© Jasper Dorgan
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The Peter Chair
The dream offers no respite, even in the scald of the daylight hours. It mugs me in the blackness or in my chair or under the stinging roar of my grey-time shower. As with all things in this world my dream comes unbidden, but it is master of my realm. It is the dream.
It comes and lays me down on my back in a deep hole and I am wedged between the solid sides of an open pine box that is slowly, relentlessly compressing me with the indifferent power of a car crusher. I am unable to move. My shoulders and my legs are clutched, my head is locked in a stone-pillowed vice and my bones are enwrapped.
I am stiff with fear.
I look up at distant stars, thick-framed by the dribbling black walls of a pit too high to touch, and too deep to fathom. My skull is cold, all air is distant. I scream at the top of my voice.
“I ain’t dead yet you bastards!”
But no-one hears because no sound can escape.
Then the first spray of earth falls from out of the stars and peppers my arching crotch with hot fists of tiny fury. Another fall blankets my feet and my shoes are filled with pebbled soil and worms. I twist and turn and burn against the box sides and manage to release a raw and numbed hand a few inches above my tomb’s slow buckling rim. Soil rains in on me and the stars are drowning. I stretch out the chewed bone of my hand and heave the television on.
Mrs. Ritka and Mrs. Brewer are the breakfast girls. That’s what they call themselves. They are both fifty if they are a decade. All people lie.
“What would you like for breakfast?” asks Mrs Brewer. She is as round as a cricket ball. Her movements are constant and sure and her clawed and mottled hands never stop doing.
“I would like scrambled eggs, kippers and fresh orange juice, please,”
“How about some porridge? Porridge is your favourite.”
“My Shannon’s Tyrone has insisted on crushed blue velvet,” says Mrs. Ritka. She takes a corner of my gown and wisps it over my head as if un-sanding a beach towel on a sea blown breeze. She is small and sturdy and has never once looked me in the eye. But she sponges me in talk every morning. “He hasn’t thought of the poor bridesmaids. Young Kayla is not shaped for blue. Especially crushed.”
“Velvet is a magnet to spills. Church settled?”
“Would either of you ladies care to give me a blow job?”
“He’s got Frankie Foyle’s mates as ushers. In cream tails. I mean its asking for trouble.”
“I’ll let you keep your teeth in,”
“That’s men,” said Mrs Brewer. “All creams and crushed blue,”
They jerk and lever and press and shuck me into my clothes. It is how the wakeful time begins. My sunrise. I roll and flop and burn as sheets are peeled from around and under me and my clothes are wrestled to me. Then I am planted in my chair.
Mrs. Ritka and Mrs. Brewer do their work with remarkable efficiency. They crease and flip me into my world as if folding sheets on laundry day. On my good days I can imagine Mrs Ritka and Mrs Brewer to be the St. Trinian’s Upper Fifth hockey team gang-raping me. Good days are when I succeed and when the breakfast girls get me dressed, nozzled, re-bagged and pointed at the television in under rape-recovery time.
Mrs Brewer always pucker-calls into the door mirror and applies new lip tread on her departure.
“We’re gone then.”
Through my day window I can see the town roof-tops that flow like rubbled lava down to the river that I cannot see for the obstructions of grey buildings and greyer trees. The townscape will make me move my wheels when cars crash or when violent weather attacks, but it is a dull view for the most and not worth much battery.
Except for the house on the hill. The house on the hill is always interesting. I never have to waste my wheels to see the house on the hill. It is framed in my window. A small castle on a hilltop that is skirted with trees. I know its every stone and brick, its every window and tile. It is a fascinating house. It is the home of the leaping man. I see him often. The man with the wild red hair. He never walks through the candle-lit rooms of the house on the hill, he only leaps them.
Television is my one friend. I can shove it on and off and over. Tell me something sadder.
It is a really good day when Tasha visits. She sometimes comes with her mother in the early evenings. But never often enough. Mrs. Prakova does my tea and tidy and tucking in if her Dimitri isn’t home from the trucks. She does her work well and happily. She even talks to me. She is one of my finer warders.
