Saturday, 20 March 2010

Postcards from the Edge of Sense

Bingo Estevez sat in a wicker chair in his lounge, sucking lemon juice from the tip of his right-hand ring finger and thinking unhappily of nothing. Music played on the hifi behind him—a sort of room-temperature salsa, which registered on his consciousness only as a faint perturbation of the otherwise stale atmosphere, like the ripples of an insect’s footsteps in a stagnant pool. He reached down his finger into the glass that lay perched on his lap, amid the folds of his dressing gown, and attempted to squeeze a little more fluid from the emaciated lemon segment inside it. The results were unsatisfactory.

“I’ve been had, I’ve been had,” he sang sotto voce, improvising a jazzy melody; “never thought I’d feel so bad, never thought I’d feel so bad.”

Across from Bingo, buried in an old red beanbag whose contents had long since adhered into a shape something like the maw of a volcano, Malcolm D├ętente stirred from his laptop trance. He reached out for his can of Red Stripe and, finding it empty, took to his feet.

“Anybody want another drink?” he stammered, swaying slightly in an imagined breeze. There was no response from either Bingo or Steptoe Grieg, who lay sprawled on a small leather sofa, his hands held up in the air, ready to catch any object that might materialise in the space above him and come crashing down on his head. “Fine,” grunted Malcolm.

“I’ll have another G&T, if you’re up,” said Bingo, his voice oddly plaintive, his eyes closed tightly shut.

“Yeah, grab me another can,” added Steptoe.

Malcolm took Bingo’s glass and fell sideways out of the room, as though the entire structure had suddenly tipped over, and he was the only thing not to have been nailed down.

“Do you think,” intoned Steptoe, apparently addressing some entity much grander than his diffuse friend, “that when we’re all great successes, supping champagne with publishers and fashion designers—”

“And beautiful socialite ladies,” added Bingo.

“Yeah, right, them too. Do you think that we’ll look back on these days of relative squalor and feel some sort of pang…a deep longing for the bohemian ways of our youth?”

Bingo waited for a moment before answering, as though he was actually thinking about what he was going to say. “Yes, I suppose we will. But then we’ll just buy a bunch of caftans and berets and threadbare faux-Persian rugs and we’ll keep doing what we were doing before in a slightly different setting.” He raised his glass to his lips, by way of rhetorical punctuation, then realised that it was no longer in his possession.

“Yeah, that’s exactly how it’ll be,” agreed Steptoe, lowering one of his arms to trace with finger and thumb the broad contour of a smile. “Hmm.”

Malcolm returned with a fresh G&T and two cans of Red Stripe, one of which he slung at the upraised hands of Steptoe, who unfortunately failed to react in time; it struck him neatly in the groin, causing him to do an involuntary crunch. “Whimper,” he said, to his companions’ amusement.

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