Boat Hook

(This is a repost from 2011)

I went sailing recently. I haven’t done that since I was a kid. And it was brilliant. We moved a yacht down river ready to be taken out of the water for repairs. At four in the morning. Beneath a massive full moon.

It was beautiful. The water was flat calm, and jet black, with a silvery glow from the unfettered moon in a clear black sky.

And it was an amazing experience for NONE of those reasons.

There were four of us on the boat, and the youngest one was twice my age. One is recovering from a kidney transplant, one is recovering from a double bypass operation, and one has a hernia bigger than his own head.

So I was there, because on a boat of old men, they needed someone to bend, pull, tug, hammer, nail, knot and tie up.

I was like the gimp in Pulp Fiction, and I was pretty fucking far from okay.

Things first took a turn for the worse when the three old men stumbled out of the pub less than four hours before we had to get up to move the boat down river. They were blotto, and I was totally sober.

We ended up back on the boat ready for some kip. My Dad fell asleep straight away, but because he can’t sleep on his side because of a kidney transplant, he snores louder than God farts.

Then there’s Keith, who is some kind cybernetic organism, which means he has to sleep plugged into the mains. He has this machine that essentially stops him dying every night. He’s a human iPod.

And up in the forepeak is Dave, a Scotsman who has drunk so much he remembers nothing from 6pm to 6pm the following day. He conforms so much to the Scottish stereotype, I’m amazed he didn’t stick a boiled egg up his arse and deep fry himself in sausage meat. With a kilt.

He’s unconscious from a Rum overdose, but he is still managing to have an argument with some drunken opponent in his sleep.

So, with less than three hours before we have to get up, they are all passed out, I’m balanced on a bunk narrower than my own cock, listening to this:

SNOOOOOORE, BSSSSH COOOOO, SASSENACH.

I had exactly seven minutes sleep.

But I emerged from the cabin to be greeted by this wonderfully serene moonlit scene.

Because of the way the tides were, we had to get the boat down the river by five AM.

Keith is the skipper, so he’s the one that steers the boat. Trouble is, Keith can’t see very well in the daylight, let alone in pitch black, so he sends me to the front of the boat to be lookout.

I’m just hoping I’m not being tasked with spotting an iceberg, because aquatic lettuce is notoriously hard to see at night.

But because of the moon, my visibility is fine, so I can call back to Keith and steer for him. Trouble is, Keith can’t HEAR very well.

So he calls back that I should turn around and face him as I shout.

He quickly realises that now means I can’t see forward, so he tries to send Dave forward, the trouble is Dave’s too drunk to move his legs.

In the end, he sends my Dad halfway down the boat to relay my commands.

The trouble is my Dad is clinically deaf, and he’s left his hearing aids at home so they don’t get wet.

Every time I call a command, my Dad says, I can’t hear you Simon. Then Keith says, what? I didn’t hear that Nic. So I have to bellow the command as loud as I can, and only Dave can hear me. But he’s too drunk to say anything other than rarrrrrrr.

So, at 4am, we’re coasting down a peaceful river under gentle moonlight, doing this:

Two degrees port. What? WHAT? Two degrees Port. Rarrrrrrrrrrrrrr. What?

It was less Dad’s Army, more Dad’s Navy.

Somehow we manage to navigate directly to our mooring. So I grab the boat hook, which is a long stick with a hook on the end, used to scoop the mooring buoy out of the water.

But we’re coming in too fast, and as I hook the buoy, we shoot right by and the hook is yanked out of my hand into the water.

And without that boat hook there’s no way we can moor up.

So in pitch black, with a half blind skipper, having commands relayed to him via a deaf interpreter by way of an incoherent Scottish drunk, we’re searching an entire river for something the size of a broom handle, in a boat as manoeuvrable as a creationist.

But there it is. Suddenly I can see it, and we’re slowly coasting towards it. I’m detailed to dangle over the side, my legs wrapped to the halliard post, arms waving in the air and it’s physically impossible for me to reach the water. If I fall in, I can’t swim and they won’t be able to find me.