Tasha came with her one day. Mrs Prakova introduced her daughter to me and asked if I minded if she waited. The college bus had been missed. I am a gentleman, how could I refuse.
I love my jokes. I really make myself laugh sometimes.
I must laugh. I am the funniest person I know.
Tasha sat on the end of my bed chewing a large cud of gum on a slow rinse cycle. She stared at me. People either stare or look. The look is always elsewhere. But Tasha is a starer. Her mother is scrubbing the shower in the next room. Tasha’s young face is apple-bloomed from the recent pant of missed buses. Her blond, dark-rooted hair is warrior spiked, her eyes Panda rimmed. She sits on the edge of the bed with giraffe legs stretched out from a pleated skirt and her zip-top straining on a burgeoning swell. Hail to thee, St. Trinian.
“Can he see and hear like?” Tasha had shouted.
“Oh yes, I expect so,” Mrs. Prakova was somewhere on her knees in the bathroom. “Just he probably don’t understand it much. Poor boy. Be nice.”
“How old is he?”
”Twenty-six I think. It is on the form.”
“No way! Kidding yeah? Ten years older than me?”
Tasha looks me up and down. It is not a long journey.
“What crap he is wearing? Not exactly a style Jack is he? Does he understand us?”
“Ah, that only God knows I think.”
“I would love to see you naked.”
“Can’t he move anything?”
“Three fingers on one hand. A little bit. He can switch on the television.”
“I hope that your breasts are young like rugby balls and that, down below, your grasses are dark and damp and un-mown,”
Tasha looked at me. Her turquoise lips stilled on the cud.
“Has he always been like this? Just sitting in a chair?”
“Yes, all his life.”
Tasha leaned towards me. She smelt of strawberries. She spoke quietly.
“You poor fucker,”
She blu-tacked her gum to the headboard and stood up before me. She glanced quickly towards the bathroom and then slowly unzipped her top. Nut-nippled breasts tumbled out into my world. Tasha stepped back and then thumbed her panties to her knees and lifted her pleated skirt. She braced herself tall and let me feast for gone moments. Then she was dressed again and sitting on the bed as her mother came into the room wrestling with buckets.
Tasha heard me. She gave me voice. And hope. And I don’t know whether it is a precious gift, or a torture, to now long so for missed buses.
There is a bar in the basement of the house on the hill. It is lit in amber glows and I can hear music weaving faintly through the night. Some nights there is singing. And flinging.
I imagine being drunk must be like a half wipe-out. The moment of rippling warmth when the world melts at all its edges and you just don’t give a fuck anymore. Just before the drips black in. I would like to try beer. I haven’t had brown. And maybe even to vomit. Tubed grey just doesn’t do it.
I can say cunt anytime I like. To anyone. But I don’t much. I think it a lot but I don’t say it. It is a discipline I give myself and I am strict. I have the freedom to say whatever I like, whenever I like. But every freedom has a price. Mine is a deaf world. So I talk to myself and I am good company. Known myself for years. We go way back. We can say anything to each other.
Like. Men know in their marrow that they are all rapists and all women know themselves sluts. I only speak as I know. And I always tell myself the truth.
Like. I know that everyone checks their shit in the bowl and that everybody in the whole fucking world is a cunt.
See. Anytime I like.
When Mrs. Brewer washes and combs my hair I know I am to go visit with the Governor. I am wheeled along the corridor of closed doors and into the lift and down across to the polished wooden meeting room that always smells of work. The Governors are doubtless kindly thinking men, but they are still cunts.
That will be my last until noon. I promise me. I must not let myself down. Discipline and dignity.
Everything is ironic. Trust me.
I always will.
I have to.
Dr. Andrews wears bright red shoes and has a grey pony tail that nestles between his shoulders. He is the latest Governor. My fourth. He wears jeans and a rainbow woollen jumper and he dreams of rock bands.
He smiles and half-rises as I am wheeled in squeaking across the floor. Seated at a far table a couple of not-heres in public authority jackets are finding interest in my files, which this season are a pastel blue. Dr. Andrews ushers a chair aside with his foot to facilitate my parking and to show me that the feet in his red shoes are working.
“Hello Peter, how nice to see you. You are looking well today.”
