Hadley proposed that we each write half of a 20-page potboiler adventure thriller following the life and times of one-eyed knife-fighting transvestite Dog. We flipped coins to see who would write which pages, and set to work with no knowledge of what the other was writing.
My pages are 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 19 and 20. Get amongst it.
The rain fell hard.
Someone said it was Novemember. Me and my mind were wandering through bleak wet streets to nowhere in particular. Thinking about what was and what is and what will.
Down the blade-walk they called me Dog, don’t know why. Don’t care why. Left the pits a month ago one eyed undefeated with a wad of shells and a plan. Plan didn’t go so well and since then I just been wandering through the rain. Yeah, someone said it was Novemember. This plan of mine was a plan of change I’d had boiling in me since longer than my mind goes back. Always been a big boy, wooden shouldered, thick voiced, always been hairy, always been strong. Never been much else. But always felt like something else was going on, something that shoulda been that wasn’t been. Never felt home in this hangdog brick skin. Got me a plan.
Ripped through the pits with froth on my lips, stabwin stabwin stabwin, take the money and beat it. Got blood on my hands and most of its mine. Had two rules in the pits and they got me cut and got me won. Been feeling it since I was twelve and finally, four years in the pits undefeated I got enough muck to make me a woman.
You heard me, mudsucker. You heard me.
Started on the hormones and they made me feel sick, but I wore it. Found me a backalley splicer with and internet doctorate to rejig my pipes, get me feeling all right, get me feeling more feminine than this wall of a body would have you believe. He’s stitching me up I get woken up with a motherfucking holocaust in my chest. Doc manages to get me out of it says I’m lucky I ain’t dead. Says whatever it is in the hormones I been taking have set off my old dog heart, too many knife nicks too close to the rivers running through to my heart. I got the implants, got the snip, got the surgery… can’t take the hormones or my heart’ll hop a bus and leave town.
So that’s me, Dog. Five o’clock shadow at ten am, broad brow shouldered, avalanche voice, and fabulous breasts covered in hair. Still carry a knife, don’t know why.
That’s me, Dog. Hardy motherfucken har.
Most nights I pass every dark alley in town. Same bits of trash same lamplight buzzing a dream.
Rain lets up, I look down one and see this nun. Playing a double bass stretches way over her head singing softly along. Eyes little green bows over a white beak nose. Few wrinkles ’round her eyes and mouth, from living not from age. Cut over her right eye, smelled fresh. Swaddled up loose in the lampglow and a nightblue habit, she realises this old Dog’s eyeballing her and she doesn’t look up.
“Whaddaya lookin’ at, small fry?” she says, “Am I wearin’ somethin’ o’ yours?”
Small fry. Cute.
“I mean it lummox. Blow.”
So I blew. A girl like me’s got no business with a bass playing nun in an alley. On the way out I clipped shoulders with a tall glass of water in a black suit. Wearing a parrot mask. Three flunkies behind him blacksuited in frog masks. Don’t got no business…
half-tempted to eat a crab if the nasty scuttlers weren’t such goddamn fancy escape artists. Dog carefully drew his knife from the belt of his miniskirt and advanced on one specimen lurking in the shallows, but the splash of his high heels in the shallows and the crab disappeared under the sand.
Dog moaned with hunger and disappointment, then squinted his one eye at the heavy grey sky. Storm coming soon, and not even a rock cave to hide his head in, let alone a bus to carry him home. Yet again Dog cursed “Curveball” Mannix, the hamfisted shit whose ineptitude had stranded Dog on this desolate stretch of coast with not a coin in his pocket or a slice of rockmelon in his cheek.
Dog : curses
“Ashley ‘Curveball’ Mannix – to Saturn I offer you – the jowls of your cheek, the pouch of your stomach – to Saturn I offer them – your moist red tongue and children four and siblings nine – to Saturn I tender them, and Saturn let you only be cruel as I promise you this man ‘Curveball’ is no gentleman no hero no hollywood heart-throb – let you therefore Saturn take his tongue pouch children sibling jowls, and be cruel as you take them – bleak Saturn be cruel”
As Dog stumbled along the tideline, catching his heels in clumps of seaweed, he drew closer to the figure he had seen from the clifftop, kneeling at the sea’s edge. It was a young woman, perhaps twenty years old, in a long grey dress with her yellow hair unbound. She knelt facing the water, her hands clasped in prayer, the front of her robe and her wooden crucifix wet from the splashing tide. She did not open her eyes or turn her head as Dog approached, even when he crouched down beside her, tugging his miniskirt in an attempt to cover his crotch. Trying to sound casual, Dog asked the woman politely if she had any change to spare.
