Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Forced Entry

This is an excerpt from Pop-splat, the first novel in the Shockspeare series. It's a rip-off of Hamlet and is set in South Africa in 2008.

Horry Horowitz got back on Friday night, and Saturday morning he came over to see Matt. He was all fired up and eager to talk about his amazing trip to the kingdom of Bhutan. But one look at his friend stopped him in his tracks.
Now hold it a moment, old pal,” he said, once he’d heard the bad news. “Don’t be too hasty. You must think with your brain here, not with your wounded prick.”
But what he went on to say sounded pretty close to the line taken by Ophabia: social behaviour had to be seen in context.
Sucking a man’s cock doesn’t mean nothing just because it was sucked at a stupid rainbow party,” Matt objected. “Cocksucking is cocksucking.”
No it isn’t,” said Horry. “When she sucks your cock, if she does, she feels entirely different emotions to when she sucks some stranger’s cock at a rainbow party. You must remember, Matt, the kind of peer pressure these kids are under. If they don’t conform they get ostracized. It’s a pretty vicious world they move in.”
Oh,” said Matt, “so I suppose it’s alright for her to also fuck other guys as well as suck their cocks? Just as long as she feels nothing for them?”
Well…” Horry was hesitant. “You might have a point there. Where does one draw the line? Tricky.”

