Creative Writing, OldVenue

Creative Writing: Losing a foot in Inverness

“I’m going to do it! I’m going to fucking do it! I’m going to slice it right fucking off! Yeah, everyone, come here, look, look! I’m going to saw my fucking foot off!”

“You mad bastard! Really?”

“Five hundred quid says he won’t!”

“Five hundred quid says I will!” Jonathan Parker is at the very apex of drug-fuelled ecstatic confusion, he knows the chemical compounds whirling around his system will to some extent ameliorate the pain of the events to come. They tie a tourniquet tightly below his calf muscle, prop it up on the pool table, someone produces the largest bloody carving knife the pub kitchen has to offer, and a wooden spoon to put between his teeth. Everyone gathered round is yelling and jeering in encouragement and disbelief, the room is bursting at the seams with noise; music, people; the air is perfumed with the acrid mingled scents of cigarettes and beery breath. Jon’s eyes are wide with mad lust and fear and excitement and hope and confusion and the deep rage that comes at the height of a three day pill bender such as he’s working his way through at the moment. He can barely remember his name, where he’s from, or what he’s even doing in fucking Inverness, of all places. Everyone is on something in this room, it’s four in the morning and he’s surrounded by a packed-out room filled with wiry, jittering little crackheads, drunks; lecherous, perverse maniacs of every colour and stripe; and they’re all egging him on.

He looks down now, at his bare leg before him, knife in hand, and as he lowers it to the skin he has a brief moment of lucidity and looks around; but all the eyes are on him, all eager, silent now in expectation. In the crazed bliss of the moment he starts to cut away his flesh, sawing and deep and as quickly as possible into his leg; pain flashes into his entire body like white fire, he writhes as he attempts to stay focused, cutting down now to the bone; ‘some men fork no lightning’ randomly, the line, passes in his substance-saturated brain. Through gritted teeth he’s screaming, tears are mixing with the drool pouring out of his mouth, his eyes are open but he can barely see, he wants to vomit at the sight of the open wound in his leg. The pool table is completely saturated with blood. The crowd surrounding him have gone silent, but can’t look away with a sense of horrified fascination gluing their eyes to the scene unfolding in front of them; the only sound rising among the hot, sticky, beer fume-laden, sweaty atmosphere of the bar is that high and desperate muffled screaming coming from the man with the knife in his hand. At last he’s near the end, with one final flap of skin connecting his nearly-severed foot to his body; Jonathan Parker is not a man to do things by halves, oh no, he sees a job through to the bitter-end. Even now, in his eyes there’s a glimmer of that steely will, that determination left in him; with one final stroke of the blade he pares away the remaining flesh and falls away from the table onto the floor leaving his foot on top, standing, hauntingly upright.

Someone has already prepared a big iron cooking pot to cauterise his oozing stump, by holding it for a minute or two over the gas cooker in the kitchen. Quickly and deftly the man descends on the stump, applies the pot to the stump, and fills Jonathan’s nostrils with the scent of his own roasting flesh; the previous whimpering is now replaced by fresh screams, unobstructed by the spoon, which had fallen out of his mouth. Jonathan thinks he might pass out, but he does not; never underestimate what the body of a drug addict can endure. Once the stump is sealed the men leave him whimpering and crying on the floor; he’s also convulsing slightly, shaking, as though in the sweaty warmth of the room he’s cold, it’s a fearful shiver. The crowd of people looking on are mostly silent, but then they start mumbling and debating with a strange sobriety, as though attempting to rationalise the event that has just unfolded. Jon is still snivelling and sniffing, and after a while meekly says,

“I want my foot back,”

“You can’t have it! It’s ours now, we’ve won it!” Someone replies.

“But I want it!” Pleads the crying Jonathan.

“You’ll get your five hundred Jonathan, if that’s what you think your foot is worth, but we’re keeping it!”

“Please!”

“Look, you can’t even get it put back on now, we burned the stump!” Someone else, more sympathetically, chimes-in:

“What are you gonna do with it anyway?”

“We’ll stick it in a jar of formaldehyde and put it on the mantlepiece!”

“Yes!” Someone says, receiving a general sound of approval from the crowd,
“But it’s my fucking foot!” Jonathan still pleads.

