Friday, August 04, 2006

Lights, Camera, Action

Steve is telling us his story.

He's quiet spoken, his manner, pensive.
Lines crease his forehead as he thinks, as he articulates exactly what happened, how he ended up sitting at the side of the road, the four heads of his family splattered like watermelons back at his home while he rocked back and forth, whimpering like a puppy, tears streaming down his face.

He says he has no recollection of events, no ideas how he came to be sitting on the overpass, how he came to have four pints of blood splashed on this clothes, yet no discernible wounds; some sort of amnesia, we get to thinking, perhaps selective on account of the trauma.

It's not unheard of. People blot stuff out, erase it from the mind when it becomes too much to handle, too difficult to store for long periods of time; it's volatile, inflammable.

Steve is being capricious. The Doc says he's had a bang on the head, even though he can't find any puncture wounds, no bruising. Even the Doc admits he's not seen anything like it in almost 30 years of work. Never. It's unprecedented. So the Doc says.

I find myself almost hypnotised by Steve's drawl, the way he hangs on certain vowels. I watch as his mouth twists, the left-hand side lifting, streaking lines across his face. His eyes are darting, occasionally stopping like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Usually when we show him the photos. He stops, works stuck in his throat, choking him like chicken bones. No one goes to help. We all watch, transfixed. He turns red, raspberry, beetroot, blackberry. A slap brings him out of it, the mark of my hand tattooed on his cheek, a slime of blood smeared from lip to ear. He continues his story, the same as before:

Donotknowdonotknooooooooooowwwww.

I have to believe him.

I stand, the orange plastic chair tacked to the backs of my knees scraping its metal legs against the concrete floor as I straighten up. We've all had enough, especially Steve. Our eyes lock; his pleading, mine judging. It's stalemate. I leave the room, I need air.

I re-enter. Steve is telling us his story. His manner is quiet, pensive. His voice, ditto. I look about for a chair: take the plastic, orange-coloured monstrosity, scarred with a million cigarette burns, spillages of coffee, of unknown fluids. I look at Steve as I place the four spindles of metal on the floor, teeth gritted as the scraping plugs the flow of words mumbling, tumbling from Steve's mouth. I nod. Steve carries on, telling us his story.

I look about. Paint peeling, blue shards undulating in the breeze of the desk-top fan that sits on the Formica table in front of me, the barrier that separates me from Steve. I can hear him. Donotknowdonotknow. A keening whisper, a sound that will haunt me. I have to believe him. He says he has no recollection. It's not unheard of.

I write down the events as they currently stand, throwing paper in front of the fan so it blows into Steve's face. He stops, shock painting his face, powdering it white, ghost-like. It's a technique, to wake them, to shock them.

Them = person + guilt.

Hands dug deep into my faded 501s, shirt tails flapping as the fan oscillates towards me. I stare. I know of people who blot things out, erase them; they are too much to contemplate, to replay like the Super 8 cine films of our youth. They can't be stored for long periods of time; they're volatile, thrashing about, verbally. It's the trauma; it has a medical name just so the courts can apportion blame, costs, damages.

I stand, quickly. The chair scrapes on the floor. Steve winces. I wink at him, tell him it's time for a cup of tea, for a break; it's a chance for him to remember, to recall, to reminisce.

I leave the room. I need air.

I can hear Steve, telling us his story, but now his voice is muffled by the chipboard door, its surface littered with the scars of so many confessions and a good deal of frustration. I need air.

I re-enter. Steve is silent. No one is asking him questions. All eyes are on the tape recorder, the old, battered tape recorder; it had been mine, when I was growing up, when I wanted to be a singer and I recorded myself tunelessly bawling out the hits of the Jackson 5. I wanted to be black. If I'd known what I know now, I'd have written to Michael - hey, Mikey, wanna change colour now? And gender?

I wipe these thoughts from my head. Concentrate, I say to myself; over-and-over: mantra number one. I reach over towards Steve, see his eyes flinch, his head involuntarily jerk backwards, as if I were about to hurt him. It's a sign; the first. He is remembering. Wrist flicks, tape turns. Recording, the red light indicates. I pick up a piece of the paper on which the events are documented. I look for another sign that he remembers.

