The wind changes and rain hits the window like a handful of flung gravel. As if by a pre-arranged signal, Desmond stands and pulls aside the curtains, peering out.
“They’re down there again,” he says. “Dark tracksuit bottoms, light hooded tops. They’re going into that Turkish place again. Do you call that a kebaberie?”
Jonathan does not answer.
“One of these days, I’m going to assassinate them,” says Desmond.
“If you assassinated everyone you said you were going to assassinate…” says Jonathan, then pauses. He has said the same word twice in one sentence, a long word too. It is unlikely he will be able to continue. The scent of rotten flowers washes through him, leaving the muscles of his face fizzing and his tongue twitching in the roof of his mouth.
Jonathan thinks he is becoming ill. He examines his eyes in the mirror, pokes at them gently with a cotton bud. Then he places the cotton bud against the mirror and pokes at the reflected eyes. The reaction, he notes, is almost the same.
“If I left, what would remain of me?” asks Desmond, rhetorically, in the front room. It is unnecessary to ask rhetorical questions here because Jonathan is in the bathroom being ill. There is no chance of his question being answered whether it is rhetorical or not. If there can be no answer, can there be a question? Can there? Can there?
Desmond concludes that an indent in the sofa and a handful of high scores would be all. He fluffs the cushions and considers microwaving the console.
Desmond is saying a list of words to Jonathan and noting down the scents they provoke in a small notebook.
ZEITGEIST Coffee beans with a metallic motif.
INSULAR Cat piss and cinnamon.
WINNEBAGO Throbbing aroma of grass cuttings, comes and goes like a pulse.
KATANA Old books, a distant lemon grove.
“Fascinating,” says Desmond.
Desmond watches the telly and draws a cross over the face of anyone he would like to assassinate with a red marker pen. By lunchtime the whole screen is red and he is forced to guess at the presenters from their voices.
“Jonathan,” he shouts. “Jonathan.”
In the middle of the night Jonathan gets up and wanders moaning around the flat, turning left every time he bumps into something. He never sleeps well these days. Outside the window there is rioting in the street again. Gangs of youths with scarves around their faces smash windows, set fire to shop mannequins, rut like dogs in imagined corners. As he walks, Jonathan wobbles with the fragile weight of his dreams, tensed against the possibility that someone might throw a brick through them.
Desmond has missed another appointment at the job centre. He stands in the middle of the front room in his pants, focusing on his breathing, picking up faint murmurs from his pancreas. He goes to the window, opens the curtain a crack.
“If I go down into that kebaberie,” he says. “I will fuck shit up.”
A man on the telly is saying blah blah blah, the goldfish is swimming widdershins, the light flickers on and off, on and off. From the fireplace giggle and whimper the ghosts of Victorian sweeps. When the door slams everything jumps to attention. Desmond and Jonathan have returned. They only went as far as the kerb, to leave the bins out.
These are some of the things Jonathan does which annoy Desmond:
1) Being sick in bathtub/ behind toilet.
2) Incorrect messages left on phone pad (esp. times).
3) Raw meat left on kitchen table.
4) DVDs not replaced in cases/ replaced in wrong cases.
5) Answering rhetorical questions/ ignoring real questions/ general confusion over social protocol.
“What are they doing?” asks Jonathan, looking out of the window.
“Don’t stand in the window,” says Desmond. “Open the curtains a crack, like I do.”
“What are they doing?” asks Jonathan, opening the curtains a crack.
“They are attacking the fabric of society.”
“Is it because they are disenfranchised?” says Jonathan, drooling slightly as the aroma of frying bacon sizzles through his synapses.
“That is so middle class, Jonathan. They are doing it because they are shitheads.”
Desmond approaches the window stealthily, popping the cap from his marker pen.
Desmond and Jonathan face each other across the kitchen table. There is a tin of peaches between them. The license hasn’t been paid on the telly. The phone and internet will be cut off soon. Desmond has hijacked Jonathan’s Facebook page, then hijacked his own by mistake. There is some confusion as to who is who.
Someone is climbing the wall of Ichi-no-tani with a dead man on his back.
Someone is pushing earth from his face with long fingers, gargling worms in the back of his throat.
Someone is pounding on the door.