Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Womble Don

Eat, write and sleep. Write, sleep and eat.
Odd menial chores.
Sleep, eat and write.
Bathroom breaks. Various lengths. Some tasks rhyme with write - others with behave. Others hiss.
Weekly excursion - visit old folks home.
Collect wages on way back.
Eat, write, sleep. 

'I think we need a hobby,' said Gus, already claiming his first week of paid leave from the supermarket. Linda was working. Coinciding holidays might give their little secret away. I mean, how dare they fall for each other contrary to company policy. Unwritten too. NO employee liaisons.
   'We?' I said, as Andy Murray, great British tennis hope, turned to his Mum, fist clenched, having just taken the first set in the Wimbledon final against Roger Federer. The time had come.
   'Yes. It can't be all working and no playing,' he said, grabbing two bottles from a box of top-end beer he had bought in a two-for-one children's allowance day offer at a rival store earlier in the week. Gus doesn't have kids. So, he doesn't get the allowance. But why shouldn't he, should we say, take advantage.
   'What's this?' I asked. 'Is this working. Sittin' here on a Sunday - getting slowly intoxicated?'
   'No. This is not my meaning,' he said, as Andy's Mum jumps forward, raising a loving fist at her son as he takes another game. I can't see Murray being denied. His time must be now. He's hitting it sweetly.

'Tennis?' Gus offered. I nearly choked on my suds.
   'You're kidding - right?' I said, recovering.
   'Do I look like I is for kidding?' He raised his right eyebrow. He didn't. Unfortunately.
   'Tennis isn't really my thing.' I said.
   'Then what? he asked. Break point, Murray. Looking like his day.
   A second one.
   No again. Fed ain't a six-time champion for nothing.
   'Then - how about we just watch the TV?' An extension of tone on the 'then.'
   'OK,' he said - ruffled.
   Menial conversations. On Wimbledon final day. Can't be having it!
   Another break-point.
   Murray would rue these. Minutes later he did. Federer wraps up the second set from no-where. Didn't see that coming. Neither did Murray by the looks of things. He's slumping. He has to hold.
   He does.
   What next? The skies to open.
   Yes. Players off.
   'I must go,' Gus said rising. He took three bottles from the box and left them to the side.
   'Call in during the week,' I said. 'When you're off.' He picked the box up and put it under his arm. Clinking all over the place.
   'I is off now,' he said, waiting for a second.
   'Talk to you soon.'
   I jumped up myself, leaving Gus to let himself out. I'd bought strawberries. And cream. They're very green though. Must be the rain.

I shut the curtains over not long after Gus had closed the door. Soon after the roof went over Centre Court. Off, it would not come again. The rain hopped off it, rebounding out from the speakers on the TV. Quite the pour.
   As the players came back out to a longing British crowd, it didn't take long before they started to realise that Federer was hitting form, and try as he may,  Murray had no answer. Federer was coming in more, making Murray move, being more aggressive on Murray's second-serve. An error that had cost the Swiss the first set. Serving sublimely. Focused.
   The writing's on the wall. With all the grace and elegance that has made him the greatest tennis player of all time, Fed reels off the closing two sets to claim a record-equalling seventh crown. His seventeenth grand slam title. World number 1 again. At 30.
   As Murray reflected on his fourth grand slam final loss, the disappointment flowed from his eyes as he thanked those around him. Graceful in defeat like William Wallace on his final day in Hollywood.
   Time is on his side - but he is playing in the Federer/Nadal era. Throw in a Djokovic, and one can see why it is difficult for the Scot - the weight of an entire nation on his back. The burden of carrying the failures of his peers at the London Venue stretching back to the 1930's on his shoulders.
   What might have been...

I lay prostrate on the couch. Head tilted to the side. Catching the glow from the fire and glimpses of the TV set in equal measure. The fire - patching my face. The TV - parching my brain. To combat the boredom I did what all self-respecting practitioners of the state of elusiveness do. I fell asleep.

There I was. Driving Sonny to talk Andy Murray off the Wimbledon roof. It took a long-winded motivational appeal, but Sonny talked him down.
    Seconds later.
    We're all refused entry in The Fed's private party. Wimbledon champs only - and their agents.
    'Maybe next year,' said Mike Tyson to Andy. He was bouncing at the door. With Mitch!
    'I'm heading back to Italy,' Sonny said - telling Andy to keep his chin up. Andy thanked him for talking him down.
   'I do it all the time,' Sonny said, before shaking both our hands.
   'Nice to see you again, Don,' he said. He disappeared like the figment of my imagination he was.
   'Who are you again?' Andy asked.
   'Don Booker.'
   'Never heard of you, Don?' Don't worry about it kid. 
    But this was a dream. My dream. I could have fed him anything. Took advantage of the scenario.
   'Wanna get drunk?' he asked. A bolt from the tartan.
   'Shouldn't you be getting back to your girlfriend and Mum?'
   'They won't stop crying. You'd think I'd died or something.' He turned his head back a little and attempted to smile. 'Unless you have to get back to yours?'
   No. That certainly wasn't going to be a problem!

Somehow or other my face had found itself nestled, nose first, down where lost pennies go to hide in the couch. Among the stale crumbs and discarded hairs. Forensic nightmare!
   We found ourselves drinking a 200-year-old bottle of Jim Beam on the very couch I lay sleeping on. From his private collection.
    'Bit of a hole,' he said, looking around. He passed the bottle over.
    Cheap shot.
    'Tis. Writings a bit of a slow burner.'
    'You must be devastated with your loss?'

