Tripping the Night Fantastic – Chapter 1

A monster, of indescribable horror – ravaged by booze and lack of sleep – sat at his laptop. Charlie Deavon; an unholy disgrace, stained shirt, stained boxer shorts, wild hair, harassed unshaved face, a dying cigarette hanging from his mouth, and on his desk beside his laptop, the potion that keeps his appearance so ruggedly shambolic; a half dry bottle of scotch.

The room was dark and his tired nicotine-aged face was lit up from the light of the monitor. He took a final drag from his cigarette and dropped it in a half empty glass of whisky where it turned grey and died with its two dead cigarette companions.

The cursor blinked. Only six words were on the screen:

Amelia Heart, is going to die.

 More words try to find their way to Charlie’s fingers but fail miraculously. Not because he has writer’s block, he is just a lazy drunk with no appreciation for deadlines; a common ailment for many writers.

He turned his head and stared impassively at his bed in the other room. He looked back at the monitor for a moment, made a sound like ‘mph’ and then closed the lid. He managed to slump from his study to his bedroom and land on his bed with less effort than is possible to describe.

His bed was a stained mattress on a carpet-less floor. The wallpaper was old and nicotine stained. The ceiling lights didn’t have light shades and the curtain was an old damp towel slowly getting heavier with mould.

The digital clock on the floor blinked slowly. He turned his head and looked at it, unsure if his eyes were tired, hung-over, still drunk or simply still closed. He could just about make out the time; 6:30am. He stared at the ceiling.

3 hours later the alarm went off. Not a nice tune or the radio, just a beeping drone. A few dramatic moments later and the towel landed heavily on the lawn outside followed by a shower of glass. Inside the towel the alarm clock beeped lamely on. A neighbour shouted the word ‘cunt’ in Charlie’s direction. Charlie stood naked in the smashed window. He showed his neighbour his middle finger and then headed into the kitchen.

The kitchen occupies the same space as his lounge. The fridge consists of one rasher of bacon, three cans of beer, four empty cans of beer and a courgette. In the cupboard are one can of beans, a full packet of pasta, a packet of custard creams (half empty), some tea bags, a jar of coffee, and a pile of newspapers. In the toaster is a failed experiment; it turns out that it is not quicker to cook an omelette in a toaster. In-fact it takes longer and is far more dangerous.

After several minutes of staring at the courgette, and wondering where it came from, he slammed the fridge door and stared blankly over at the laptop for a minute. He opened the cupboard again, stared for a while, and then came to a decision and grabbed the closest things to his hand. Tea with a spoon of coffee and a packet of biscuits would be today’s breakfast.  He sat on his couch and wondered once again why he doesn’t own a TV. He leaned back to reach for the half-full bottle of scotch on his desk, nearly knocking it over, and poured some into his coffee/tea. He made a sound ‘urghmph’ and had a sip of his brew.

A phone started ringing. A slight dread fell over Charlie’s brain. This ringing sound meant he would have to impart some brain activity, some physical movement, and finally speech. Three things he had absolutely no interest in doing. He looked left and then right and then down. He dug it from under him and looked at it. He answered it and put it to his ear.

‘Charlie?’

‘Eurh.’

‘Charlie! It’s Simon, what are you doing today?’

‘Mmpth.’

Charlie stared at his tea/coffee/scotch and wondered if he’d rather talk to that instead.

‘When can I come over and see a few pages?’ said Simon.

‘No.’

‘Ok. I’m coming over. I’ll bring Starbucks and some food.’

‘Fuck off Simon.’

Click.

 

 

Ring Ring.

‘Charlie, I’m in Subway, what sandwich do you want?’

‘Don’t come to my house.’

‘I’m having a Foot-long Meatball Sub, I’ll choose something for you shall I?’

‘I’m not letting you in when you get here.’

‘I need to see you.’

‘Fine. I’m coming to your office. If I get there before you I’m going to dismantle your desk.’

‘Charl…’

Click.

 

 

Simon put his phone back in his pocket, gave the girl behind the counter £10, and grabbed the sandwiches. He checked his genuine Rolex watch and ran outside and across the road to his car.

 

 

Charlie left his apartment and stumbled haphazardly into the bright offensive sunlight outside. He shielded his eyes from the day’s carelessly cheery mood and got in to his car.

Charlie’s car is a 1993 V12 Jaguar XJ-S. Its dark blue paint is faded from years in the sun, the passenger door is a faded race-car green colour from where it was replaced but never re-painted, the rear bumper is held on by wire ties, the air conditioning doesn’t work and only the driver side window goes down without requiring a mechanic to get it back up again. But the CD player works and the engine starts with the kind of rumbling purr that makes your heart fill your lungs.

