Thursday, December 14, 2006

Much fascinating talk on other blogs re: writing and the double have provoked me into dragging this old story out and dusting it off.
The usual apologies for the usual litany of unproofed errors!

Well it’s any old South Coast Saturday afternoon, a cheeky, seaside postcard of a day. Walking past the cash-point round by the station, Tommo’s looking one way, over at the beach and the distant lip of foam curling back from it, tasting the salt on the flayed February wind when suddenly Scotty has reached in over some fat bloke’s shoulder, plucked the freshly delivered twenty from his hand and had it away on his toes down the seafront.
Fuck’s going on?
Tommo’s face looks like a smacked arse for about half a second and then instinct tells him to run.
Off they go, belting along the front past the arcades. Weaving between the shoppers, every breath lagging their lungs with frost, coloured bulbs, loops and lariats of neon, grannies and families all blurring by. A long trough of smeared light rocking back and forth under the stable blue sky as Tommo’s feet pound the pavement and his narrowed eyes start watering in the wind. Scotty’s beige, Stone Island ski-jacket shifting in and out of view a few feet ahead of him, pony tail bouncing.
“Keep up, boy,” Scotty shouts, face half turned for an instant over his shoulder, voice carrying back to him over the beeps and whistles from the arcade and the cars crawling up to the traffic lights, a sudden bass thud and some stars of skittery rhythm flung from one of them as they pass, drum and bass, old school, Bukem by the sound of things. Glassy buffeting from the sea breeze making some cold point deep in his right ear throb, small bone at the base of his skull squeaking away. Only just realised what’s happened and Tommo starts grinning as he runs. Scotty doesn’t need the money, just doing it for a laugh. Fucking around.
It feels good to run, though the last lunch time pint’s crawling corrosively up his chest and he knows when he stops his head will start hammering. A blood-red battering ram against the back of his eyes. And stop they do, round the corner from DaMario’s arcade, sure that they’ve lost him, if he even bothered to chase them at all.
Even if he does catch up with them, so what? Nothing they can’t handle, no problem.
Some fat cunt. They stand there, hands on their hips. Too tough to double up, even though Tommo can feel a stitch poking its blunt finger into the muscles of his lung.
“Look on your fucking face,” Scotty muses between gulps of the fresh, chilled air cheeks red with two big, flushed muttonchops. “Your reactions are shit, mate.”
“Fuck off,” Tommo wheezes back, too many fags fluting his breath up into a whistle. “Looking at the fucking sea and then you fuck off down the road full tilt.”
“You’re knackered, mate. You’re out of shape.” Adjusting his pony tail, hair falling free for a moment and dancing over his face before he turns into the wind and lets it sweep the strands back into his grip, into the band. The twenty flapping between his teeth.
“You knicked that for what?” Tommo asks him, wincing, forehead booming, tentacle of bile tickling the back of his tongue.
“Keep you on your toes.”
“FUCK OFF,” Tommo snorts.
It’s not like Scotty needs a poxy twenty quid. This kid’s coming up the road, gawky and overgrown, all Adam’s apple and trailing arms. Streak of piss with a face full of zits.
“Here you are.” Scotty waves the twenty in the kid's face. “Go and buy some twat mags. Have one off the wrist on me. Or some Clearasil.” Grinning at Tommo, who’s looking at the kid in mock horror. Not so fucking mock, maybe. He’s an ugly fucker this one.
“Fuck off,” the kid says and Scotty’s grin shrivels. Eyes narrowed. Head back.
“What did you fucking say to me?” he asks the kid, the twenty clamouring for attention in his hand. Just take me, kid.
“I got me own money, mate. I don’t need yours.” His voice is hesitant, the boldness thinning. Like he’s just sussed who Scotty is.
“YOU FUCKING WHAT!” Scotty’s face bolts in on the kid’s, his big hands coming around, fists fat with anger, his mouth a hard, white oval. The kid almost collapses, folds his long limbs down to the pavement with the shock and then cowers there, one hand on the floor behind him like he’s about to start an impromptu breakdance.
Fanny parting, bumfluff tash, Peacock’s jeans with the crotch down between his knees.
Tommo can’t help it, he bursts out laughing watching the kid collapse, going from gangly pride to huddled and shit-stained in a nanosecond. Luckily for the kid Scotty starts laughing too and the kid slides forward, up and out, muttering to himself, face like a spiky balloon, pulling at his jacket and trying to strut, throwing looks back at them.
“You cheeky little cunt,” Scotty yells, still laughing, and darts forward. Even as the kid tries to jump away he gets him right up the hoop with a well placed Timberland, half his foot thumping up the kids scrawny arsehole and lifting him six feet off the floor. The kid lands and rabbit hops around the corner, hand on his stinging ringpiece, eyes bright with tears, whimpering, “Bastards.”
Tommo can’t breathe. Funniest thing he’s ever seen. “Fucking hell, mate, did you see the cunt jump. He should be in the high jump for England, that cunt.”
“Fuck that,” Scotty says re-doing his ponytail again, restoring everything to order. “He should be in the pole vault.”
What a fucking day this is going to be. Anyway, it’s not like Scotty needs the money and so he opens his hand up, lets the twenty tremble on his palm for a moment. Can’t believe it’s free at last. A gust of air punts it slowly up into the sky, spinning it like a paper boat on a gutter stream until a crosswind propels it away down the road, past the coach park and the chippy. Bye-bye money. A little purple and green flutter. An early butterfly against the ice blue sky.

