On the back of today’s announcement I feel almost deflated posting this week’s entry. It didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had when the idea first occurred but with the final draft of The Woodsman well underway (we just met the Tream) this is all I’ve got.
And of course wodwo is not something I’ve made up for fun but has been used by writers more successful and talented than I, at least one of whom is also called Neil.
Still, there are some nice bits in there that I’m pleased with and I hope you enjoy regardless:
By Neil Beynon
“Pete…Pete Riley…hey Pete!” called a voice, it was close and followed by a hand that gripped his arm with an alacrity that left marks, finger marks: one, two, three, embedded in Pete’s forearm.
Pete smelt the tramp before his profile, largely nose and hair, spun into view. The tramp’s beard was a long wiry stratum dotted with the occasional detritus of food, or was it sick? His breath could have taken the paint off the near by traffic. His large, torn overcoat gave undertones of wet carpet and lurking behind it: the scent of ammonia ready to strip the lining from the back of his throat.
Pete rarely came to the city anymore. Tired of it after ten years of in and out on the commuter shuffle, of the tourists in their ambling incertitude, of the muppetry of men. He was in short happy out of it. No one should have recognised this new laid back Pete who carefully selected his contracts for maximum yield, minimum effort, spending the rest of his time making bad art from stuff the city threw away.
“You’re Pete Riley,” said the tramp.
And he was. There was no getting away from it. He was Pete Riley. Names have power, in Britain more so than other places. If you call someone’s name. It’s a very British politeness, a very British awkwardness that stops someone flipping you the finger and walking on. Names have power.
And Pete had been named.
“Look,” Pete replied. “I don’t have any money.”
“What’s the matter Petey? Don’t you recognise your old friends?” asked the tramp.
Time stopped. Pete felt as if someone had just punched him in the chest, hard; his gut was a writhing alien thing that coiled and twisted in the base of his belly.
But he did recognise the tramp. In his mind: the beard fell from the hobo’s chin, dirt faded, teeth grew back, hair shortened and skin melted until a fifteen year old boy he’d once known stood before him. In his mind.
“Nick…?” said Pete.
Why are you here? Why now?
“You do remember your old pal then,” said Nick, linking his arm and walking Pete out of the way of the pedestrian traffic. “What you been up to?”
They weren’t pals. They hadn’t been friends for a long time. Had not parted on good terms nor did Pete have any desire to renew his acquaintance, nor was he surprised to see this echo of his childhood brought low. They were not pals. An inescapable fact he kept repeating to himself, as if to remind himself.
As if he could forget.
“In I.T,” mumbled Pete, desperately trying to think of an out.
Once perhaps but then you…
“I.T,” nodded Nick, the transient, sagely. “Growth industry, smart move but then you always were.”
He’s going to ask me for money. They always ask me for money.
“But what about me you ask?”
Pete had not asked.
“I do a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Jack of all trades me, master of none but there you go. I got the world in my pocket,” said Nick.
Silence passed between them.
I remember everything. I’m enjoying this.
“You want to get a drink?” asked Nick.
“Not really,” said Pete. “Bit early for me.”
There, he’d said it. Finally taken a stand. Pete didn’t know this man who carried the ghost of someone he’d once known – and fallen out with – inside him; there was no obligation. Not really.
But you said…
“I’ve got to be going,” said Pete, removing the tramp’s hand from his arm.
The tramp blinked, surprised. Nick’s eyes glazed for a moment, and Pete almost got away before the tramp’s hand shot out once more. Pulled him close, so close Pete could see the red highways of his eyes, taste the putrescent cheese of his breath, it made Pete gag.
“You don’t understand; I’ve got the world in my pocket,” said Nick, wild-eyed and wodwo.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” asked Pete, knowing the answer.
You’re a liar and a thief…
“Help me,” hissed Nick. “I’ve got the world in my pocket.”
“Good for you,” said Pete, aware they were making a scene. “Now let go of me.”
“No,” said Nick. “Not until you listen, really listen: I’ve got the world in my pocket, it’s made of glass and you’ve got to take it.”
“Stop it Nick,” he said. “Stop it. You’ve got to stop this; can’t you see where it’s brought you.”
“Help me,” said Nick.
These things I know…
“I’ve got the world in my…” Nick’s voice was cut off by the sudden evacuation from air. He crumpled to the ground, his hand dropping from Pete’s arm. Pete’s knee had caught him perfectly between the legs, folding him up like an accordion and allowing Pete to step away. To walk away.
How could you…the others maybe…but me…I thought…
“Get away from me,” said Pete. “And stay away Nick.”
Nick watched through salt filled eyes as Pete was lost in the throbbing, undulating throng, the world felt heavy in Nick’s pocket. When the pain in his crotch reduced to a dull ache he got to his feet once more, walked gently up the hill towards the park.
Tossing the world in the air like a ball. He felt a lot like dropping it – one day he would: shatter it like an egg, spilling them all over the floor like uncooked yolk all mixed with sharp shards of shell that stick in the throat. But not today. Today, he thought, returning the world to its hiding place; he had the world in his pocket.
Friends forever, never ever say…