That evening – it was after 8 and already dark – Ben Apollis rocked up in an agitated state, wanting to talk about Ophabia and Matt. The guard opened the gate for him and he rode up the driveway and parked his fancy BMW Obscenemachine next to Claude’s brand new Mercedes Benz Varkmotor. If he’d glanced in his mirror at the right moment he might have seen a figure dart inside the closing gate.
Matt was lying on his bed dozing. His mother knocked and called out.
Matt, are you awake? Can you come to the sitting room please? Uncle Ben’s here. It’s about Ophabia.”
God he felt terrible! Frowsy and unable to focus his eyes. And his head was pounding away again. He went to the bathroom and splashed cold water in his face. Shit, he didn’t want to have to listen to a whole long story about Ophabia. He was through with Ophabia.
By now the guard was lying on a bed of variegated ivy under the giant Strelitzia. He was quite dead, his chest having been punctured several times with a long sharp object.
When Matt came downstairs the three of them were waiting for him like vultures, or priests, intent on ripping into his entrails.
Hi, Uncle Ben,” he said, and flopped down on the two-seater, not bothering with the handshaking bullshit.
Matt,” said Ben Apollis in a rather formal tone of voice, “I know I have no right to interfere in your personal life, but Ophabia is my daughter and I’m very worried about her. She’s in a terrible state over the… er… problem between you. She’s talking about taking her own life.”
Shit! Matt stared at him. So she was not only a slut but a hysterical neurotic too. These fucking people are all the same, he thought. Look at this creep. He’s brought up his daughter with these crappy values and now he doesn’t know what to do when the wheels come off. What did he expect? Pathetic!
Indeed there was something both miserable and ridiculous about the man. He was frightened and helpless, and there was panic in his eyes. (He also had an uncomfortably full bladder.) And what made him even more contemptible in Matt’s eyes was that new piece of art Trudy had just spent thousands on. It was a sculpture standing just to the right of Ben. Fuck, it was hideous! Anorexic Prostitute with Baboon Foetus. All this pseudo aesthetic refinement and sensitivity. When just beneath the surface they were gross materialists. It was a con, this display of Art objects. They weren’t interested in the art at all. Money and status – that’s what it was about. Like that bloody William Kentridge on the wall over there. How many hundred thousand had they paid? Christ! Klipdrift and Chocolate Kotched on Canvas. And that…
Matt!” Trudy spoke sharply. “For God’s sake concentrate. You look all glassy-eyed like a bloody dead fish. How you’re going to cope with university this year I don’t know.”
She and Claude were sitting on the sofa. They were both ill at ease. Maybe they were embarrassed. The sight of them together certainly didn’t arouse any feelings of fondness in him. She was wearing high heels and a ‘little tart’ skirt and a tight stretch-knit top that showed off her cleavage and shamelessly accentuated her middle-age flab. And all that bloody jewellery! Ridiculous hoop and pendant earrings. And Claude in his shirtsleeves and his fat belly hanging over the belt of too-tight trousers. In his multi-focals and double chin he was looking positively ancient. Also distracted. Probably thinking about some crooked transaction he was setting up with his ANC cronies.
You look terrible. Have you got another of your migraines?” Trudy sounded almost accusing. “Go and take three Syndol and then we can sort out this tiff between you and Ophabia.”
Matt got up and went off to the kitchen where the medicine cupboard was. Ben also got to his feet.
Do you mind if I use the loo?” he said.
Go ahead,” said Trudy. “But you’ll have to use one of the bathrooms upstairs. There’s a problem with the guest toilet and the bloody plumber’s only coming on Monday.”
Some medicine cabinet. It was actually a grocery cupboard packed full of drugs to treat every physical, psychiatric, or psychosomatic ailment known to the fucked up citizens of the 21st century. Pain-killers, sleeping pills, stimulants, sedatives, anti-depressants, mood stabilisers, tranquillisers, beta blockers, liver tonics, diuretics, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, cold and flu preparations, cough suppressants, expectorants, emetics, laxatives of all kinds including suppositories and enemas, antacids, anti-motilities for diarrhoea, anti-fungals, probiotics, mouthwashes, vaginal douches, multivitamins, tonics, anti-oxidants, anti-histamines both oral and topical, antiseptic creams, lotions and ointments. And then all the homeopathic and complementary medicines designed to cure anything and everything. This wasn’t a medicine cabinet; it was a fully stocked dispensary. It even contained Claude’s Viagra.
Matt took the three analgesics as well as two Voltaren, for his knee was swollen and beginning to throb. Better have a glass of milk, or the heartburn and pain in his stomach that he sometimes suffered from would turn into an ulcer.
As he opened the fridge door he heard an almighty crash from the lounge. What the fuck was that?
That was the sound of a heavy piece of wrought iron garden furniture being thrown against the sliding door leading to the patio. It was also the sound of the shatterproof glass breaking into ten thousand little pieces. Trudy began to scream and Claude to shout. There were also other men’s voices speaking in English and African lingo.
Jesus, thought Matt, we’re being burgled! And he was without a weapon.
He strode to the back door, opened it, and ran for the cover of the trees some fifteen metres away. As he reached them his foot caught on something and he fell headlong into a tangle of ferns.
He was about to get to his knees when he heard voices at the kitchen door. With his face pressed to the damp soil he lay motionless in the dark and listened to footsteps in the yard. Then the back door closed.
Inside the house two of the men dealt with Claude while the other three dragged Trudy, still screaming, upstairs to the master bedroom. Yes, the same master bedroom where Matt had witnessed the doggy behaviour.
They were stabbing, or rather pricking Claude with their knives.
Where the keys?” they kept saying. “Where the car keys?”
Claude led them to the study. The keys were on the desk.
Where the safe?” the one asked, but the other had already found it behind a Boonzaaier landscape. He lifted it off its picture hook and threw it on the floor. It was a shitty painting, anyway. The colour of the mountains was all wrong. Claude didn’t need any more pricking to open up.
