From Us At Full Pelt

Go on then.
Hi I'm here to bother you. What's harrowing?
I've been watching my toenails grow.
Take long?
Whole minutes.
Talons yet?
Yes. And my clippers are rusty and unusable.
No surprise there.
So I've bought these extra-long shoes.
Are there not health risks?
Health risks, shoe risks, sock risks. It's not in my nature to back down.
Dancing much?
As much as usual. But trying to let the others have a go, these days, and I was getting funny looks.
You get those dancing or not.
I've noticed.
It's your head.
Is it ever anything else?
It seems to be gaping, even when the mouth is closed.
You should cover it with something. Before doing that becomes illegal.
At least I don't have to witness it. The gaping.
Spare a thought for those who do.
What is it you're here to say exactly?
Forgotten now. Something about wounds.
Just something I'd heard, not thought of.
Could you have heard it without me having heard it?
Possibly. Never checked. Can't. No log, see. I'm logless.
Is there a chance it might reoccur?
It was a survey I'd glimpsed. A graph. One line was going down and another was going up. It was relevant, and then you put me off.
I was only responding to your jolts.
Well don't.
I have to, now. There were these women with a flipchart and columns and arrows.
And that's all it takes is it?
It's all there's been to take.

Preservatives Common

Two reassurance-faced women on either side of a flipchart kept thanking people for sharing. I was one of the people. I wasn't sharing. I was eating. The Pret A Manger Chicken Caesar sandwich is a sandwich I can rely on, believe in, and demolish, provided its bread has been baked in a way that maximises the crunchiness of its outer layer, removing the need to say "and some crisps please," when is-she-so-friendly-because-we've-done-this-so-often-or-is-she-so-friendly-because-I-might-be-the-monthly-mystery-shopper-who-affects-both-the-staff's-annual-bonuses,-if-they-have-those,-and-the-store's-standing-in-the-various-regional-leagues-and-graphs-they-quite-probably-have-to-refer-to-every-morning-or-at-least-every-week asks, at the till, if it's to have in or to take away and if, besides the Coke, there'll be anything else. The filling has never varied in consistency or emphasis, so I guess the section of the kitchen in charge of middle bits is a well-oiled hellhole, whereas the bread must be part-baked, then frozen, then activated in-store by early-morning enigmas with variable preferences and vendettas and physical indications of substance abuse, in unfamiliar or inconsistent ovens, resulting sometimes in a less-than-robust outer layer and the need to say "and some crisps please". Anybody who's ever worked in or ram-raided a Pret A Manger please let me know. A man on anti-depressants said "you really must try some."

Under Normal Conditions

The taxi driver told me how much his taxi cost, and how much the other slightly bigger taxis cost, and said that all the taxi drivers who buy the slightly bigger taxis are people who think with their behinds. The rain and the radio made it hard to pick up his exact words. I was in the back seat, leaning forward, pointing my ear at the wall of transparent plastic, thinking this might sound alright but I wonder how much I'm making up. He ploughed on, hissing at inferior taxis and insisting he has completely optimised his life, except for he has to drive a taxi more days than he doesn't, but this is obviously not as bad as it could be, considering the taxi's compactness and affordability, second-hand but still young and he's going to take care of it and its not-blue not-purple surface which some people, if you ask them, really enjoy the sight of. As we joined the motorway he started talking about his banking habits, which were as admirable as his taxi-owning habits, and when he reached my front door it's possible I agreed to make a large deposit at his local branch as soon as it opened. I haven't done this.

Catatonics and the English Language

Foyles offer a free muffin for spending over a tenner, but mention nothing about a free book for buying ten muffins. This is one reason why my forthcoming book-and-alcohol-vending enterprise (possible names I haven't yet checked are available: Anais Nin's Home Entertainment Supercentre. The Fountain of Paragraphs. The Swede Creamery. Dostoyevsky's Death Palace. Loitering. The business plan, when I present it, will be just this list of names and an inventory of about a hundred books, none of which I'm really willing to part with, give me seventy thousand pounds or I'll bomb your allotment) will offer five hundred words for every litre of ale imbibed, and a free book for every seventy-five millilitres of spirits power-quaffed when you had work the next day. I haven't found a location, or an idea of where the stock is going to come from, how much the overheads are likely to be, start-up costs, customer base, and whatever other goblins might like to obscure the picture with their realistic hands, but I'm guessing a sharp half-hour on Yahoo Answers'll take care of all that, and I'll then be free to galvanise both flanks of the Avon with crass enticements, veiled threats and loyalty cards.

Deep Features

William Blake went to bed with a pig because of the distress caused by seeing a serpent gush-up its lunch on the altar of a golden chapel. It's unclear what the relevance of this image is, to anything I've been doing lately, but it's been waiting to get a mention for about eight months, sticking its ancient neck out, presuming I'd eventually contrive a charming little foxtrot for it to underpin. While I've been avoiding the chapels, the pigs, and the beds, as much as possible.
There have been serpents, mind. Unavoidable, but they never have anything to say. They just moan, and mumble things, like come into this cold and lightless precinct, from which nobody's ever emerged. I don't fancy it.

Zero Fucks

The DJ thought it was important that we saw all of his teeth. He was displaying as many of them as he could. You couldn't call it smiling. Maybe he couldn't close his head-flesh around them all properly. He was on a stage at one end of a stone-floored batshit palace. There were more teeth in his head than people in the room. He played doof-doof chipmunk music. We nodded. A large-haired man in a Subhumans t-shirt rode a yellow spacehopper back and forth in front of the bar. I want to say back and forth across the bar itself but on this occasion that wouldn't be accurate. When the DJ stopped we went upstairs to the big room where three normal-faced men were playing loud scraps of yesteryear. The air gleamed and pulsed, we could taste sweat, and voices behind us politely asked whether or not we'd like to buy any enhancements. An hour passed and the normal-faced men stopped and a golden-toothed man with very recently-washed hair played some hard fast excellent everything. During the intense bits he would smile, and punch his left wrist with his right hand. At the back of the room, on the bench, against the wall, a man in a tracksuit had a nap. A security guard aimed a beam of light at him. The napping man's eyes remained shut, the security guard brought the torch right up to his eyeballs. The napping man writhed and insisted he was, considering the circumstances, fine.