“…listen what you’ve got to do is squeeze out some currency juice, you know, clench your whole musculatory frame and sweat some fucking legal tender into this knife-fighter’s hands here, because I’m stuck on this beach with nothing, I’ve got the sour smell of empty in the palms of my goddamn hands and that’s all, you get it, so you got to help out and make things right, right…”
Without a word, the woman indicated behind her to a pouch in the sand. Untying the binding, Dog found an assortment of coins, notes and credit cards, tallying to a sum of easily $6.35 or more. Making grateful sounds, Dog removed all the larger notes and heavier coins, then replaced the pouch by the still praying woman and trotted up the beach, aiming for the road back into town. Picturing the leather and bacon meal he would soon be enjoying, Dog did not look back until he heard the first peal of thunder roll over the ocean.
Turning to admire the lightning, Dog saw the woman already up to her neck in the ocean, fighting and thrashing in the white water. To get so deep so quickly she must have hurtled headlong into the waves as soon as Dog’s back was turned. The rip was vicious, and Dog knew instantly that the woman was drowning.
A part of Dog had already given up on the woman, had already turned its back and was concentrating on the walk into town, the meal, the warm bus seat, the bright lights and grimy knife-pits of home city. That part growled plaintively as Dog charged across the sand, ankles twisting in his high heels, and splashed into the roaring onslaught of waves. His one eye open, gasping for breath in the freezing cold, he staggered and paddled out towards the flickering shape of the woman in the grey dress, now just an arm and a head thrashing as they slowly disappeared under the surface.
Dog dived, kicked, instinct taking over as his years of training at Master Laserbeak’s Knife and Teriyaki Academy flooded back to him. His fake breasts billowed up against his face, his eyepatch torn loose and lost amid the waves, and then there she was, just below him, sinking rapidly. Dog kicked downwards, grabbed her by her hair, and was shocked to find himself pulled sharply downwards, as if the woman were made of a substance heavier than lead. Catching her around the waist, Dog reached around her and felt – there – around her neck, tied to her crucifix, a thin cord. The cord must have been fixed around her throat while she knelt by the water’s edge, the other end attached to something in the water. Whatever it was, that something was now tugging both the young woman and Dog deeper underwater and further out from the shore.
Dog unsheathed his knife from his miniskirt in a smooth motion and slashed at the cord around the woman’s neck. The cord was tough, and Dog had to saw at it, cutting the fibres apart thread by thread. But now the pressure was changing, slackening. Whatever was pulling the cord had noticed the change in its load, and was turning back to see what it had picked up.
From deep in the grey underwater gloom, a huge shadow began to emerge. Dog slashed through the last remnants of the cord and shoved the woman behind him, thrusting her up towards the surface, before shifting the knife to his left hand and preparing to face the black shape rising from the deep. Like a huge bat, Dog saw a pair of enormous wings, a razor-sharp tail as long as a spear, a massive pair of ghostly eyes, and then Dog only had time to laugh eagerly before the stingray was upon him.
Night time down by the beach. 3 jokers in frog masks painted red up and down the sand. Green eyed nun had the double bass over her shoulder bits of caved in skull dripping off the frets. Seen them before. Goofball in the Parrot Mask gets a good knock in from behind and the nun goes down, the nun goes down. Looking down at her says,
“You can’t roll forever. He wants to see you, you dippy broad. He wants to see you so he’ll see you–”
He stopped talking when he noticed I was there and he looked me in my eye blade glinting in the gloom and said,
“What you want, you dumb mutt? Keep movin’ if you know whats good for you. This don’t concern you. You don’t know what you’re messing with, you know who we work for? We work for–”
He stopped talking when I punched him in the neck. He went down hard. I felt bad. It was a real nice monologue I interuppted there. Parrot head came up breathing hard, and came in real low, and he said,
“You… don’t… know… what… you… you… who… you…”
He lunged at me deep, quicker than I thought and slinked his knife deep in my belly. Blood smelt good, smelt fresh. I clenched my stomach muscles and his face dropped. When you get yourself stabbed there’s not much you can do, ‘sides follow my first rule of the pits. Guy can’t stab you twice if his knife is stuck in you. By the time he realised he’d lost his blade I was on him hard with my old chiptooth knife dug through one of his legs and his blood screamed out up in my craw.