A cushion was cut open and its stuffing dumped on the carpet. Then the swag was loaded: piles and piles of cash in different currencies, Kruger rands, any amount of jewellery and watches and gadgets like cellphones and ipods and blackberries. Also packets of dagga and cocaine. Makes you wonder who the criminals were.
One of the men hurried from the study, unable to resist the soprano’s passionate singing from above. Up the stairs he went to join the fun, leaving his mate to deal with the white pig.
Meanwhile, Matt had got to his feet and discovered that it was a garden spade he had tripped over. That lazy devil Simon had neglected to put it back in the tool shed. Swine! He could have broken his ankle.
Trudy’s shrieking was a little muffled because the bedroom was on the other side of the house. It could be mistaken for some trash Hollywood movie being played loud on the TV. He stood listening, thinking about how to summon help.
Then it began to dawn on him that although his heart was pounding and he was breathing rapidly, his head had cleared and he was oblivious to any pain in his knee. He was actually feeling more alive than he’d felt in a long time. The old lust for battle that he used to experience before a rugby match was once again coursing through his veins. If only he had a weapon.
Weapon? What was that thing he was clutching in his right hand? Wasn’t that a seriously vicious instrument of medieval warfare? This could act as a sword, an axe and a club all in one.
Cautiously he made his way through the kitchen and into the passage. The commotion upstairs continued unabated. From the open study door he could hear his uncle’s voice, desperate and pleading.
You don’t have to kill me,” he was saying. “I can give you more money. And alcohol.”
Matt peeped into the room. Claude was in his chair behind the desk where he’d been told to sit. The burglar stood facing him, his back to the door. He was examining one of Claude’s guns prior to firing it.
The thieving black bastard. Dormant hatred erupted in him. Coal black, actually. Ebony black. Must be an Angolan, or Congolese, or something. Xenophobia and righteous indignation were injected into the engine of rage. These foreign black bastards were stealing and raping right here in Constantia under the very noses of the black bastards whose birthright it was to steal from the white trash and rape the white bitches.
Matt opted for the axe version. He grasped the shaft of the handle with both hands and moved into the room. He raised the weapon above his right shoulder, took aim, and swung with all his considerable strength. It was a good job the ceiling was high and there was no chandelier to get in the way – that would have been a real fuckup.
As it was, his unimpeded swing was well nigh perfect – enough to make a professional golfer nod his head in approval. The blade of the spade split the villain’s skull open like a coconut. The force of the blow also threw the man forward to land face down on the desk.
Claude was afforded a brief opportunity to examine the inner workings of a human super computer – the model manufactured in Hell by Satan and Co and distributed worldwide. Then the body slid backwards onto the floor.
Upstairs it hadn’t been exactly uneventful either. Trudy had been putting up a spirited fight, which helped to protract things a bit. Then there’d been an altercation about who should go first and, to cap it all, the fourth man had arrived on the scene, also with his tongue hanging out and eager to get down to business.
But now they’d settled their differences and were getting on with it. Two of them held her arms at the head of the bed. The silly little skirt had been pulled up to her armpits and the panties were off.
Trudy screamed in terror and waved her legs in the air with wild desperation. But by kicking and flailing she was exposing expanses of white thigh to full view. The whiteness only served to accentuate the contrasting blackness of the big triangle with its irresistible loose-lipped allure of unattainable finality. This further incensed the already crazed beasts at the foot of the bed. They both tore off their trousers. Their organs were swollen to grotesque dimensions. Then, in their insane hatred for every living thing on the planet, themselves included, they charged headlong into battle, the ancient war cry pounding in their heads: Rape! Rape! Rape!
Hey, but not so fast; hold it; who comes here?
Fat Uncle Claude to the rescue, that’s who comes here, my chinas. He strode into the room with six-guns blazing. Well, not quite, but he did have a pistol in each hand. One of them he placed against the left ear of the nearest rapist and pulled the trigger. This resulted in what seemed to be an explosion in the right ear accompanied by a spurt of blood and brain gunk.
The other rapist was shot clean between the eyeballs as he turned to face the gun-toting gatecrasher. Claude picked off black bastard no. 3 with a heart shot. But the other burglar proved more elusive. Claude shot him three times and he still wouldn’t fall over. Instead he staggered towards the door like a drunk who had decided it was finally time to go home.
Whack! It was Matt who had just come up the stairs and was again trying out his multi-purpose garden implement. What a fine club! Whack, whack, whack.
Trudy was sitting up, leaning on her elbows, knees raised, legs parted. Like she was lying on the beach watching the youngsters playing in the waves. Her black triangle was fully on view. Matt remembered some crap from the Old Testament Horry had once quoted him: To look upon the nakedness of thy mother is wickedness, an iniquity, and an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. This is an unclean thing to do, and risks being punished by the cutting off of the balls, stoning, and casting out into the wilderness, naked. Accordingly, he averted his eyes, and in so doing he picked up some movement on the other side of the room.
Somebody was about to emerge from behind the curtains covering the door to the balcony. Good God, another black bastard! It was time to try out the sword option. He ran at the curtains and jabbed viciously. Just as he had suspected: the resistance of flesh and bone. There was a muffled gasp of pain as the housebreaker tried to double up. The outline of a head made the curtain bulge.
Whack! Matt was back to clubbing. Whack, whack. The figure must have gone limp. The curtains slowly billowed out and the body emerged and fell prone on the floor. Holy shite! It wasn’t another black bastard after all. Oh my Christ! Ben Apollis. Ophabia’s father.

