The Story of the Son Must Be The Story of the Father
Despite having not seen him in two years, Adam knows his father’s hair and beard will have recently been dyed white, and he will appear professorial wearing wire framed glasses and a sleeveless woolen cardigan. You see, Michael Douglas has re-entered the Marvel Universe in Ant Man and the Wasp, as Hank Pym, and Adam’s father, the great billionaire hotelier, Griffin Kazan, is of the belief he and Michael Douglas are the same man but in two different bodies. It made for an interesting childhood. Whichever role Michael Douglas took, Griffin Kazan transferred it to himself.
Ned woke in the night with a mighty thirst. Aunt Cherry’s chicken goujons had been dry and salty and he’d drunk lots of wine. It was a party to celebrate his fortieth, at a country retreat he called “his treat” because he paid for everything and everyone. It was intended as a thank you. He carefully trod downstairs and looked forward to filling his glass, drinking it entirely and filling it again to take back to his bedroom. He had laid in bed for six minutes with his eyes fully open so they could adjust to the dark and he wouldn’t need to switch on any lights. He didn’t want anybody to be disturbed. He was like a mole or a fox, skulking under a night sky. It was a surprise when Ned saw the entire group, all twenty guests, in the giant lounge with the inglenook fireplace.
I could see marbled green and slab grey. The Mabley fields and Homerton High Street. I would spend days happily slipping between my room on Oriel Road, the offices at fURLINE fINANCIALS and Jackdaws public house. There was a rhythm, a swirl to my being. I bought Acareje curry from Pablo, a Brazilian street vendor and ate it sucking sweet smog and enterprise. I was a screen beaver, a deeply satisfying job. I was content and if not content, happy. There was a revolving, migratory feel to our ten person house share which meant I was always meeting new people. Mr Khadiz, our landlord, lived abroad, in a newer country. He left us alone. We paid our £1200 pcm in peace, in welcome silence. In Homerton, I had everything.
A bright and perky morning in 1983. Bill Finton, a consultant ecologist, waits for the postman to deliver a bribe. Yesterday, Bill took a bribe to the hospital hoping his daughter would be as enthused by the unopened parcel as he was. He thought she might like to open it, or guess what was inside- a light hearted distraction. But Bill’s daughter was not seven, she was seventeen and recovering from an abortion. It was, in hindsight, eccentric to believe an unopened parcel might cheer her up.
She leaned over and very kindly asked if I would mind looking after her stuff. I agreed. She was very quiet and very kindly. She waddled away quickly, as you do to a call of nature. Her laptop remained open next to a partially eaten health bar that looked unappetizing. It was brown and looked to be putrefying. I was happy to take responsibility for her things. If somebody came along and insisted on taking them I would argue in an understated manner, calmly questioning from my chair without risk of physical injury or discomfort. Nothing that would make me feel sick or cause me to play it over and over in my mind.
Charlie lived in a big house by the sea. It was lovely. On certain days, when granite clouds pulled down their trousers and a coy mist hugged the hills in search of comfort, Charlie wondered if he might be lonesome. He was careful not to slump or fold or blubber at night. He had lived alone in this house for many years but he was still young, gloriously so. Secretly, he suspected life could yet be occupied and wonderful.
Philby was surprised by the glossiness of prison. Before entering, he imagined it to be an untouched and dull place, purposely grim. But no, not at all, there was a sharp, reflective quality to the surfaces and a broadly positive atmosphere. It was full of vigour and fascination. He passed his valuables to a merry guard and marveled at the sheer cleanliness of the operation.
Cynthia, where are you?
It’s an ambient scene, this world, so at ease. Giving up space to be here. Playing dead in the parks, on beaches, pointing at dots in the sky, a dallying sun. Goodness, look at us lolloping for a change!
Trey had a friend. People said she was going to die. Trey visited her friend after work and sat on a bean bag, consoling her with optimistic words and cups of tea. The cancer had a name similar to Trey’s maths teacher, Mr Hodgkins. The cancer came and went. Her friend recovered. Trey felt she had been misled.
We are in the South of France with our babies. Our babies cannot talk but find alternative ways to disrupt us. They scupper our plans, our fun, our lucidity. They are expert scupperers. I, for example, would like to sit by the pool and drink a beer. Ideally, I would do this alone, but equally I would not mind if one of our friends joined me. So long as there is an agreed embargo on baby talk. But I cannot sit by the pool and drink beer. Our babies will not let me.
My son makes strange sounds at night. I listen on the monitor. Quiet roars like a dozing dinosaur. And whilst it is true, there are dinosaurs on my son's bedsheets and curtains, I do not believe they are voluble or sleeping. I am curious though, do I make these sounds, does my wife? Do we, as a family, become prehistoric in our sleep?
Connie wasn’t good with faces: she was good with ears. The curve and swerve of a helix, the subtle bulge of a tragus, the delicate hang of a lobule. Connie never forgot an ear. It was unfortunate, in some ways, because it made Connie unusual: not everyone is interested in ears. On the whole, ears are not liked.
I'm coming with you, she said. In case it happens. You shouldn't worry or anything like that, a Doomsday child is never alone, remember. He flung his arms and fluttered his lips. He protested, of course he protested. She wouldn't be allowed, he was being interviewed, not her. She wore her driving glasses and the suit her mother tailored for her first interview after secretarial college; the day she discovered she was four months gone with Jason. Girls these days don't do what she did. They don’t give up. A doomsday day child is so rare. Of course she was going to the interview with him.