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Phil Doran
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Rats With Wings

Phil Doran

 

He’s like an amoeba to her. I’m her entire ecosystem. That’s what she said. He’d been texting her, not stalking her. My heart vaulted into my stomach pit. My body took control of my breathing. Shallow. Suddenly rapid.  I concentrated on not panicking. Not easy when your inner Tasmanian Devil is dragging furniture across the wooden floor.  Microphone feedback inside my head. Keep breathing. Calmly. Regularly. Smile and relax. It’s OK. It’s OK.

It really was OK. She loved me, not him. I looked at the feather. The cat had fetched it in. Or more likely, the boy. He was still at the pick-everything-up-off-the-ground stage. Everything was a potential toy or weapon. Stones, sticks, bits of unidentifiable plastic and feathers. Dirty grey. It hadn’t been near a pigeon in some time. Rats with wings. No. Rats with wings would be rats with wings. Pigeons are streetwise doves. The dove takes all the glory, adoration, and love. Pigeons just get flak, like the homeless.  No olive branches put in their beaks. Just bits of dried- up sandwiches and cold chips. Scraps of comfort. No pure white universal symbol of peace and hope.

The feather looked limp, soiled, and abused. Its vitality had leaked out onto the pavement. Concrete grey. It no longer had that soft sheen to its fringe. When you stroked it along its edge, your fingers felt only the stem. Bitter, tough, waxy, dry. It was weighed down with too many drab adjectives like tepid prose. Its life source was off somewhere, picking at scraps of pork pie gelatin in pieces of spat-out chewing gum on the lowest level of a multi-story car park, pecking at stale seed bought by camera-clad tourists from unscrupulous kiosk holders, spurting fresh white cack onto dried guana on municipal ledges.

The clock on the guild hall said 1:35. The amoeba was five minutes late. I held the feather tightly in my palm inside my pocket. The tip of the stem would do some damage if poked in the eye. I folded it firmly.

It sprang open again as I let it waft into the gutter, where it belonged.

 

 

 

forthecat.jpg
Art by Paula Friedlander 2010

SOMETHING FOR THE CAT

Phil Doran



     Rinky dink. She was probably the best. Not for the sex, but for the humanity. They can be very human at times, even the so-called worst of 'em. And this one, she was dregs, supposedly.

Humanity wasn't something I could aspire to. She, on the other paw, had it in shovelfuls in spite of everything. She wasn't impressed by the pink-mobile either. I liked that. Ain't even sure she knew who I was. Cool by me, in the circumstances. Could've been she recognized a fellow traveler in pain. She saw past the animal thru' to my inner core.

Big cojones! She was just glad of an easy-going punter, wheels and a safe, convenient place to do drugs. Or perhaps it was on accounta she was just out of Holloway that day. That's why she was so serene; it was the thought of seeing her two kids-in-care once more.

Serene. Something I was supposed to be. But not that night. That night I was on one. I was 120bpm at least and then some...

I needed the comedown as much as the sex. That and the human stuff. The stuff that makes us go prrr prrr. Rinky dink. Even you guys know that much, I know.

I'd been on the razzle dazzle with the guys. Which ones? Who knows? Don't take this wrong, but all you Funny Little Men look the same. One walking-squawking hooked-nose job looks pretty much like another. Same tache. Same squat stature. Identical bottled rage. Blowing steam outta their over-sized heads, except when painting & decorating, or operating machinery. Then FLM's attain an inner peace. That's when they sing, smile and most of all, whistle. Least ways I think it's whistling. It's not in my range. But I can see the musical notation. All them floating crotchets and quavers. Never had recourse to mouth bubbles personally. Cumbersome.

Sure I've used signposts, anthropomorphically, which ain't easy for a cat. See you gotta reach out to your client base, as any working girl'll tell yer. The odd exclamation mark over the head—and boy! can I not resist looking at it, gets a canned laugh every time. Or the dangling mid-air interrogative, invariably with a scratch and ponder. Usually tho', I'm a cat of action. Mostly body semaphore and eyebrow movements. I do like a mobile eyebrow. Lets a cat know what's happening inside.