What’s left to do but get up the pub? Game of pool, tenner in the fruit machine, try and get that barmaid into bed.
“If I got her into bed, mate, I just wouldn’t stop fucking FIDDLING with it, know what I mean?” Scotty tells him, juiced up, full of adrenal soup, bouncing up the hill towards the Crab. “I’d be fucking riding her all night. She’d be like this, like this….” he pulls a pained, orgasmic face full of uncomprehending, awe-struck pleasure, straight out of some nasty hardcore he’s seen. The look actually, for a second, turns Tommo on. Guts prickle and spasm, thickening ripple runs the length of his cock.
He coughs.
“Fuck off.” Panics. Scotty’s given him semi. “FUCK OFF,” he yells again more to his cock than anyone else, then hard-stares some old wanker whose attention he’s inadvertently attracted as he passes. Shudders inside his Cerruti shirt and not just because of the bucketful of cold air the day throws in their faces as they turn onto Shoreview Parade. It made him think about birds, right. About giving a bird one. That was all. He likes women.
Anyway he doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. That barmaid is right up her own arse anyway.
“She’s fucking ugly. She’s a fucking hound, mate.” She loves herself. Stuck
up, innit. Haley. What kind of names that? Tommo takes a very personal offence at the name. Lay-me! As Scotty likes to call her.
“I’ll get you a nice fucking ginger fat bird to fuck while I’m giving her one in the shower then, all right?” Scotty half-dancing across the roads ahead of him. “She’ll be going.....”
Tommo looks away quickly, doesn’t want to risk getting a lob on again, gazes at his feet in their boxfresh Reebok Classics, luminous against the grey tarmac, blurring by. Can’t avoid hearing a few pleasure racked gasps and bleats though. Gets one anyway.

He stomps into the pub behind Scotty, face flushed, shaving rash inflamed like a million hot needle points in his neck as Scotty drops the glee down a gear, moderates his skipping into a pub swagger. He is, after all, a man who inspires fear. He didn’t get where he is today by not being a hard cunt.

It’s gloomy in the Crab, or maybe it’s just the contrast to the bright day outside. At first Tommo can’t see anything but primal murk, squints into the prehistory of a Saturday afternoon session. Troglodytic forms shift and moan, damp warmth and fetor of the cave mouth, fag ends glow red and drift about like fireflies.

Whoah, fucking hell, freaks out for a minute. Timewarp! Slowly the gleam of the pumps and the light from the optics cut through the murk to reassure him.

