Beetroot & I #7

March 16, 2011

Beetroot & I is a weekly column/diary piece that I write for
Wednesday, March 16th.

“Chapter Twelve. ‘Get Up and Go’. The days following my marriage to Billy were like some sort of drug. He was heroin and I was the junkie and the priest, Fr. O’Callaghan, was a drug dealer. When he said ‘you may now kiss the bride’, Billy’s lips were like a giant slobbery needle injecting his highly addictive saliva right into my veins and I was on a massive high when I was with him. When he was away though it was like I was coming down and I couldn’t cope. It was his prolonged absence while filming ‘Detective Sergeant Kangaroo’ in LA in 1963 that subsequently led to my debilitating actual heroin addiction, which in hindsight turned out to be absolutely nothing like marriage. Chapter Thirteen…”

“Vivienne?” I raised my hand meekly “I… I don’t mean to bang on about this… b-but, the chapters really do need to be a little… bit longer.” Vivienne is not really her name. She is a celebrity whose autobiography I am ghostwriting. For contractual reasons, I cannot identify her.

Every afternoon, for the last four weeks, I have sat politely in her hotel room, scribbling down what she dictates and trying to encourage her to elongate her chapters – without annoying her too much. She stared angrily at me. I should point out that Vivienne is a blind octogenarian. But that does not preclude her from staring angrily at me. In fact, it’s one of the main weapons in her arsenal of terrifying me. Somehow a stare from a blind person is even more powerful than a stare from a person who can actually see. She kept staring at me until I finally cracked.

“OK C-Chapter Thirteen it is.”
“Later” she snapped “I have to take a nap now.” She clicked her fingers aggressively towards Christine, who knew exactly what this meant. She began fishing for pills from one of the many tubes she kept in her bag.

Christine and I had seen each other three times, but hadn’t really spoken properly, since our ill-fated Valentine’s date ended our one-week affair. My peculiarity must have been in some way endearing at the beginning, but the sight of me being told off in public by my cat, must have then moved me from ‘enjoyably quirky’ to ‘potentially unhinged’. And no one finds that attractive. Christine is Vivienne’s assistant and full-time companion. She dumped what must have been a dozen multi-coloured pills into Vivienne’s frail waiting hand and the old woman shoved them into her mouth. She looked like a horse struggling with peanut butter as she chewed them into a pulp.

Vivienne slumped over the arm of her chair and began to snore loudly. Now it was just me and Christine. Alone at last. I could feel my mouth drying up. When I get tense or nervous, all moisture in my mouth seems to disappear. It’s a medical thing. We were just sitting there. It was excruciating. I wanted to show her that I wasn’t a maniac. I wanted to say something – something normal and casual. ‘Just ask her how she is.’ I thought to myself. Simple as that.

“How are yoghghfdfhd…” is the correct spelling of the sound that came out of my mouth. I had completely gagged as I tried to speak. It was as if my throat had simply closed up. She just smiled politely back. She didn’t know about my dry throat condition. She probably thought that that was the noise I had intended to make. If she didn’t think I was mad before, then she certainly did now. This made me even more tense and somehow my throat got even drier.

“Erfahj Ujkljlkf Pnkjklfjl” I tried to explain. There was genuine fear in her eyes now. I tried to lighten the mood my laughing, but the noise that came out sounded more like a threat than a laugh and it, coupled with a broad smile, must have made it seem all the more menacing. All this failed communication and the thoughts of what her thoughts must have been thinking made me tenser and tenser. My throat got drier and drier. My speech made less and less sense. I stood up and tried to use gestures to help me communicate. But when I’m nervous I tend to flail my arms around. I moved closer to her so she’d have a better chance of understanding me. She was actually ‘cowering’ now.

“Ffjdklfjlkds KKfjdkjfl Pnjkldfny!” I shouted, moving towards her, flailing my arms and smiling as broadly as I could. All I wanted to do was to ask her how she was and seem casual and normal while I was doing it!

That’s when she hit me with a massive glass ashtray in the head. For the second time in five weeks I woke up in a hospital bed. But this time, it wasn’t the beautiful Christine waiting patiently beside me. It was a gruff looking policeman. Several glasses of water and a phone call from my GP later, the matter was finally cleared up.

I’m not looking forward to seeing Christine next Monday. It’s going to be awkward.



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