Read the full story. Buy Pop-splat here.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl

My relationship with this woman goes back a long way. Back to around 1955 when I was enrolled at Cecil John Rhodes Junior School in Gwelo, a town about half way between Salisbury and Bulawayo. Every morning at assembly we had to stand at attention and sing God Save The Queen.

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen!

Even at the age of five I’m sure I found it absurd.

Then, when I was allowed to go to the local bughouse (I think it was called the Royal Theatre, or maybe the Empire, or some other nod to the Imperial masters), I was required to not only stand to attention as the anthem was being played, but I also had to watch Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, sitting on a horse in front of Buckingham Palace presiding over Trooping of the Colour and taking the salute.

“Why does she sit on the horse sideways like that?” I asked my brother, who was five years older than me.

“If a lady sits with her legs wide open, it causes men to have unclean thoughts,” my brother told me.

I was only a little kid, and, as Jean Piaget has made it abundantly clear, there was no way I was going to grasp how something as abstract as a thought could be dirty. So I just had to take my boet’s word for it.

I soon grew to resent this ritual every time we went to the flicks, but there were a lot of ex-servicemen in the audience, still fired up with patriotic fervour after defeating the Nazis and saving the world from fascist domination, and it would have been extremely unwise not to conform. Unless you felt like a clip round the ear.

Then, in 1960, the Queen sent her mother out to open Kariba Dam, and I got my first and only glimpse of royalty in the flesh. The Queen Mother stopped off in Gwello for a few gins and in the process did a little walkabout at Selukwe traffic circle. I was part of a whole bunch of school kids required to stand on the pavement and wave Union Jacks and clap politely.

It was a disappointing experience because the old girl looked completely ordinary except for her hat, and after being presented with a huge bouquet of flowers she got back in the car and was whisked off to the nearest hotel for a right royal lunch. How undramatic! I had been hoping for something like the firing of canon, and maybe even a public flogging to inspire fear in the colonial subjects.

“But they’re just ordinary people,” I complained to my brother.

“Yes,” said my brother, scratching his balls thoughtfully. “They’ve also got to take a crap now and again, just like you and me.”

From then on my view of the royal family changed and I began to see them in a more sympathetic light. Especially the Queen. When she started picking up all that shit with her children and it became apparent that she was not only one of the most unopinionated, boring women on the planet, but was severely lacking in parenting skills as well, I saw that her life wasn’t the fairy tale bed of roses some people make it out to be.

And when those parsimonious Labour politicians decided to decommission the royal yacht Britannia, my heart bled for her. No more of those wonderful family cruises with a crew of 240 at her beck and call. That must have been hard to come to terms with.

Sixty years is a long time to have to reign over a nation, and it might not have been an entirely happy and glorious period in English history, but she seems to be coping pretty well, and in no hurry to step aside for her son and go into retirement.

Yes, all in all, Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl and her subjects love her a lot. She has shown them how it is possible for people of meagre intelligence and mediocre physical abilities to hold the very highest rank in British society. And how to disperse the gloomy clouds of austerity by throwing a party of unrivalled extravagance.

God save the Queen.