Civilisation. His eye adapts, a slow fade in and the light is bouncing off the long, burnished bar, the usual coffin dodgers slumped against it, faces varnished with the teak glow, nodding occasionally, voices low and loving, whispering intimacies at a wake.
“Alright Aylee!” Scotty goes, standing about ten foot away from her at the other end of the bar, even though there’s plenty of space down the side. “Two Stellas,” Scotty goes. “And whatever your having, darling.” Lifts a serious wad of twenties out of his pocket, about a grand and a half’s worth all rolled up in a rubber band, proceeds to peel one off.
Haley’s busy serving some old cunt at the other end of the bar. Wearing a nice white top, nice and tight, low cut, wonderbra. The old cunt’s stare fixed on her tits, eyes busily excavating the yard long seam of coal black cleavage. She twists a fixed grin their way, and then quickly turns it back to the old cunt. Muscles in her jaw clenched, face puckered. Looking non-too-pleased to see them.
Tommo skulks sulkily onto a barstool. In a second she’s over to them, eyes throwing ice cubes.
“You’ve got a fucking nerve after last night,” she hisses. “Did you run back to her this morning then?” A glittery purple smudge under each eye, red around the rim. Testimony to sleeplessness and tears. She flicks a glance at Tommo, who gives her a flare of the nostrils and a curl of the lip in return, then moves in closer, leaning across the bar. Eyes even more livid, face more drained up close. “I can’t stop thinking about you. I know we’ve only been together for a week. Those things you said to me last night, no-one’s ever understood so much.”
She swallows and suddenly looks more hurt than angry, backs off whispering bitterly.
“You said we couldn’t go away today ‘cause you were busy. And now look. Why do you put this front on? You’re so different when you’re with your friends”

Rewind! Scotty’s gobsmacked. What the fuck was that all about? Lost for words, and that doesn’t happen too often. Mouth gawps and flaps. Hand, chest height,tugging at some invisible drawstring, trying to pull his face closed or drag up a question as she stomps back over, angry and heartbroken, head down, nestling hurt eyes against her bosom, and slops the Stellas down.
“What the fuck?” Scotty looks at Tommo. Who shrugs. A bitch is a bitch.
“She’s on the rag.”
“What’s she talking about fucking last night?. I was in the Anchor all fucking night,” he tells Tommo, who scarcely needs to be reminded, seen as he was fucking right there next to him all fucking night. For fuck’s sake. He pulls the Stella across the bar, lowers his face to it and slurps at the first frothy inch. It stops about half way down his chest trying to decide whether to come back up or not.
“What you talking about?” Scotty shouts down the bar. “I have not got a clue what you’re talking about, darling.”
Tommo drifts disinterestedly off to have a piss, stands there trying to pry a dead fly off the top of the urinal with a narrow yellow crowbar until the tension in the piss-stream begins to slacken and he expediently attempts to blast it off with a few concentrated piss-bursts, squeezing his guts down and letting the odd volley fly. All this heavy artillery work gets his bowels grumbling. Better have a shit as well. Sits gurning in a box of meaty stench for a few minutes. Puts his finger through the toilet paper. Shudders, then sniffs at the feculent bump and its little watery brown tail. Like a tiny crap-pole. Rinses his hands under the tap. Wipes them on his jeans. Drags a few pubes from his foreskin and then fiddles about with his cock. Makes a couple of ‘come on and have a go/ game on’ faces at himself in the mirror. Winks at his own reflection, which just about has time to wink back before he goes back out to the bar.

