Tuesday, June 5

First Draft of a Novel Idea

About the middle of last week I started to get an idea that couldn’t have worked as a short piece – or maybe it could have, I don’t know. Either way, I wanted to develop it, draw it out, see what I could get from it. Then more ideas came and I saw a way that I might be able to weave them together into something more novel-length. I’ve begun sketching out the ideas. I spent the first two nights of this long weekend just drunkenly banging away on the keyboard. Below is the first sketch. It gave me something to go from and I’ve already rewritten it – almost entirely – and am taking it further. Admittedly I am quite excited by this, if only as an exercise in commitment. Anyway, here you go, if you are interested in the ejaculation that started it all…

IT WAS AN unusually hot day in May. As Robert walked along the station platform he passed the flower-baskets and the locked-up wooden ticket office and the train moved out, with heavy sounds of iron on iron, shaking metallic clumping sounds over the ringing bell as the level-crossing barriers pointed up to heaven. He tensed his brows to keep the sun out of his eyes. The sun angled over the fields to the south-west; long barley fields that shimmered. The sun bleached his eyes. The small number of passengers from the train walked out of the station through a tiny gate and into the village of G— B—.
The barriers finished pointing.
The bell silenced, and cars rev’d over the tracks and away from the village.
Robert, too, walked out of the gate. His jacket hung over his left arm; in his right were four carpet tiles – ‘dodger blue’, ‘denim’, ‘mystic teal’, and ‘royal blue’. ‘Royal blue’ was his favourite design and his clients seemed to prefer it the most. Selling carpets in the city was the most important job that Robert had ever set his hand to. So he had sold carpets for eleven years. Six in the city. He scratched his forehead and felt the perspiration that had begun to collect there. He was in his early forties, not without age but forgetful of it. Time has flown past him, and had floured the hair over his temples. His shirt had been well-starched that morning, and the wrinkles gathering around his eyes had not shone so salty. He smiled because he was hungry and he knew that in a few moments he would be able to smell his wife’s cooking from down the road. He had a skill for picking out his wife’s cooking from among all the others.
The road that intersected the railway lines was hot and Robert felt it through the thin soles of his shoes. The sun was still strong. Birds swooped in the murky dusk, nestling around the school. ‘Bye, Rob’ said the other passengers as each peeled from the road into the cul-de-sacs that grew outwards, interrupting the pavement. He waved, secretly delighted to be well-known, no matter where.
His house sat on the edge of the village green. It was constructed in red brick – smooth old red brick, like the schoolhouse – and curtains in various colours hung in sleepy eyelids. The front garden, beyond the hip-high wall, was, he noticed, immaculate. And then, he noticed his wife lingering at the living room window, looking out. Upon seeing him she stood up and ran to the front door, which opened a few moments later.
The birds swooped and sung.
She was presentable, except for the pinny tied to her front.
‘Hello,’ he said, though maybe asked, because he was uncertain and nervous; she never greeted him like this. Such a darling, running in those flapping slippers across the cobbled path; gripping his hand draped in jacket; fluttering eyes and waiting at the window for god knows how long. She clenched his knuckles.
‘Sweetheart!’ she said, ‘the fish.’
‘The what?’
‘The fish!’
She was panicked. He had not seen her like this. So often she lay herself in the bed or by the window or on the kitchen stool, not talking but staring outwards and counting the thoughts in her skull.
‘Slow down. What is it? What’s up with the fish?’
‘They’re all dead.’
His fish! His hundred-pound koi!
She led him – her pinny blowing in that dusk breeze – through the house – pinstriped by smells of cooking and potpourri and flowering lilies – to the back door. Robert tried to look over his wife’s shoulder. Dinner – in its numerous pots – bubbled and steamed next to him.
The sun burned south-westerly. It threw its last light and warmth to whomever wanted it, but it did not care for overtime. The late month of May faded out in the surrounding fields.
Robert saw the catastrophe. In the middle of the trimmed grass, weedless and fluffy, was the pond, without water, dappled with the flapping bodies of koi carp. They made the motions of quotations, flicking up into the air and coldly wet slapping the base of the pool.
Robert looked out in horror; running to the pond to fall on his knees. The koi looked up at him. Each one asked – ‘Well, look what happened to us!’ His wife stood in the doorway, looking on.
‘What the hell happened?’
‘I don’t know. I only saw them five minutes ago – otherwise I would have called you . . . you know I would!’
Their slimy scales reflected freckles of dying sunlight. They were white and gold, orange, red, dying pristinely. Minor puddles remained but still the sun dried those out. The fish – out of reach – pulsed their gills. Robert looked down at them and his wife shaded the kitchen’s doorway. She held a hand to her mouth, nibbling at the skin around her nails. He gawped and could not think of what to do. He picked one of the fish up. It was the biggest of the lot. It had thrived in his pond. In his mind, long ago, he had named it Goliath. Goliath flipped and flapped, gills opening and shutting, helpless, defeated, without water. When he picked Goliath up he felt the muscle of his flanks ripple in his palms. Such a sorry fish! Now it was that Goliath should reveal his fragilities! Robert held him. There must be a way to save him. He must save Goliath if he must save any of them. Clutching Goliath he ran past his wife – who flinched – and up the stairs of the house. Hollow wooden footsteps sounded out. He ran to the bathroom and gently lay Goliath in the white porcelain bath, plugged the hole, and ran the taps. Thick water gushed out. Goliath lay on his side. His gills breathed like slow maracas.
And there, out of breath and close to tears, Robert watched Goliath slowly fall from consciousness into absolutely nothing at all.

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