A Tale of Monday

A Tale of Monday

A Story by Erwan Atcheson
"

This is an excerpt form a novel I have published online (The Big Pink, on Smashwords: In this chapter early Levin takes a walk through Belfast.

"

A Tale of Monday

(LEVIN GOES FOR A WALK)

 

Dull day. Dishes in the sink. He rubs his eyes, thinking about how dull this day is. Will he go for a walk? No, he thinks. Well, who knows.

He rubs his eyes again. Oh, the botherdom. Why make the effort to put his breakfast together? He prefers to be free. Free of worry, free of harm. He’d like some breakfast. A packet of cereal is removed from the cupboard. Little tinklets of golduminium foil rattle down into a white ceramic bowl. He takes a round ball of resin from his pocket and crumbles the dope into the cornflakes. This act brings him some pleasure. He burns his thumb with the lighter as he rubs the sphere of dope but he doesn’t mind.

Some kind of commotion seems to be brewing upstairs. Levin isn’t too concerned. It seems natural that someone else in the house should be getting up. He turns his attention to the bowl. Lots of dope has formed, sitting on the edges of the golden flakes of corn like little turds. Mm, he thinks, tasty. He opens the fridge door and searches a 2L blue-capped bottle of milk. Oh yes, it’s in the other fridge.

Out comes the milk and sprinkles on the dopecorn. Oh, how great this will be, how excellent, how good. One mouthful. So this is what dopecorn tastes like. Tastes like bootpolish. Something makes more noise upstairs. He ignores it. Really he ought to have had a cup of coffee ready before now. He takes a mug from his cupboard. The mug is brown; it has a picture of Homer Simpson’s yellow bulbous face. Red and brown concentric circles radiate from its centre. He reaches for a jar of instant coffee and spoons two large heaps into his cup.

A steady thumping begins somewhere in the upper confines of the great house. He flicks on the kettle. He trembles in nervous anticipation. The thumping pauses as a door is ripped from its hinges and hurled at a wall. After crashing and splintering come a series of ground-shaking thuds. A pause. The sound of another door being hurled open and then violently shut. A brief and sweet silence.

The kettle, plastic and dirty and grey, hisses and bubbles in a mounting fury. Then it clicks to a quiet ocean of calm. The young man lifts the kettle by the handle and evenly pours the water into the cup. All is still; not a woodlouse can be heard to stir. He takes the spoon resting by the inner wall of the cup and swirls the brown foam, metal making contact with the walls with a pleasant ding, ding, ding …

The sound of a toilet door being unlocked.

The sound of a foot descending with force onto a carpet. The sound of sizzling, crisping and popping as the carpet catches fire. Levin begins to feel ill, knowing what is coming next. Yes. The stairs become the sounding board for a monstrous walking jackhammer. A quick succession house-shaking booms race with developing momentum into the cataclysm of a final twenty-foot leap that (for one moment stretched by dreadful foresight into an eternity) is silent �" and then the almighty gods of wind and thunder focus their gigantic energies into a single meteoric impact of devastating fury

BLAAMMMM

The young man in the kitchen feels the ground give under his feet. Only by grabbing hold of the edge of the countertop does he avoid falling to his a*s. He secures himself and gets his breath under control. Then, nervously, he returns to his breakfast preparations. He manoeuvres his brimming bowl and cup of coffee to a table by the door.

A final rumble of running feet takes measure of the distance from the hall to the kitchen and hurls a giant body through the door. As the frame explodes into clouds of wood-chipping and sawdust, the yellow choking cloud settles onto the red linoleum floor and the young man sees, as he expected, a burly spiky-haired demon standing there.

‘Good morning!’ said the demon, a grin upon its face.

‘Hi Levin MacHill,’ said Levin.

‘Up early in the morning, I see.’

Levin eats a spoonful of cereal. Levin MacHill spots the matt brown mouseturds floating in the bowl and catches his breath. Then he shouts, in mischievous terror and unhappy glee:

‘Man, are you putting dope into your cornflakes?!’