“I am not Peter,”
“Now you know the drill. Just a few simple questions. Now you say as you find, eh? No holding back!”
“My name is not fucking Peter. I am not Peter! I never have been Peter. I have been telling you for ten years.”
A woman wearing a green button-over and big-bowed, snow white trainers connects the answer lead to my chair stick. People are mostly shoes.
“Now just yes or no. As before. You remember Peter?”
“I am not Peter. Peter escaped. Your predecessors fucked up the paperwork when we all got zoo-trucked here. It was chaos. You branded us monkeys all wrong. The computers went fuck. I got Peter’s file. But I am not Peter. Peter escaped, the bastard. And he’s been gone for eleven years.”
“Yes or no, OK Peter? Now, tell us, are you comfortable here?”
I have become Peter. Even though I am not him. I have never met him but I am him. Or I have been for too long to really believe. I do not quite remember who I was before I became Peter. Too much orange fluid has passed over my tongue. So I am Peter. It is only the naming of chairs.
In my clearer periods of still I often see Peter tramping across fields and hiking woods and singing with a swinging cane along the cobbled streets of a neon-lit Pigalle. I wish him dead.
I answer yes and no correctly to all Dr. Andrew’s questions. It is the quickest way to leave. My answers only ever change the colours of files.
The dream comes again. Hush.
My television is obsessed with clothes and food and football. My only friend is a bastard. Friends are like that. But television has told me about sex. It is a gentle and harsh teacher. I saw kissing young. I think it must be like a very quick battery re-charge. Kissing always makes people energetic or lit.
In my child time, television showed me the holding of hands and the cuddling, often with singing. For many years I thought babies were made from bike rides into the countryside. I don’t know why.
But Marlon showed me the fucking. He is a quiet black man in blue overalls and puke yellow baseball boots. He has two stances. One is hanging on his mop like a condemned man chained to a dungeon wall, the other is with his boots up on my bed watching television with me. We watch television all through the darkness. Marlon brings popcorn.
“What you watching this shit for? Want some popcorn? Oh yeah. Tough kid. How about some fluid? Gotta have juice for the telly, man. Any football?”
Marlon takes the console and channel flicks.
“This all the shit you got on this mother? Can’t you get no cable?”
He went to the back of the television and did things to it. The television revealed what it had hidden from me all this time. Naked ladies of every colour, creed and contortion strobed across the screen before me. Blond ones and redheads. Raven and bald. They bowed and kneeled and spread before me. A banquet of sex.
“Titties on that one too ballooned. That aint’ no real tittie. Don’t go for them gals, boy. Like slubbering on a beach ball. Woa! Is that chick albino?”
Through Marlon I have come to know and see the things of sex. Of its function and variety. Its crazy positions. I think sex must be an ecstatic pain. Though for whom and why it is difficult to tell. But I do know that black men are better at it than anybody else. Marlon told me. He shares his knowledge with me in the darkness times. I now know that all women have vaginas and it’s not just the younger ones. I had imagined they healed over with age. The knowledge that even Mrs. Brewer still had one set me quiet through several greys.
But it did not matter because I was not going to have any sex. I am not built for such wrestling. I haven’t even done holding hands.
Then Marlon flicked to a new sight.
“Oh get on down there, my lady! Pump that bitch!”
I came to from a small melt to see a woman under red silk hair slowly eating a branched prick right down to its collar. She and the collar were having a good time. So was I. There was a sex for me after all. That I could do. Or have be done.
Yeah, like fuck.
Stay calm. You know what happens if you
It’s not like you’ve had it to miss it.
And nothing can change.
I don’t watch sex too much anymore. I watch programmes about giant cats bounding with arched backs and liquid speed across savannah grasslands and bringing down gazelles. It is my porn.
Mothers always tell their daughters lies, so Mrs.Prakova lied to Tasha. It is true that I can move three fingers of my hand, but I can also move my head a little. And my prick also moves. Mostly by itself and at a colour of its choosing. Mostly grey.
