Novel Excerpt -3

Hon’ the Dean.

Little Brown American Mouse

I thought again about when my mother brought me to the beach as a kid. I don’t recall much about her presence or the details of what we did. I know that we got ice-cream at one point and that I, fearing the water, sat on the beach, far up where it breaks back to soil and grass, and watched the waves roll towards me, crash, bow and retreat (repeat). There was so much mystery in those glimmer flats. Knowing they were not solid, that one would sink, sent my mind chasing itself trying to picture the entirety of its depths. I would focus on one imagining of a fish and follow it as it flicked its body forwards through that gradient of darkness, from the foot of clarity before its eyes to the increasing oblivion on all sides. It would not be long before I lost all idea of…

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Anyone for tennis?

So this girl sent me a friend request on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and I was thinking that maybe our children could play tennis. Well, not necessarily tennis, but one of those sports that’s a bit alternative but still mainstream enough for them to be really fucking rich if they’re any good at it. Maybe I’ll work them like dogs until they reach the top, like the Williams sisters. Not exactly like the Williams sisters though, because if they have my genes then they won’t be professional athletes no matter how horribly I treat them. I’ll work them anyway, little bastards. Everything would be peaches and cream until they came along. That’s a phrase isn’t it? Peaches and cream? Like a dessert under some threadbare guise of health. A real tennis dessert you might call it. They’ll call it that anyway, because I’ll fucking make them.

-“But Daddy, we lack the genetic make-up of elite athletes as a result of generations of narrow, culturally singular breeding on your side of the family?”

-“Fuckin’ typical excuses. Now give me fifteen laps of that court!”

-“But… we don’t have a tennis court?”

-”You know what I mean, the two bins out the back with the rope tied to them.”

Don’t know why they’d complain so much anyway, that garden’s going to be fucking tiny unless they miraculously make it to the top and buy us a bigger house. And if they do make it then they won’t be running laps around the garden so I don’t know why they’d be getting all up in my grill. Have my heart absolutely broke so they will. Little Andre and Andrea. They’ll either be absolute no hopers or they’ll resent me until the day I die. Great. Well I suppose I’ll just live to be about two hundred so they’ll have to take care of me to keep up their neatly-maintained public images. That’ll fucking learn them, so it will.

We could go on holidays to a good, honest British beach. We’d live in Ireland obviously, it’d just be a very Protestant beach. Sand, water, a bench. No frills. None of your fancy shite. You don’t need ostentatious beach decor to run a few laps, I’ll tell ya that for nothin’. We’d drink Robinson’s squash just so the children don’t forget that it’s back to the grind as soon as we get home. It’d only be a day trip out to the greying, empty beach anyway. We’d always think about going for longer, but then be grateful we didn’t stay when the heavens open up and piss all over us ten minutes into the half-arsed picnic myself and the wife managed to throw together that morning while the kids were out the back running laps at dawn. I’d not be drinking the Robinson’s anyway, awfully English. No, it’d be MiWadi on the sly, necking it straight out of my own personal “Robinson’s” bottle. Let the rest of them wash down their faltering dreams with their overpriced Wimbledon juice. Not that they’d give two shites about the price when I’m the one forking out my pittance of a wage to pay for it.

I wouldn’t be totally stingy mind, I mean I’d break out the good biscuits for Christmas or one of their birthdays. Not both of their birthdays, obviously, I’m not fucking made of tins of USA biscuits. If only I was, then I’d have a definite purpose. Being eaten at Christmas, my calling. Better than being eaten alive all year round in that cesspit of a home. It would be a cesspit, let’s not beat around the proverbial here. Not a Star Wars cantina style cesspit where everyone is very clearly out to get you. No, more of a lengthy, silent dinner table cesspit where every second of eye contact comes at a terrible cost. Me on one end, sawing through my overcooked steak with a butter knife. The wife at the other, pretending to enjoy a salad. She’d only be eating it to stay trim for the tennis instructor whose arms I’d obviously push her into. The children, running laps of the kitchen in between bites of vacuum packed nutrient dense protein slop that I’d ordered online after reading about it on reddit. No further research required, those faceless internet men know what’s best for my children. They’d hardly have time to digest the slop anyway before burning off the calories for all the laps they’d be running.

I’d lure the wife after some systematic stalking, a minor overhaul of my own identity and a few haphazardly constructed lies. The lies would be unravelled eventually but she’d be in too deep at that stage after a tactical pregnancy. You see I’d accept her Facebook request (following three to five days of a delay to make it seem as if I’m terribly busy). I would be terribly busy though, just not in any sort of respectable way. Not that she’d know that. I’d have a seriously in-depth creep on every aspect of her online identity. A particular detail would catch my eye, her fondness for the work of Haruki Murakami. She’d even have gone as far as starting a literary blog, with a single post about The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, where, in five hundred words or less, she’d describe her fondness for the offbeat, melancholic characters contained within. (She wouldn’t have finished it). I’d make a careful note of this. Not an actual note of course, there’d be a risk she would find it later and that’d sour the relationship before I could sufficiently entangle our lives.