My insides were racing that night. Brain and vitals in overdrive. I was pissing more than a pensioner in a yard-of-ale contest. My jaw was aching the ache of a vice squad rookie on his first hide-out. My brow was sweating like the twitchy hush puppies of a strung-out low-life gambler crippled by the grotesquely criminal compound interest of an Italian New York gentleman name of Domenico "The Slice" Giannotta. My imagination was stretching verisimilitude to the breaking point....Boing! Thwang!! Billy Whizz...

Base amphet had just flooded onto the narcotics market. It ain't easy telling how much of that stuff to take. Stings like a bitch up the nasal passage. So dabbing's the thing. With regular sulphate a half g, or even a whole g and you feel frisky, perky, up for action—even if little pinky don't. Know where you are with sulph. But base, jeez! You sherbert dab the teeniest tiniest smidgen on your paw; you're Buzz Lightyear for the whole god-damned weekend, well into Monday tea time and beyond. And in combo, it can get real messy.

The base was only top-up. I'd had a coupla three old skool MDMA caps. That was my regular tipple. But that night, I was an all-pawing, all-jiving, all-action alley feline. Lovin' it. Brought out the show cat in me. The comedian. The acrobat. The scholar. The groovy gymnast. The all-round rinky dinker. The all-American unAmerican super-speed freak.

That night I met Dale on the dance floor. Mincing around in his sparkly crop-top. All coke head narcissism, powder and paint. The repressed short step action of happy handbag. He bugged my pink hind no end. Don't get me wrong. Ain't got nuttin' against a men-only human. Even us cool hetty bi-curious cats've been known to swing it across the urban jungle. Fact, that's why I was there. Those amyl nitrate boys cut a rug on the dance floor. Not this self-conscious mincer tho'. Maybe he felt inhibited by his own C-list celebrity, who knows.

At first we got along fine. Then his showbiz cheese wobbled like Linus' mouth in Charlie Brown. Pets don't always win prizes, Dale. And my copy cat Harlem bum shuffle didn't go down well. Fact was, I was freakin'. I'd stripped my skin down to my waist. It hung there like a half-unraveled sausage. Raw and sweaty. Too much. Too hardcore. A couple of big nose-jobs bounced me out on my tail. Totally wired in the wilds of King's Cross.

Not King's Cross King's Cross. Nowhere near the station where the beggars and desperate pimp-run whores hover like concrete mist. No sir. This was The Cross. Up the hill a ways toward The Angel and Cally Rd, over by the good's yard sides. That's where the funkier nose-jobs hang. Where the cannier working girls and private hires pick up trade. Fewer jellies, barbs and skag. More cool runnings and your actual joined-up conversation. Conversation. That's what a cat needs when the base speed's veining its way round his race-course at 125 bpm and counting. Conversation. Of the non-verbal kind of course.

I'd left the pink-mobile off of Pentonville Rd, by one of them super-stretch white limos that make mine look like a bubble car. I strode up the hill, hip-hopping and doing 360's, radar fully on. It was too late for post-pub business. Too early for post-club trade. I was headed back to my ride without much expectation of any action. Less than a hundred yards from the pink mobile, I sniffed one out. Whiskers reverbed, snout twitched and tongue rolled out. Animated histrionics. Didn't have to say a word, the word, even if I could. She said it for me.

- Business?

- .....

The trouble with pink comedic felinity is that no-one takes you seriously. Seriously. All they see is a kooky day-glo leopard with a ring-pull cord and a wacky auto. They have no conception of what it's like. They do not know the power of the dark side of the pink.

Deep-veined purple thrombosis. Varicose lavender clutches. Recurrent color fade. Massive ontological self-enquiry. I mean. The shifting sands of transient episodic existence is no basis for solid relationships, let alone run-of-the-mill contentment. Hey! Nose-jobs, there's a soul in here. There's an animus inside this violet puma. You two-dimensional slapstick schmuck. There's an existential malaise that cannot be contained in this comic shell, despite what the tattoo on my butt warns. The one they never show you. The one next to the Made In USA stamp. The one that reads Contents Fragile: Keep Right Way Up.