My prick is an idle pet mushroom living in my cellar. It grows as it pleases and dribbles as it needs. Most of the day it just lays there, a small fungal cluster sucking a humid dark. But the prick-drip changes often seem to interest it. Or a hot shower maybe. And sunrise without fail. Then it becomes a stumpy and rigid twig. On good days, when Tasha visits, it can bloom to host a sail.
Mrs. Brewer and Mrs Ritka ignore my morning twigs. They share a mixed glance of stretched night-gown and thin-pursed lips and then flip me face down onto the bed and go away to find something else to ignore. I lie arse-up, jacked and spiked on the bed, my face being sucked by the plastic sheet, until my twig either buckles or snaps. And as much as I scream at it the twig never chooses to sag. It snaps. It is painful. I feel pain nowhere else. Every morning I bargain with the mushroom not to twig. But my prick is as deaf and as defiant as the world. My prick really couldn’t give a fuck for me.
I really am the funniest person I know.
I have to laugh. Have to.
Mrs Brewer only returns when I am snapped and flattened.
“Now can we get on?” she asks the sheets.
“Is a hand job too much to ask?”
The house on the hill has a high, round brick tower with stepped windows carved into it like a tree-house ladder. A flag often flies from the tower-top pole. Every day the walker comes up through the trap door in the top of the tower and takes his walk around the turret with his binoculars hung to his chest. He wears a cap and walks his sky-high path with his body leaned forward as if against a stiff breeze and his hands knotted loosely at his back. He walks with a slow and contemplative tread. He stops every few paces and pulls his binoculars up and gazes at the distant view. He compasses his tower, stopping and watching through binoculars at every segment of the visible sphere.
I never wonder what it is to walk. I can no more imagine the ground’s press than I can the sun’s burn.
But I often wonder what everywhere looks like.
The dream has come. Hide still.
It passes quicker that way.
I have lived twenty-seven years and I still suckle at my mother’s breast. She cradles me and wraps me in her arms. She slaps me across the bottom when I am being childish or morose. My mother has grown strong in my care. She can turn on a star. Her engine under my seat is as big as a box and her pockets are swollen with bottles and masks and pills and pastel blue papers tied in green ribbon. Behind every great man there is a chair.
I have pissed myself. I really am so funny.
And we’ll be lying in your funniness all night.
Or fuck dreaming on a water bed.
It is a little after Orange. Not too long until Green. I can tell by the smell of chemical sweetness drifting in from the landing. And Baywatch is on the television. Orange is the middle feed. It smells of caramelised sugar and tastes of nothing. Nothing ever does. Its just orange. It is grey soon after the sunrise and green when the sun goes low. My life measures in colours.
Bobby takes me out sometimes. He is a large, round man with a beard and he wears outdoor boots and oil stained jeans. He wraps me up in blankets and wheels me through the park of mud and swingless swings and along the canal path to the pub. He parks me under the smokers roof at the back and I watch laundry drying on the back yard line while he takes beer inside. Then he wheels me back to my room.
“Looks like you could do with a massage,” he says. He always does.
And he undresses me and flips me face down on the bed and kneads my back. I do not feel it. Nor do I feel him entering me. I am only aware of it because of the short sensation of bouncing that dizzies my head and my panted breath mists the sucking plastic about me. It never lasts long.
It is of no matter. It is no more than the clunk of wheels on uneven pavement slabs. A bargain for the price of a laundry line.
The house on the hill has a room in the cellars. It is a bright lit room of soft-cushioned armchairs. And it has no mirrors. Or blank television screens. Or windows. Or polished chrome. A room without reflection.
I rest there often.
On the first year of my death some people made themselves a cake and tied a balloon on mother. They blew out twenty-one candles and clapped because I had not yet died.
My television tells me that there is bad weather forecast with a possibility of local flooding. I like bad weather. It means the buses might not be running.
On the first floor of the house on the hill there is a room with a large double bed and a lockable door. A log fire burns in the grate and the mirror is turned to the wall. Tasha sits on the edge of the bed, smiling as someone unzips her top. I see that it is Peter.
I sense its faint rush, like autumn leaves rustling
on a bow-wave of breeze
It comes again on the hooves of horses
To lay me down once more
And the pit seems deeper
The box tighter
And the stars more distant still