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 ‘Not at the moment.  But I got a mem’ry on me like an hen-cycle-philiac. You need that in my job.’

   ‘Knees is a Big Fish.  I want you to dig the dirt.’

   ‘You want me to dig the dirt on a fish?’

   ‘Yes.  Every grass stain — Boy!  Don’t you turn your back on me!’

   ‘Would he be in the same gang as Billy the Fish?  Or Harry the Hamster?’

   ‘No no.  Knees is the mover and shaker from that late-night nonsense on the tele after the pubs close, How to Alter the State of Heavenly Bodies and Other Fun Pastimes ...’

   ‘I’zzz vaguely with you.’

   ‘... He flogged that book The Meaning of Life for Beginners ...’

   ‘A book, you say?’

   ‘... And the follow-up The Meaning of Life: Advanced Studies ... full o’ big words ...’


   ‘... He made a bomb out o’ Supernovas Can Be Fun: But Bin Superstring.’

   ‘I be more Harry Potter man meself.’

   ‘I tried Jeffrey Archer once,’ recalls the Governor bitterly and reaching for the passing ponytail of the Bar Steward, ‘but came over suicidal.’

   Black marbles of demon dick Whitelaw betray a man of the streets: ‘You don’t see many good Cowboys and Engines books these days ... yo-yos ... and wad ever happen to white dog pooh?’

   A man could die for want of a good lick.

   ‘And why are women orange?’ complains the Governor to the cuckoo clock. ‘Women were never orange in my day.’

   ‘Life is strange. I thunk that sin they did dat doo-dah Der Dukes of Hazzard.’

   ‘Look.  Bring me the dirt on Knees.  Judge Jeffreys shot the trial in camera on grounds of Pubic Health.’

   ‘We bring you der dirt and der photos.’  Whitelaw the demon dick cooked to the crimson of crayfish.

   The Governor haunted by horrid hardcore exposure to haddock pie.  ‘Big Boys gutted the file o’ the juicy stuff and I can’t sniff for what he got nicked.’

   ‘You leave it to the experts — berk!’

   ‘And next week our Big Fish breaks free.  Judges’ hoarders.’

   ‘Weird shell we three meet again?’ demands demon dick Whitelaw. ‘Masons’ Arms or Pig & Whistle?’

   ‘No.  Hush-hush tsch-marra night.  Rabbit & Rankin.’

   ‘Hare be hood as a wink to a blind goat.’






Halfway House between the Gutter and the Stars.

   The last of Chef’s regular peasants to risk body and soul on a prize-scoop of Chicken Surprise drags guilt-riddled gravy-dripping dreadlocks up the Stairway to Heaven.  Or the other place.  Contents of the plastic dinner tray congealing the coolest of burnt offerings to the gods.

   C46664 Benjamin Samuels slopes along the starboard landing to the end cell.  Room 102.

   Pot plants breathe for a better Life on the window ledge and on tops of books.

   Beneath the barred window the black box blooms Blancmange’s Living on the Ceiling.

   The dinner tray festers deserted to the ravages of mutant insect wildlife. Slumped on the portside bed Benjy constructs a scholarly spliff — three skins long and smooth like a submarine — lined with five grades of nuclear-powered skunk and a passing of pollen.

   Wasps of cirrus and the honeysuckle waft of pot plants commingle a peaty aroma.

   Seahorses of smoke prance upon a delicate filmy pool of blue.

   Shadows shallow-hop a shingle reef of white bricks.

   Low hungry clouds howl from a wild tent of black.

   Your skin creeps so cold Bumps as Big as Buoys bulge to bursting.

   Brace yourself, Gentle Reader, for a seedy confession.  For behind the closed thick steel door a man of unusual tastes, and thirsty for the Meaning of Life, bad-Boy Benjy for a first course feasts fruits from the forbidden tree of English literature.  He picks the bones of chop-fallen Hamlet, lusts for the day he can clod country lanes with new friend Hardy, and longs for the drinking of more than a day’s worth of Ulysses.

   A body blow to the Author who wishes to devote good time to the car chase, the prison riot, and the bonding of body and mind to the green herbal gifts of Mother Nature.

   Twisted Benjy sinks nuggets of literature paying no heed to the borehole of learning shafting mind and body.  We monitor the student Benjy for fallout: dormant library fines, late nights between the sheets of some forgotten maiden, loss of decent smoking time.

   Had your mother uncovered the odd specimen from your mattress when you were of tender years she might have stamped out this perverted habit.

   O, Benjy, how can you let down the Good Reader coughing good money to learn more of the drugs score at Springwood?  The Good Author’s Nobel Prize for the Advancement of High Hippy Culture up in smoke!

   (Greedily has the Governor outlawed the books and ramblings of the way-out Professor on penalty of Solitary and an improved diet of bread and water.  A sluice-bucket of rumour awashes the Ones the Governor is bumrush for a nervous breakdown, a red-tape effluent of European directives, regulations and rubbish rubiconning the Ones like rotten confetti.)

   But mankind cannot live by Bacon and Shakespeare alone.

   Now hunts Benjy bigger fish for his game.

   The Meaning of Life.

   Forty days and nights flatly refuses the recumbent Professor to be drawn.

   Benjy’s thirst for a River of Life tonic unfathomable!

   For the Meaning of Life should not be taboo.  Food for the chosen few.  And Life should not be lived under a blanket of guilt.  With that ever-present stitching to your soul.  Never to fill a private hole.