Let us take a moment to analyse Levin MacHill’s feelings.

He shouted mischievously and his mischief was terrified. He was gleeful, but the glee was a two-faced Janus looking into the pits of despair. This is because Levin by his act was altering the norms of civilised society.

It is possible to discover a standard and alter it. This makes it more difficult for everyone else to guide themselves by received wisdom. To be accurate though, Levin had not discovered a standard of behaviour but uncovered it by his action. Uncovering a norm or principle forces it from the realm of the automatic into the realm of the deliberate. Some argue this is the same as removing something from the kingdom of dark into the world of light and day.

This has a double meaning in the present context. Cannabis had previously been a creature of the dark, only taken towards day’s end. In consequence only those aspects of life were explored that exist in a post-afternoon, evening, or a night-time environment. Night is the traditional time of disorder, the forces of anarchy and of dimness that makes objects merge into one another. They lose their identity. Day is the realm of categories, boxes, sequences, sharply delineated lines. Introducing the essence of night into the realm of day can have only one consequence: explosion.

Levin farts and then burps. ‘Ope. Pardon me,’ he says, wiping the milk from his mouth. He lays the empty bowl to one side. Rubbing his now quite clear eyes, he looks out the window to the back yard.

Levin MacHill is faintly disturbed and excited by this turn of events. He fidgets as if a bee crawls about beneath his clothes.

‘Man, are you really going into class with a load of dope inside you?’

Levin shakes his head. ‘No,’ he says. ‘I am going for a walk.’

 

Levin exits the house one half-hour later.

‘Now, I will boldly go,’ he says to himself, ‘where I have not gone before.’

He goes down the Lisburn Road.

Such experiences are best obtained in solitude. A day for quiet observation, to see what Belfast is really like. This is what the dope is for: to sharpen the senses, or rather unmask them. What dope does is make your eyes like reading glasses.

Levin reaches the traffic lights at the junction of Tate’s Avenue and on the spur of the moment decides to cross.

He goes down Tates Avenue towards the Village. The road climbs quite high as it arches above the railway line. Levin stands at the zenith; he looks below him. A road on his left passes under the bridge. To his right below him lie the tracks. No sign of a train coming. He decides not to wait. There are other things to do.

 

Most of the kids are in school. A few continue to roam. Levin wonders whether to continue to the Boucher Road. He looks to the red-brick terraces. There are a few tattered Union flags fixed to flagpoles beneath the windows. This does not make it clearer to him what he should do. Perhaps it tells him to contemplate the porcelain dolls in people’s windows.

The Boucher Road doesn’t call him. Instead he rises up the Tate again. It is time to go to the very centre of things. Belfast’s centre. He wants to know it. Only he can know it, the centre �"

�" seagulls flapping their wings, old ladies pushing tartan carts, an old terrier barking at cars, the bus rank, the Apartment, City Hall with its green copper roof, great Victoria presiding over the ship-building centre of her Empire, a dour expression, traffic lights across the road to WH Smith on the other side, people of Belfast, alcohol-lined faces, young fresh faces, someone laughing in fear of the unknown, pigeons, restaurants, magnets, arcades, bookshops, Boots, fat moustached civil servants with worried eyes but happy mouths �" no doubt the stress of their split existence tearing them apart �" a middle-aged woman stops to coo at a baby, the bright glossy magazines and beautiful bodies and desirable wealth, flaunted gold chains, Levin remembers the car, the armoured black Merc with the licence plate, ‘UZ1 4U,’ that drove past him at the junction by City Hall �"