“Big mistake, palooka. Big mistake. The boss gets what the boss wants, and the boss wants the frail. You know who my boss is? He’s–”
“Don’t care,” I said, as I punched him in the neck. Again, and again. And again and again and again. Snap.
Four guys in animals masks, a bass playing nun and an ex-knife fighter with a vagina head down to the beach.
Hardy mother fucken har.
The nun was lying in the seaweed. Her blood fell hard.
“Curveball, you fucking melonhead, don’t put me through your goddamn pony club answering service, answer your fucking phone.”
“Why it’s Dog! I’m so sorry, if I’d known it was you… listen, I’m terribly sorry you came all the way out here for nothing. Dashed shame, you know, having to cancel the fight, but you have no idea what these seaside Constable Plods are like. I spend half my life bribing them, then –“
“Enough of that. I’m not calling about my missing cut, I need to ask you something.”
“Yes, but you must understand that there simply is no cut. When my backers heard that the Bobbies were snuffling around and talking about surprise raids, they simply evaporated, and the money with them. I’m as out of pocket as you are over the whole thing, dear Dog –“
“No, listen, shut up. You don’t understand. I’m in a phone-box by the highway about 8km from the beach and it’s pissing down rain and I’ve got a girl with me in some kind of weird mumbling coma.”
“Party drugs has she had?”
“She’s got a name label sewn on her dress says SISTER TIESA FINGERS, I think she’s a nun. Point is, someone tried to grind this girl up on the ocean floor until she was small enough to feed plankton. She’s all right now, although she’s making some strange noises under her breath, but I’ve had to put the final goodnight to someone’s pet stingray.”
“I do hope you’re all right, my dear.”
“I got a ladder in my stockings and one of my boobs has split open, but never mind that. Point is, do you firstly know a good cheap medicine-hole near here where they keep their volleyball-hole shut, and secondly, what geezers do you know that keep giant rays on leashes?”
“Well for the second, of course I’ll look into it – for the first, though… interestingly enough, the closest infirmary that fits your requirements is the Hospital of the Sisters of the Heroin Juke-Joint.”
“As I say, interesting indeed…”
I can’t get lost in this town anymore. Walking half an hour with a nun on my shoulder and I’ve got that same old snake tongue tickling my ear. Curveball Mannix, man about town, steps out of nowhere and tells me my movement for the past few hours — mostly walking, he tells me, but a few altercations with some boys in animals masks, who work for–I tell him I don’t care and I shove him down hard but he bounces up harder and follows me down the road lips flapping, says:
“You know those hormones you were taking aren’t the only ones you’ll get and maybe, just maybe maybe if you got it in your head to make a bit of pocket you can hit the high times and get yourself some proper gear. You don’t care now but that girls got a past that stretches before she got on the penguin. She had herself a boyfriend and that boyfriends a big bad boy but get this, he’s… you listening to me, Dog?”
I’m not listening to him.
“You listen up good, Dog, because this guy can help you out even though you don’t want him too and he doesn’t want him too he can do you right if you help out that sister fingers on your shoulder, he can do you right, do you solid, get you the pills you want that won’t set off your ticker and you can split this one nun town and be a real fine lady. Listening?”
he says. “No,” I say.
“Hah,” he says, “So you are. Listen, Pup, this kid’s in pharmacuticals, rich ones, not this street shit you been popping so I tell you what you drop the frail on his doorstep make a new friend and you’re set, baby, set. Keep an eye out though. You got his babies with the frog masks simple, and the parrot was his sisters kid, big mouth, no action, but you watch out for the crocodile, Dog. You got yourself set if a sucker comes with blades, but this Crocodile, Dog. Watch the Crocodile.”
So I mulled it over with my jaw, and looked him in the eye and said, “What’s the angle, Curveball?” but he was gone.
