|The events described in this story are fictional. The author makes no assertion about the lives or characters of the real people whose names and identities she has used in the writing of this story, and makes no money from it.|
Far Cry From Dagenham
"Hello?" The voice is small and distant; sleep trails from it in ragged shreds.
"Peter? Bloody hell, it's three o' clock in the morning here."
"I just thought I'd give you a ring, see if you felt like a bit of a chat."
"Oh. Did you?"
"I did, Dud."
"I see. So you don't speak to me for six months, and then you ring me at three in the morning for a bit of a chat."
"Yes. It's like buses, you see, Dud."
"Yes. Very much like buses."
"Ah." Yawn, and then nothing. The conversation hangs like a rubber band stretched over the Atlantic, bouncing gently up and down.
"You haven't gone to sleep, have you, Dud?"
"Oh good, I am glad. I've been meaning to ask you: how is America getting on these days?"
"S'fine Big. Very good facilities, you know."
"Ah, the facilities "
"They're still good, are they?"
"Very good. They miss you, I think."
"Do they, Dud?"
"Well, you used to make fairly extensive use of them, if I remember correctly."
"Yes, well they were so very good, you see. Do give them my love, won't you?"
"All right, Peter."
"Just if you happen to be passing."
"If I do happen to be passing the facilities, Peter, I'll be sure to give them your love."
"Thank you, Dudley. I appreciate it."
"So, Peter, how ? I mean, have you been are you ?"
"Depths of despair, Dud."
"Oh dear. Really?"
"Well, no not the absolute depths, you understand. But you can see them from here, if you squint."
"Are you drinking?"
"No, I'm talking to you."
"Are you drunk, then?"
"No, of course not, it's mid-morning. Only a little bit."
"Peter look, I really think you should see someone, you know? If you want, I'll ask around, we'll get you someone good--"
"Oh yes, because therapy's been such a success for you over the years, hasn't it, Dudley? I expect you're quite the expert now."
"Anyway, there's always the horrific possibility that they might cure me, and that's the last thing I want. Can you imagine? Bloody hell, I can't think of anything worse!"
"You do it on purpose, don't you?"
"Do what, Dud? What do I do on purpose?"
"Fuck things up."
"Oh, don't be bloody ridiculous."
"Yes you do, you get bored, or you get scared, I don't know which, and then you fuck things up."
"Why on Earth would I want to do that? I think you've seen too many shrinks, Dudley. Therapy has addled your brain."
"Well, you fucked us up."
"Ripped to the fucking tits on stage every fucking night. You did it so I'd leave. You kept on doing it until I left."
"I never made you do anything. It was your decision."
"You didn't give me a fucking choice!"
"Well, you've done pretty well for yourself since, haven't you Dudley? I did you a favour, really."
"Is that why you phoned me up, then?"
"Is what why I phoned you up?"
"To give me the chance to thank you? How kind."
"You brought it up."
"Oh, never mind. It doesn't matter."
"I just fancied a chat."
"It doesn't matter!"
Silence. Night travels humming down the wires, fades into day.
"We had that Jenny Agutter round here again the other week."
"Uh did you?"
"Yes, she was sniffing round the bins, looking for something to eat. Oh, it was a horrible sight."
"Er, yeah, well I bet it was, Pete."
"Yeah thin as a rake she is now, Dud, thin as a rake. Keeps crying out, she does, in this terrible wailing voice: 'Oh, Peter,' she says, 'Take pity on me, Peter! I haven't eaten a proper meal since Logan's Run.' Course, I never let her in."
"Can't say I blame you, Pete."
"Nah, well she's probably got fleas, hasn't she? Stands to reason. I chuck her a crust now and again though. I think she's grateful."
"Well, yeah course, you know what they say, Pete. Charity begins at home, and all that."
"Exactly, Dud, exactly. And I expect, if she did stay at home, I'd probably be a lot more charitable."
"Well, you're a very generous man, Pete."
"Thank you, Dud."
"That's all right."
"I expect you'd like to get back to sleep now, wouldn't you?"
"Would that be all right? It's just I've got to get up in the morning."
"Perfectly fine, Dudley. Any time."
"I may ring you again in a minute, simply for the pleasure of talking to your delightful answering machine."
"Right. Well see you, Peter."
"Just try and take care of yourself, would you?"
"Anything for you, Dudley. Anything for you."
Click. The connection
is terminated. In Hampstead, the receiver hisses dead air into the bright,