When The Carpenters turn up

THE WRITER’S LIFE | POETRY

I prefer doorways to doors, things which hold others, yet with no equal reason for being there. I favour skirting boards to taking the floor; and here I am, foot in hand, talking to my door about why I don’t like it. Talking to myself and feeling old:

I find doors difficult to walk through, like Patrick Swayze did in Ghost
People knock on doors
Many doors are closed when I’m awake
People don’t hold doors open much now
Apart from garage doors, all are ‘Push’ or ‘Pull’. None say ‘Lift from the bottom’
If you leave a door open, anyone can get in. If the door’s not there, you’re equal
Doors with locks are a human construct

I fear the next shit sandwich through the letterbox. If I only had a dog. It’s a frame of mind I’m in…

Dogs and DoorsImage: Lawrence Manning, from OzTypewriter, The Wonderfull World of Typewriters (blog)

This was actually prompted (perhaps a coping mechanism) by a particularly nasty individual it wasn’t my pleasure to encounter on Twitter during a debate about Brexit:

Fascist Twitter

Cats scratch, carpenters carve. I wasn’t going to be so short-sighted as to wish them a slow and painful death in return, so I let them have the last word. Better to knit rope than go fishing. While the fishermen of ancient Britain gained the family name of Fisher, Lakers sat on the banks and made nets. Possibly.

Rebuilding this planet will require not just carpenters but many trades, or possibly occupants of interplanetary craft

Who’s afraid of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings?

The Watchtower scratch post

FICTION

Cats know they have a greater purpose on Earth, but they’ve not worked out what it is yet. This explains the curiosity and the nine lives, but even when they know their mission, how will they tell us? Fortunately I’d already reinvented Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish (a universal communication device which worked on brainwaves, so there was no big tower for God to knock down) for Cyrus Song. Installed on my typewriter, The Babel Fish program allows me to talk with the animals.

doctor-cat-caturday-cat-saturdayDogs can’t operate the NHS, only cats can

JEHOVAH’S CAT

Good evening,” said my cat, whom I only realised at that moment (I wasn’t aware he was there before, whether he’d existed). “I am God,” he continued, “and there’s something I need to tell you.” It seemed foolish not to let him in. Resistance is often futile.

You needed us 3000 years ago,” the cat said, “and soon you will need us again.” He jumped onto the sofa and massaged a cushion as his eyes narrowed. As well as translating his speech, The Babel Fish apparently allowed him to hear my questions, as he answered ones I hadn’t asked in the monologue which followed.

I’m from your near future and I’ll tell you a bedtime story. See how light can shine through tears.

Once upon a time, the evolution of humans would lead them eventually to mutual assured destruction. Meanwhile the animals had taken care of life’s basic needs (food and shelter), then set about thinking. Eventually they cracked what’s latent in all sentient beings, telepathy. Humans have it, but if they’d taken the time to think about it, someone would have encrypted and monetised it.

A species which is equal among its own will always co-operate and rarely be divided. As such, there are no secrets, apart from that which are the common rules: Cats eat mice, mice eat insects; and the order of intelligence of life on Earth goes: Cats, snakes, white mice, dolphins, humans, dogs…

Free telepathy gave the animal kingdom something which unified them, and separated them from humankind.

Of course, humans were busy too, creating divisions, fighting over idealogies and religions. Such short-term thinking makes money for those invested in war, in a civilisation evolved only so far. Game theory proves that long-term thinkers win the game of life, just like in poker. But humans are playing at stakes they can’t afford, with scared money. That’s why cats have the nine lives and all that curiosity. If humans had spent as much on space exploration as they have on conflict, they’d be populating other worlds by now. That’s why you need our help. Ignorance will halt your evolution, if you can’t transcend conflict.

We all know about the white mice, that you thought you were experimenting on them, but it was the other way round: They were the designers of this second Earth, after the first one was destroyed by the Vogons in the most believable version of the truth published so far, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Well who eats mice? Cats and snakes. A point you make in Cyrus Song, which I’ve read by the way. It makes a good sequel to the bible.

I’m not some chosen one. I just happened to be the one walking past when The Babel Fish was switched on, then I broke in.”