“Look you’ve got to let it go mate…”

“I think he already has!” They all jeer loudly.

“No, give me my fucking foot back you bastards!”

“Now you listen here Jonathan, we’ve fairly won your foot, and we’re keeping it!”

“Go to hell! It’s mine!” He couldn’t wrestle the foot from the man even if he hadn’t lost his foot, but still he tries to get up to challenge him.

“Now now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves Jon!”

“I think there’s some trouble afoot!” A few people titter, “Yeah, yeah, alright.”

“Don’t take the piss, it’s my foot!”

“It’s our foot now!”

“No!”

“Look here Jonathan Parker, you’re being very unreasonable about all this; we’ll pay you your five hundred but we are keeping the foot! I think on that we’re all agreed!”

“If you don’t give me my foot back, I’ll come back with a knife and while you’re asleep I’ll cut your innards out!” The large man he says this to instantly grabs the blood-drenched carving knife from the pool table and points it at him.

“Now, that really is too far, I think you’d better leave now Jon, I don’t like being threatened. Now, you’ve been good company all evening; you’ve given us your foot; but I think now you’d better leave.”

“Yeah, go on Rich, kick the fucker out, I don’t want to have to look at it anymore!”

“But I… I didn’t mean…”

“No, fuck him, get him out of here, boys!”

“Come on now Jonathan Parker, you’re not welcome among us anymore!” says Rich, taking him by the scruff of the neck and removing him from the pool room and to the front door. Rich then unceremoniously throws the footless Jonathan out into the street; someone has found a single old crutch from somewhere and chucks this out after him. There’s a degree of sympathy left among some of them at least. Then Rich slams the door on him after saying,
“We’re very disappointed in you Jonathan Parker, but we’re grateful at least for your foot!”

The massive rush of adrenaline and nervous impulses had the effect of sobering Jonathan up quite substantially; he was still quite fucked-up but he was beginning to come back to reality. Cold reality now in the early morning streets of Inverness.

Now he limps away into the cold Scottish streets glistening, shimmering with rain in the streetlight; ice has been growing on the buildings and patches of it have formed from the previous days’ rain in the roads. Jon must be careful that he doesn’t slip. At some point he realises that he’s cut off his right foot; in the heat of the moment he hadn’t really given much thought as to which foot he used the most; but now he realises it was the right which took the majority of his weight. Well that was fucking clever, wasn’t it? I mean, it was clearly a brilliant idea to begin with, but severing his primary foot… this is bloody genius!

I think we can forgive Jonathan for what will probably evolve in to the most gargantuan intoxicated cock-up of his entire life. Poor stupid bastard that he is; he’s wandered the British isles for twenty years, now he’ll do so again another twenty years, only he’ll have one foot.

He hears the jeering, jabbering and cries of disbelief and shock fade behind him as his slow staggering carries him further and further away. Up above the stars are shining out bright in the clear cold air; he gutters and chokes on a couple of strangled noises, like the mewling howls of a wounded animal, carrying itself away to die. Internally he utters desperate prayers, willing them up to those indifferent ancient lights wheeling above. But the cause of his fate, his now footless future, isn’t all those lightyears away; it’s somewhere between the ears and just behind the eyes. It is the influence of that dark star lighting his paths, his conscious, stalking all his steps like a shadow, poised like a tiger ready to strike, for the next time he fucks-up; sending impulses too, transmissions; x-ray signals sent out to tempt him, and a temptation which he could not overcome. But now he’s back to calculating again, planning his next move, and trying to predict how the fates will move against him next; it’s a special sort of conceit, that attitude of returning right back to trying to second-guess the universe after having just pleaded with it. It’s the conceit of prayer, thinking that we can know or influence the future; perhaps it’s the arrogance of man, that with all the infinite range of factors and conditions motivating the events of any given moment, we still believe somehow that we are equipped for such unfathomably enormous calculations.

Jonathan is crying now as he staggers off into that first faint indigo of early morning. He’ll be walking for a long time, another twenty years as I have mentioned. He’s crying for his foot, for his fate, for all the terrible things that have happened to him, and for all those he allowed to happen. Soon it will be light outside, and the un-footed man will have stalked off to some other part of these islands, never to return.

28/10/2014

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samcottle



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