I can hear Steve telling us his real story. His confession is coming out like a bullied schoolboy who's decided it's better to come clean than to be beaten for being different: I know he's holding something back. I stare, he stops. It's a technique, to wake them, to shock them. The red light is on, it's a focus.

I stand. Steve is shouting now, wanting to unburden himself of his crimes, telling us how he shot his wife, his kids. He shows remorse, wants to right the wrong. I tell him I don't believe him, that he doesn't look like the kind of man that could pull off such a crime, wouldn't be able to squeeze his pinky around the cold steel of the gun's butt, his index finger curled like a cat around feet feeling the trigger, feeling the tightness.

You are nothing,
I say.
Nothing.

He starts to cry again, head buried in his hands. I see the red light on the tape recorder, that little LED shining, the colour of the blood oozing from Steve's family in the photographs.

I need air.

I can hear Steve telling us his story, wailing his confession through the concrete walls, through the steel door, through the vacuum of his nightmare. I bring to mind Steve's features, the way the skin pleats on his forehead when I show him the photos, the four heads of his family, their blood sprayed like graffiti on a billboard, bathing him in a scarlet rain. He shakes when I tell him how he was found rocking back and forth, whimpering like a child locked in the dark and dust beneath the stairs or chased by an imaginary monster from under the bed. How there were hot, stinging tears caressing his face, bringing a blush to his cheeks.

I pull open the door, the strength of my entry stopping Steve's tears, the only sound is his snot being snuffled back into his sinuses every few beats of his heart. His eyes, wet, as expectant as a mother with her swollen belly cupped in her arms, they stare at me, hopeful.

I'm sorry Steve
I say
You've not made it this time. Please can you leave the set now.

Thank you
He replies
Calm now, the acting over.
Thank you for the opportunity.

Steve,
I call him back.
Get your teeth fixed.

Next
I shout.

I need air.

10 comments:

purplesimon said...

Back to my usual stuff!

I've laboured over this for a while, adding things on a daily basis this whole week. So, it might not flow brilliantly but it's a start of something and it's longer than my usual short blasts of words.

What do you think?

purplesimon out...

Tanya said...

Well crafted, Sime. I didn't see the ending coming. I was completely gripped by the whole story and was waiting for some revelation about Steve and his family, but you cleverly took care of that.

Fab!

BTW: If you have a prompt for me, I will write. Let me know.

ginab said...

Holy explicative Simon! I really like the repetitions and the neat backstory on the recorder made me laugh (I was convinced). Transitions there and in some other spots 'magic'.

good-good-good!

-g+bb

ginab said...

combing through my 'favorties' folder, Simon, I found this creative writing prompts which you might be interested in, yet you might not need. ;-)

Fun puzzles all the same!

-ginab

Kat said...

I liked it! Nice surprise ending too.

Tanya said...

OK, Purple Angel. I have written a short vignette based on your prompt. It is a bit rubbish, but it's a start!

annie23 said...

What a fantastic story. I was completely convinced the narrator was a cop interviewing a suspect like something of the Bill. And then it turned out it was someone being interviewed for the role of the suspect in the bill as an actor - brilliant

Utterly enjoyable and did not see the ending coming at all

Loved the Michael Jackson comment!

ing said...

Extremely, extremely vivid. I liked the fan -- that detail really made it all seem realer than real.

I'm in the absolute minority here, but I think I'd like the ending better if it wasn't the ending -- that is, I figured this was a gripping beginning to a story about the life of the guy who's giving the auditions.

I was also fascinated by the way the narrator seemed to imply that the confession was a false one; I guess in the end we find out that the narrator was really talking about unsuccessful acting. But maybe that's the story behind the story, in a way.

You write great action scenes, Purp.

Kim said...

I liked it simon,I was so engrossed that I was completely surprised by the ending, even though the title was a dead give away. Very cool. I agree with ing, you should continue this.

ing said...

The labor (or "labour,") paid off. This baby is a smooth read.