   The mouth fulls pass.
   'Must be nice,' he said, offering his hand to take the bottle again. 'Being a nobody. Not that I mean any disrespect.'
    I handed Jim back over.  Us pair of slang-slingers. Probing.
   'It has its benefits,' I began - not able to list many. 'It's quite for one.'
   'Yes it is,' he said.

   We listened for a time. Passing the bottle too and fro. Commenting occasionally on its hidden nectar's - its values - its historical importance in times of male woe. Near its death, it came.
   'What do I have to do to win one of these damn things?'
   That's Sonny's field. I had no answers. I thought about giving his a few positives. Like he had got to final. That he had millions in the bank. Third best player on the entire planet. Or is it the fourth? I was never third at anything. Not even at egg and spoon. But I didn't. Like a seasoned voter, I knew it wouldn't make a difference.
   'You need a hobby, man,' I said eventually, after some serious thought. I wanted to help. 
   'You think?' he said, tipping his head as far back as it would go to drain the final drop of Jim down passed his mouth. It was an impressive sight.  'Like what?'
   Fuck. I should have just kept my mouth shut. I was stumped.

   'Do you read?' I asked. He looked at me like i had asked him something offensive.
   'Of course I can read.' Ignoring his hearing, I passed him the copy of my book which just happened to be in my hand.
   'Try that,' I said. I expected him to say 'No.' But he didn't.
   'Booker's World,' he said. 'Imaginative!'

   I don't know how long it took in dream hours, but he got through it in what seemed like the blink of a squinting eye.
   'And I thought I was a loser?! he said, breathing out, eyes bulging like he was stressing a fact.
   'See,' I said. 'There always someone/something worse.'
   'I just needed reminding,' he said - shaking the empty bottle in hope. But this was not a fairytale. 'Thanks. Just what I needed.'
    I knew it would have its uses. Someday. I told him to keep the book.
   'Toilet reading,' I suggested.
   His Galaxy something sounded off. He took it out. Fancy.
   'It's the girls,' he said, passing it over for me to read.
   Sleek too.
   We've stopped crying now.
   'Guess, I gotta go,' he said, starting to rise. Thank fuck. The legs on which he sat were numb. I wasn't doing my own chest cavity much good either. So, I rose off me as well.
   'Do you think I can win a Grand-Slam?' he asked.  He disappeared before I told him he could. He just had to do it. I sounded like a Nike cliche. I was glad he didn't hear me.
    I woke from my slumber. Morning. Trying to cascade through those heavy curtains that served me  so well. I felt like an eighty-year old man having just done a 12-hour shift on a ground-roller over rocky terrain. Which isn't good. I'm no where near eighty.

I attempted to stretch. I felt a twinge. Jaysus, had I pulled a disc? No. I could walk. My blood turned to pins as it began to circulate.
   What was that noise?
   Skype? Upstairs. Who'd be calling at this forsaken hour? Through a simple process of elimination I realized who it was. Sonny. He's the only one in my Skype list. Ordered to download it. By him.
    I made coffee. Purposely strong. Those cheap bottles!

Ten minutes later I'd framed myself adequately and had Sonny on the other side of a computer screen. Bronzed as usual. Reminding me of those medals I never won.
   'I tried calling you,' he said.
   'I heard,' I said.
   'Why didn't you answer. It could have been important.'
   Not to me. 
   'Is it?'
   'Well, no...'
    I listened to him bang on again. Like his marriage counsellor. Amanda and Luke were fighting. Over how to develop the Italian enterprise to make Sonny 'fit in.' To make it pay for them all. So they'd never have to come back. I listened. Silently. Until he stopped for breath.
   'Do you think they're having an affair?' I said. I watched as the expected look fell across his face. The classic furrowed brow. Might as well give him something else to think about. Throw a little family triangle among those thorny Italian vines. Paint that. Abstractly.
   'I never said that?' he whispered - looking cautiously over his shoulder. No you didn't, Sonny. But now your thinking about it. Still - at least you have the sun down there.
   He convinced me there was nothing going-on. Not that he had too. Boredom's a wicked thing sometimes. My bad.
    Personal note to self - Must try harder in inter-personal relationships. Claim more sensitivity from universe. Must maintain friendships. Might need feeding. Someday.
   Eventually the conversation ended itself in its usual way. The connection died. Like it does. Not sure if he tried to call back. I'd sent the computer into hibernation and got beneath the bed covers. That's more like it for a Monday afternoon. I'd talk to Sonny soon.

Larry Mulligan used to say he'd ban days of the week in favour of a more 'floating' approach if he ever got into power. Not sure of the power he had on his mind - being the independent hippy of the wrong era he was. In the wrong town. In the wrong country. Contemporary California might have suited old Lar better.
   Me? I'd just ban Mondays. Make Sunday a 48-hour thing. Get the publicans on board.  Reclaim the beer from the supermarkets. An Irish revolution.

You'd miss certain people. Certain places. Things.
Maybe I do need a hobby.
Kite surfing? You'd need a kite for that.
Research the family tree? - No thanks!
A job? - If only.

I think Ireland has me withered.
Write, eat, sleep.
Eat, sleep.


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