With the writers' group deadline for pages fast approaching again I came to the grim realization my novel was in danger of being as dead as the deadline. With just over 1,000 words completed since the May meeting there was little danger of walking up one morning, looking in the mirror, seeing a beardy character staring back at me and exclaiming; "Oh look. I am Leo Tolstoy."
Then a strange thing happened. I drank a couple of glasses of brandy and started writing like a maniac. I had little idea of what I was writing. When I returned to the scene of the crime the next morning it struck me that the copy was ...
A - full of typos
B - some length had been achieved
C - not too bad given the circumstances.
Inevitably I had veered toward sex. If anyone asks me why I will tell them slowly: "Sex sells baby."
Well anyhow I am some way off a final product and who knows if the stuff will ever hit the desk of an agent let alone a publisher. But I have been reawakened with a sense of purpose and I have a better idea of where all the characters are going.
I can even see myself some day down the line on the line to someone who might have something obliquely to do with publishing.
"It contains sex and cats. How can you go wrong with a winning formula. Who isn't fascinated with sex and cats, although obviously not in a connected way? Dog lovers perhaps.
Oh well. For all you context lovers out there a couple of early chapters are posted as the "novel project" under pages. It won't help you much. I wrote maybe 6,000 words. Not exactly prolific but better than my usual two day output. This is an extract.
Cat Sitting and Sex
I came to appreciate Miranda's distinct hobbies. I have to confess I preferred sex to cat sitting, although I didn't tell her as much for fear of hurting her feelings. She was partial to her noxious smelling charges and wouldn't hear an ill word about the motley collection of felines she looked after at ramshackle terraced homes across London. She had a day job in an insurance office that she was always too bored to talk about. Cat sitting was more about her love for cats than the money.
There were times when we combined both of Miranda’s hobbies although I never felt entirely comfortable making out on a sofa and looking up to the see the yellow eyes of a couple of cats. Cats are territorial and it felt like a violation. Ali, an oversized and over vicious tabby with talon-like paws, unnerved me in particular by patrolling the top of the sofa and threatening to pounce.
Miranda laughed it off. "Ali car, Ali cat," she would purr, as if she too had gone over to the cat world. “He’s just a bit old fluffy bundle of love.”
“Hate more like.”
Unlike me, Miranda seemed to be a fan of voyeurism. If she couldn't shock anybody else the cats would do. Most of the time she seemed more intent on shocking human beings. We would be down the pub around her friends and acquaintances and she would give me a certain wanton look, start caressing my side in front of her friends and whisper in my ear. It alarmed me that they exchanged knowing glances and laughed quietly, as if Miranda's behavior was part of local pub folklore. And I found myself perplexed that the very behavior that had attracted me to her in the first place was starting to become a cause of annoyance.
"Philip," she would murmur hungrily in my ear and raise her long leg on the chair. Her skirt would ride up and in the next moment she had my hand and was leading me to the alleyway behind the pub where she was covering my neck with urgent kisses as she lifted her skirt for me.
At the time I felt at one with her and the big sallow moon hanging limp in the sky behind the Dog and Duck with the sickly sweet smell of blossom wafting in the late spring air and Miranda naked and white. But afterwards, I would feel a dull and throbbing nothingness and a mild sense of shame as we rattled back through nameless tube stations of north London, the allure draining slowly but surely out of the Northern Line.
Still I was addicted to her, more so after my fourth pint. I wanted to drink in her dark features and her high cheek bones and the warning signs made me want her even more. But afterwards as we lay on the bed or in more unorthodox places under a wide canopy of stars, I would wonder who she really was. Then there were nights when I wondered if her feigned boredom was real boredom. There were times when her emerald eyes gained a cruel light as she described her past conquests before suggesting we climb the gate of a locked up football stadium and make love on the hard, cold terraces among the fast food wrappers. The more extreme and uncomfortable locations the more I wondered if her loving bordered on a realm of hate, although even Miranda eschewed the notion of lying down on the highway.
Miranda was my wildest fantasy but I also wondered if she was my worst nightmare. And I would mine a deeply pessimistic seam in my marrow as I realized the peaks of ecstasy would subside and I would be left facing a dark and terrible temptress who I barely knew. Afterwards as we lay exhausted I felt the flatness and when I looked into her eyes I only saw my own reflection. I was pallid and my fringe was brown and mopped in sweat and I wondered again what she saw in me.
In an effort to give us context and to help me regain a slice of the prosaic reality of my former life that I felt slipping away from me every morning, I suggested I meet her family, given that meeting mine was out of the question.
Her body convulsed at the suggestion and I felt her harden under me. "You are fucking kidding me, Phil?"
"Yes. You are joking right. You have been drinking."
"Not much. I thought it might make sense."
"Oh yeah love. Crazy sense."
"How do you mean Miranda?"
"Let's just say mum is dead and dad is dead in the head,"
"I’m sure you are being harsh darling," Her arms slackened around me so I pulled her closer.
"You know I don't like you calling me darling."
"God Phil you are pissing me off tonight."
"I have a PhD in it."
She withdrew down the bed and wrapped a cardigan around her shoulders. I realized I had killed an intimate moment. She flicked her hands through her hair and I melted as I saw how her long dark locks fell on her ivory shoulders.
"Phil. You can meet my dad but he's not normal. He's spent a lot of time in jail. He's a freakshow, Phil."
"OK love, I'm sure he's a nice guy." She gave me a winsome look and held her close. It was the first time Miranda had felt vulnerable to me. I heard the rumble of a bus on the high street outside, smelled the essence of tar that London streets give off and saw a sea of lonely yellow lights swimming across the city. Suddenly this metropolis felt like a big empty machine in the chill of a May night. I shivered at the thought of all the people in solitary rooms who looked in despair on the big city, at the far ends of its rail lines that spread out like steel tentacles. A chill ran through me and I felt the goose bumps rise on the girl's arms.
Suddenly a digital bleeping sound broke our silence and I realized it was my phone that seldom went off at night.
I flipped the lid and listened to a voice writhing around in the static.
'Yes. It's me."
"Hello Phil. It's Moriarty here." He trailed off in a series of coughs. I scoured my pre Miranda memory banks.
"Yes Moriarty. How did you get my number?"
"Bitch at the squash club gave it to me."
"Oh yeah. She's kind of rigid."
"Look. I can't make tomorrow's game, Phil. Something came up."
I had forgotten I was slated to play Moriarty or anybody else. Miranda had suggested breaking into London Zoo, although I hadn't fancied the monkey cage idea much. Even cats were preferable voyeurs than chimps.
"Oh hey no problem Paul."
"Good. Good." And there was an uncharacteristic silence as Moriarty sounded like he wanted to say something else.
Miranda squealed as she dropped a wine glass on her foot.
"OK well I'll be going now," said Moriarty, picking up on the squeal down the line. "You know I used to be like you."
And then the line was dead with no further explanation and I was left in silence contemplating the cold lights glittering like bitter little stars across London, a million miles away and turning away slowly in their solitude.