   The scholar Benjy waiting — forever waiting — way longer than the White Hart Lane faithful for a home win.

   We wait for the shaggy-headed Professor to return from his CCCUNT.  Wait for the early evening nap.  Wait for the sucking of hoar-blue gas.  Wait for the shafting of student papers.  Wait for a round of Beach Volleyball Six on the PlayStation Five.

   Pick your moment and dive with both feet: aping the nerve of an Arsenal defender against the shins of an opponent.

   The sorry lesson giveth that the poor soul on the Tottenham Omnibus might abide any evil bar being forced to watch Arsenal play.

   The witching hour.

   The time is nicely jointed.

   The pot-headed Professor so laid back he is given to marking student’ essay papers horizontally, a riot of black fizzy locks backsliding a pillow of fluff.  Mushroom tea shaken.  Not stirred.  Green tongue splays before a crack’d hand-mirror — ‘I’m ill.’

   ‘Ya not ill.’

   ‘I’ll have you know I’m suffering mighty litigious lately.’

   ‘’Tis your own felt.’  Scornful Benjy dreads the tip of a tongue along the dead-dog-gum of a strip ripp’d from the Lard’s gospel — ‘Ya wailin’ worse tan Woodstock.’

   ‘How’s Hamlet these days?’

   Scholar Benjy lowers a force-field of dreadlocks, puts to rest the more-than-pristine copy pilfered from the prison library and settles to a sensible round of skinning —  ‘Close your pretty blue eye — dassit — sleepy — sleepy — and tell me about dis Meaning of Life.’

   ‘Memory’s blown to pot.’

   ‘Ya wriggle worse tan Michael Jackson.’

   Green graveyard gas gurgles the grill of the window.  The black box breakers Saint Germain’s Rose Rouge.  Arclights flood the peter with fluted streams of dancing specks.  Shadows scatter two-by-two the screen of white bricks.  Shelves cram with pot plants and the odd cobwebbing of a book.

   Heavy heavy silence hangs like the devil’s smog over Ashburton Grove on news of the Glorious Spurs banging home a third.

   When decided these cruel gods the Meaning of Life should be taboo and with a free shot at Life for the chosen few Benjy is at a loss.  Against a granite wall he rubs his face and the skin exfoliates flake by flake.

   Flotsam on a fogbank of blue the cast-off words from a fallen Professor trailing the deep.  ‘After years of research at the bar I can reveal the answer to the Meaning of Life ... is not forty-two.’

   Suicide faithful rises from the grave an honourable option.  Gloomily Benjy inspects the sea of discarded student papers vegetating and rooting a new geologic layer between the beds, a stratum of disappointment: overseas private students in search of God, militant new atheists, courageous creationist doctorate students in search of military insects with stocks of chemical weapons, jubilant undergraduates demanding the powers-that-be indefinitely delay the release of the potty Professor, the Dean demanding new charges be brought, applications for funding, rejections for funding, all composting and composing an earthy infusion of fustiness.

   When suddenly swears scholar Benjy he senses a scintilla of compost- mentis from the dead-headed Professor, a suggestion of a blue eye, a crook’d smile, as though of hemlock he had drunk, and aye, floating the soft words of a tapering vine: ‘You have to take my thirty-eight week course ... and arrange a mortgage for the study materials, and derr there’s the workshops, and the field trips ... and by law because studying the Meaning of Life is so very dangerous you have sign a student waver ...’

   Waves of honeysuckle prickle the nasal passage.  Set sail to an undiscovered country.  A country Benjy craves of culture.  Reason.  Logic.  And where the higher concepts of Life lie like coconuts.  ‘Well then just gimme the answer from the end of the course.  Simple ...’  Benjy sucks soft blue smoke deep into the labyrinth of the lungs.  The wind whips such a racket to raise the dead.  Vapours of evening virga invigorate the mind like a primrose zephyr from Heaven.

   Benjy kills the overhead lamp a little more than cack-faced and a little less than kind.

   Barbed hunger haunts the halls of the stomach.

   Let out to play, spooks and spirits of the night cry Whitney in a protoplasmic orgy of howailing.

   Kicks to the door.  For the sport.  For the Hell of it.

   He slips shivering beneath the grave-cold sheets.

   Tosa-the-Mad-Man-Mountain with the tin-pot hat and riding crop ... and skinheads with big blue tattoos ... they smoke the weediest hand-rolled butts, and jabber too loudly when you pass their potbellies on the lower landings, about black bastards who take all the jobs.  Benjy has never had a proper job.  The teachers cuffing a boy of no potential ... Benjy tries to conjure proper words, and studies the pictures of proper books, and if the end of the Christian world is coming, he is on a mission pro bono to confront this God ... godo-a-mano ... Visions of Tosa and Nazis with potbellies ... God ... Jennifer ... Oh Jennifer ... Scraps of pictures pinball the portals of the skull ... Benjy slides asleep.




[Editor: let me be at liberty to thank the many people what responded to my push for new members for the Cottagers Association.  You know, cottaging has had a bad press of late.  But we campaign on many important issues.  Softer paper.  Fresh flowers.  Piped Liberace.  Condom machines.  New lifetime-president George Michael will warmly shake your member to welcome you into the fold.

   So don’t be shy, give cottaging a try.  Thank you.]