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Swimmers Club

The pioneers of aviation were never lonely

Friday, April 6, 2018


Who: Bertie Marshall
What: Writer
Where: London, UK

Extract from The Peeler

Part 3
Dark Blotches

Concussed, Monty felt concussed by the recent turn of events. The ‘Anthony thing’ and the constant absence of Pete, who was seemingly deaf, dumb and blind to his S.O.S. Had Pete unplugged his entire existence? (Severed his lifeline to planet Monty?) Perhaps this was the right moment, the exact moment then? Now, now and now? To jump. To go. To get gone. But the windows were closed and the blinds down. Monty’s attention was suddenly drawn to a small tumbleweed of dust lying under the grey velvet chaise longue; clumps of dust wrapped in dead hair were always disturbing and unfortunately reminded him of that strange young chap in Stockholm who made objet d’art out of bits of hair and lint and crumbs – he’d assemble them into little piles of self disgust and then place them in a vitrine (lit by small footlights).

He closed his eyes and felt his head tip forward, trying to vacate the moment and what he assumed were the winds of chaos blowing in his face, were in fact a rather putrid breeze wafting up and off the river through the windows. Were the windows with their arms open wide a silent invitation? A sign that this was indeed the ‘right moment’? But as happens in moments of torpor and panic, the mind defaults and the lyrics of a song shunted, clanged and crashed like a runaway something or other into his brain… ‘Girl, you got the 4.1.1. you better, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, to it!’

Monty wasn’t about to end his existence on planet d’earth to the soundtrack (however fabulous) of an old soul tune. He did what he always did in moments of creeping crisis, closed his eyes again, to feign sleep, thus averting any real danger that he’d have to make a decision; to jump or not to jump? Tired old joke, tired old cliché, tired old chronic insomniac Monty. Monty opened his eyes and gazed down at his feet which were blurred and then panned upward and found himself standing on the landing on the top floor of his grandparents house; a creaking, Victorian monstrosity on the east coast; the top floor contained a tiny room with a water tank and as he drifted along the mist laden corridor, the ermine print wallpaper faded before his eyes. At the end of the corridor, two doors, Rooms 4 and 5. (All the rooms of the house were numbered; his grandparents had at one point ran it as a guest house) Room 4 was just big enough to contain a mahogany dressing table whose three mirrors reflected, pure misery; a double bed draped in a thin as air Indian-print coverlet and a black bentwood chair that stood guard beneath an arched window. The lampshade in the middle of the ceiling was a dirty pink rectangle, stitched on the sides and made out of some kind of skin.

Monty’s grandfather had been a captain in the army in India in the 1920’s, a robust and jovial ex-farmer’s boy that made good, he had a quirky sense of humour and a stonking work ethic that propelled him through the ranks, yet he was too young for WW1 and then too old for WW2. He bought properties and cars and lived off a small officer’s pension. First time guests at the house were always given room 4; on their first night, grandad would sneak up to Room 4 and tie the guests pyjama bottoms together or tie a nightie into a knot, remove the 40 watt bulb and put the 18 foot stuffed crocodile (a trophy from India) at the bottom of the bed. Oh what fun it was to hear the cries and shrieks of the guests. And next to Room 4 was Room 5.

Room 5 was never talked about. But there was a palpable silence in Room 4 and not just a silence but also stillness as though everything had just stopped. As in a deep forest, perfect quietude, where the treetops bend and curve into a beautiful canopy, where dappled light filtered down onto the forest floor.

Monty was a big fan of ferns, something inexplicably wonderful about ferns something humorous too. In the riverside apartment there was a huge, lone fern that Monty watered lovingly and told all his troubles to. This fern lived in a huge terracotta pot, its fronds, jaunty and welcoming.

He now wanted to be in a deep forest, a pine forest; those tall fragrant trees with their minimalist foliage. Oh yes indeed stomping about on an endless carpet of pine needles and oh my gosh, moss! Moss is the most beautiful grass? Fungi? Deep emerald and spongy under toe. I just want to lie down on a leafy carpet, let myself sink down into the dirt, into the sod, into the loam, let myself sink down and let the tall grass grow over and above me. And to feel the worms wriggling beneath me; the little woodlice and beetles using my face as a shopping mall, popping into my nose and out of my ears. To leave it all behind and go down into the deep, deep forest, into the deep, deep wood with the little animals, the little stoats and weasels and hedgehogs and ferrets and oh my gosh, dormice!! Monty wanted to sob when he thought about dormice, their little hoppy happy faces and sniffy little snouts, all the worlds’ innocence and pain in their little 3 x 4 beings.

However… anything with feathers gave Monty the shudders, birds were in fact ‘lizards in drag’ and all they did was eat and scream, eat and scream, eat and scream and if you were unfortunate enough to stand on X marks the spot, you’d get shat on.

Monty wasn’t dreaming, he was in the deep, deep forest, in the deep, deep wood and a great sense of peace and unity covered his mind – a voice inside his head, one he didn’t recognise said ‘when it gets too tough out there you can always come in here’ suddenly inside the cherished moment of silence and tranquillity, the cold reptilian eye of a jackdaw flashed “I AM THE DEATH OF THE FOREST” what? What ill wind blew that terrible statement through the icy eye of the jackdaw? The death of the forest!!!!!

Monty in the deep, deep wood, in the deep, deep forest took an old hessian sack and threw it over the vile jackdaw, the bird started screaming and wriggling as Monty tied up the sack with a piece of red wool and then took a hammer made of black iron (apologising to the tree in advance) held the sack against tree and began to pound and pound the sack, thinking all the while. This. Horrific. Bird. Must. Not. Be. The. Death. Of. The Forest. I won’t let this monstrosity destroy the beautiful deep, deep, wood, I’ll hammer the evil out of it and on the last hammer blow, Monty felt the jackdaw’s skeleton finally crack and shatter like egg shells (sic).

Monty knew that cruelty against animals was a violation against nature, but he felt so strongly about the evil of the jackdaw. His belief in the evil of the jackdaw. Monty soon realised that he didn’t have to believe in anything. Either way things went on or off whether you believed in them or not. But he felt that he’d smashed all the worlds’ destruction and mendacity to pieces with that jackdaw.

The Peeler by Bertie Marshall is out soon from Dostoyevsky Wannabe:

Municipal Pool

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.