Just me alone in this town I can’t get lost in with an unconcious nun slung over my shoulder.
believe that Sister Fingers has come back to us!’ cooed Sister Miles Davis. ‘Bless you sir, or madam, whatever you are! You must come in and witness a service as repayment for your kindness – you see, we give praise to the Lord by playing sweet narcotic jazz!’
‘Oh yeah? Do you also give praise to the Lord by tying ropes round the necks of your sisters and giving them a one way tour of the ocean floor?’ nearly said Dog, but he was a tiny slice short of the wit and pith needed to think up clever ripostes like this, and in fact said
“Well I do like Jesus and
oh it’d be good to scrape
the salt out of my panties.”
Sister Miles Davis wanted to take Dog directly to the chapel, but Dog insisted on accompanying Sister Fingers to the infirmary, walking in her strange half-conscious shuffle, mumbling ‘War’ and ‘Man’ to herself unceasingly. Dog saw her laid horizontally on a mattress, then followed Sister Miles Davis through the stone courtyard, past four enormous machines covered over with cloth.
‘Sister Fingers is our double-bass player,’ explained Sister Miles Davis. ‘It’s perfect timing you brought her back, you see, because now she can play at the wedding.’
Dog stood at the door of the chapel, trying to untwist his bra-strap, listening to the high-speed smack-addled trumpet and clarinet duet raging inside. Whenever the nuns hit a high note on their horns, Sister Miles Davis shrieked and panted and licked her crucifix and finally kicked one foot into the doorframe of the chapel, punched herself in the nose hard enough to draw blood, headbutted Dog in the mouth and then slowly crumpled into a post-orgasmic torpor in the chapel doorway. Dog glanced around him at the red-eyed nuns hastening in all directions, the whole nunnery buzzing in preparation for some important event, and surreptitiously adjusted his skirt to try and contain his erection.
1 – Dog hears Curveball’s bicycle bell at the nunnery gate
2 – Dog checks his knife, freshens his lipstick, and goes to meet Curveball
3 – Stocky, pudgy men with deeply sunken eyes stand by the four giant tarpaulin-covered mounds, and watch Dog suspiciously all the way to the gate
4 – Curveball stands outside the gate with a loaf of turkish bread and humus, which he hands to Dog
“Dog, my sweet one, what have you done with your eyepatch?”
“The ocean took it. Don’t worry, I’ll take it back – or something of equal worth.”
“I’m sure you will, you single-minded motherfucker. Now, I don’t have anything on the girl’s sickness, or on that mantra she’s mumbling… ‘War over man’, you said it was?”
“’Man – War’ or ‘Warm – And’ is my best guess. I figure it for a name, either a pimp or a gang.”
“No pimp I’ve ever heard of, and the only gang round these parts is the Wiggly Wiggly Sailor Soldiers. No idea, sweet Dog. But the ray on a leash that you encountered, that you had a bit of a tussle with…”
“I tore it into three pieces and nailed them together like a stack of pancakes.”
“Yes, well that might not have been the cleverest trick you ever pulled, old boy. You see, that stingray happened to be Cinnamon Bob, the personal go-to boy for one of the tidal reef’s biggest entrepeneurs. They call him the Jelly, and he has a percentage on everything to emerge or submerge in the salty sea for a hundred kilometres in every direction.”
“Any idea why he’d be taking possession of a nun who plays the double-bass?”
“Rather not, dear Dog. But listen, hey what, I’ve got a whizzer idea. I know I stiffed you, bringing you up here for that fight and then leaving you on your silken-clad buttocks when the whole thing fell through. Why don’t I square it up to you, give you all those three dollars and nineteen cents we agreed on, I’ll throw in your bus fare extra, and for your trouble I’ve got you two brand new video rental cards to rent video-cassettes with no fines until you get some fines on them! How’s that sound, lovely Dog?”
Here Dog should have said something like “You’re trying to buy me off,” or “Who are you working for?” or “You don’t pull Dog’s strings with bread, dip and a couple of video cards,” but Dog was too slow to realise that this is what Curveball is doing, and at that moment he was distracted by the sound of four huge engines starting up.