So, I’m hanging there, like a monkey trying to masturbate into a beehive up a tree, bellowing that I’m not gonna reach it. I’m not gonna reach it, there’s no way.

At which point, Keith leans over the rail, says, “Use this,” and hands me a Boat Hook.

Foresight

Being able to see six minutes into the future had never proved a useful skill. Sure, she could tell if a film was going to be worth leaving, or a TV show worth switching off, but only six minutes before it started, and only if the first six minutes were just that bad.

Kate mostly just used it to avoid meeting people in the corridor at work whenever she popped out for a coffee. The removal of that needless small talk was some comfort in her day.

There was that time she’d managed to stop herself getting run over by the number 23 bus, and the time she could dump a worthless partner six minutes before they could pull the pin themselves. And there were times when she needed money and could pop into the betting shop and make some seemingly daft bets on horse races. Not too often, else she got banned.

It was no good for the lottery either. They stopped selling tickets long before the draw.

So, she never wanted for money, not really, and she didn’t have to do the small talk. It wasn’t enough for such a super power though.

She played around with it, just for her own amusement, blowing people’s minds, when six minutes after she said something like “wouldn’t it be weird if Marcus spilt his coffee in Helen’s trifle?” that that exact thing then transpired.

She’d learned not to overuse the trick though, because it freaked people out enough if done too much that they then stopped talking to her.

Predicting plot twists became too easy.

Knowing the final score a bit in advance took the edge off penalty shoot outs.

As far as she could tell, the best thing about it was never stubbing her toe.

Sometimes, she considered confiding in someone about her power, but every time she decided to do that, she looked ahead, saw the look on their faces, and thought it best not to bother.

And now, six minutes from her death, knowing it was coming, and knowing there was nothing she could do to stop it, she looked back for once.

Looked back at all the times she’d done the other thing, to avoid the initial bad, instead of the thing she wanted to do. Knowing that six minutes into her first audition she would be dismissed with vitriol by a casting director who later turned out to be an idiot, well, that just meant she never became the actor that she had always wanted to be.

That was the biggest choice, but the past was littered with so many other examples.

With five minutes to go, Kate knew she was going to pass never having been happy.

She never saw that coming.

Nauseate Ate Ate

I’m Keith.

Or at least, that’s what I tell people.

I’ve had a rather busy month, and it’s all about to come to a head. It’s not the best way to end an eventful few weeks, but it has to be done, and do it I will.

It started with a dare.

“I dare you,” said my Nan. “To live your life according to a pop song.”

“Which one?”

That was my first mistake. My Nan has a wicked sense of humour, and a mean streak that puts a bright glint in her eye.

The first part was easy. I just got a frozen one from Sainsbury’s and held it aloft in the garden. Then there was the obligatory Instagram photo my me pushing my nostril down on one of her pieces of garden furniture. I had to skip part three for a bit, so I dug a hole and dumped my wardrobe in it.

With my synovial joint suitably emerald, I was still wondering how I could afford a plane, especially after the hefty, and unnecessary dental bill. Convincing some musicians to join me was weirdly made easier by the deception I then adopted around my name. I couldn’t sing because of the swelling, and I don’t own a violin.

But I was always good at languages, so I skipped to that one, before deciding that I just couldn’t bring myself to do that to Rover. I ruminated on the morals of murder, whilst ruminating on an old exhaust pipe. That was easier than I had expected actually, because the odour from my ears actually gave it some edible taste.

So here I am, one hearty meal inside me, and one buried relative fewer, preparing to fall on my sword.

Well, spear.

Nan doesn’t think I’ve lived up to the spirit of the dare. I’ve failed to do three things. Well, four, but she’s going to use my skin afterwards for something, just by way of forfeit.

The spears are mounted on the wall, and all I can smell is salami.

Here we go.

Staring Into The Void

She’d been staring at the blinking cursor now for what seemed like days. When she checked the time, it had really only been a few hours.

