We’d spent half an hour trying to flick pornographic playing cards into a bucket to no success. We’d gone through the deck twice, 104 dreadful vintage acts, but the cards were too light or too desperate to escape their own baggage, and would always veer away from the target at the final moment. Sometimes, if a gust of wind surprised us, the card would fall pathetically at our feet and we’d look down on a 70’s man with a carpet on the chest and face, fucking a woman wearing rosary beads with a groin almost as thick and black as his chin.
Every now and then I’d break character and try to grab the skirts or hems of reality as it power-walked through a door of bright light, but my grasp would always fail. I’d yell rubbish like I’m not a killer! I hate death! And then she’d look down on me with contempt, like the child caught with his hand in the cookie jar trying to deny the crumbs around the mouth. To her credit she never actually said anything; just gave me a withering look. It would be too easy for her to grab my wrist and say Well Then, What The Fuck Is THAT? And I would have to concede that, as we tried to land these cards into a rusted bucket, we were sitting on a corpse that was entirely our fault.
It’s hard for me to explain Old Nigel in a couple of paragraphs. He was bigger than Jupiter, so that even after his body had relaxed into death his last lunch and all the lunches, dinners and breakfasts before still enabled us to sit comfortably on him, with our knees bent and our feet planted firmly on the ground. He may have been a colossal failure as a human being, but he was a very adequate bench. And, as she was keen to point out, how many people have names but are essentially anonymous in a graveyard.
Rewind, six months. She’s leaning on a Victorian monolith depicting angels, crosses and other shit I can’t even understand. The monument is so vast you could put torches in the outstretched hands of the romantically pure beings in their billowing robes and tight hamstrings and probably land an aircraft. She wore an indecently short skirt – I don’t give a fuck about the dead, but it’s still February – and straddled one of the beings, tracing the weather beaten name with one long nail.
“This cunt here…
Marmaduke Archibald Greensworth!?”
She leaned in, wrapping her ankles into a fleshy knot. If I had the right kind of ears, I’d hear the marble groan as her groin took the weight against the pelvis of a Saint.
“Marma…. Archie…. what the fuck kind of name is that?”
‘…I’m sure he was proud of it’
She lowered herself down the monument into the weeds below.
Then she asked me, what did Marmaduke do? What was his purpose in life? What mark did he leave on human society? You have to imagine…. these questions are being thrown at me with increasing ferocity. I feel like a flag on a golf course, having pot shots taken at me by amateurs, then semi-pros, then PGA winners.
I couldn’t answer her question. I had no idea about this Marmaduke except he died in 1874 and he had a name that reminded me of a cartoon dog. What a legacy. Suddenly the big tomb seems a bit embarrassing.
“You can’t tell me shit about Marmafag here…”
“He’s nothing right now, and forever. Nothing. Just weeds and old stone.”
She grabbed a nearby thistle, clenching the leaves in her fist and not even acknowledging the pain.
“Weeds…. and old stone. You get me?”
‘…weeds and old stone.’
“Eat this thistle”
“I have to say…”
And she did, wiggling her arse over his bulbous, soft belly.
“….I’ve never had a more comfy seat, couch or beanbag than Nigel here.”
‘His mother’s name is Glenda…’
“That’s not important.”
She took a deep drag from her cigarette and…. I had to look away ….she stubbed it out in one of his eyes.
“That’s not important”
…she said, quietly with a ripple in the voice, like a wave breaking on a beach.
“…what he was and what he is now are two seperate things.”
‘….and what is he now?’ I had to ask.
‘…just a comedy bench?’
She blew smoke in my face. Then she took a length of fence post and rammed it deep through his belly button. Twisting and wrenching, I saw her feet leave the ground as she tried to drive it through thousands of TV dinners. The smell was dreadful, but the colours that sprouted from his pale skin – the deep reds, fetid intestinal purples and stagnant transparent juices – were arguably just as bad.
I leapt up to stop her, but she was already crying and looking at her hands in disgust and despair. I had a moment of elation before I realised – those dirty palms were pricked, not with guilt, but wood splinters.