hopped a little closer to her on the table, sliding a bit on the glass. Jane tried not to giggle. She didn't want to piss the gull off any more than it already was.

The gull kept staring at her. It had beady, stupid eyes with a glazed surface, and its beak was brown and curved downwards, all the better to shuck oysters with. She shifted in her chair, and extended a leg towards the French window leading back into the villa, tentatively trying to make a move away from the gull and its inquisitive face. Face? Not face. Maw? No. Anyway, she was trying to escape.

The gull looked at her again with its 1930s gangster expression. Very suddenly, it lunged at her and attempted to peck her right eye out. Jane quickly moved a hand up to protect her eye, and caught a sharp nip across her knuckles, which immediately began to bleed.

"What the fuck?" said Jane, out loud. The gull didn't say anything.

Jane's whole body was still shaking from the shock of having been lunged at by a massive bird, but she nevertheless steeled herself and tried to whoosh it away. She imagined the bird would get out of the way of her whooshing gesture, as pigeons do before oncoming cars, or if you run up to them at Trafalgar Square or in Piazza San Marco, or other great city concourses where pigeons congregate. But the bird was too slow and thick - or perhaps arrogant - and Jane's big shooing movement caught it right across the face. Face? Head.

The bird looked shocked and wounded. Upset, more than anything. It gazed at her with a now-disappointed expression, took a couple of steps back, u-turned, and flew away.

Jane shuddered. She went to drain her bowl of cereal at the kitchen sink. Bob emerged from the bathroom, still humming. He had a towel tied around his waist - a touchingly prudish gesture given that Jane had seen his penis and testicles well over a thousand times by now.

"Alright darling?" he said, and kissed her on the forehead.

"I'M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR SEX RIGHT NOW BOB," Jane screamed at him.

"Jesus! I was just asking!" said Bob.

"Well don't," said Jane. "You'll ruin the holiday."



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

MURDER BOX



MARIELLA FROSTRUP
(smiling)
Hello, and welcome to Murder Box.

(Camera pans round the studio, which is black and white with Jackson Pollock –effect blood stains and has a large wooden box in the middle designed to look like an ammunition crate from the Wild West. The audience cheers and claps and the camera returns to a still smiling Mariella Frostrup, who performs a mock shudder)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
You’ve heard the gossip, you’ve clicked on the thingies with your mousepads, but here at last is the actual programme, complete with real, live things in it, for you to watch on your television or at home. Today one person who has never killed before will enter the Murder Box –

(Camera frames her in chiaroscuro against the Box)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP (CONT’D)
-          and despatch a real, live human. They can use a weapon of their choice, or their own bare hands – it’s entirely up to them. Once the killing has been done, a red light will show up at the back of the box and they will come out to explain what it was like to finally take someone out!

(Audience applause)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
And please welcome our three panellists, all experts in murder, who will be on hand to probe these people on why they did it, how they did it, what it felt like, before we hand them over to the police to face a lifetime in jail. Our first expert is… Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen!

LAURENCE LLEWELYN-BOWEN
(Stirring a pot of crimson paint in a cut-away shot to him going about his daily life in his studio)
I know nothing whatsoever about murder, but I do think it’s interesting to consider it as one of those aspects of life that doesn’t really get enough press. For instance, I’ve often wanted to kill the postman, because he puts those things through my letterbox saying that he called while I was away, but I know for a fact that I was actually in because I never leave the house. But I would never really kill him because I find it icky and besides, I’d get found out because I’m so flouncy. So I’m really interested to hear some reactions, get an understanding of it, and a paycheque.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
And please welcome our second expert, Shami Chakrabarti!

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI
(Shown shuffling papers at work and advising a younger colleague on how to do a mail-out from an Excel spreadsheet.  She then speaks to camera in deadly earnest.)
People kill other people every day. It’s mostly women, it’s disgusting, and it has to stop. David Cameron is doing nothing about it, and I for one am not prepared to stand idly by while this culture goes KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL (she mimes beheading people with a machete) and do nothing about it like David Cameron and his self-interested, supine cabinet. I want to ask people, why are you doing this, what is it in you that makes you do it, and for goodness’ sake, stop!

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
And  finally our third guest, please give it up for the ghost of Jade Goody!

GHOST OF JADE GOODY
(Filmed relaxing poolside in heaven with a Mojito and a quarter-pounder)
Don’t know much about vis to be honest wiv ya but it’s really important to tell people about killing and that.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
And here they all are, with us in the studio!
(Camera pans to experts, sitting on stools decorated with tiny axes)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
So, what pushes someone to abandon their calm, happy life filled with lovely blonde girlfriends who brunch at Locanda Locatelli on a Sunday and give you cute advice about your column, and instead embark on a brutal killing spree in the food court of Westfield shopping centre? We don’t know – and it turns out the British public knows even less. We asked a few people hanging out by the bins in the back of Pinewood and this is what they had to say, take a look.

VOX POP #1
I dunno, is that the thing with knives?