The tarpaulins were being pulled clear, and Dog could see four World War 2 fighter planes – scavenged together remnants of two Spitfires and two Messerschmidts. Stretched between the four planes was one large tarpaulin, on which the sisters of the Heroin Juke-Joint gathered, holding their instruments nervously. Sister Miles Davis was helping another sister drag a honky-tonk piano on to the tarpaulin, and there, out of the infirmary, shambled a familiar shape. Though she was now dressed entirely in white lycra, head to toe, with white lycra cauliflours blossoming in her hands, Dog instantly recognised Sister Fingers, whose chant of ‘Man! War! Man! War!’ was now audible even above the plane noises.
First one plane, then the next, then the next began to rise. The tarpaulin tipped, tilted, nuns fell and were crushed to death by the rolling piano. The last plane began to ascend, wobbling as it picked up the slack of the remaining corner of tarpaulin. Without thinking, Dog snatched the remainder of the bread and humus from Curveball and hurtled across the courtyard, clicking awkwardly in his stilettos, leaping onto the wing of the Messerschmidt. For an instant, Dog caught sight of Curveball starting at him, then Curveball leapt on his bicycle and began to pedal away. The plane rose, with Dog clinging desperately to the wing.
Crawling along the back edge of the wing, Dog grasped the window by the sill. He reached back to punch the glass in, and almost lost his balance when the window gave way and tore open with no resistance. Dog gaped at the flaps of tissue paper shuddering in the wind, then crawled headfirst into the plane.
Instantly he was tackled from above and thrown face first to the floor. Twisting around, he saw one of the pudgy, fleshy men from the nunnery courtyard, now wearing an airman’s cap at a cocky angle. The man’s eyes had sunken so far into his head they looked like rabbit holes, and his solid muscles and rolls of fat did not seem to hang together properly. Dog tried to reach under himself for his knife, but the airman slammed his palm down on Dog’s wrist with the weight of a small house.
‘I fought in the Second World War!’ announced the airman dolefully. ‘I drunk the blood of children to keep me young this many time!’
“Why don’t’cha read my autobiography, lady?” Sittin’ on the sand nun still givin’ me sass, just asked a simple question. “Ain’t none o’ yo’ fuckin’ bizness who I am or who the geeks in the animals masks is or who they works for. You don’t know who he is, you don’t know… you can’t help…”
I said, “I can help,” then she said, “We’re fucked,” and a Girl in a Crocodile mask nailed me from behind. The beach sand was wet and hard and tasted like my blood. Looked up and all around me was a fucken flurry monster stomper of black suits and elephant masks, black suits and elephant masks and fists and feet and sticks and knives rained down hard. Turned into a pincusion keeping all their knives clenching different muscles taking all their knives swapping for my blood but for every knife they lose I get hit with a brand new fist and I’m lying in the sand and my blood is the sand and the sand is
Saw that girl in a crocodile mask. She grinned. I saw a glint. The bullet hit my neck on an angle. Hard.
now i’mseven now and i can see my mawn paw lookin down at me catch me wearin dressesmydads a b igman and he dont like none o this boy dont like this one bit gotta man you up boy maybe imolder my armsr hamhocksan i get to hit the ol man back an i hit y old lady back too and there’s these flower thatr grown n i like to wearm in my hair and if youfuckengotapr o b lbm withat then fuck you n im four lookin atth moon moon moon moon n its a big whiteole whitole thatn i kin see throo n the whiteofit burns me kin feel it deep in m throat feel it burning deep burnin deep burnin iun thmy throat an feel the tides lappin on the collar of ma shirt see ma wholelife stretched out behind me an in front an here i am in this moment of many moments stretche dout on th slab doc pumpin my chest almost lost ya baby almos lostch but ya back but ya cant do inth pits first fight curveball hookefor me n blooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood leakinouttamelike its flowin for free like id ont need that shit an this big ugly mudsucker comindown at me with this four blade knifeglove an i kick upwithwhats left of my foot an damn near put a whole throo hisribssnappin like my old mans jaw when im fiftan hittin back f the firsttime an i gettin tired i agettin real tired like int he pits you get tired yer dead ye get tiured ye dead in hepits an you gotta stay on yer fete let your brain got sleep let the animal outn thats why thy call me dog cos that first fight my blood was all gone an thatkickinthaches knock him back an my knife is gone an the anima anima the deepinside ame get out an i gotma teehinhisface an he screammmmin makmelet go motherfuck fuck makemelego i aint gonna leggo i gonna chp harder an i dint let go til i chipp teeth on that mudsucker skull an the fights over an there aint no cheerinfodog n cheein fo me jus silence an faces starin in shock an the mudsuckerfallaway an he’s deadinthedirt an the whole auditorium dont say nothin as i walk away champ im a fucken champ im a fucken woman aint no cjhamp i got moon in ma neck an im tiredman im so tired so tired so paw im so tired o bein this i wanna be that no boy you bein thisnow you be this yo paw did the opits n soll you hey boy whatre you doin you wear them flowers in yer fucken dont your aiseyerhand ta me boy ill fuckensnapsnapsnapsnapsnp iant yer boy n mo paw aint yer boy n mo
And came out the other side.
