Monday, 11 January 2010

A story from the archives

Here is one I wrote earlier. Very rarely, usually in dead of night, I think of stories and try to write them. If you venture to read it I think you'll agree that it is not particularly entertaining, but at least not really badly written.

The Prince

Part 1
or, The Frightening appearance of primitive instincts

I awoke and surveyed my domain, but came to no conclusions, my normally impressive faculties smothered by the smog of morning's dream-scenes, badly glued together, slowly falling apart. Was it poetic or merely ridiculous? Ubiquitin was everywhere, but not where it should be, not in the electron transport chain, not in the cells, not even in the animals, just words between people.
I ate, a considered breakfast; fibre, sugar, protein, starch, gin. Gin with tonic, and lemon; citric acid, quinine, flavours from strange flowers, alcohol. The effect of drink in the morning I find to be immediately soothing, a consolation for a body yet lacking the impetus its glands are too slow to release.
Not back to bed, a day of discoveries was promising more data in the voluminous study of a man's experience, out of bed.
I didn't go back to bed, I resisted protestation from my limbs, but I did pursue the means for further consolation. I inhaled deeply in the cold air, which seemed quieter than it would if it were raging heat. Everyone thinks cold, still air is quiet don't they? Or there may be people, the kind who think of cold as a vicious entity, rather than an absence of heat, who see the sun as a harbinger of warm silence. Without a full blown study, my brief inquiry will not lead to a real discovery, but the speculation soothes me.
I lit the cigarette, with an old fashioned match, the kind you can light on a brick, with a puzzle on the back. It was easy; the puzzle, the lighting, the smoking. It was all well rehearsed, and I'd like to think it was stylish, but truly it couldn't be, not with my doubtful face on. Not with my worry, my pretension, my thinking of it now.
After the butt interrupted my meandering weary mind and suggested an end to the morning, I noticed it was already two in the afternoon. I returned to my room, and surveyed again, and this time came to the conclusion that I would need to rationalise its contents. First I would have to politely discard the kindly and beautiful woman sleeping on the bed.
I moved slowly towards her body, which seemed a utopian vision of warmth and stillness. I shook her leg, I kissed her head, and the filthy odour of ash drifted up her nostrils, building with each inhalation and arousing her after some seconds.
Whereupon the vision became more dystopian.
Is there an in-between? Any better future is surely some kind of imagined paradise, at least in parts. That which is worse, which always seems to me the less likely outcome, is most certainly dystopic, as the present state of the world is carelessly idiotic already.
The future was clear to my delightful friend.
"Fuck off cancer breath. Let me sleep and go die."
"Come on, my girl, the sun is descending"
I said this in the posh voice that the words deserved, and this never failed to irritate her. I always thought a fight is the most efficient way to get some one out of bed, although it isn't always pleasant.
"I don't care, the sun can fuck off"
She didn't say fuck off except for in the mornings, and even then, it lacked conviction.
"I'm making you coffee... I don't have much time, so wake up"
"Fuck off and get me a real coffee from the cafĂ©”
I had no idea why she was disdainful of my brewing techniques, I considered myself expert. Suddenly I was overcome by the though that she was unfair, not just now, but in everything. In sex, that was where I imagined there was most injustice. She would never, not once, have sex in the morning. She must have known that this was when I always, as many men do, craved that oxytocin coated endorphin rush. And then I swallowed my ill sentiments with my overly caffeinated, too hot, too sweet, inferior coffee, and a hint of guilt.

Part 2,
or, The fall and the ascent
We had met about three months before, and only then was I considering revealing my secrets to her. Not the dark stuff, just the most lightly held examples of my past idiocies. And also my wealth. Or my father's wealth, more accurately, which was then not yet mine.
My father considered himself a king, although reluctantly perhaps. He spoke often of the burdens his kingdom placed upon him, and that is how he spoke of it, not 'my company, my investments and my charities are killing me'; He would say, repeatedly, 'My kingdom will be the death of me.'
But he loved it; he loved his subjects and his profits, and he couldn't leave them, even when his body started to hate him for the stress they had caused; For the fight or flight mechanisms that kept on revving up in neutral, while his mind took brilliant leaps into the boardroom, into the marketplace and the entire modern world of business and charity, so often inextricable. And yet, of course, unequal.
In the end it was a car crash, a man-made death. The man in particular being Derek, his driver, who was once like an uncle to me. Who sped into a tree that day, an ill placed tree that I'd seen hundreds of times from the Bentley's window. A tree that was once beautiful, but then uprooted by a storm and further offended by Derek's failing.
I have heard it said, by tactless people, that it was somehow nature's fault, or nature's revenge, or pure bad luck. But it was the car that failed, the design of the beast, and Derek's use of it. The tree didn't smash into my father.
Nature doesn't fail. Men constantly fail, and women less often, but nature doesn't care either way. It doesn't succeed either; it's in equilibrium.

