Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, April 13, 2012

Saturday Self-Promotion: Four Birds Calling

Photo by Dave Di Biase
I have a ton of deadlines coming down the road in the next two weeks--the release of the Drunk on the Moon anthology, the 5K short story "Broken Angel" for Italian publisher Lorenzo Mazzoni, a couple of book reviews, my submission to Pulp Ink 2.  And the annual deluge of scripts to prep clients for the Cannes film festival is just around the corner too. And in there I'm working on Misbegotten and my shared world project Starcaster.  And while all this is going on, I'm putting together the sequel to my Christmas collection, tentatively entitled 12 More Nights of Christmas. The original collection came out right before the holidays last year and although I think it's a strong bunch of stories, it hasn't really sold well. So all new stories themed to the dark side of the Christmas song--stories of leaping lords and bioengineered partridges and tainted milk sold by a soulless agribusiness company.
Here's a story from the original collection:

Four Birds Calling
 Reg could see the two birds out of the corner of his eye. They were looking at him and giggling, being none too subtle about it.
He knew what they were thinking.
Is it him?
Could it be?
The resemblance really was quite striking. He had the same blond mop-top, the same bedroom eyes, the same succulent lower lip.
He even styled his wardrobe after Thomas, the photographer his doppelganger had played in Blow-Up. The white pants and powder-blue shirt rolled up to the elbows. It was a good look for him.
The shirt matched his eyes.
And eyes are the windows of the soul.
Reg never looked birds in the eye though; he always focused on their lips. Eventually they’d notice and ask, “What?”
He’d always say, “You have the most beautiful lips.”
It worked a treat, that line.

Is it him?
Could it be?
He glanced over at the girls and flashed his second-best smile at them, which was enough to make the fat one blush but the spotty one looked back at him boldly and licked her lips while making intense eye contact.
Well hello, Reg thought.
Her name was Rose and her fat friend was named Daisy and the fat girl giggled when he talked about ploughing a flower garden and they both came back to his flat and stayed the weekend.
The fat girl had no stamina but Rose was a fucking machine, pumping out orgasms faster than he could pump out spunk.
On Sunday the fat girl went out to church and didn’t come back but Rose stayed until Monday morning, then returned that night with a train case and some really fine hash.
This was inconvenient for Reg because he’d planned to meet Penelope at the Scene for a night of dancing fueled by purple hearts and alcohol and sex after but he figured a bird in the bed was worth two somewhere else.
The phone rang while Reg was in the shower, so Rose answered it.
She listened for a minute then said, “Don’t call here again,” and slammed the receiver down.
“Who was it love?” Reg asked.
“Some stuck-up slapper named Penelope,” Rose said darkly. “She won’t bother you again.”
That’s a shame, Reg thought.
Sex with Penelope was kinky.
She was a rich girl looking for a bit of rough. She liked being tied to the bed and smacked around, so long as there weren’t any bruises or rope burns her poncey friends might notice.
She liked it when he talked dirty and in return, she’d say the most shocking filth unless he stopped her mouth with a gag. The gag was a turn-on for both of them, her mewling, muffled obscenities giving him a diamond-cutter of a hard-on.
He was going to miss Penelope.
“You won’t miss Penelope,” Rose said.
Within a week, Rose had begun redecorating Reg’s flat, hanging up paintings of soup cans that looked like they’d been torn from magazine adverts, and something she called a “a collage” by an arty tosser named Eduardo Paolozzi. Reg thought they looked like they’d been hauled out of a tip with all sorts of rubbish still stuck on them, but he reckoned she knew more about art than he did.
Rose was a smart girl but she couldn’t cook at all.
Reg was inhaling some fish fingers and mash before they headed out to the cinema—he wanted to see Lord Love a Duck and she wanted to see La Guerre est finie, which she said was a masterpiece—when the phone rang.
Rose picked it up, listened for a moment, then barked out, “Who is this?”
There was a pause and then she said, “Don’t call again.”
As she banged down the phone, Reg raised his eyebrows in a silent question.
“Some tart calling herself Trish,” Rose said.
Trish, Reg thought fondly.
Trish was totally fucking barmy but a good time. They’d had it off in the tube one time and had finished just as they reached King’s Cross Station. Everyone else in the carriage had averted their eyes but no one got up to move.
He was going to miss Trish.
“You won’t miss Trish,” Rose said, and surprised him by agreeing to see the Tuesday Weld movie.
A month after moving in, Rose was trying on wedding gowns. Reg was alarmed because he had not, as yet, proposed to her.
When she returned from a family visit wearing a large diamond ring, Reg was genuinely alarmed.
The ring, she told him, was a gift from her Uncle George and added that he was anxious to meet Reg, the man who was going to “make an honest woman” of her.
Reg was aghast.
Rose was oblivious.
“His local’s the Blind Beggar,” she said. “We can stop there for a bit on Wednesday.”
“Wednesday?” Reg repeated numbly. “What’s the date?”
“The ninth,” she said, “of March,” she added crossly. “What do you care? It’s not as if you have a business meeting that day.”
Reg was about to reply smartly when the phone rang.
He tried to grab it but Rose was too fast.
“Yes?” she said into the receiver and listened briefly.
“Don’t call here again,” she said.
Reg didn’t dare ask her who had called but as Rose left the room she tossed the name over her shoulder.
“Angel.”
Angel.
She was a golden girl, an American blonde from California, as free with her body as she was with her opinions. Her favourite book was On the Road, and she claimed to have met Jack Kerouac in a bar one night when he was so drunk he was rambling in French.
He would miss Angel.
Reg and Rose had their drink with her Uncle George Cornell and left the Blind Beggar not two minutes before Ronnie Kray swaggered in and shot George to death. The press played it up as a gangland rivalry but in truth George was doomed the minute he called Ronnie “a fat poof.”
Reg was horrified but Rose took it in stride.
“It’s the way it is, Reg,” she said.
“I don’t like it,” he said.
“Hard cheese,” she said.
“And by the way,” she added, “I’m up the duff.”
The wedding was a small affair considering the recent death of Rose’s uncle. Daisy was Rose’s bridesmaid, stuffed like a sausage into an unappealing yellow frock that did nothing for her complexion.
After the wedding, Reg moved with Rose into a house her father paid for. “Nothing’s too good for my little girl,” Reg’s new father-in-law announced. “I can’t have her living in some grotty council flat, can I?”
Reg had smiled bravely but hadn’t answered.
He knew a rhetorical question when he heard it.
Their new telephone number was ex-directory but somehow Evelyn got hold of it and rang one night when Rose was sleeping.
They talked for quite a long time and Reg agreed to meet her the following day.
“Who were you talking to?” Rose asked sleepily when Reg came into their bedroom.
“Me mum,” Reg said.
“I didn’t know your parents were on the telephone,” she said, then rolled over and went back to sleep.
Reg slipped out after breakfast, telling Rose he needed to buy a packet of fags. He met Evelyn outside of Sally Tuffin’s boutique on Carnaby Street.
She looked delicious wrapped in a white Mary Quant coat with lace-up boots.
There wasn’t time for anything more than sharing a coffee, but Reg made plans to meet Evelyn again.
He arrived home with a story of meeting a mate at the tobacco shop and having a bit of a chin-wag.
Rose listened to his excuse and smiled down at her bump instead of at him.
“Daddy is a silly man, isn’t he?” she cooed. “Such a silly silly man.”
She glanced up at Reg and her eyes were pools of ink.
“You won’t miss Evelyn,” she said.
And that’s when he noticed her hands were covered in blood.

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