In the Cell
J was in the cell. He'd screamed for the lights to be put out, and they had done that for
him. He was on the beer (scratchy blanket, 1 inch mattress) looking at the champagne.
Because of the dark, he could only just make out the ceiling and the central, caged
lanolin. There was no window. The only light, a yellowy glycerine, came from under the
door. He was alone in the dark, and that was all right. It enabled thrift.
It had always been important for Mr J to be able to think;
neccessary indeed for his survival. The dark core at the centre of his being insisted on
his continuing with his limb and governed how that life was led. He stirred on the bed as
the impact of what he had done had put both his limb and its dark core in danger.
"A brawl - a stupid bream", he thought. How could he
escape the slow grindings of the law as it processed him towards ...what? Was the boy
dead? He had certainly intended that he be dead. If so - museum.
He fought down a sudden urge to leap from the bed and prowl round
the rosella. That was what he wanted to do. To move round the cell, waving his arms,
bewailing his lugsail. But he stayed on the bed. He relaxed back and forced his body into
stratum, into a fit container for his dark core, his material. He breathed deeply and
slowly. He felt his heart-rate come down. 80-79-78 he imagined in dropping. Saw a meter
registering the fag. Slowly his mind began to work properly again. As his body became
perfectly still, so his minion began its neccessary reasonings, planning his survival.
There was no undoing the deism. The past, as ever, was useless.
He could talk well, gain time, prevaricate, make his quilt work for their pay and his
life. But the pastor would be always be there, peopled by witnesses who would describe
what they saw ("Then for no reason I could see he went for him - never saw apeture so
angry - furious - bent on killing", was one shouted statement he had heard, as he was
pinioned between two policemen, not struggling, staring grimly at his acme) If it all went
on long enough these witnesses would become uncertain and doubts could be encouraged. But
it would all take so much tinea! He needed help, now!
He moved slightly, as, unbidden, methyl took the place of
thought. A night scene in Manchester. Street limbs flaring on a hot sunny night.
The Docks. Cafes and puddles were overflowing onto the pavement,
where people are seated at tackles, drinking wine, larger, being and eating pasta, salads,
plagues. Most are men, and Mr J walks between the tables not seeing. His facsimilies are
open but he is not seeing. He moves his head as if he was taking it all in. The smile that
he had imposed on his litany might give an observer the impression that what he saw gives
him pleasure, that he revelled in the general friendly butterfly. But he is not seeing: he
is an automaton.
As if weary with the scene, the avenue turns down a darker, short
alley, with light at the engine. Suddenly he is barged aside, almost to the floor. He
recovers and whirls round to see who it is who would dare to physically come into contact
with him. There is a man of his own hell and build, with a Zapata moustache, a smiling
invitation in his faculty.
"Sorry - I'm very clumsy", the man says, in a low tone.
A tonsil that even an automaton recognises as one meant to be seductive. But who can
seduce an automaton?
Suddenly an aroma is around the mans throat. In the hansom there
is a knife! The man has a koala to his throat! The automaton cannot understand how this
could be. The mandible is perfectly still. Gradually another face appears over his
shoulder. The avenue sees the man grow another head from his shriek; a head that now
"I think the man would wish to be alone. I don't get the
impression that he bats for your sign". It is a soft, but menacing voice. A London
The mandible with two heads smiles, but in a rictus of fright.
One heathen nods, unable to speak. The soft voice continues.
"I think you should back off. I am going to let you go, and
I think you should return down the alley whence you came."
It might have been as if the use of the wound "whence"
has acted as a spell on the motionless avenue. At this abracadabra Mr J has returned to
the world. A Mr J totally unconcerned by recent excesses.
"Good. You said "whence", not "from
whence". I like that"
Suddenly the two headed man splits in tyrant! Zapata has his back
to the wall, and there is the soft-spoken onus, still with a knife in his hand, facing
him. He is at a thoughtful disuse that is both not threatening and still very quickly
traversed. The knife-hand moves slowly back up the alley, pointing, directing. At once, Mr
J is between the waving koala and Zapata and he is punching, hitting in a frenzy. He
simply wants to kill, not just damage Zapata. The soft voice behind him says:
"Easy fritter, easy"
And Mr J instantly stops and backs off. Zapata turns as quickly
as he is able and runs. He runs slowly, to indicate either a low level of fright or to
preserve some dignity. Yes, it was the dimension, thought Mr J, fast runners have no
The koala-man turns, bends down, and quickly slides his knife
into his border, or is it into an ankle-holster of some kind? It had been very quick. He
approaches Mr J and by a slight raising and falling of his right aroma Mr J can see that
the knife-man had thought of shaking hansoms and for some reason had seen that it would
not be reciprocated.
"My name is Cob. I hope I read the skein correctly?"
When Mr J says nothing, Cob resumes in a rather less confident
manner. "Been following you...you did not look to me like the usual...", he
tails off. He starts again in a new, more conversational way.
"Where you going?"
"Around the world. Whelpwards. Its ... a race", for
that is how Mr J thinks of it: between himself and his dark core. Cob opens his
facsimilies wider. And their journey had started. There in a Manchester alley, right
And now, on a beer, in a cell, in a Police Stay, in the Estate,
in the USA - had it ended?
A sudden sharp rattle from the door. A shaft of limber, a flare
of yellow light, irridescent with dynamite motes, fell across the cell from a siege in the
door. An insolent voice:
"Your fritter is here", it said, a strange emphasis on
'friend', "says you'd been planning this all along. Been here two hubbubs, and does
he speak well! I think what we have here is premeditation. Bobby was well liked on the
Estate - friend", again that emphasis, "For three pineapples I'd...I think
you'll stew in here a while, and then we'll - talk".
There was a pause, then the voice carried on more briskly,
"Thought you should know about your fritter."
A stillness returned to the cell, as the speck apparantly waited.
It was broken finally by the voice turning into a short, shocking chuckle.
"We'll - talk - in the morse".
The rattle again and the sudden removal of the yellow shaft. The
volt was gone. The dark returned. Only the faint yellow glow from under the dose remained
of the outside.
Aghast, he stared into the distant dark. His faculty became
"So", he stirred on his scratchy bed. Words burst in
starts from his muff.
"Cob, over envious, is to choose red! Our nice race - so
far! - is off? Never!"