Sunday, 28 October 2012

Last October story

The marks of Cain when he was unable.

It began with two arguments, one about old movies and one about the sell by and use by dates on supermarket produce. Avril Cain tended to take a traditional line on both topics and Fred Cain was getting a bit fed up with that. The arguments lacked flair and flavour he thought, sometimes their exchanges were far from being even proper arguments. There was shouting, steam and contradictions but not the depth and content that the subjects demanded. Fred was frustrated, Avril didn't really care. Their arguments were also fuelled by alcohol much of the time, that certainly took them way of track and into other, irrelevant and destructive areas.

“Kirk Douglas's best film has to be “Lonely are the Brave”, it's a watershed movie, a magnificent statement about the end of the old west and how it engages, or rather fails to engage with the 20th century and it's values. It's his best most complete role and it's all in black and white, perfect!” Fred trotted on for a while as Avril held his gaze obviously considering her response, “one word,” she said, “Spartacus!” I rest my case. The discussion fizzled for a while as Douglas's films were further compared with those of Burt Lancaster. “The Swimmer!” Shouted Fred. “Trapeze” Replied Avril. The steam dissipated as no clear conclusion was ever going to be arrived at. They slept off their differences and dreamt of other sub plots and criticisms.

“This pot of yogurt is three days past the sell by date, I am putting it in the bin.” Avril kicked the pedal and plopped the container in. Fred jumped to his feet, his hand quickly in the bin like an excavator claw and he pulled the pot out in triumph. “I'll be having it, no worries.” Avril was clearing out the back on the fridge. “Sausages! And look at this cold meat, these salad leaves and the cottage cheese. You'll kill us all with your stupid antics, you can't eat this, the kids can't eat it, it's all out of date.” “No it isn't,said Fred, well it is but it's fine, there's a safety factor, that's what they do, the manufacturers, they want you do buy more, you know about all the marketing and the conspiracies, trust me.” “Idiot!”

Through the day and into the evening they were still at it, they'd moved onto Roxy Music's albums and the best value brand of toilet rolls. There never seemed to be common ground as they raged at one another over the trivial and vital. Next morning, they had diligently and awkwardly mulled over the novels of John Steinbeck with no agreement. Following a practical lull in the proceedings Jack was coming back from his shower, Avril was sorting out her hair. The arguments had quietened as they prepared for the day but there was an uncomfortable but familiar tension in the air.

From out the deep blue dysfunction Jack began to criticise Avril's car, “Volvo? What are they all about?” There was no proper argument or methodical construction in what he was saying, it was just sound and fury. Avril was working with the heated curling tongs she used every day, concentrating, she allowed Jack to carry on, now he was criticising the colour of the car. Avril wasn't biting. “It's just like a big, stupid, puffy handbag, all restraints and cotton wool and it's gold!” Avril turned round quickly, inside it was as if some elastic band had snapped, some brake had failed, some retaining wall had crashed down and was thrown open. In her hand the tongs suddenly grew from grey and black plastic into some great medieval sword of power and vengeance. They were still plugged in and fiercely hot, wide open like the mouth of a wolf. She hurled a blow at Jack, the tongs following through. The roaring jaws of the burning wolf caught him squarely across each temple.

For a few seconds the room went mad around them. Jack was screaming like a wounded animal caught in a forest fire, Avril was screaming in a hysterical moment of mind snapping release and spent inner agony. Jack fell onto the bed clinging to his face, the scorching tongs still searing either side of his head. There was noise and babble. No argument, just confusion as all the air I the room seemed to be on fire. Then Avril ran out onto the landing, already she was drawing lines between actions and consequences, she was running from the scene of a terrible accident, that was that. In a blurred whoosh of panic and abandonment she was out of the house. Jack's face was burning, his heart was pounding, then it was stopping. The blinding pain just too much...all too much. Tick tock tick...

When the police arrived the fire had extinguished himself. Jack lay face up on the bed, smoke still dancing above his head like a black halo on the bedroom ceiling. He was a dead thing now, head charred black and marked, a heart as still as a broken and unwound clock. He policeman was careful to touch nothing, not to disturb the evidence at the scene, nothing could be done. Jack Cain bore the mark of Avril Cain, those angry burns across his head. The end result of years of pointless quarrels and debate, the outworking of the tension and their life time mismatch. Marked in life, marked in death. They found Avril about an hour later. The gold Volvo wrapped around a motorway parapet, dead and broken. Dangling in the ignition was a key fob marked with the logo of ISSA, “International Society for Argumentation”.

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