And in those hours, she’d made enough coffee to fuel a battalion of soldiers for a week. She’d eaten too many mince pies, bought on offer because they were past their best before dates. The bath was cleaner. There was no fluff in her keyboard. And her phone screen was now fingerprint free.

All in all, she’d done nothing.

And still that bastard cursor blinked on the black screen, rhythmically taunting her with its relentlessness.

Relentlessness was a fun word to say, and a difficult one to type. She knew this because she had typed and deleted it half a dozen times in succession just to feel like she was writing.

There had to be better, more constructive ways to spend this time. A walk maybe. Clear the head. But it was raining. Hard. A stint on the exercise bike then? Except, she couldn’t remember where it was. She knew it was in the house somewhere, piled under some washing probably, but it would take longer to find it that it would to write this.

Deadlines were looming over her, casting shadows across her brain that just made seeing things in there that much harder.

She sighed.

There was nothing else for it.

She had to go down to the basement.

The light fizzled into life with a lethargy that felt far too apt. She should have followed her own advice. Just write one sentence. The next one would present itself, and before she knew it, the work would be done.

No.

She walked down the rickety stairs instead, listening to the creaking noise as she descended. She could feel it already, even though it was still out of sight. There was a cold breeze that didn’t move the air, somehow, one that bought her skin up in goosebumps as big as bubble wrap.

Her toes pressed into the dust covered basement floor, and she turned slowly to face it.

The Void.

It was black. With black light dancing and swirling around black mist in an atmosphere of blackness that was so bright and vibrant it made the back of her eyes throb.

There was nothing to do but stare into it.

And it stared back.

It offered no solutions.

It answered no questions.

It made no good points.

It just was. And it made her feel like nothing more than a speck of dust on a speck of dust. Hideous. Unloved. Worthless. Insignificant. Nothing.

An hour later, exhausted and drenched in cold sweat, she emerged from the basement and returned to her desk.

The cursor still blinked.

She went back down into the basement.

Only Ghouls And Horses

Ghostbusters Inc. now has offices in New York, Paris, and Peckham.

Alright, technically, the Peckham branch isn’t an official franchise, but my brother Del assured me categorically that we weren’t infringing on any international copyright agreements. I don’t believe him sometimes, but he promised me fifty quid if I painted the logo on the side of the van.

Ghosts ain’t real of course. But neither is our proton pack. That’s just an old washing machine motor strapped to a record player. And the Muon Trap’s just a knackered toaster Albert found in a bin.

For the Ecto-Containment Unit we just use the garbage chute out on the landing.

We got nice overalls though.

Which is summink I spose.

Admittedly we did trap a ghost once. Sort of.

We were called out to Boycie’s motor shop, where he’d been hearing strange moanings coming from the boot of a Jag. And whenever anyone went near it, to like, you know, have a proper look and that, there was this high-pitched scream.

Del convinced him to call us, you know, like you’re sposed to when you need someone to believe ya. I didn’t wanna go at first. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t afraid of no ghost or nuffink, but it’s just me and Cass are sort of, well you know, quite a lot recently. She likes me in me overalls see.

Del talked me into it. Not sure how, but it had something to do with fungus, spores, and mucus. I didn’t really understand to be honest.

Anyway, we gets to the motor shop, and it’s all dark and spooky like. Del was all swagger and what he called Bruvverdo, and Albert kept trying to tell us about the time this frigate he was on got haunted or something, I wasn’t really listening. He don’t half go on about the war.

And I could hear it.

That weird moaning.

They weren’t exaggerating.

It was horrible.

Del seemed happy as Larry though. Kept going on about all the nicker we were gonna get for this. How this was his best idea yet. And how this time next year we’ll … well, you know.

He pushes me forward, cos he’s a right scrawny git, and tells me to open the boot. Says he can’t do it cos he’s holding the trap, and Unk can’t do it cos the scare’ll give him a connery.

Long story short, I open the boot, and inside we find … Trigger.

Turns out Del got him right drunk the night before, and cooked up this scheme where he puts Trig in the boot to sleep it off.

Boycie give us a monkey in the end.

‘Eckto 2