Charlie sat in the driver’s seat. This is one of the only times during Charlie’s normally miserable day when his smile is actually genuine. Even the dry heavy feeling of a hangover takes a back seat while pure juvenile pleasure takes over for a while. This is Charlie’s perfect car.  The engine misfired causing the exhaust to vomit black smoke and the car turned a corner and drove off towards Simon’s office.

 

 

Simon parked in the underground car park of his office. He slammed the door of his brand new white Audi A4 and made for the fifth floor as fast as he could. His secretary was sitting at her desk looking slightly violated. Simon sent a questioning glance her way which was returned with a worried look towards his office door, which was slightly ajar. Simon relaxed and prepared for the worst.

He edged the door open and looked inside. Everything seemed in order. He looked to his right. Charlie was sitting on one of the comfortable chairs against the wall in his office with a smile on his face. Simon looked suspiciously at him and sat down behind his desk.

Charlie had his right foot resting on his left knee in the most nonchalant way imaginable. His boot-cut jeans were torn around the heel of his scuffed brown shoes. Three buttons remained un-fastened on his shirt, the sleeves were half rolled up in a way that suggests the wearer couldn’t care less if they were up or down and, although his shirt isn’t tucked in, you could just make out a brown leather belt being held tight by a pretty average and uneventful belt buckle. Simon looked suspiciously around the room. Charlie spoke.

‘I pissed in your plant.’

Simon looked over at the plant and then back at Charlie.

‘I got you a turkey Sub,’ he said, handing it to him.

‘What do you have in yours?’

‘Meatball.’

‘Give me yours.’

‘No.’

Charlie stared at him.

Simon gave in.

‘We can split it,’ said Simon.

Simon gave Charlie half of his Sub and took half of Charlie’s. Simon took a bite out of his and decided now was the best time to talk.

‘Mm, So, mmph, how many err, pages have you done?’

‘You’re the reason I hate people,’ said Charlie.

Simon swallowed.

‘I don’t mind if you haven’t written very much, I just need to see what you have written.’

‘If you carry on being nice to me I swear to god I’m going to kill you.’

‘Charlie, I’ve arranged an interview with GMTV for next week, they want to talk about the film deal and re-release of your first book and they’re really eager to hear what your plans are for your next book. And there will be some fans there so take a pen so you can sign things.’

‘I’m serious. I will throw you through the fucking window. I know there’s a bastard in there somewhere!’

‘Come on, Charlie, stop being a twat.’

‘Oh! Simon! That’s more like it! Come on, touch me.’

Charlie lifted his shirt and twiddled his nipple with a finger.

‘No. Are you finished?’

Charlie folded his arms.

‘I haven’t written anything,’ he said.

‘I know.’

‘How?’

‘You’re always like this when you can’t write.’

‘I can write. It’s just the lack of plot that’s the problem. And the lack of characters. Just the lack of book in general is the problem. What’s the rush anyway?’

‘If you’re off the shelf for too long people will forget about you.’

‘Good.’

Charlie opened a bottle of scotch from Simon’s alcohol cabinet and poured two glasses.

‘Are you finished for the day?’ he asked.

‘No, Charlie, it’s 10am.’

‘We’re going to the pub for a business meeting about drunks,’ Charlie smiled ridiculously at his own infantile sense of humour.

‘Charlie.’

‘Stop being a fucking cunt and drink with me! I’m shit bored and hanging out with you here is making me more bored so if we have to spend time together you have to be pissed! That’s the rule from now on. Ok?’

‘No.’

Charlie put a glass of scotch down in front of Simon and downed his own.

‘Charlie, I have a lot of work to do.’

Charlie put on his best Simon impression, which sounds more like Bugsy Malone than Simon, and shouted.

‘Receptionist, hold my calls! I’m going to be away from my office for the rest of the day!’

Charlie, feeling pretty proud of himself, looked smugly at Simon. Simon looked wilfully back.

Amanda poked her head into the office.

‘Do you want me to hold your calls?’

Simon threw what was left of his sandwich in the bin and brushed bits of sandwich off his shirt.

‘Yes, hold my calls, thank you.’

‘HA!’ exclaimed Charlie, feeling victorious.

Amanda left the office without looking at Charlie.

Simon picked up a schedule from his desk and walked over to Charlie.

‘I’m giving you a schedule, there are only two things on it, GMTV and casting auditions for the film, I need you to remember them.’

‘You’re not coming to the pub are you?’

‘I’ll pick you up on Tuesday morning at 6am for GMTV, please try to be awake.’

‘I make no promises.’

 

Charlie left the office and wandered around the building for a couple of hours trying to find something interesting to do or disrupt but no one took much notice of him. A receptionist gave him a funny look when the elevator opened to reveal Charlie’s rear mooning at her. A security guard told him he wasn’t allowed to beg on the premises, and an old writer friend stopped him to congratulate him on the success of his last novel to which Charlie replied, ‘Go fuck your book’. Finally he went home to immerse himself in his favourite, if only, past time; drinking.

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