I had been agonising about the meaning of the comma for far too long. The world seemed to show no interest. I stopped going out and began to worry who I really was. I began to retrace issues that I thought I had solved in adolescence. How could a comma be so complex?
Len Beastly walked through the door. I never encouraged visitors. He breezed in as if he was the landlord or a police sergeant and held an entitlement to be here. Downstairs there was a car space with his name on it. His eyes contorted around the space. “Ahhh. So this is what it’s like. Yeah. And views and all. This is where you’ve been hiding? So. How long you been here? Not years? Seems like it. No. Miss you at the pub, ya know, not the same without you.
Beastly put his six pack down, looked around for a fridge, then quietly ripped the crown top off the first bottle. ‘Nice fridge. Full of wine. What’s the point of that?’ Smiling, as if it was a sensible bit of rhetoric. Half a stubby slipped down his throat in an easy motion. ‘Ah. Say ah. Ahhh.’ He was in a good mood. ‘Something about relaxation. We all have to do it. You know. Smell the roses. Horticulture. That sorta feeling. Like, as if we were part of nature. You know?’
His appearance delivered a mild concussion. This was the world I had escaped. ‘So what’s happening? Like, I mean are you ever going to leave this place? Eh? Like venture out, see the world? Doesn’t seem like it. It’s all very comfortable. Isn’t it just. Eh? You’ve got friggin’ everything. You’ve even got ya funny paintings. Want a beer? Can’t let these mongrels get hot.’
‘You alright, ya don’t look so good. In fact you seem to look worse. All this hiding away is supposed to make you better. Isn’t it? I mean that’s how it’s all spose ta progress. The, you know, evolution of ya, what’d ya call it, you know, say ailment and all. You must be recovering by now. You must be thinking about movin’, like on? You know, back to the real world and stuff. I mean so what, ya crumby plastic heart is broken, big deal. I mean it happens all the time. And you just wanna mope around, you know, I mean it was only like a snake bite. You recover, the poison leaves ya system, you go out and get pissed and find another shiela. I don’t understand.’ Beastly adjusted his facial expression to a standard quizzical. ‘I don’t understand,’ was slightly out of sync with the emitted words.
Len seemed to sense it might be some kind of obscure drinking club, with no bouncers on the door, which means the clientele would be particularly well behaved. I’m sure his family had mated with a collection of underground inhabitants. Fanged rabbits, imps with duck bills, asps, griffins, snakes with legs, beasts with leather wings, scaly creatures or four legged birds. This bestiary might explain some of his behaviour. But was I was envious? His girlfriends had exotic names like Satisfymenow or Makemecome.
“I suppose you don’t look too bad. They all said you’re stuffed, you know, in the head. Rooted. Like off with the fairies. No. Oh. Sorry. But I mean you’re not alright, I mean, are you? Eh? Want a drink?’ We had nothing in common, other than a random connection of friends that used to drink in the same pub.
‘Work? It’s not bad. You know. The simple life. Get up, go to work, that sorta thing. Just drone stuff. Day after day. Appear, go home. And they pay me for it. Yeah. And I get holidays and sick days. Mystery to me. But that’s how the world works. I had nothin’ to do with it.’
He seemed cheerful enough, but he was always unrelentingly positive. ‘What a view. What is it? The harbour? How about that? So that’s what it looks like. Sorta, interesting. You reckon? I mean I could look at it and all and, like take it in. Know what I mean? Eh? If I was like, say an artist, I could like do what, like something artistic. With me? I’d say painting, yes I’d be an oils man. I like colour. I like self expression. Have I ever told you that?’
No, he had never told me that. As far as I understood Len only had one single interest in his life. ‘Ah the view. Yeah the view. I have to tell ya. Shoulda seen this movie last night. Russian. Love Russian. Can’t beat ‘em, at the moment. Home computer camera. Webcams. Amateurs, I really like amateurs. So, you know, untutored, so spontaneous, but so natural. And it doesn’t have all the dopey cliches that mainstream seems to have these days. Two kids goin’ at it. No fakin’. Just having a real go, enjoying the moment. Don’t see a lot of that these days. It was heart warming. You were spying on life, in the wild, almost, as it was happening. Naturalism, that’s what you call it? No. How about Realism? I mean you’d know, for sure. I know how good you are with words.’