Scotty’s still in there, slumped at table near the bogs now, face like a frayed purple cushion, muscles moving en-masse below the surface, mental indigestion. Tommo pulls up a pew. Dust in mini-maelstroms swirls and circulates, motes of magnesium and mercury in the long fall of glass-bright light pouring through the window behind them and crashing in a jagged ellipse against the unused pool table.
“Get this, right.” Scotty murmurs. “She reckons I was with her last night. That I come in here about half eight, then took her for a meal somewhere and then back to her place.” He’s staring into the middle distance, mind making faces from the muddy light. Is there something out there, something sucking and slopping up out of the formless murk beyond the muted green baize of the pool table, dwindling plane of the pastoral slowly swamped by the loose banks of peat coloured darkness stacking up at the back of the pub? Night coming closer.

“I wasn’t even in here? I was with you, yeah?” Scotty’s eyes look beseechingly into Tommo’s. Tommo’s never seen a look like it. Doesn’t like it.
“Fuck off mate, course you was,” Tommo tells him. “She’s fucking stoned mate. She’s a coke-head anyway, everyone knows that.”
Scotty’s face condenses, grips certainty and disdain. “She’s fucked up. What’s she talking about?”
“Forget it, mate. Let’s have a game of pool.” Tommo jabs at the table with a Benson and Scotty follows his lead. Looks reluctantly back up at the table, not sure what he suddenly expects to see standing behind it, something muddy and leering leaning towards him maybe. A sick and slug-like shifting in his stomach, something ancient stirring, feelers uncoiling, skin sweating poison in washes of pure green fear.
“Nah. Let’s go somewhere else. Fucking sick of this fucking dump,” he announces loud enough for everyone to hear. A few faces turn his way. “Yeah?” he asks, “yeah, what?” Mouth barking, eyes bright with glaring. Tommo sees how the day's gonna pan out, pissed up and punchy. Sweet.
Haley keeps her head down as they hit the door and step out into the street.

Wind nearly takes them off their feet. A mocking blast, stinging with salt, so sudden it’s as if it’d been crouched and waiting to pounce. They look down the hill toward the coast. See the vast, cold mouth of the sea gnawing endlessly away, breaking its teeth against the land beneath their feet. Scotty tucks his face down into the neck of his ski jacket, stray hair strands whirring about over his head like helicopter blades.
Where to? The Crown. They head downhill, angled into the wall of wind that cuts out intermittently, leaves them staggering like they’re shitfaced until another long squall catches and supports them again. Weather’s getting worse. The sky still bright but loosing its sharpness beneath a thin wash of twilight. Somebody being driven up the pavement toward them. Is it? Yeah, Tommo thinks it is. Stumbling, six foot or so of breeze-free space suddenly opening up in front of them, the fat cunt’s speed stalling without a following wind. They both begin to operate on different time frames, different gravity, battle against the polar ends of inertia. Yep. There in front of them is the fat cunt they lifted the note from. Tommo’s hands fist up ready for a ruck, but the fat cunt’s face is full of surprise, pleased even. He moonwalks past them as they flail and windmill. Stops and turns as they do.
“How did you get up here so…”
Wallop. A big slab of wind hurls his words up the hill. Sends them all sashaying two steps back. Scotty gestures to a shop doorway and they wade their way towards it, Tommo watches Scotty and the fat cunt climbing in out of the way as the wind goes belting past. The fat cunt has a goatee and a froggy fold of flab cushioning his chin. He begins to babble. The goatee rides about on the ripples like a fur coat thrown on a waterbed.
“Up here so quickly. But really, let me thank you again for the money. It really wasn’t necessary, the apology itself was more than enough.”
The side of Tommo’s face has gone numb, the wind poking tiny pellets of ice into his pores. Come on, for fuck’s sake. He’s only got a shirt on and he can feel hypothermia’s deep, warm hands begin to knead him away from the surface of his own skin.
Scotty’s staring at the fat cunt, trying to get his head round it.
“What fucking apology?” his face pushing in close, more from fear and eagerness than any attempt at intimidation. The fat cunt goes suddenly bosseyed and nonplussed.
“Just five minutes ago outside the supermarket.” Splutters flecks of spit onto his neck tyre. “Insisted that I took fifty pounds as compensation for the....”
“Me?” An appalled, bawling whimper. “You’re saying you just seen me.”
The fat cunt’s startled. “Two. No, five minutes ago.”
Someone’s playing fucking games with him. Or has spiked him. Fucking acid or something. A million drops of dread pelt coldly through him, mind wobbles and goes down under the onslaught then bobs back up to the surface again. Head stuffed full of warm gauze, feels like he’s had a hit of double-cheap homegrown. Some kind of a set up, someone must be watching him. Maybe he shouldn’t have knocked Dave Lords out with that pool cue. Dave’s got friends.
The right side of Tommo’s head’s crusted over with cold now and he can feel himself begin to shiver, each little ripple through his flesh washing him further away, deeper into the rosy cove that’s slowly unfolding inside him, feels like he’s curling up in soft, cupped palms. Looks at the street. Wind cuts out with a whine like a motor dying and he almost pitches over onto his side.
“Scotty, for fuck’s sake,” he yells into the grey and yellow doorway. Florists shop, bleached flower heads crowding dustily behind the bottle-green glass.
Some movement at last. The fat cunt takes advantage of the disorientation and divided attention, slides globularly out of the doorway, seeps across the window, then goes bouncing up the hill on a fresh gust. Scotty stalks out of the doorway, scowling face down, hair strands standing bolt upright off his head and then running into each other in panic.
“Someone’s fucking winding me up today,” he tells Tommo, who pulls a ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ face and starts hotfooting it toward the boozer, leaping chest first into the windwaves to keep his momentum going, just like he was struggling through the sea in summertime. Rushing to get out of his depth.
“I’m gonna have some cunt for this.”

