An excerpt from STATIC AGE (chapter two)
SATURDAY // AFTERNOON
Clark’s hand was a quivering lump of flesh by daylight. But he’d dodged a bullet. It wasn’t broken. Sunlight bled around the edges of the blinds and sent shadows sliding across the far wall of the room. With a groan, he rolled out of bed. The motion almost sent him running to the bathroom to heave, but he fought it down. His mouth tasted like copper. After stumbling through to the kitchenette, he poured himself a glass of water which had travelled through pipes caked in years of limescale. It was like sipping gruel.
As he picked up the bottle fragments and rubbed halfheartedly at the latest stain on the wall, he replayed the evening in his head once more. He couldn’t work out how everything had gone from promise to despair in the time it took to wait in a queue. He’d made all the right moves, bought people drinks and turned the charm up to Hollywood levels. The girl Jo had approached him, not the other way around. And yet he’d been the one outside, banging on the doors to be let in while everybody else boarded the Crystal Ship. It wasn’t right. He didn’t put up with work all week just to be drop-kicked into the road by somebody’s made-in Bangladesh boot. Plus, if Jump, Pawel, Kris or Leroy had been mauled by bouncers, he wouldn’t have abandoned them. He would’ve been in their corner, helping them out. That was how it should be.
He became so immersed in his thoughts that he stopped paying attention to what he was doing. A stab of pain from the glass brought him back to reality. Blood dripped from his finger and formed miniature oxbow lakes on the discoloured floor. Life was taunting him. He needed to lie down again. His entire body complained as he struggled across the room. It definitely felt like a cracked rib. He dropped onto the bed, which sent a meaty aroma rising up from the sheets. He hadn’t changed them for a few months. The lava lamp sensation in his head subsided and he closed his eyes, but any chance of sleep was quashed when the phone started squawking next to his ear. He pushed the answer button without checking the ID.
‘So I hear you were thrown into the gutter last night.’ It was Jump. His spirits took another tumble.
‘The bouncers laid a beating on you. Am I wrong?’ Words were like hard-earned currency for Jump. He didn’t spend them unless he had to.
‘Who told you that?’
‘Pawel. Put right out on your back, apparently. How are you doing? Anything broken?’
‘That’s bullshit. I didn’t take a beating. They didn’t wanna let me in because I didn’t know who the DJ was. I left and went someplace else. No big deal.’
‘Why didn’t you take your girl with you?’
‘She ain’t my girl. Second time I’ve ever met her. And she wanted to stay.’
‘You want to hear it?’
‘Hear what, for Christ’s sake?’ He was in no mood for soap opera dialogue.
‘She was getting cosy with Pawel afterwards. I think they left together too. I just thought you should know.’
‘Thanks,’ he said, immediately wishing Jump hadn’t told him. The Gene Krupa drumming in his head resumed. Dead air reigned between them until he spoke again. ‘You do okay last night?’
‘Always do. Will you be down at Abstract later?’
‘I dunno. I can’t say yet. No plans.’
‘You sound pretty morose.’
‘Well, I’m going down to Albany Town. Why don’t you come with me? Find a girl to take the edge off for you.’
‘Let me know.’ Jump hung up. Clark seethed.
He didn’t know what to think. Not that Jump had any reason to lie, but he couldn’t see Jo trying it on with Pawel. From the way she dressed, spoke and acted, it was obvious that gym heads weren’t her type. Muscle shirts, protein drinks and acrobatic handshakes. Yeah right. It was a joke that they refused to acknowledge how homoerotic the whole thing was. Any mention of homosexuality around Pawel or Kris was like playing with fire. One time Clark had been burned by it. Since then he’d kept his thoughts to himself.