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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Extract from 2 – Death Minus Zero

Extract from Death Minus Zero

“You should get a dog,” Geordie said.

“I shouldn’t get a dog,” Sam Turner said. “I’ve got enough on my plate with your dog. I spend half my life taking your dog for walks so he can do his pee-pees. I feed your dog at least as many times as you feed him. I wake up in the morning and find your dog sleeping in my flat, while you’re upstairs in your flat without a dog. So tell me, for why do I need a dog? I ain’t got a dog, that’s true, but it seems equally true to me that if I got a dog of my very own I’d have two dogs instead of the one I haven’t got at the moment but that lives with me.”

“It would be company for you,” Geordie said. “And if you got a big dog instead of a small dog like Barney, I don’t know all the names of dogs, but maybe an Alsatian, or one of those others, what’re they called? Really fierce fuckers?”

“Canine psychopaths?”

“No. Like a bulldog, but that’s not it.”

“A pit bull?” “Yeah, pit bull terrier, one of those. Then you could train it like a guard dog or a police dog, and then you can get them to smell things, like if you’re looking for a guy who’s hiding out and you don’t know where he is. What you do is, you give the dog something belongs to the guy, like an old jacket, or something he’s worn, and then the dog starts sniffing along the street and leads you straight to the guy.”

Geordie hobbled across Sam’s sitting room with only one cross trainer on, retrieved his missing shoe from under the sofa and sat on the floor to put it on. “I’ve seen it in the movies. S’real cool.”

“Why’d you think I need a blood hound?”

“Who said anything about that?” Geordie asked. “I’m talking about normal dogs here, like what you really like. I’m up in my room at night minding my own business playing some music or reading a book or something and when the music stops I can hear this droning coming from down here, so I open the door to find out what it is. You know what it is?”

“Could be a model aeroplane,” said Sam. “Or a model submarine, anything that drones could produce a sound like that.” Sam fingered his chin, the bristles there, and found himself thinking about his face. He was forty nine years old now and looked all of those years plus a few more. He had started out as a young man with boyish good looks, fine features that had hung around until he was well into his thirties. But the last decade had visited his face with a vengeance.

“It’s you,” said Geordie, finishing lacing up his shoe and springing to his feet to check it. “It’s you sitting down here talking to Barney. God alone knows what you’re talking about, because, like I say, by the time it gets to my room it’s just a drone. But it sure goes on a long time, like you’ve really got a lot to say to him. And Barney, being like I’ve brought him up to be polite and have good manners and that, he doesn’t interrupt, he just sits there and listens to whatever kind of drivel people have to say to him.”

“That’s how he is,” said Sam. “The dark silent type. He doesn’t say much himself, but he files it all away in his doggie brain, and he thinks about it. One day he’ll come out with a real gem.”

“I’m not talking about Barney, here,” said Geordie. “I know Barney’s all right. What I’m talking about is someone who hardly ever goes out of the house any more, and who spends almost all his spare time talking to somebody else’s dog. I’m talking about somebody who’s supposed to be a private detective, living an exciting life of adventure and mayhem and anarchy and stuff like that, but who actually doesn’t do nothing but talk to dogs that can’t actually understand what he’s talking about.”

“Tell me if I’m wrong, Geordie,” Sam said. “But I get the feeling you’re upset with me. Could this actually be the case?”

“Why? Because I think you should get a dog? You’re paranormal.”

“Noid,” said Sam.


“Paranoid,” said Sam. “And I’m not. I just don’t want another fuckin dog in the house.” Sometimes people said he looked like Gene Hackman. Well, to be honest a couple of women had said that, but then one of them had gone on to say he looked like Gene Hackman after Gene Hackman had fallen off a cliff and been involved in major surgery. The other woman, after Sam had got through explaining to her who Gene Hackman was, said the resemblance was astonishing, she’d just not noticed it until Sam pointed it out. She also said that Gene Hackman, if indeed it was Gene Hackman she was thinking about, had more hair than Sam. If his face was shot, his main torso had managed to stay fairly trim. He kept himself fit, worked out in the gym a couple of times a week, but two days ago the doctor had told him that he should stop smoking. Sams blood pressure was too high. Nothing to worry about, yet, but he should do whatever he could to get it down. That’s what he had been talking to Barney about the last couple of evenings. His blood pressure. Stopping smoking. Well, who else was there to tell?

“I know something’s wrong with you,” Geordie said. “You’re not so much fun. You don’t even play your tapes anymore. Look at you, you didn’t even get shaved the last couple a days.” Geordie had the ability to drag up out of himself the most despairing look imaginable, and he did this now, at the end of his little speech. He showed Sam two empty palms and put on that look which was designed to get a compassionate response, and never failed.

Sam began to melt. “OK,” he said. “I’ve been a bit depressed.” He told Geordie what the doctor said about his blood pressure and stopping smoking.

“Well, at least you know about it,” Geordie said. “Like you’ve caught it in time. You just stop smoking and you’ll be all right.”

“Uh-uh,” Sam said.

“You don’t think it’s that simple?”


“You mean there’s something else?”

“Hell, I don’t know,” Sam said. “You gotta start worrying when your body fails. You start coming unglued, things dropping off. Christ, I need to understand it.”

Geordie didn’t reply immediately. He knelt down on the carpet and scooped Barney up into his lap. He held the two parts of the dog’s jaw together, so Barney had to struggle to get free. Sam was not sure of Geordie’s age, but there seemed to be some kind of consensus that he was now eighteen years old. After a period in various children’s homes in the North East, Geordie had been homeless, hanging around various doorways in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds. When he arrived in York Sam befriended him, and managed to get him installed in a flat of his own. Geordie also had a job. He was an Assistant Trainee Private Investigator in the Sam Turner – Investigations Detective agency. He looked at Sam from across the room, released Barney’s jaw and let the dog back onto the carpet. “When did you last have a screw?” he asked Sam.

Sam laughed, got out of his chair and filled the kettle with water. “Thank you, Mister Freud,” he said as he plugged the kettle into the mains. “But I don’t think that’s gonna solve my problems. In fact it’d probably give me more.”

“No, it’d cure you,” Geordie said. “I’ve seen you before, when you’re in love, or even when you’re not in love, but somebody you fancy fancies you as well, and you turn into a different person. It’s true, Sam.”

“You know,” said Sam. “People like you put back the cause of female emancipation a hundred years. Like, what you’re saying here is that if I get a dog or a woman I’ll be cured. Correct me if I’m wrong, Geordie. But that is what you’re saying?”

“You should start going to the Singles Club again.”

“Geordie,” Sam said. “Give me a break. I’m trying to rethink myself right now. A woman wouldn’t fit into the picture. Christ, I’m still reassessing my image since I realised all the women I attract are menopausal. I don’t want more of that.”

“Menopausal? What’s that.”

“It’s one of my problems,” Sam said. “Nothing for you to worry about.”

“Like an old woman? Is that what it means? Come on, Sam. I’m trying to learn new words.”

“Yeah,” said Sam. “Not old. Oldish. Someone who’s finished with child bearing.”

“What’s wrong with that? A guy your age doesn’t want a young woman. You could get really unlucky and end up marrying one of those high pitched voices.”

Sam placed two mugs on the counter and poured a jot of milk into each. “Listen,” he said, “if a woman happens, that’s OK. I wouldn’t say no. But I’m not gonna push anything at the moment. Thanks for your concern. It’s good to know you care. But don’t push it anymore, not tonight, anyway. If I want any shit out of you I’ll squeeze your head. Savvy?”

Geordie came over to him and reached for the tea pot. “Friends at last,” he said.