Something for the Weakened

The Unpleasant Thing

Saturday, May 24th, 2008 by

What follows below was turned up during a trawl through my archives of aborted creative writing projects. It was written about two and a half, maybe three years ago over a particularly bored and angry weekend (the cause of the narkiness is lost to me – probably just a general malaise). I seem to remember that the premise was for me to create a single paragraph of utterly hopeless, squalid degredation. Don’t know if I succeeded, I haven’t read it in two and a half, maybe three years. Lets see shall we.

Terry was not having a good morning. He had somehow managed to set his alarm an hour later than he had planned. While hurriedly exiting his bed, his bare foot had managed to locate the only patch of floor containing a plate covered in some kind of matter he had no recollection of ever previously owning. It was, of course, extremely sticky, whatever it may have been. Hopping speedily towards the bathroom, he managed to bang his elbow painfully on the jagged right angle of the desk in his room. Clutching his arm in pain, while trying not to spread the effluent on his foot around, he eventually made it to the bathroom. The absence of water when he turned on the shower taps should have come as no surprise. The stack of unopened red letters tumbling from his desk should have given him at least an inkling that at least one of the services were soon to be cut off. Yet it hadn’t. He examined the showerhead briefly, played with the taps for the sink for a while, before a dull realization came over him. He thought back to the clock, remembering again how late he was. He scraped the muck off his foot with a towel, pausing briefly to sniff the brown mush he was removing. Concluding that it was probably beef based, he dashed back to his room to dress. Striding down the corridor back to his room, his nakedness was brought to his attention by his landlady, Mrs. McTavish, rounding it’s corner. The cup of freshly poured tea flew from her hand in astonishment and, with what was becoming a dull inevitability, upturned itself on his chest. Terry squealed as the scolding liquid set light to his torso and genitals, but barely slowed his pace as he dived into his room. As the door slammed behind him he could hear the sounds of the wrinkled Scot; a mixture of shock and apology that he didn’t have time to deal with. There would probably be some demand for money following shortly afterward, but he had already tuned her voice out of his head. Wiping the tea off on the curtains also proved to be an error of judgment. The fact that he pulled them open in the process, combined with the fact that the primary school across the road had just begun it’s morning break would eventually lead to an encounter with the police. But that was not today and at least he was flaccid. Dry, though uncomfortably sticky (Mrs. McTavish’s tea was renowned for being thirty percent sugar), Terry addressed the matter of clothing. His eyes darted around the room, finally alighting on the outfit he had considered to be most appropriate for the day. Rather than being on the hanger he remembered leaving it on, it had somehow made it’s way to the floor. There it lay, crumpled beneath an upturned plate. There appeared to be a footprint on the back of the jacket. He scrabbled around, hoping to salvage something of it. The trousers that had hung inside only had a small splodge of beefy matter at the base of a leg. Terry wiped it on the jacket and deemed them serviceable. The shirt that had gone with the ensemble had vanished altogether, dissolved by the plate’s contents he reasoned. He searched the room for something he could get away with. Since the launderette had discontinued his line of credit, it had been a while since anything had received more than a quick rinse under a luke warm tap. Finally he turned up a white shirt with a red wine stain in the bottom right hand corner. It would be unnoticeable if tucked in to a ludicrous degree. He grabbed a can of deodorant to spray on himself and the shirt. It sounded as if it was down to it’s last millimeter of fluid, so, having shaken it for all he was worth (an action the school children could only just make out and unfortunately misinterpreted), he aimed at the shirt and fired. The cold wet sensation in the palm of his hand told him everything. The last few pathetic drops dribbled down the tin and the only sound he could hear was that of a pressurized breeze. He cursed loudly, whipping around to the toilet bag that contained all of his emergency toiletries. A tube of toothpaste with half a squeeze left in it. Razor blades he had bought when he first started shaving. Two inches of comb. A packet of condoms, four years past their best before date. An unused flannel his grandmother had given to him one Christmas. His heart sang when he found what he was looking for; a unisex roll-on deodorant he had stolen from his mother some years previously. He kissed the dusty plastic, uncapped it and vigorously rubbed it around on the shirt. In lieu of any proper washing he grabbed two tissues (one unused) and scraped them around in opposing armpits, before applying the roll-on to each in turn. From a sitting position he yanked the trousers up (underwear was an issue not even worth confronting) and slid into the still buttoned shirt. With all his might he squeezed out as much toothpaste as he could from the months old tube and smeared it onto his teeth with a greasy finger. Having swilled it around his mouth with saliva, he opened the window and spat (another piece of evidence he would later have to rely on in court). Socks weren’t a problem. The room was littered with them, all in various levels of distress, but thankfully all identical. Some time ago, when he had been slightly more solvent, he had acquired a job lot of fifty pairs, all in exactly the same style. Smelling them one by one, he eventually found two which met his exacting standards. Shoes were to prove to be more problematic. The left sat plainly in the centre of the room, taunting him as to the location of it’s missing brother. He began turning the room upside down, rooting through the vast piles of soiled linen, the tangles of wire behind the desk, through the forgotten objects under the bed. It was when he finally pulled back the end of the duvet that it revealed itself. As he lunged for it, it immediately became apparent that something was amiss. There was already a foot in it. Not a disembodied amputation, but a foot connected to a leg and presumably more besides beneath his downy comforter. He started back, hand over his mouth, trying to reconcile this information with any memory he had of the previous night. Nothing was immediately forthcoming. Taking another step back his hand brushed the toilet bag. He looked down and noticed for the first time that the plastic seal on the packet of three had been broken. Dumbstruck and with shaking hands he opened the box. It was empty. A faint noise from the bed grabbed his attention momentarily, but that was quickly superseded by the moist piece of rubber sticking out from under the plate. It’s contents had not been entirely cow based after all. He sank back onto the wall, trying to come up with some explanation for the possible horrors that now confronted him. He squatted in the corner for several minutes before catching sight of the clock again. He was late, but still had a chance. He gingerly skipped across the room as quietly as possible and stood at the foot of the bed. He had to get out now, mystery legs be damned. The shoe was mercifully unlaced, so slipped from the foot with ease. The figure beneath the sheets showed no signs of stirring as he tied the knot and slunk to the door. He took his anorak from the hook on the door and stepped out into the corridor. The door slammed noisily behind him.

That was when his hangover kicked in.

I’m unsettled by how much of that’s autobiographical. I’m sure you can work out which bits.

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