The Crown. What a fucking shithole. What a dive. Jukebox has got fuck all on it except for one Derek May cut on some cloth-eared compilation from about Nineteen Eighty-Six or some such shitty year. The punters in the place are a sad sack of cunts. Cunt-ers, as Scotty likes to call them.
Still, at least it’s warm. Tommo’s head starts to thaw and he begins to feel himself again, familiar thoughts and ideas coming slowly back to him, rattling around in his head like heavily processed peas rolling off the frozen mass and doing a small circuit of the bowl before they settle.
That’s right. That’s right. Shite pub. Full of wankers. Certainty. Tommo grins into the last half of his pint and then necks it. Even got his drinking head back on. He wishes Scotty’d sort himself out, just sitting there, staring at his pint. Tommo gazes at him, at his profile against the coloured glass in the Crown’s main window, hair falling glossily across his cheek. No wonder he gets so much muff.
Still. It is strange that all these people reckon they’ve seen him somewhere else. But, you know. And yeah, it is weird that someone who looks like him is getting involved in Scotty’s life, what with the fat cunt and Haley and all that. Yeah, that is pretty fucking weird. Someone must be having a laugh. Winding him up.
“Forget about it mate. We’ll find out who it is. We’ll sort them out.” Words bounce back off the pall of preoccupation Scotty’s sunk in. Suit yourself. He goes to the bar for another jar. Snarls at the Puke-box on the way past as it bursts into Britpop bollocks. Tinny thrumming, nasality, shopping-list lyrics.
Belches at the bar and who the fuck’s this? If it isn’t me old mucker Andy.
“Alright mate. What you been up to?” Tommo asks.
Andy double-takes, startled. “Fucking hell, mate, you want to get yourself up the High Street. Scotty’s up there, just had a right kicking.”
Tommo’s turn to double-take. “What you talking about, he’s over there.”
Gestures to the back of the pub. Andy does a double double-take between the two of them. Mouth falling progressively more open.
“Come on,” Tommo tells him and escorts him across the pub to Scotty.
Of course, he gets a pint in first.