None of this concerned the working girl. She wasn't bothered 'bout that stuff, any more than she was impressed by the car. For her we were just a means of transportation. Her intentions were pure, direct, honest and clear. Her goals were set low and achievable: find a glass jar, some aluminum foil and a lighter, and transport that twenty quid (next to my AmEx card in my fanny pouch) into her delicate professional hands. Yep. In spite of jail, the care system, hyper-masculine malevolence and illegal narcoticism, this young lady was more focused and centered than my over-active animalistic antics could ever be. Period.

That's not to say she didn't have class. Her serenity was as contagious as cat leukemia. We didn't touch soul. That would've been too much. Yet we cathected, connected, bonded physically, and stylistically.

- Business?

- .....

- Business?

- .....

- A no-talker hey? You gotta car babes?

- .....

- Pink?

- .....

- Don't worry I won't tell.

- .....

- Twenty pound.

- .....

- Ah weed!

- ......

- And fish?... Fish!

- .......

- S-A-L... Ah salmon! Snout. Right.

- .......

- Round the corner? Upper Street. Nice. I like Upper St. Let's scooby doo pinky.

- ......

- Nah. Sort me the money later babes.

Her Nikes gleamed toothpaste white. She was black, twenty, sticky-out butt, pretty, full-lipped and low key black t-shirt, black jeans casual. She was inconspicuous, an extra in the background. Had a way of lookin' and talkin' at you like she'd lived in your neighborhood all your life, but without the over-familiarity of the neurotic street walker, the crack piper's pimp paranoia, or the massage girl’s corporate tedium. She was a natural. Just outta juliet that morning. Still in the honeymoon zone. She looked outta the window at main street like she'd never seen one before.

I was still twitching like a savannah cat jacked up on hunger and need. I was glad of the automatic cruiser control. We climbed the stairs to the pad. And got down to business. Drink and drugs business. I made tea. Tea for chrissakes. She pulled out a little glass jar, a hole carved into it. And, once I'd handed over the necessary (cigarettes, foil, clipper) she set about the intricate task of building a pipe. I tried not to look as per, so I wouldn't know how it was done. I had enough vices already. But she was so watchable and skillful I couldn't help but. She snatched glances around the pad, eyeing the books and CDs. She strained up her chin to see outta the window at the smart Upper Street shops. All the time fixing the hit. I offered her the twenty again.

- 'S OK babes. Plenty of time. I like this place. Can I crash the night?

- .....

- Wicked.

- ......

- You read a lotta books pinky. Got any music?

- .......

For a split sec, I thought about playing my theme, dance remix of course, but I'd start cavorting and freakin', so I put on da kool chunes mix: Ibiza Girls (Remix) and Something For The Cat . She smiled.

- Funky acid jazz. Wicked.

- .....

- You look like you need a hit. Been on the disco biscuits babes?

- ......

- 'S right. The Cross is sorted. Thanks for the tea.

Tea, weed and tobacco have magical properties in the wee hours post-Class A dance apocalypso. Ordinarily I go from pale violet, to bright rose, to flashing indigo and finally to ghost white after a cuppa and a spliff. Colour drain is good for a cat. It's kinda the opposite for you guys. For just for a second, she noticed that something was not quite right, like the spell check had been left on British.

- Ok babes? You havin' a whitey innit? ...Alright?

There was to be no meltdown tonight. I'd be jiggy and cranked for at least another 48 hours. I was back in the dark pink before you could say Henry Mancini's Greatest Hits.

Then it happened. The weirdest thing. She passed me the pipe. I sucked. And I faded away. From top to bottom. Like someone had just pulled down the blind. But real slow. An inexorable tide of animation drain. My eyebrows popped away first. Then ears. Snout. Neck. Torso. My slinky butt. Them sinewy thighs. Knocked knees. The curvy calves. The long heels. The arches. The outsize toes. Vanished. And. No sooner. All back. Toes. Feet. Waist. Chest. Head. And last, the eyebrows. Re-materialized like in .. lik... well, like a cartoon.

