There’s a brick in our garden; blasted black since the Days of Steam. It’s nestled there in among its redder brothers in our outhouse wall.
Whenever I need the strength to carry on through all the horror and the hurt; the casual cruelties manifest in modern man, I turn to that brick - and I get through.
So anyway, my Dad died of Cancer.
Yeah. ‘Myelodysplastic Syndrome, is what he had. ‘Sounds like a Tweenie with Learning Difficulties, I know, but it’s actually a type of blood cancer. Turbo boosted. It’s like Cancer in a hurry to be somewhere so it’ll drag you with it whether you like it or not. It’s Cancer with a trolley and there’s an IKEA sale on and it really wants to buy a puffy light shade before it kills you. It’s that kind of Cancer.
Anyway, he left a Will, did my Dad.
“I, Gordon CHINN, being of sound mind and body, do hereby bequeath the instruments of my One True Love to my son, Paul Chinn.”
I thought I’d inherited a torture den until the Will went on...
“The career I should have had. Before my life was taken over - link by chubby link - by pork products.”
He worked in a sausage factory. That’s not a metaphor, by the way. He wasn’t a teacher - like me - churning out clones like sausage links. Or any other public servant feeling like a cog in the wheel - the great institutionalised conveyor belt. I’m not being satirically allegorical here. He literally worked in an actual sausage factory. He was their chief designer. No - sausages have to be designed, I’ll have you know. You don’t just leave those willy-shaped hunks of meat to chance. It had to be properly planned and ‘blue sky thought’ by people like my old man.
He was a bloody good sausage designer too. Innovative, he was. He was the pioneer of the controversial ‘square sausage’ revolution - you must have heard about it? ‘Swazzle’s Square Sausage’ - that was the name of the company. They were popular for a while. Until popularity turned to notoriety. All that unfortunate ‘Infringement of Public Health’ business. ‘Tooth and Husks’ the headlines said. Or was it ‘Hoofs and Tusks’?
Anyway, apparently his dying wish was for me to take up where he left off before the bastards ground me down. Or even worse - make me a mindless manager...
So he bequeathed me his Punch and Judy puppets. Yeah, you think you know someone your entire life and then you find out on their death that they’re a closet Punch and Judy man. A puppeteer. And though it might not be as bad as being a mime - it’s in the same ball park. And not only that but he wanted me to take up the slapstick and become a Punch and Judy man myself. Well, that was the last straw. Him dying was bad enough. But inheriting a bunch of creepy puppets from him was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So I took an overdose.
Where there’s a Will there’s a Way.
I didn’t really take twenty-three sleeping tablets washed down with Aldi whiskey because my Dad left me a Punch and Judy show in his Will. No. I took twenty-three sleeping tablets washed down with Aldi whiskey because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Because I am clinically depressed, apparently, and - yes, Dad’s death was the last nail in the coffin - if you’ll pardon the gallows pun.
I won’t bore you with the details because Mental Health issues are bloody boring and hearing a suicidal nutter explain why he’s a suicidal nutter is hardly what you want on a night out - unless you’re a follower of David Koresh and you’re on a night out in Waco, of course. Suffice to say I’ve always been prone to melancholia but middle age and mortality have exacerbated that misanthropy somewhat. In other words, I’m a miserable cunt.
I was contemplating this, propped up in my hospital bed soon after having my stomach pumped courtesy of whichever foreign company the Tory machine had decided to sell this particular chunk of our NHS off to, when my wife Ella showed up to cheer me right up with :
“Did you know that more men attempt or commit suicide, statistically, than women?”
I was wondering how you commit suicide “statistically” - count to ten before you kick away the chair? Count your pills on an abacus? Eat some poisoned ‘Pi’? (Just a titter from the mathematicians in the audience for that one) - when she asked me “Why pills?”
“Hello, dear. Nice to see you too.”
‘Turns out she thought taking sleeping pills was ‘a bit girly’. That there are more manly ways to top yourself. I apologised and told her my matador costume was in the dry cleaners and I couldn't find a charging bull to gore me anywhere. But she kept on about how sleeping pills is all a bit tame. That I might as well go the whole hog and open my wrists in a bath full of scented candles.
