Swanland Park, 28 Estuary Lane, 2am (Monday, 1st November, 2004)
With the cold twin barrels clamped firmly in his mouth, David could hear the dull ring on the steel with each desperate breath.
A salty mixture of saliva and tears ran down his hot clammy face and down to his middle finger that rested on the curl of the trigger.
The lights were out in the cramped room, with only a pale streak of light cutting through the gap in the curtains from a lamppost outside by the street. David sat on his blood red beanbag, next to his single bed. The gun butt rested on the floor between his legs, and the barrel extended up his center in perfect symmetry.
David had an awkward and lanky frame, with sharp knees and long feet, and with his elbows out he had positioned the gun with such grace and precision, he could’ve been holding a member of the brass family.
He sat, patiently, waiting to play.
Swanland Park, 28 Estuary Lane, 7am (Monday, 1st November, 2004)
With two hands, David clasped his oval shaped coffee grinder and used the side of his thumb to press down on the black switch. The blades whirred to life and the grinder vibrated within his palms.
The scent from the freshly ground Panamian beans wafted up to his nose, tantalizing and teasing his brain with what was to follow.
There was no doubt about it, coffee was the sexiest drink of them all.
The downstairs bedroom door opened and the hallway floor creaked, and that could only mean one thing.
“Morning Davey boy.”
A doughy baby-faced and sandy blond haired man in his early twenties entered the kitchen, tucking his light blue shirt into his only pair of black stiff trousers. Beany stepped through the crooked doorway with the missing door onto the faded beige linoleum.
“You know how I don’t like to interrupt your coffee foreplay in the morning,” he said, pulling his hand out from over his balls, “but I would love a cup.” Beany used his fingers to flick out the hair from inside his shirt collar.
David flashed a painful smile from one side of his mouth in manner that resembled somebody pulling on a fish hook lodged in his cheek. “Of course, I’d be happy to share,” he croaked in his morning voice, and held out his hand. Beany deposited a fifty pence coin. David nodded. “It’ll be about five more minutes, and don’t interrupt.”
Beany turned on his heels. “Don’t worry. I’m going out to get a morning paper.” The floor boards creaked once more and the front door opened and closed.
David dropped the coin in his plaid pajama pocket, next to the shotgun shell, and unlocked the black safe that he kept next to the microwave. He reached in next to his raw green coffee beans, and removed his French press. With the aid of a small silver serving spoon, David emptied all of the coffee from the grinder into the glass cylinder and then dropped the spoon into the sink and flicked on the kettle.
A thought of catching the bus to go to work entered his mind, and cold-hot waves of disgust dropped liked bulbs of snot down his spine from the base of his skull. David fingered the shell in his pocket and felt his rage subside. He picked up the grinder, which had trace amounts of coffee dust clinging to the blades, and pushed his tongue out with the grace of a mamba until the tip reached the shallow steel base.
It tingled. The coffee was good.
David dampened a cloth and wiped around the inside. Once satisfied, he tucked it away in his safe, and used the kettle to slowly pour hot water down the inside of the French press.
The coffee consumed the water as the water consumed the coffee, and pale foam with dark brown steaks ejaculated over the surface with the vibrant grace of a supernova.
The best things came from explosions.
Once the water had teased and reached the desired level, David dipped a long glass rod that he’d stolen from a Biology lab into the dark foamy coffee, and stirred gently with slight flicks at the end of each cycle. The rod was then rinsed in the sink and the lid placed on the press, and he plunged down with the exact amount of pressure to massage the coffee away from the used beans.
David removed two white espresso cups from his safe, and trickled the coffee in, filling the cups. He left Beany’s on the countertop and shuffled in his worn fuzzy green slippers down to the French doors at the end of the kitchen that overlooked the weed-ridden patio and grubby white patio chairs. Three cracked wooden paneled fences enclosed the sloped back garden, but over the farthest fence one could see the bay, which always looked blue from far away.
With eyes and mind in the distance, David sipped from his cup, and felt the hot silky coffee flow over his tongue and down his gullet. He closed his eyes and felt his fragmented brain vibrate and desire to click back together, like iron filings in the presence of a magnet.
