map Death of an author

by Katherine Naughton

Published in Issue No. 197 ~ October, 2013

Photo by Cameron Incoll (Melbourne, Australia)


Nobody reads, everyone writes.

Just how many writers do you think there are on this godforsaken planet? And by writers I mean anyone who writes fiction, novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, screenwriters, (are they writers, screenwriters?) journalists and last and least, bloggers, those lovers of the void. No precise figure is obtainable but the general consensus, in this household, at least, is way too fucking many that’s how many but now there is one less.

As a writer no great loss has been incurred. Genius has not been cut down in its prime. A young Dante has not succumbed to the Black Death. Beckett and his cell have not been betrayed captured tortured executed. The most you can say is this: he left a woman behind. Me.

You wrote three books and were working on a fourth, ‘An Introduction to Financial Accountancy for Law Students’ when. When. I never read any of them but you didn’t expect me to, did you?

-Bit technical, bit tedious. Niche market. But, and it’s big but, unlike your own, which is still pert-ish, not unprofitable.

Our flat was full of books. I read one of your Jack Reacher thrillers. Not bad. Strong narrative, half-decent characterisation, not un-pleasurably masculine. One was enough. Couldn’t get you to read Austen or George Eliot, though, but you laughed out loud at Muriel Spark’s stories, didn’t you? You should’ve tried some others, darling. Angus Wilson, Graham Greene. Lucky Jim. You liked the film.

Saw your first book in Books Etc, Canary Wharf. That photo on the back, obligatory, was it? There you are, the pre-me you, smiling for the camera, looking like a, well, like a right wally. But my right wally. We liked the old lingo, didn’t we? Wally, tosser, plonker. The Del Boy vocab. An eighties childhood for both of us. I saw you dead. I saw you dead and it wasn’t you. A shell.

That’s me in the mirror, look, starkers, still worth looking at, just, and you are right, I do have a decent pair. Trimmed it. Never shaved it all off. I’m a woman not a child. But I have decided to let it assume its natural state. Pop into M and S, get some proper drawers. They will contain its abundance.

How am I doing? How. Am. I. Doing? Put it this way, I didn’t scream or bang my head against a wall once. Or get pissed nightly or go mad on the charlie. Or become a deranged slut and screw everything that moved. I did, however, become, for a while, an indeterminate while, a tad, a tad no more, a tad at the max, withdrawn. Catatonic is the medical term but I prefer to think of it as contemplatory. Yes, that’s it, contemplatory. Like a Buddhist. Are there women Buddhists? Cannot recall many. Madonna? Paltrow? Serenity, indifference, equanimity. I was half way there. Bollocks to that. I’d rather have the pain. I’ve got the pain. I don’t want it to go away but it will.

I know you liked to watch me pee. A run of the mill fetish, by the way. Do you really think I left the lav door open just enough for you to see me squat if you happened to be sitting in the armchair by the TV, by accident? It was a treat, darling, a treat. Normally I sit down. I dab it as well, and my bum, even if it is just a pee. We’re leaky, too.

Got ma Da a boxed-set of The Wire for his birthday. I would have loved to have seen his face when he opened it.

-What! Darkies everywhere.

He loved it.

-That Omar, now that’s an opponent. Could do with a dozen boys like that round here.

They’re running wild in Motingham.Remember when you worked out the return on his 5p through the card reverse forecast doubles, in your head?

-This man’s a computer.

Man. He did say, man, you are, were, were, were, a man.

We loved to argue about films.

-You can have Daniel Day Lewis, Greeta Scaachi did, did you know that?, they were at the Bristol Old Vic together, and his deep method bullshit, I’ll have the glorious Robert Downey Junior in Tropic Thunder, any day of the week.

Classics. The Searchers. Rashomon. I’m alright, Jack. God, darling, did we laugh at that. Knew the dialogue by heart.

-We had to sack him. He’s an incompetent.

-You can’t do that. That’s victimisation.

-All those cornfields and ballet in the evening.

I’m not sleeping well.

Nature’s indifference got you. Cancers have algorithms, do you know that?

Mother Nature doesn’t give a fuck. She loves mutations. I became tediously familiar with medical terminology. Terminology. How’s that for an unconscious pun? Oncology. Metastatic. Invasive. Death. This is interesting: the wing you were in is named after a scientist who smuggled an early endoscope out of Germany by stuffing it down his trousers.

Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t, but you never fucked me when I didn’t want you to. The only one out of the, twenty-five, thirty, no, less, a lot less. Embarrassingly so.

I’ve stopped using the local market. They sicken me. The waddlers, that’s what I call them. Clogged arteries, massive thighs, fat pudgy fingers gripping giant kebabs, swigging coke from litre sized plastic bottles, slapping their kids in public. Living, breathing, excreting, fucking, contaminating the world while you….

So we decide, at last, in the middle of recession, bollocks to the recession, to have children, plural, and then you go and die on me. You bastard.

-And what’s your name? Asda and that’s your little brother Domino?

Am I going into one? Very well, I am going into one. The real names? Alright, alright. Wayne and Waynetta. 80s again. Sorry. That always annoyed you, didn’t it, darling? All that chav business. But you were bona-fide proper middle-class while I was upper-working-class/lower-middle-class. I was a bit too close to them. I saw their great expansion, pun intended. Too close for comfort. I can still smell them. They exude. But I can’t smell you, anymore.

You’d laugh whenever I said that.

-Don’t be silly.

But I meant it every time. I never did deserve you. You were too kind. Did not have an ounce of spite in you.

Forgive me, darling, but I will, eventually, let my cunt’s demands get the better of me. I always slept comfortably beside you. They won’t get that.

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Katherine is a late bloomer with delusions of grandeur who feels that a life-time spent analysing spending statistics just might indicate a fear of - contact.