Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Resurrection Bureau - part 3


Rain fell in heavy bursts against Halcyon’s kitchen window, which rattled feebly. ‘Thank Lance,’ he murmured, sipping on a warm bottle of coke. The last thing in the world he needed in his current state was a hot, sunny day – wind, rain and general bitter cold were just the thing for your average four alarm hangover.
Halcyon started most of his days just exactly like this, stood naked in front of his window drinking warm coke and contemplating the black spots in his memories of the night before. It had been this way for years now, and the only variation was that occasionally he awoke with either Jaffa, Young Brian or Tetley (occasionally all three) asleep on his sofa, floor, or sometimes in his bed with him.
It had begun to worry Halcyon a little. He was twenty-two years old now, and while he did not consider himself to be old, he knew that he was not exactly a kid anymore either. He had known Jaffa since he was five, when they had met in the Green Ginger Orphanage, and Tetley and Young Brian he had since age eleven, when they had met at their first day of High Castle comprehensive school. None of them had married, and none of them had serious girlfriends (apart from Halcyon’s brief and painful relationship with Debbie, which Halcyon, at least, had thought was serious). Neither had any of them particularly well defined career paths. Jaffa worked at a call centre, Tetley had his own window cleaning round and Young Brian was an occasional painter and decorator, and almost full time pool hustler. In fact, Halcyon realised, of the four of them he had by far the most “career-y” job – and he had only fallen into that because a detached retina had ended his boxing career at aged nineteen.
A year ago, maybe even six months ago, he had stood in front of the window with his warm drink and his thoughts had turned to where he and the boys were going on Saturday night (though “Saturday Night” was more a state of mind, than an actual “night”, and as such tended to be quite fluid – there were, generally, four or five Saturday Nights in the average week), or the match, or what he would watch on telly tonight – now, well...
Now he looked at his bedsit, and the red stone horseshoe of the flats that surrounded him, and across the dirty rooftops and the gray sky, and he heard the sound of the busses and the honks of impatient cars and the distant hoot of fog horns, and he felt, more than anything else, like a man in a cage.
He knew what the lads thought. They thought it was all down to Debbie, but that wasn’t true. Well ... It wasn’t totally true. She had hurt him badly, and even now when he saw her with her new boyfriend Clive with his Corsa with its blacked out windows and his job at the council, it hurt him still ... But oddly, despite his occasional drunken ramble past her house on a night, he had long since realised that he really didn’t want Debbie back. She was as bad as the brick walls and plastic windows. It hadn’t worked out with Debbie because she had wanted Halcyon to be something he wasn’t – and Halcyon had wanted to be something other than what he was.
But what that was, what else he could possibly be, Eddie Halcyon had absolutely no idea.

‘Morning Sam.’
Sam gave a grunt, it was, Halcyon knew, Sam’s version of a hail and hearty good morning. It was when he gave you a snort you were in trouble.
Halcyon hung up his coat where it dangled wetly on its own. Sam never wore a coat, even in the snow. He considered the wearing of a coat to be effeminate, and the carrying of an umbrella to constitute an actual declaration of man love. Halcyon looked out of the window of Sam’s office while he dried his hair with a putrid green towel. The gym was almost entirely empty, except for Iron George, who was, as always, grimly pumping iron wearing a scowl and a massive pair of headphones. The Weywood sisters were all sat on exercise bikes in the window, and all three waved at Halcyon and he waved back, soliciting the usual dirty cackle from all three.
‘Is Mr Tree in yet, Sam?’
‘You see him?’ Sam grunted, not looking up from his computer screen, electric reflection playing across his glaring eyes and bristling black moustache.
Sam, Halcyon knew, considered himself permanently on the brink of financial ruin, and spent almost all of his time checking and rechecking the finances of Sam’s Gym and Solarium. In fact the gym was the only one within twenty miles of the city centre the either didn’t cost a small fortune to run, or wasn’t run by petty thieves, and as such was immensely popular among older people and young women. It was, Halcyon suspected, a small gold mine for Sam – but Sam, with his thinning hair and thickening waistline created by hours in front of his computer, viewed the gym as a huge and almost unbearable burden.
Sam had come second place in the 1987 World’s Strongest Man competition. The second place label still rankled with him, and had, in Sam’s eyes, been the chief architect of all his woes. He had, he believed, made bad decisions about the location (on a windy hill on the outskirts of the city), pricing policy (£1.50 a session, £1 if you were a member, fifty pence for pensioners and the unemployed) and clientele (few of whom paid more than 50p) of his gym. In Halcyon’s opinion Sam’s greatest error of judgement had been choosing a colour scheme of gangrene green, puss yellow and battleships gray for the gym.
‘I’ll go and see how the sisters are doing,’ Halcyon said, draping the vile green towel over the back of his chair.
‘I wouldn’t,’ Sam grunted. But Halcyon didn’t need telling that, Sam was thick muscle from the chest up, and thick fat from the chest down, and very rarely left his chair, never mind his office. ‘Toilet needs cleaning,’ he added grimly.
‘Right.’ Halcyon exited quickly, before the conversation turned to one of Sam’s favourite topics, The High Cost of Plumbing. It was among Sam’s top three favourite topics, alongside; Some Bastard’s Parked In My Spot, and Why Can’t Bastards Clean Their Shoes Before They Come In, The Bastards.

‘Good morning Vera, Emily, Betty.’
‘Good morning Eddie!’ trilled the Weywood sisters.
The Weywood sisters looked very little like each other, but were, they had assured Halcyon often, devoted sisters. Vera, the eldest (or at least Halcyon guessed she was, they never discussed their age) was a whip-thin woman with a beak of a nose and a candy floss explosion of red-brown hair billowing from the top of her head; Emily, who Halcyon always imagined to be the youngest of the sisters, was a fat little woman with a pale complexion, button nose, a love of pink clothing, hair and lipstick, and a slippery curly wig; Betty, Halcyon thought, probably shouldn’t be paying 50p. If she was a pensioner she certainly had looked after herself, Halcyon found it hard to believe she was over fifty. Betty was curvaceous, and dark skinned with large brown eyes twinkling behind big curling eyelashes. All three of the sisters were dressed in tracksuits – Vera’s sky blue, Emily’s bubblegum pink, and Betty’s chestnut brown, and were spinning, with very little consideration for any thought of exercise, on the big exercise bikes in the window.
‘Are you looking after us today, Eddie?’ chirped Emily with a giggle.
‘I’m supposed to be looking after Mr Tree--’
‘Lazy old sod,’ snapped Vera.
‘He has had a stroke, Vera,’ Emily said, as reproachful as a chipmunk.
‘He was a lazy old sod before he had the stroke,’ Vera replied waspishly. ‘I knew him when he worked at the gas board, spent all his time smoking fags and picking horses in his van.’
‘He did, as Merlin is my witness.’
‘Well,’ Halcyon didn’t quite know what to say to that, ‘Hee still needs his physical therapy, so I’d better—‘
‘Eddie?’ Betty Weywood’s voice curled out at Halcyon like a cat’s tongue. ‘I had a dream about you last night.’

To be continued...

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