instant that Sister Fingers said ‘I do,’ Dog suddenly understood. The strange dementia afflicting Sister Fingers was not a sickness at all; it was her normal state of being. She had not been forced into marriage with the Jellyfish King against her will – she had sought it, desired it. In fact, of the couple standing ankle deep in seawater on the tarpaulin while the hovering fighter planes above kept it suspended on the surface, Dog was less concerned for the grinning bride in her top-to-bottom stretch lycra wedding swimsuit than he was for the forty metre long Man’O’War jellyfish coiling around her feet, snuggling in for a kiss…
‘Watch out, Jelly!’ Dog shouted, or would have shouted if he’d shouted it, but didn’t shout because he didn’t think of it, instead just stood there in stunned terrified silence as Sister Fingers scooped up her husband where he swirled about her feet, opened her mouth and hurled one long tendril straight down her throat.
Immediately, the nuns began to leap overboard, corkscrewing down into the warm ocean to feast on the millions of jellyfish which had gathered near the surface to attend their king’s wedding day. Dog saw streaks of nun-shaped darkness slicing through the depths, and viscerated blobs of jellyfish rising slowly to the surface. And meanwhile Sister Fingers was steadily gulping down her husband, the Man’O’War Jellyfish she had been craving all this time.
Dog thought of something to say, though it was not clever:
“No party pretty me have a hand old dirty jesus what a horror I’ll be summering in the big spit parlour again now nye dust is blessed upon us me upon us me upon us me Dog.”
Another nine days adrift on the tarpaulin, the planes stuttering one by one into the water around him, finally floating on all sides like a half-submerged submarine convoy, fish debating long and hard over whether the bloated flesh of the ancient airmen was too rancid to devour or not, and Dog gradually going crazy with thirst and heat and cold. By the time the tide finally washed him ashore, Dog was beginning to feel quite proficient on the French Horn, and could even play a little Mingus on Sister Finger’s waterlogged double-bass.
Curveball rode his bicycle down to the beach to meet him, towing a spare bicycle for Dog. Dog indicated in grunts and spasms that he had never learned to ride, and Curveball affixed training wheels to it there and then.
“I have a lot to thank you for, sweet peach pear plum Dog. I’m operating out of the nunnery these last few days, you know that? Big deserted complex, and I need extra room now I’ve taken on all the Jelly’s old business. You should come up and check it out.”
“Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus! Haitian Fight Song! Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting! Ysabel’s Dance Table! Better Git It In Your Soul! Boogie Stop Shuffle!”
“Well, you’ve had a rough time. I guess it’s no surprise that all you can say is the name of Charles Mingus albums and songs. But you make sure you come back this way if you ever get sane again, Dog. There’s a lot of work to do, and never enough people like you to do it.”
Curveball cycled up the beach and on to the clifftop, a silhouette on the horizon for a few seconds, and then gone. Dog squatted down in the sand, gurgling merrily and rubbing his lips with sand as if it were the finest lipstick.
After a while, the moon came out and Dog watched the heroin sisters leaping through the waves, swimming teeth first into the dark.
That’s me, Dog. Cut up and cut down. Torn inside and out. Didn’t know who I was. Didn’t know what else to do. So I took the hormone tablets. Took the whole damn bottle. Felt my chest start to close up. Don’t know if I was dying a man, or dying a woman. Felt my heart flutter. Don’t know who was dying in that dirty alley.
But I was dying.
And that’s enough
And that’s all.
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