His ebony lover was now inside him, working her magic. The darkness and the fog subsided, and real life awaited outside the front door, which opened to let Beany back inside.
“Yasser Arafat is dying,” said Beany, folding over the Independent to make it easier to read. He looked up, “Oh, coffee.” He tucked the newspaper underneath his arm and picked up his drink.
David turned his back on the bay. “Who got him?”
Beany sat down at the circular kitchen table and moved a dirty plate aside so he could put his cup down. “What do you mean?”
David pulled back the other chair and sat down. “I assume someone is to blame?”
Beany skimmed through the rest of the article with unnatural quickness. “Jilted rent boy, rediscovered Israeli heritage, found poisonous basilisk fang in basement, put it on Arafat’s chair during ‘Save the Pigeons’ gala.”
David nodded and supped his espresso. “Those rockets have been reducing the pigeon population.”
“There’s just speculation of poison,” Beany clarified, and turned to the sports pages at the back.
David picked the small gap in his front teeth with his thumbnail. “I wonder who will take his place?”
Beany flicked the paper to straighten out a crease. “Some poor bastard. A racehorse with a broken leg has a brighter future than trying to solve the Israel problem from the Arab side.” He paused to sip his coffee. “Fuck, I hope Arsenal beats Chelsea this season. Who does Mourinho think he is?”
David knew nothing about sports, an aspect of his ignorance that made him smug and swell with pride. “Bastard,” he said, and finished his drink.
When the time was nigh, David always tried to make a swift exodus to work to clear his brain of the images and sounds of his house. These things, if given half a chance, would place their sticky hands all over him and pull him back until they had him in a headlock and he would never make it to work on time.
The house had an enclosed walkway out the back that ran next to the wooden fence and down to an alleyway. From there it was only a few steps to the bus stop.
David stepped out of the side door in his white shirt and red tie, and finished pushing his arms through the sleeves of his black raincoat. His bushy dark brown hair had been half-tamed by a comb, and he chewed on the gum he always kept in his coat pocket as a substitute for never brushing his teeth.
The wooden stairs that led down to the alley had never been treated, and were now all green, scummy, and dank, waiting to claim someone’s foot at any time.
David slowed his pace when the air became thick, and he held up his hands in front of his face, suddenly feeling very peculiar. They were cold, clammy and pulsating, and a warm buzz trickled down on the right side of his head over his face, like bees trapped in honey, stinging as they dripped down.
David closed his eyes, wobbled over to his right, and pushed out his tongue in anticipation of catching the sweet sticky ooze.
“It’s missing, isn’t it?”
The voice jolted David back upright. An elderly woman stood hunched over in a vibrant and sparkly dark blue gown on the step behind him. Short curly horns corkscrewed from either side of her head, and the skin on her face was leathery and wrinkled, with a small mole cluster on her chin.
The sticky buzzing feeling had gone. “I’m sorry,” David said, and turned to face the elderly lady, curious. “What is missing?”
The woman, with deep mischievous blue eyes and a tight smirk, examined David’s face. She raised an index finger with a long yellow nail and waggled it as she pointed into his chest. “You’ve felt it for a while now, haven’t you? There’s a piece of you missing. You thought you were just broken, and once all the pieces were back together you’d be whole. But you can just never feel together enough, can you?”
David glanced down to the door at the bottom of the steps and then back to the strange lady.
She was still there.
David ruffled his hair and scratched his face. “Who are you?” he asked. “Are you Beany’s grandmother? Some kind of weird and spooky psychotherapist with a penchant for fancy dress? Do you know you smell of mackerel?”
“You know I speak the truth. If the last piece would only click into place, you could finally get on with being normal.”
David scowled and pinched the flesh of his bottom lip in his teeth. “What is your name, so I can report you to the authorities?”
The woman grinned and her eyes twinkled. “My name is Mercia. And you should know it, because soon you will need me.”
David blinked and the woman was gone.
He looked once more up and down the steps, but she had vanished into the now thin air. David pulled his hand out of his pocket, and noticed his fingers wrapped around the shotgun shell.
He cradled it as though he expected it to hatch.