And I'd been there. I'd been there. I'd been humanized. Just for the merest moment. I'd touched something real. Authentic. Profound. Then it was gone.

But now I felt good. Real good. A cool cat. A sexy jaguar. An erotic psychotic explosion of lusty euphoria, as deep as it was fatuous. We got down to it. Slow but purposeful. Sensual but slightly urgent. Rhythmic. Focused. Driven.

The rest is just detail. Except for the eyebrows.

Her neat brows stood erect over deep brown pools that threw back my yellowy glare with the cold fire of D.H Lawrence's modernism. I could gaze into them no more. I withdrew. I unsheathed. I raised my left eyebrow and she knew to fellate me. I could resist no longer. I angled the desk lamp from off the floor to see the better. After all, I could feel nothing. My pleasure is purely visual. Aesthetic sublimation replaced the animal physicality I longed for. Like an artist I admired the shifting spectrum of shades. Dark brown and thick pink gave way to languid rose and sheen white. Inevitably, splotts of watery cream splashed against mottled chestnut and the sharp glint of a smile like quartz. I imagined an eruption from somewhere deep down within me. But this time none came. It was just like she said: crack was better than sex.

She cleaned up. Her eyes smiled the smile of a friend, not a service provider. We curled up and she slept. I held her in my arms, wishing I could smell her hair as it glistened with sweat and a drama too real for me to feel.

In a less desirable part of North London, two pairs of neatly-fostered eyebrows dance in time to the rhythms of the fluid animation on the small supermarket-bought TV screen. Their unbreakable focus fixed as the panther's black pupils pinball around the magenta half-circle of his wide eyes. The cat, to the annoyance of an irascible carpenter, saws through the wood on which another FLM is standing, plunging him into a vat of cement, and releasing an out-of-control chainsaw that cuts the FLM's ladder in two, with him on it! Ha ha ha! Rinky dink. Suddenly, juddered out of intense focus by the slamming of the front door, the older boy quickly switches off the cartoon. Heads bowed, they go back to their torn school library books.

When she woke up, we made out again. Her beautiful lustrous blackness arched over by the window, staring at the nice shops and well-to-do nose-jobs out on a sunny Sunday morn. I took her casually from behind. She yielded like she'd been expecting me to.

- I've always wanted to do it like this. I love Upper Street. Wish I could live here.

Then we smoked some more. Just Mary Jane this time. We said our good-byes. Pleasant and warm. We shook hand and paw like a pair who'd just agreed a mutually beneficial contract. Maybe we had. As she went down the spiral staircase, she spoke.

- OK babes. See myself out. Maybe see you again. Laters. I like this flat.

- ......

I'm glad I wasn't able to spoil the moment with speech bubbles.

Then it hit me. The AmEx. Bet you she'd been thru' my fanny pouch and cleaned me out. But no. It was still there exactly where I'd left it, next to the twenty bill that was now wending its way downtown. I felt bad for thinking bad of her. Then I smiled. I liked her. It had been nice. I went back to bed and slept peacefully till the next day.

The second I opened my yellow eyes, it started. Purple, violet, indigo: guilt, self-loathing, disgust.

Shame. 'Cos it wasn't like that. Not at all.

 

 

Phil Doran (born Liverpool 1963) is a stand-up poet, comedian, writer and teacher. He has been published by Cerebral Catalyst, Zygote In My Coffee, The Beat, The Times, Tenerife Holiday Magazine, Insurance Age, Midweek  and The Liverpool Echo. He is a regular contributor to Sein Und Werden. He is the author of the two bumper collections of flash and short shorts: Spaghetti Fiction and Spaghetti Fiction Too. He is working on his new books Auntie Pastie (Twenty years of spoken word) and Spaghetti Fiction Freed. He lives in on a narrowboat on the river Cam, Cambridge, UK.

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