So that day, just as I was about to tell her of the fortune after delivering her latte, I had to tell her that I was an orphan. And then I wanted to decide whether she would come to the funeral or not. I hadn't known her long, but I loved her, more than I had loved before. Although the funeral was of course not yet planned and I had only spoken to my sister minutes ago, on the phone, in the cafe, I had to decide then whether or not to say, as I was aching to, 'Come with me to the funeral, don't let my cry without you'
But she had not known my Father, she didn't even know he was a millionaire; my life was not an ostentatious one, so she couldn't have guessed. I wondered how I had kept it from her for so long, why I had been so foolish.
Then I said 'Come with me to see my sister' and we went to Heathrow. Now I wasn't contemplative and overstimulated as I usually was; now I was subdued. It was peaceful, but in a horrible way; the end of a lost war.
My sister arrived, without a bag, three hours later. I don't know why I chose to wait on an uncomfortable seat in the airport for so long, saying nothing to my confused lover. Perhaps it seemed like a duty somehow, just to wait in silence for my sister, who I knew would burst into tears. Maybe I couldn't stand pacing in my flat, which would forever be tainted by the echo of this awful news. In fact I don't quite remember how grief triumphed over my reason, made me think that her plane could rush to me any faster than usual.

How would I tell her then, my lover, that me and my sister were very rich. Would it mean a lot to her? Would it make her stay by me even if she wanted truly to leave? She couldn't have loved me as much as I loved her, not in that moment.

I haven't mentioned that her name is Andrea, my lover. It is an ugly name. I always called her lover. Also, as it happened, my sister's name is Anthea, which is very similar and equally ugly. I called her sister, or when I was mean, Ant.

But when we embraced then, I said 'Anthea', the way my father would.

We didn't cry then, because it would be unkind to Andrea, who could not cry for a stranger. We cried when she went to work that evening; which I insisted she did do, so as to give me and my sister time together. We didn't talk only about dad. We talked about the Kingdom. We talked about the grief and shock that would ripple through it. We talked about the burden that his roles were to him, and how the role of father was not his favourite. This wasn't cruel to speak of. He loved us dearly, but he worried horrifically about us, the Prince and Princess, as he said. We were his greatest assets and his highest risk investments. Our unhappiness would have been like the loss of the entire empire, and so we tried to be happy, or at least stoic, even then.

Part 3,
or The coming of spring

It was autumn, when the King died. Slowly, as abscissic acid severed the leaves from the trees, so my grief fell away. I was surprised by Christmas, when it came to seeing my sister again, and we could be really happy. Not just happy to please Dad's ghost, but happy for each other and ourselves. Still not free of longing for him, but not shackled by it. My lover's happiness had been a relief always, and had helped in my recovery, solidifying into pure diamond my love for her. On boxing day the three of us moved into the palace, and Andrea stopped taking the pill.
My Father had always said 'It was enough for me, two months. I knew your mother was an angel. We made you just as soon as we could and thank god we didn't wait.'
My mother died 4 months after I was born, from the failings of medicine, or natural causes. Septicaemia in the late twentieth century had been a hideous anachronism; an invasion of the past into my mothers body. My Father then adopted Anthea a year later, and invested heavily in healthcare.

In April, my lover was Pregnant, and we were to be married. Although, in the end the money had not meant that much to her, we planned a lavish wedding. Everyone we had ever known and liked came, to see the making of a queen. Their majesties, the Goldmans. It was remarkable, I thought, how the kingdom could run itself so well without me or Anthea, and yet still pay us such handsome sums, the excesses of which we constantly had to redirect towards nature's easy targets, those for whom other's had failed.

On new years day Joseph King Goldman was born, in a fine public hospital; Goldman Teaching Hospital, which was the pride of the kingdom. He was a handsome and adored prince.

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