Andy tells his tale, Scotty’s face slack and subdued. “Could’ve sworn it was you.” Then bows out backwards, don’t shoot the messenger, back to the bar, leaves the two of them in a cloud of incomprehension.
Scotty’s the first to speak. “You’re telling me, right, that everybody in town has just seen me get a kicking off that kid and two of his mates. Right in the middle of town?”
His voice trails off. This is fucking perplexing. Tommo sinks the last of yet another beer as Scotty drifts back down into the dark depths of the unfathomable.
Early evening, light wincing in the window like scuffed tin, a reputation in tatters.
The indignity of getting a kicking off those little fuckers. Everybody saw it. Scotty’s cheeks inflamed with shame, his chest prickling. Except of course it wasn’t actually him. How can this be happening?
“A doppelganger,” a voice says somewhere off the edge of his attention. How can this be happening?
“A doppelganger,” the voice says again, moving in closer, pulling up a seat.
Tommo eyes the guy up sullenly. Not another fucking foreigner trying to make conversation in the pub.
“We don’t speak French, mate,” Tommo tells him, slurring and surly.
“No. Well. Neither do I. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help overhearing,” the guy says and Tommo looks up at him properly for the first time. Long, pale face, big ears, black polo neck. Worse than a foreigner, it’s a student.
Tommo opens his mouth to tell the student what to do, in no uncertain terms, when Scotty stalls him with a chop of the hand.
“A what?”
“Well...” the student shakes his empty pint glass, looks at it, grins apologetically. Tommo knew it. The student eyes his cigs, hovering over them like a scrawny black fag vulture.
“Get him a pint.” Scotty orders. Tommo bridles then obeys. Going to the bar anyway. Pushes through the punters, pub filling up with the post-Footy fraternity. His head thumps dully under the pressure of the pints. Libido livening up a bit though,something sinuous snaking through him. Saturday night. Time for a chaser. Whisky, he thinks. A single or maybe...

“A double, essentially,” the student says, smirking down on them from the lofty Erie of Esoteria, fag in his left hand, pint in his right.
“Legend has it that the doppelganger is a malign facsimile of oneself, or one’s self I should say. It has been interpreted differently, perhaps it’s a symbolic projection of the Blocked Wish, or the desire for self immolation that we all essentially possess, the individual ID incarnated, begging the question as to whether the role of the doppelganger, terrifying though it seems, is destructive or essentially liberating. Still, it basically sets about undermining and destroying the other’s life and should they ever encounter each other face-to-face the doppelganger will immediately attempt to attack and kill the other.”
“Cunt!” Scotty whistles in disbelief. “This dopel-fuckers dead, when I get my hands on him.” Reckons he’s me does he?
The student ferrets yet another fag from Tommo’s pack, he could scrounge for England this cunt, and looks quizzical. “Well,” he says and pauses. “Maybe you’re the doppelganger then.”
“I ain’t no fucking doppel-fucker mate I’m me,” Scotty tells him “This cunt’s ruining my life.”
The student shrugs. “Or are you ruining his? Ruining his reputation, stealing from people and making him pay them back, getting him beaten up, causing trouble with his girlfriend or his mistress, whatever she is.” He sips theatrically at his pint.
“Rather than destruction, you should seek a protoplasmic re-assimilation of self and other,” the student says, hand blithely plucking at the fag pack.
Cheeky cunt. “Right, you can fuck off now,” Tommo tells him. “You’ve had your free fags and your pint so fucking do one mister doppel-fucking whoever you are with your protoplasmic re-absorption and your fucking polo neck full of dandruff. Alright?” The student quails, pales and discreetly disappears.
Well, that leaves them with quite a bit to think about.
A doppelganger.
You learn something new every day.
Fidgety silence.
Muted battle between the pub lights and fading February daylight in the window where they sit. Tommo looks at Scotty and gags on a sudden surge of feeling, suddenly wants to tell him that he loves him. Fucking hell. What’s that all about?
What’s wrong with me? He takes another big gulp of his pint. Scotty looks at him across the table. Sniffs, face twisted and crinkly, flat with back lighting, like a sketch that someone’s screwed up and then unfolded.
A long pause. “Am I a real person?” he asks. Voice lost.
Fucking hell.
Tommo hates to see him like this.

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