�" every moment becomes longer and longer for Levin. He spends twenty minutes inside a corner shop, mesmerised by the arrangement of the sandwiches. Someone stacked all these. Probably that dude behind the counter. He seems to like his job. He makes quickfire comments in his harsh Belfast accent to the customers who come into his shop. Two seconds of interaction compressed into a perfect meeting of minds. So concise. The person behind the counter is a genius �" he knows how to elicit a laugh from nothing, from these his people. Levin wishes he could stay here all day watching the people come in and out. Instead he is conspicuous. He looks at the sandwiches again. He becomes at one with this place, this close environment of ordered foodstuffs. The miscellanae of objects absorbs him. Why does this place sell, on a simple swivel stand, the paraphernalia required to launch a party from start to finish? Birthday candles; toothpicks; balloons; nail files. Nail files? Why would you file your nails �"? Ah, to make sure your nails look good before the party. It seems remarkable to Levin that someone would put that degree of attention into the tips of their fingers. It seems to Levin that he is missing something. He is seeing details only. There is something above and beyond it that he is not accessing. Ah! It is that the world is Art and can be thus contemplated. Levin has studied History of Art and knows something of the way to interpret things by this light. So, the nail file symbolises violence. A dominant theme of sharpness, in the way the woman files her nails into a point using an implement that can itself be used to stab or wound. The nails express danger, the ability to wound. But in fact the danger is false: the nails are ineffective, a hindrance. So is the nail file. Levin has accessed an entire world of oppression in an instant. The Shakespearian trope of false women �" it reveals so much. False not because women are naturally false but because women are subjugated and it is not the nature of a human to be kept in a lower place. The natural state is one of equality; when that equality is denied, a false state exists. That falsity manifests in so many ways: covering up, making up, the Christian ideal of the Virgin who gave birth, suffering the violence of childbirth routinely, being a weaker sex, bitching, insecurity, fidelity, the taboo of the word ‘c**t.’ The list is endless; Levin explores it for eternity. Then he is conscious again. He has discovered so much in so little time. Is it obvious to others how much he now knows? It seems to him that the shopkeeper has become hostile. How can this be? The shopkeeper is not smiling, he is counting the change in his till box. The counting seems violent; the coins clash in the drawer. Levin senses that the man wishes him to leave. Levin feels obliged to buy a Mars bar or something, but simultaneously that feels like a wrong act. Human relationships should not exist on a commercial basis. Levin believes that if he leaves the shop by looking the man in the eye and saying, in a friendly way, ‘goodbye,’ then the shopkeeper will understand what Levin means, and cease to hold his wrong beliefs. Levin approaches the counter, which borders the exit. The man is still counting his change. ‘Goodbye,’ says Levin. The man glances up and says something incomprehensible to Levin. Levin stalls, suddenly anxious. Did the man say something harsh, or was it meant to be a friendly goodbye, and if the latter was it sincere? He waits for a moment to see if he can get more information. It was harsh, he knows it. How could it not be, surrounded by these symbols of oppression, the hard steel till box, the window covered in private advertisements? Death: that is what Levin fears most. This man, surrounded by cigarettes, the symbols of death. ‘Can I have a packet of Drum … mild and large Swan … papers please?’ asks Levin. Did I finish that sentence? he asks himself by way of interior monologue. The man is displeased; he turns to get the products. I have reminded him of the symbols of oppression, thinks Levin. He is looking for the Drum mild. Levin can see it, but the shopkeeper doesn’t seem to be able to find it. The length of time it is taking the man to find the tobacco and the hostility … ‘Golden … Virginia … will do,’ Levin gasps. The man glances at Levin. He returns to finding the tobacco. I have interrupted his process. What seems like a long time to me is only instants for him. People’s minds work at different speeds. Processes all work in different ways. Maybe he doesn’t like people who are stoned.  Similarity. The basis for everything we do. Searching is a process based on similarity: having a mental model of the object being hunted. Levin realises that the man hunting for the Drum mild/Golden Virginia doesn’t know that it is rolling tobacco. The man is new at his job. He looked as if he knew what he was doing, but in fact does not: and the two compressed seconds of greeting, are born of adrenaline, fear that he will reveal his incompetence. It is all a show or charade. He is stalling, trying to find the packet, looking in the wrong place because he hasn’t yet been asked for a packet of rolling tobacco. Levin will not say to the man that he is looking in the wrong place: that would humiliate him. It would make him aware that Levin knew that he was new and that his attempts at disguise were futile. The man continues to look at the shelf. Levin walks out of the shop without a sound. This is the most effective way of leaving the situation with everyone’s self-esteem intact. Levin enters the bright light of day and feels ecstatic. What an amazing world this is. Look at the upper levels of the buildings. Belfast is a beautiful place, when you look above street level. Beautiful architecture. Some great 1920s stuff. He thinks of telling Meabh of this; she will know what he speaks of. He decides to wander down all the avenues in the city centre to look at the buildings.

