THE QUESTION HANGS
Two men stand in the road at opposing sections of a busy crossroads. One, in tune with the traffic, gracefully sidesteps and skilfully analyses the movement, rhythm, pattern and behaviour of the nocturnal intersectioning. The other man is goading; he whacks the vehicles with a splintered baseball bat. In a perfect automobilic, synchronised moment of revenge, the two men become ‘accident victims.’ There is chaotic noise. Then silence. An off-white flickering street lamp mingles with the blue and red arrival of emergency organisation. The ambulance crew find the two men lying slumped before the wreckage of a burning White 1971 Mercedes Benz. The bonnet glistens with the heat, blood and vomit scribble of their final signature.
Robin Nature-Bold jolts forward, arms numb, ancient drool thickening the wiry tangle of a shocking white beard. He gently rocks backwards and forwards, puzzling over the meaning of his dream. His tired blood forces its way though the protesting veins of the arm that swipes at the fetid beard. The faceless folk in the room’s hidden places nod at him. He rises, stumbles, and looks out of the window of his retirement bungalow. A Starling tugs at a protesting worm on his scrubby front lawn.
‘Is this the junction of where I went wrong?’ He says.
The Starling looks around at him.
‘It only felt like yesterday that I was fresh faced and full of spunk. Nothing could hold me back.’
He turns and arthritically swaggers toward the mirror in his room. ‘I Just Want To Be A Fucking Cool Artist!’ He yells.
Grabbing the bevelled edge, he pulls the mirror off the wall, snapping its rusty chain. He sits down hard on the edge of the bed, and begins to sing to his own reflection. ‘Laser whittling, burning bright, burn bright, don’t give up the fight.’
He stops singing and stares at the reflection of his mouth. He practices oral shapes…and finding comfort in the movement begins to speak. ‘Ha, I left a blazing trail on the UK art & music scene-en-circuit. The glory days of Band(ism), and the hits that never stopped; Peacock, Margate, Maidstone Mexican, Moth, and who can forget, Stickle-brick?’ Opening his eyes wide he looks into the mirror; ‘did I ever tell you? That was a true story. I played with the greats: Billy Childish, Holly Goes-Lightly, Bobby Conn, Norman Clayture and Uncle Barton. Even Naboo from The Mighty Boosh was a fan. Every gig left the audience crushed and desperate for more.’
Robin cocks his head to one side. ‘It made you the way you look now.’ He raises a finger and points at himself. ‘You took the Grey of Dorian and made it pure Band(ism) white. Oscar would have been proud.’ Before him on the coffee table, amongst the hand crocheted, misshapen Doilies, manufactured by his own gnarled hands in a Whisky be gone workshop, lay his real pride and joy; hand laser etched trophies that immortalised his rise, period of reflection, and future come back. There is a noise from behind the cupboard; the faceless folk don’t like it when he starts to play and scrape at the bits of Ply ripped from the inside of his drawers. He throws a Doily at the wardrobe. ‘Reminds you of when you had your nose cauterized don’t it? All that burnt flesh! You Don’t Want To Fuck With Me! Remember that?’ He says. ‘I gouged that in baseball bats with a pair of rusty school scissors.’ He throws another Doily, it lands on the electric bar fire and begins to smoulder and stink. ‘Shit.’ Staring at the blackening wool he begins to bite his top lip; trying to free a piece of loose skin. He looks back in the mirror; he notices the blood shot eyes, white receding hair and podgy swollen face. ‘Am I a burnt out, obese-Elvis, didgeridont of the 21st century? Did my Faustian Father win? Did the Gallery Guard know this all along? The loose skin on the lip yields to the constant gnawing. It begins to bleed.
‘I won’t stand for this,’ he says, throwing the mirror at the wall into the far corner of the room. It hits and slides; finally coming to rest on the floor. Intact. Reflecting outward. Robin stares at the rattling image as logic dissipates. He feels a dissolving shiver…replaced by an emanating glow. He silently mouths the question, ‘where are we?’ In the mirror he sees a wandering ascetic, radiant blue. The vision sits and adopts a full lotus position, continually holding Robin’s gaze. ‘Are you the old guard…become the new?’ He says.
The room begins to vibrate, concentration is blurred. Recognition is dismantled yet reconfigured. The sky is within reach! It clouds pure white…tinged, tinged…obliterated…
Robin Nature-Bold slumps in his shoddy bungalow by the sea - but too far to see. He pulls a urine stained throw across his legs and flicks a worn and battered pillow at the mirror. It lands on target. Reflection is concealed. Robin reaches for his tools and begins whittling. He hums in a minor key. A muffled voice from behind the pillow asks him what he’s doing.
‘I’m whittling.’ He says.
‘Yeah, whittling past memories in a futile attempt to enrich your own fading glories.’ Says the voice.
‘I’m whittling.’ He says again.
‘Looks like a reconcile between your performance and documentation’. Says the voice.
‘I Just Want To Be A Fucking Cool Whittler!’
‘It’s a failing legacy, a rakes progress. You squandered your abilities on false aspirations and unwholesome delusions.’ Says the voice.
The pillow slips from in front of the mirror.
The voice continues, still muffled. It’s emanating from the corner of Robin’s mouth.
‘Is this your style over content? Is this repentance for admitting to mortality? Is this your Unrealised Potential? Is this For Surreal?
The Doily bursts into flames as Robin’s eyes flicker and widen in disbelief. He shouts, ‘Whatever You See Are Your Own Demons, They’re Not Coming From Me!’
Somewhere. Outside. An ambulance siren sings the merry-go-round of truth as it carries two stretchers of ash toward the white light.
By Mike Chavez-Dawson & Len Horsey