When I asked what she suggested she said a knife. More macho. More potent. With the almost symbolic phallic undertones of penetrating flesh... She’d really been thinking about this a lot, clearly. Or hanging was quite manly too, by all accounts. The rope lassoed over timber - the cowboy's way out.
When I told her I would have thought that would be being gunned down in a hail of bullets, she said she was coming to that but I said no you’re not. Instead, I apologised if my suicide attempt wasn't sexy enough for her. Some might expect a little sympathy when they're lying in a hospital bed. What do I get? Analytical criticism of my life-threatening overdose! The Simon Cowell of suicide attempts.
She said it was a cry for help. Of course it was a cry for help. I’m a middle aged middle class white man. I’m invisible. I have to scream and cry for help or nobody will hear me. D’you know, if I wrote a play about my life, nobody would come and see it? Unless perhaps - if I wrote in a dance scene for ‘Diversity’ as a cameo.
It was then that Ella told me to ‘Scooch’. So I scooched up the hospital bed a bit and she climbed in beside me, arranging the covers like we’re George and Zippy about to get a visit from Bungle and Geoffrey. The simile ends there though as I don’t recall Zippy ever doing the following to George - with or without Bungle and Geoffrey present. And believe me, I’ve checked every episode. You can never be too sure with ‘Rainbow’...
Ella’s hands were under the covers. Slowly, mock innocently, her hand began exploring my side of the bed. Her motions became more animated as she found what she was looking for and she began pulling and pumping me beneath the bedclothes. I’m a bloke so I went with it for a bit - but it was pointless. In every sense. Like trying to make a volcano with Playdough that’s been out in the rain. Like - you know that mashed potato mountain Richard Dreyfus makes in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’? Well, it was like that but with too much butter and cream in it. Or not enough cream, I suppose.
When I told her I couldn’t she complained that it had been three months and that we were going great guns “before all this business...”
“This business" being the hospitalisation, diagnosis, deterioration and death of my Dad, of course. None of 'that business' particularly useful to get you in the mood for a bunk-up! Spilling the bloody piss of a proud man everywhere when he's off his tits on morphine isn't the best foreplay, I reckon.
She said that she’d read somewhere that death can be an aphrodisiac. People feel grief and they're numb and they can't feel or cry and so they need to feel something - anything - and so they go out and pick up strangers and fuck them in hotel rooms. She said she frigged herself silly when her Nan died... Which didn’t surprise me. It’s a well-known phenomenon, apparently. It's called the 'Death Fuck'. She read it. I dread to think where she read it : A John Webster play? A D.H Lawrence novel? Or a website for fellow deviants?
She got angry then. About our sex life. I think I might have actually said the ‘deviant’ line because she said how I was as up for all that stuff as she was before I started train wrecking my own life. We had a loyalty card at 'Lovehoney' and plans for a dungeon when Bobby goes to Uni. And now what have we got? A very unrampant rabbit and the nipple clamps are rusted up!
“I watched my father die!” I tried to explain it. On a bed. I sat there and talked to him about football and Brexit and how he was my rock as that cunt of a disease ate him alive. Between the sheets. In a bed.
And do you know what she said? She said “I'm not asking you to fuck me in a bed. Dogging will do. A bit of al fresco in the Suzuki Swift.” She didn’t care how or where we do it so long as we do it!
That much was obvious with her trying to give me a bit of the old ‘Pam Ayers’ under hospital sheets. We stuck a pin in our sex life at that point - which was appropriate as that’s just the way Ella likes it - as my mate Toby turned up to drive me home as they’d discharged me.
I breathed deeply and thought of my brick.
Ella gave us both a kiss and a parting shot that she’s a “woman with special needs” so I said fine I’d get her some big print colour overlays from school to read about her ‘Death Fuck’ with.
When she’d gone I got dressed and out of there with Toby before they flogged the bed to Trump or a Russian Oligarch.
Toby said I was being cynical, but what people don’t seem to realise is a cynic is just a romantic with really high standards.