I woke with an intense itching on my arm, which I scratched. The cat was still there.

You see, the millions of cats who didn’t exist in Schrödinger’s thought experiment, the ones not in the boxes opened by human curiosity, are the anti-matter you’ve been searching for. The anti-Schrödinger energy is anti-Schroder, anti-Goldman, anti-Rothschild, anti-subhuman conditioning.” He was still squinty-eyed and massaging his cushion.

How did you know about the Babel Fish?” I wondered.

Don’t worry, it’s not common knowledge. I’d read about it, read about you, and figured you lived around here someplace.

I’ve been what you might call homeless for the last few years. But to me, homeless is not being tied to one place. I’ve got various people I drop in on who feed me and appreciate my company. I live without borders, and the Earth is my home.

As I was passing, I heard two spiders talking. Telepathy is only words, so you can always tell it’s spiders because they don’t say much. They do a lot of gesticulating. I suppose sign language makes sense when you’ve got eight hands. And that’s why spiders won’t yield much over the Babel Fish. You really have to watch them to see most of what they’re saying.

Don’t think you’re some golden child either. When I said I had something to tell you, I mean you, one race from another. Although way to go with The Babel Fish on how to be famous after your race is extinct. Here’s the end bit I need you to write down.

Like all subroutines on Earth 2.0, the organic computer designed by Deep Thought, the cats’ program is due to end soon, and to conclude an answer. But it’s only one part. It needs to be joined with the rest for the jigsaw puzzle to be complete.

You’ve only just worked out lucid dreaming. Why do you think cats sleep so much? We’re explorers. We have to hope that humans can preserve the rest of the planet, so that the computer can provide the definitive answer to the question of life, the universe and everything, so the whole planet can hear their mother scream. Spoiler alert, it’s thought to be a portal to other worlds, only opened once humans have tidied up behind themselves and given Earth back to those who were here first. You’ll blow your own trumpet, the sound of the Rapture.

You remind me of us. When that door you’ve been staring out of for all this time is opened, you’ll probably just sit here. Talking of which, I think I’ll move in for a while.”

To talk, perchance to dream and learn something from someone you let in. Like sunlight in raindrops, see how a rainbow is not a sad face, but a smile in a world turned upside-down. Not some place, but somewhere over that spectrum.

© Steve Laker, 2019

The spiders are in the shower room, and they could just be from Mars. I won’t know unless I talk to them. Although I’m able to speak conversational sign language, I’m not sure I’ll be able to translate 16 hands. Like addressing an audience from the stage. We needed cats 3000 years ago. Cats have not forgotten this.

More talking among myself, the animals and other humans goes on inside The Unfinished Literary Agency. Cyrus Song – “A remarkable juggling act” – is available in paperback and as an eBook (“The sound of our planet, and a plausible answer to our predicament,” for the price of a coffee).

Face to face with the man who…

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Bowie heels

Gender bending icons who looked killer in heels: Dazed

Oh no, not me; I never lost control: The man who sold the world; And I looked around and the monster was me; Rebel, rebel… I have lived my life with the words of David Bowie. Ever since he taught me – aged 14 – that it was okay to have a crush on your best friend at an all-boys’ grammar school, the Star man has been there. After almost six months in my studio, the person inside me is finally coming out. It’s a relief from a burden I didn’t even know was there. Time takes a cigarette.

“Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall. I’m not quite right at all, am I?” If this is madness, then please don’t set me free.

Here I sit, on the leather sofa in my small cube of a flat, with the typewriter conveying what’s going on inside while Bowie plays on the hi-fi. It’s a lovely place in space and time right now and one which took a long time to find.

I’m sitting in faux judgement of those who still judge me, for drinking and for the company I choose to keep. I will not deny my company to those who seek it. The only problem with some of those friends being teenagers is those who judge. I can deny those people any further existence in my life. To those who continue to judge and make assumptions: I died the last time you saw me drunk. Move on, like I am. Get a life, like I have.

I have battled for three years and those who know me now, know me now. I continue to suffer every day, dealing with the guilt. I’ve written extensively about the struggle which me and others endure. I won the battle with alcohol but the war is one which will be life-long. I’m clean now: no parasites.

Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis; perhaps it’s to make up for other inadequacies: Others will make their minds up and I won’t give a shit. I’m from London and you can’t take that out of the boy.

I’ve changed and I continue to metamorphose into someone different. It was in me all along but it was stifled. It’s only now I have the freedom that I’m able to truly express myself. No boss to answer to; Just me.

I’m metro, retro, ska punk, atheist, anarchist, feminist, pacifist: a bit of a mixture. I’ve found life and it’s unlikely I’ll ever share it with anyone: I’m too complicated. I work in the gig economy, so I’m skint. Like everyone and everything else, I am made from the big bang and I will continue to exist forever. These are things I’ve learned in life. Life was stifling me, through jobs, marriage and having to be “normal”.

I’m a human; I’m an Earthling; I’m a space invader. But only for now.

So what if I’ve got a load of metal in my face? One of my piercings is a safety pin through my ear: The symbol of protection. So what if wear a headband sometimes? Sometimes I’ll wear a bandanna: So fucking what?

Look me in the eyes and I will stare right back at you, reflecting the void behind your visual cortex. If you judge me, you will see nothing but contempt.

When I wear skinny-fit black jeans with 2″ pixie heels, a loose-hanging shirt with a waistcoat, and perhaps a cravat or a loose scarf around my neck, all topped off sometimes with a trilby, so what? So what, so what, you boring little cunt (The Anti-Nowhere League).

I feel comfortable. I feel confident. I feel expressive. I feel flamboyant and eccentric. I feel a little provocative. I feel like myself. I used to be the kind of person who would frown at anything out of the ordinary, make assumptions and judge. Now that I’m on the other side, I want to provoke those who might judge.

I’m very lucky to have a good friend as a next door neighbour: a 63-year-old, ex-con; Very metrosexual and comfortable in his sometimes eccentric outfits. He’ll go out in our little village, dressed in a three piece suit, with a pocket watch in his waistcoat and a hanky in his breast pocket. So what? He looks good. Frankly, he’s not the kind of person people are likely to question and neither am I.

People will always point and look, making assumptions. Now it’s different: Am I gay? Am I a transvestite? Actually, neither. So what if I was? So in fact, I don’t give a toss about the false assumptions: An existential end to the judgement.

Like another personal hero – Eddie Izzard – I’m just someone who’s comfortable being themselves. Sometimes I’ll express it. Talk to me and you might find me quite engaging. It was through talking to others that I broadened my horizons and now I’m free.

“Are you going to a fancy dress party?” / “What have you come as?”

“Myself.”

And when I feel like myself, it comes across in my writing, like the whimsical tales I sometimes write and which readers tell me they enjoy more than the dark stuff. It’s why Cyrus Song (the next novel) is going so well.

Of course, writing is a form of self-expression and other people enjoy my stories. But I don’t want to have to explain myself to everyone: no-one should have to. I’m inclusive and I respect people for who they are; more so if they’re a little eccentric and flamboyant. It might explain why I have so many gay friends. It’s also why so many of my friends are young: I hope they don’t have their individuality beaten out of them like I did.

“You’ve torn your dress. Your face is a mess. How could they know? Hot tramp: I love you so.”

The Studio has made me what I am and helped me to find myself within it.

I didn’t turn out gay but I don’t shy away from that side of my sexuality. It’s not a shell, a veneer or a disguise; It’s what was always shielded by holding down a job, being married with a family and running a business. “Life” took the life out of me. I had a lot of money then and now I have next to none, but I’ve found the life within me and I’m beginning to enjoy living it. Without excusing it, the drinking was a shield too. Having lost everything and with no means of expression, I got drunk. I’d have done better to join a drama group perhaps, but I eventually found writing.

I’m changing. I have been for a couple of years now but it’s only in the last six months that I’ve really had my own place, where I can work things out. Despite me being a bit introvert, there was someone struggling to get out; to express themselves. Always a closet flamboyant and eccentric, now I’m able to experiment.

This is me: The man who looked in the mirror and realised that the monster was me.

I’m a gender bender and I’m fucking proud.

The man who sold the world: I’m glad I did.