He begins down a side street. There appear five young men at the other end. Levin wonders: what is their motivation? Perhaps they are friendly and wish to get to know Levin. There is a small risk that they would like to beat Levin into blood and shards of bone, so Levin begins to feel dread. However he keeps his dread under control. He has entire control over his mind. He understands how to deal with this situation. He observes their walk and adopts an expression of complete boredom. He walks like them as they walk towards him. They are boisterous and noisy, so Levin adopts a swagger. He opens his arms out wider and looks at them coming. Passing, they look at him with standard indifference. He says, ‘all right?’ They ignore him. Levin smiles to himself as they walk away behind him. He knows he doesn’t have to look back, they won’t be returning to brain him. He has mastery of the concrete jungle, because he understands it. He feels elated at his control of his environment. He has control of his mind; he doesn’t look around, although he can hear them talking about him. He hears them say: that long-haired guy. He thinks he did. It is all right, I am nearly at the end of the alley, he thinks. That long-haired guy. What would they have against him? He didn’t do anything to them. Unless they think that saying ‘all right’ was an insult. He slows his walk on purpose, to show them by his pace that he is confident. But perhaps they have ways he can’t imagine of telling confidence from fear. No, they are gone. He turns right round and watches their departure from the alley. He stands full square in the middle, hands on hips. So they have left the alley. He can return up the alley or stay here, or go on in the direction he was going. He revels in the freedom. He’s never been here before. He can go anywhere and do anything. He continues down the alley, looking at some broken paving stones. What broke them? It seems so weird that the repetitive impact of footsteps could have that effect. Or rain, or cold weather. He knows why people avoid the cracks: they symbolise death, the attrition and demolition that wears everything away. People avoid death in every shape or form. The survival instinct, thinks Levin, is probably stronger than the sex instinct. He observes his instincts at play in his mind, trying to get his attention, like little children. Then he collapses into his instincts, overwhelmed by them. Food. Shelter. Safety. Companionship. Then he escapes his total immersion in his instincts. Wow. He breathes as if he has just surfaced from deep water. What was that, he wonders. I was, in those few moments, looking at myself as I really am. He feels elated by the journey. Yes, this is good gear. It is great gear. The thought of the greatness of the gear fills him with even greater giddiness. He is higher than the blue between the clouds. Then he descends again like a parachutist, slowly and in control. Ok. Back to Belfast. Landing. He is in the alleyway. Careful, walk gingerly. Yes. One step at a time. Now, good … what? Where was I? I had an intention. What happened to it? My intention is lost. I must find it, in these streets. Who …? Oh. Ha ha ha! Oh no, danger. Get out. Tramp there, doing something strange with his feet. His repetitive tic-tac-toc. He’s doing this repetitive thing to avoid thinking about something. Something in his life brought him too close to thoughts of death and that drove him to this. Tic-tac-toc. Now he does the same thing over and over and over and over … Tic-tac-toc. I’ve got … to get … out of here. Got to get back home. Get a snickers, eat it on way, will make me happy. Oh, now legs, we shall cooperate and do this thing together.

© 2013 Erwan Atcheson


My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

145 Views
Added on December 21, 2013
Last Updated on December 21, 2013
Tags: Belfast, student

Author

Erwan Atcheson
Erwan Atcheson

Oxford, United Kingdom



About
Erwan Atcheson is a student. For his PhD he aims to develop a vaccine against malaria. The Big Pink, his debut novel, is free on Smashwords.com. "A Quiet Place," a poem about zombies attacking a small.. more..