Around this valuable nugget of information I’d set the wheels of courtship in motion. I’d accept her friend request after the waiting period had confirmed her suitability. I’d actually like her. In fact, I’d love her. I wouldn’t properly know her and that’s when love is pure, yet to be compromised by awful, messy humanity. I’d love that she loved Murakami, that’s something I could see myself loving. Again, I wouldn’t have read any Murakami at this point, rendering the love ever purer. Anyway, the friend request would be accepted. We’d be friends. The internet would say it, and who’d dare to defy the internet? Not I, I’d say, not I. Prior to this electronically binding confirmation of our friendship I’d have built the foundations of our relationship, invisible to the naked eye. My newly formed book club would spring up out of fuck knows where and I’d snare a few friends for weekly discussion of our collective literary endeavours. We’d start with something handy enough, Gone Girl or some other book that’s already a film so people could probably bullshit their way through without having to read a fucking word. After that, I guess Animal Farm or something that a child could read. Simple, yet hinting at a political awareness beyond your average Fianna Fáil voter. Then a mammoth leap onto a bit of Joyce, embodying some vague nationalistic pride and highlighting my intellect.

-”Wow, if he’s read Joyce, then he’s surely read Murakami…”

Too fucking right I have, I’d eat your contemporary nonsense as an appetiser for my second helping of Finnegans Wake. Not that I’d have read the Murakami, or the Joyce. I’d own a copy of Finnegans Wake though, second hand so it’d have the appearance of many examinations imprinted upon its crinkled, yellowing pages.

-”Yeah, got that copy brand new for my fifteenth birthday. Rarely a day goes by where I don’t dip in, and comfortably float amidst a sea of literary allusions, all of which I understand implicitly.”

As she’d watch my book club grow, I’d be on Facebook, strategically sharing music that I know she has a particular fondness for, ensuring her ‘likes’ and imprinting in her thoughts a notion that our common taste for Radiohead means we’re destined for one another. Yes, my dear, we’re the only two people that enjoy the obscure, underground stylings of one of the most critically acclaimed bands in existence. I’d tell Thom Yorke our scrapyard wedding is an environmental statement and he’d DJ it for a tenner, a packet of lentil crisps and a pop at the chief bridesmaid behind the abandoned school bus.

Anyhow, whilst she’s drowning in my onslaught of In Rainbows b-sides I’d take a vote on the next book to be the focus of my ever-expanding book club. The vote would be absolutely rigged of course and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle would be the winner after a secret (non-existent) ballot. At this stage I’d have engaged her with a selection of my finest smiley faces in a Facebook chat window, carefully coinciding a discussion on our favourite literature with a post announcing the Murakami love-in scheduled for the next book club meeting. She’d have to come, I’d insist upon it. Not in an obviously intimidating way, but in the way people buy you a shot in a nightclub with the knowledge that you couldn’t possibly refuse it – “Yeah man, I fucking love mixing blue and red Aftershock”.

Having extensively glanced over the Wikipedia page for The Wind Up Bird Chronicle twenty minutes before the fateful book club meeting, I’d proceed to steer conversation away from the actual plot two minutes in. Instead, I’d spend the duration of the meeting complaining that Bob Dylan had robbed Murakami of the Nobel Prize that year, denouncing Dylan as a poor man’s Donovan and bemoaning the Nobel committee’s failure to recognise the work of my hero, Andre Agassi – Author of the seminal 2009 novel Open and occasional tennis player. I’d put forth the point that Agassi’s work holds far more relevance to a contemporary audience, given that he was born in 1970, peaking in the late 90s and single handedly pushing humanity through to a new millennium. Conversely, by the year 1970, Dylan had already squandered his 29 year head-start on Agassi, foolishly believing that he could make an imprint upon the music industry. Notably, little of Dylan’s work from this period has ever appeared on the Amazon chart – “Best Sellers: Tennis Autobiographies”. (Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, Agassi’s Open occupies both the second and third positions on this chart, having gracefully stepped aside for young thrill-seeker Andrew Murray’s debut literary effort. No pre-1970 album credited to a Robert Zimmerman appears anywhere on the list.)

Anyway, having ranted about Bob Dylan until the book club disbanded, I’d be left alone with Nameless Future Wife #1. Bonding over our disdain for Dylan, adoration of Agassi and abhorrence of alliteration, the two of us would stay up into the wee small hours watching a low quality rip of Andre claiming the Men’s Singles Title at Wimbledon back in 1992. With the dawn light breaking through my tennis net curtains (a somewhat lacking design on my part, I’ll admit), we’d lean in close, dizzy from countless champagne flutes of Robinson’s fruit juice, and get down to some thirty love.

Then we’d have the next bit of the courtship, where I’d grind down her resolve through years of tenuous tennis allusions, sealing match point with a proposal on Henman Hill. Obviously I’d prefer to propose sitting inside at Centre Court, with the ring hidden inside some poncey peaches and cream and John McEnroe screaming at us, but, as previously noted, I wouldn’t have a pot to piss in. You see, during the burgeoning stages of our relationship, before reluctantly submitting to an office job to support Andre and Andrea, I’d be pursuing my dream career. Alas, the demand for freelance tennis analysts in small Irish towns is shockingly low. No, she’d have to make do with Henman Hill and a ring lazily stuffed inside a strawberry Cornetto. I’d ask Andre Agassi himself to be my best man. Though he’d say no, of course. In fact, he wouldn’t refuse. He just wouldn’t even bother to respond, the uppity prick. Can’t believe we’d end up naming those ingrate children after him. Fitting, I suppose. Anyhow, after a quick-fire wedding, over in three straight sets, the doubles title of marriage would be ours. Andre and Andrea would soon follow, born into this world to run laps until I draw my last breath. I’d have all I’d ever truly dreamed of, enough people to play a doubles tennis match. We’d serve out the years in a deadlock of simmering mutual resentment, dreary picnics and endless laps. Deuce.

On second thoughts, I might just ignore that friend request.

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