Saturday, 2 January 2010

What Happens in Houses Stays in Houses

The fat girl has fallen down the stairs and won’t get up, so the three of us (N, R and I) are stuck on the first-floor landing, chatting among ourselves and observing the efforts of the well-wishers below.

“What did you talk about last time you were trapped somewhere by a fat girl?” asks N.

I have no idea what the answer to this question is, so I say, “I think I talked about pro wrestling. You know how in the WWF, or the WWE as it’s now known, they always exaggerate the wrestlers’ heights by about two inches?”

N raises his eyebrows and brings a hand to his thinly bearded chin, preparing to be interested. R appears not to be listening.

“Well, Ken Shamrock is listed in the WWE as being 6’1”, but I read his authorised biography and it says that he’s 5’11”. So I did some checking around and it turns out that they do this with all the wrestlers.”

“Really?” gasps N, opening his eyes wide in astonishment.

“Absolutely. And it’s so senseless: who cares if some huge beefcake of a man is 6’10” and 400lbs instead of 7’ and 420lbs? Do they really think that’s significantly more impressive?”

“It’s a slippery slope, too,” muses N, nodding sadly. “Right now these wrestling people are just exaggerating heights, but a year from now they could be falsifying their names and identities altogether. And what next? Choreographing the matches in advance? It’s unthinkable.”

“Unthinkable,” I reply.

At that moment the fat girl wails loudly and informs everyone within earshot that her ankle is broken. Once they’ve been informed to her satisfaction she informs them again.

“She wouldn’t have broken her ankle if she hadn’t fallen down the stairs,” observes R. “And she wouldn’t have fallen down the stairs if she wasn’t drunk and fat.” He raises a can of Strongbow to his lips and pauses, his eyes staring off at some point beyond the exterior wall, beyond space itself, perhaps. “It’s so simple,” he whispers.

Then he drinks.

For a few moments we stand in silence, solemnly absorbing the ambient noise of the party: in the next room people are shouting and someone is playing bad dance music at high volume. Then I take in a deep breath and say, “I’ve been standing at the top of these stairs with you gentlemen for what seems like a long time now, and I can assure you that I have never had a more profound and moving experience in my whole life.”

“Thanks,” says N.

“Thanks,” says R.

“I really mean it. That fat girl,” I gesture at the fat girl, “in her simple act of falling down the stairs and refusing to get up, has brought the three of us together in a way that I’d never thought possible. I feel as though we’re brothers, lovers, best friends forever; I feel such a profound sense of kinship with you guys that—”

A man passes through our triangle, attempting to get to the floor below. “No entry, mate,” says R. “The fat girl fell down the stairs.”

“—as I was saying,” I continue, “I’m sick to death of the pair of you, and I only wish that it was you who’d fallen down the stairs; fallen down the stairs and broken your stupid necks.”

“Yes, yes,” intones N, “but the fact is that it wasn’t us, it was the fat girl. The fat girl fell down the stairs and no one else, so just shut up and stop whining.”

A well-wisher, having examined the fat girl’s broken ankle for several minutes, declares it unbroken. She strenuously disagrees. R calls out, “Walk it off!” and several other well-wishers look up at him; not all of them seem disapproving. R smiles slyly and takes another swig of Strongbow.

“Why did we ever come here?” wails N. “We should have foreseen this; we should have foreseen that the fat girl would fall down the stairs.”

“How could we?” I reply. “The fat girl is a mysterious entity; her actions are impossible to predict, or even to understand.”

“Still,” says N, “we should have been prepared. We should have brought equipment of some kind.”

“If we had pickaxes we could break her up, no problem,” observes R. “Or even just hammers.”

“I think I saw a hammer in the bathroom,” I say.

No one moves.

“Will one hammer be enough?” asks N.

“The important question is: who’s going to wield it?” counters R.

“Well,” I say, “it was your idea.”

R shakes his head vigorously. “My idea was for all of us to have a go at her. If there’s only one hammer it’s no good.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because if there’s only one hammer then only one person is incriminated; the other two could turn him in to save themselves.” R glares at N and me in turn, making plain his distrust.

“Not necessarily,” says N. “We could all take turns using the hammer; then we’d all be equally guilty.”

“Yeah, but what if she only takes one blow?”

“The fat girl?” I guffaw.

“She could survive a direct hit from a mortar,” says N.

“She could swallow a Sherman tank in her sleep.”

“What if she only takes one blow,” continues R, choosing to ignore us, “and then there’s me with a bloody hammer in my hand, trying to explain to the police why I bludgeoned the fat girl to death while the two of you point at me behind my back and pull guilty faces?”

“Don’t be paranoid. You know we’d never do a thing like that,” says N.

“How do you pull a guilty face?” I ask.

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