VOX POP #2
… Pulp Fiction, Machete Kills, Kill Bill, all the James Bond films. Not to mention Crime and Punishment.

VOX POP #3
My husband sometimes throttles me for a laugh, going, “You dozy bint, you’ve overcooked the mash again and now it’s overworked and has gone rubbery, meaning the gravy splashes off of it instead of integrating with the spuds!” Is murder a bit like that?

VOX POP #4
Yeah, I killed someone once, for a dare. It was on my honeymoon, in the Scilly Islands, 1983 it was. I wouldn’t do it again though, tell you what, getting the guts and that off my hands was bloody murder.
 (Realises what he has said and bursts into laughter)

VOX POP #5
It’s the children I worry about, what with the internet and Ceefax on their mobiles. I just don’t like the sound of it at all.

 MARIELLA FROSTRUP
Some interesting opinions there. What did you think of that, panel?

THE GHOST OF JADE GOODY
Yeah, I dunno, I had a mate who died when I was growing up and it was just like, one minute she was there and literally the next minute she’s gone, I dunno, it’s weird.

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI
(deadly serious)
The ghost of Jade Goody is actually making a very important point here. It’s about how we treat people in a civilised society, and it’s about the way we talk to our children about things like love, compassion, knives, video games and hardcore fisting.

THE GHOST OF JADE GOODY
Exactly. When I was murdered live on Big Brother twice, it was like, “HANG ON!”

LAURENCE LLEWELYN-BOWEN
(opens his mouth to speak)

 MARIELLA FROSTRUP
OK, well let’s meet today’s killer, please give the warmest of British welcomes to… Sarah! That’s right, you weren’t expecting a woman, were you!!

SARAH
(waves shyly to the audience)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
So Sarah, how does it feel to be the first person to kill someone live on television, in a completely soundproofed box without anyone watching?

SARAH
(shyly)
It feels pretty good, I guess?

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
Oh, she’s nervous. Don’t worry darling, it’s going to be fine. Just go in there, and do whatever it is, and then come out and we’ll have a talk about it. Tell me, is there anyone you’re hoping will be waiting to receive your death blows inside the box, or are you happy to slaughter just anyone?

SARAH
I was hoping it would be my mum, Rebecca.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
No, sadly you won’t be getting to off your mother today I’m afraid – it’s just some ugly rando one of our runners pulled at All Bar One last weekend.

SARAH
Oh well, you can’t have everything!

(Audience and Mariella laugh)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
Alright, well off you go then, good luck!

Sarah steps into the box and closes the door behind her. Mariella looks excitedly at the panellists, who smile back at her. Shami Chakrabarti crosses her fingers. The programme then cuts to 25 minutes later.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
(beaming)
Ah, well, there’s the sound of ‘Return of the Mack’ playing, which can mean only one thing: Sarah has successfully sent her victim hurtling into the netherworld! Let’s get ready to meet her!

(She walks up to the Box, whence Sarah emerges looking exactly the same as before)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
(excitably)
Well, you look like your heart is racing! And am I imagining things or is that a bit of matted blood in your eyelashes?!

(Sarah blushes)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
She’s puffed out! OK, get your breath back babe, and we’ll have a bit of a chat about it with our experts. I’m afraid Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen had to leave because he didn’t realise the programme was over twenty minutes long, so you’ll have to imagine questions coming from an empty chair and answer them to the best of your ability.

(Sarah sits down)

THE GHOST OF JADE GOODY
Well?!?!

(Audience laughs)

SARAH
Well…
(She shrugs)

(Audience laughs)

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI
Come on, walk us through it. What did you do? Was it fun? What did you get out of it? At the last moment, as the last essence of life disappeared from your victim and his or her animus departed, what were your feelings?

SARAH
Well, I went in, and I was a bit nervous, but then I thought, no, it’s fine, just go on, and then… well, then I just did the killing.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
Right…

SARAH
And, yeah, it was fine, it was nice. Yeah, I don’t know, it’s hard to describe.

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI
Did you do it quickly, or was there torture involved? Did you use a weapon, or brute force? Was there any conflict in you or did you feel pretty equable about it all? You see, there are so many questions.

SARAH
I don’t know, it’s private, I don’t really want to talk about it.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
No, that is absolutely fair enough.

SARAH
It’s quite a private thing.

THE GHOST OF JADE GOODY
Yeah, but so, would you do it again?

SARAH
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, for sure.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
Is that seriously all we’re going to fucking get out of you? Did you come for the catering?

SARAH
It was a magical experience and one I would definitely repeat.

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
You odious little fucknugget, be sure that I will visit you every day in prison and talk to you endlessly about the new gelateria that’s just opened in Putney, I’ll make very sure you regret this for the rest of your miserable life.

(She turns to camera with a contrived grin)

MARIELLA FROSTRUP
Join us next week for another forensic, totally blind investigation into completely unseen taboo acts!


(The ghost of Jade Goody flies back to heaven, dispensing confetti over the audience)