I tried to resume my contemplation of the comma and listen to Beastley’s monologue at the same time. ‘And these cameras are such a goer, you can see before you buy. You can watch the whole thing unravel in the bedroom. It’s what ya call your real technological leap, you know, into like the future. Go on have a drink.” Len opened another bottle, chugged gently at its contents and returned a beautific smile. ‘Ah. Say Ah. Ahhh.”
He had tracked my hideaway down to tell me this? ‘Lotta ships out there. What’re they doin’? Buggered if I know. What the hell do ships do? Is there some reason for all that? Just muckin’ around on the water. Eh? Suppose they’re got cargoes and stuff. Right? I reckon India is the next big lift off in the industry. Some of those bodies. Just perfect. It’s the flesh. The eyes. The teeth. The curves. The way they move. And they can do photograpy. Like they have a real industry in place already. Yeah, but they still think a plot is worth the go. No. No. Big mistake. All your punter wants is action. You know, stunts, tricks, sweat, groin work, grunt. You’ve got to deliver. I mean it’s a simple equation. Like a wine? I see you’ve got quite a lot. Bit of an investment? Want me to pour you a glass? I think I can appreciate what you see in wine. I mean it’s just right for people with depression, but would it translate to the pub? What do you think? No, don’t think so.
But, I mean, just thinkin’ about it, and you know I’m a thinking man, yeah, I can see what you orta have. This is exactly where life should imitate porn. Some little artistic, you know, novel reading minx, should appear and pull you back into the real world. You following? Some over educated bimbo reading say, Finnegan’s Wake, you know, so you’ll understand the signals. Some chick you wouldn’t have to talk to. I mean so they won’t get to know you. You won’t be able to turn them off, in a couple of sentences. See, that’s what I mean about plot. There’s no need. All you want is action.’
What? And I was now included in his imaginative world? ‘Try this. Just a suggestion. What about a Russian tourist, with me, like a beautiful Russian tourist, one that has lost her way, holding a copy of Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy, she unexpectedly walks into your room, yeah, here on the fourth floor, door might be open, not impossible, almost trips, then all her clothes accidently fall off, she’s totally naked, but her high heels are still connected and so she starts to suck your dick. Action. There is no need for a narrative to embellish it. You can grunt and make dopey noises, but you can’t communicate. She really wants to know where the Post Office is, but you can’t understand her to give the correct directions. You don’t speak the language. With me? You feel sympathetic towards that? Filmed in these muted tones. With the silence of lost love as an evocative background.” She unexpectedly walks into my apartment? Her clothes accidently fall off? I can see why he doesn’t like a believable plot.
“Just about drunk all this piss. What a joke. There’s not much in ‘em. Anyway, can’t stay all night. Thought I might cheer you up. I’ve got a real life. Alright, I mean a lounge and television are waiting for me to return. They become lonely without me. They fret. They howl and might even disturb the neighbours. Don’t want that. You still read all those books? You musta read nearly every book in the world by now. Be buggered. Not good for your eyes. Gotta start preserving your body at our age. Well I’m off. That was great. I mean, good to see ya. I’ll bring more beer next time. Don’t like ta drink all your piss. Gotta see my man at the Emporium, before I get home, he just got in, Japanese Strap On , first edition. Very artistic, it reeks of culture. I’ll be the first in the country to see it. See ya big boy. Watch out for those tourists. With me? Hey, and cheer up ya boofhead.”
Beastly disappeared as fast as he came. It felt hallucinogenic. A burst of lysergic acid from a different universe. Was he really here? Did I actually hear all those frantic words? And now he was gone. Sucked into a black hole, taken back into custody. He had consumed a significant chunk of oxygen from the room, I wondered if the available air was enough to support me? Was asphyxiation looming? Was my respiration about to struggle? Should I ring someone for help?
And the world just carries on, even when I’m not in the plot.
Peter Fraser is a mature author who lives in Australia. If there is no meaning left in life, all that’s left is fiction. He enjoys coffee, wine, reading and writing.