Albert found it wasn’t that easy joining the choir. For a start, you had all those others around you singing different notes. Then the pianist played different notes again. And finally you had that bloke at the front waving his arms about, trying his level best to put you off.
He was sad when the nurse told him he’d let his feet go a little. This, she said, is a bad sign. Oh I completely agree, he said. I’ve always been rather attached to them: they keep me nicely grounded and they nearly always stop me getting ahead of myself.
Martha said the words that always unsettled Mark. Mark, she said, we need to talk. Mark gulped. This has to stop, Martha said calmly. It’s disturbing everyone. And I can’t pretend it’s all okay anymore. Mark, she said, you’re going to have to stop all this singing in the house.
He makes a rookie’s mistake on the train: he looks up from his book. So the next minute, he’s giving up his seat for this heavily pregnant woman. Which is completely pointless, he reflects bitterly, because there’s no way she’s going to suggest going back to hers for a quickie.
Albert sat next to a loud woman on the tube. She ranted on about how soon we’d all be dead, how everything we do will vanish, swept away like footprints in sand. And if we live long enough even we ourselves will forget what we’ve done. Crazy talk….wasn’t it?
On the news, the police described the shootings as completely unnecessary. As opposed to all the necessary killings, I pointed out. And everyone laughed. Now that killing, we joked, that one was totally necessary. Then we remembered what we were laughing about and tried our best to feel really bad.
He was born dirt poor but we always knew had that certain swagger about him, a comfortableness in his own skin and a kind of carefree charm that won everyone over, cheering us up like a cool sea breeze. It was this charm that led him soon enough to the chemically enhanced good times, primarily just the dealing at first, like a funky sole trader with an new take on happiness, an entrepreneur with a gift for a cheeky pitch and a ready supply of the up, up and away. He knew a couple of actorly types and before long he was the link back to the street for some of the most famous faces on tv.
His supply lines were always reliable and discrete; his quality never in question. His face was known in the right places and wholly unknown to the police. He could have straplined himself as safely dangerous. With a couple of years he was respected both above and below; the glue between layers that would otherwise never connect.
All would have been fine for years most probably. If, that is, he hadn’t started sampling his new product lines a little too much. Soon he started seeing cops everywhere. Soon he just knew he was being followed. He could sense treachery all around him. By the time he hit thirty he trusted no-one. As his circles dispersed he grew more and more anxious, more and more dependent upon the addling chemicals to keep it together.
Until one day he could take it no longer. Okay, okay, he said, marching into his local cop shop. You win, he said. I know you’ve been trailing me for months. I know you’ve been filming me. Just take all this now, he said, opening up a large hold-all full of short-lived joy. His eyes were wild, his charm all sweating away in front of the very eyes of the arresting officer. Well sir, she said, once she’d established the full extent of the haul. I think we’d best start right back at the beginning.