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Reflections of a working writer and reader



It Isn’t Tom Waits

The voice. It could be him but it isn’t. It is completely different. It is gravelly and the band is heavy on bass and feedback, dissonant; the lyric is mystical, coming through a smokehouse, conjuring up the night streets, tarts on dope and studs with diamonds and kids going hungry and scavenging dogs. Could easily be Tom Waits. But it isn’t. It isn’t a pretender. It is another singer. We don’t known his name. He’ll never be who we think.

She is an over-the-hill actress. Time has done a job on her face and her body has moved out of definition. There may be some work in the pipeline, bit-parts, a vague hope on the horizon, but she knows she’s finished. She is standing by one of the speakers shaking her hips to the rhythm. She is absent but her hips are pumping away just off the beat. Her hair is wild, her clothes too young for her face, although you could argue they are exactly the right age for her legs. That’s what happens when you start on deconstructing a woman.

The girls are all in the kitchen dressed in black. The men are there too, sniffing it out. Outside a storm is howling. Thunder and lightening and walls of rain. Strange shadows and sounds inhabit the street and gardens, the alleys and porches. The wind screeches at any semblance of order. And there is nothing to do about it.

Next door the house has never been finished. It has not known completion. Thirty years ago a builder called Colin Beary began with the foundations and erected the outside walls and roof, even got to plaster the sitting room and kitchen, plumbed the bathroom and installed rudimentary electrics. Then his heart stopped and the business went into receivership. Beary’s widow employed their ex accountant to finish the job but he disappeared with the cash. A shadowy figure, he, in turn died penniless and homeless in Venice, though it was said he had access to millions in a Swiss account. He died in the fanny of a Venetian courtesan who had metamorphosed from a Northern novelist once almost long-listed for the Booker. Under the floorboards of the unfinished house there is something unspeakable. Half decomposed. When the kill was fresh there was much blood, but that was another time. The man who had owned and inhabited the cadaver was something big in the church.

5 Responses to “It Isn’t Tom Waits”

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Not sure if this is complete or an excerpt. If it’s the latter you’ve piqued my interest. If, however, it’s the former there’s something missing. I’ve always liked the notion of literary diptychs—like in art, two scenes set side by side, either contrasting or matching—but I’m not sure of this, if that’s what you’re aiming at. Love the description of the actress though.

  2. john baker says:

    No, I don’t think it’s complete either, Jim. But neither do I know how it goes on, yet . . .

  3. I like it. As always, there’s a string of jewelled lines in the writing, John. You have a nice touch. It feels like it wants to be more, that there’s a bigger truth behind it. But then, that may be its appeal at that length and a reason for it to stay as it is. Never explain, never wear sandles with socks.

  4. john baker says:

    Oh, no, Mark; sandles and socks, me? Never have, never will.

  5. Simon Tael says:

    You’ve piqued my interest! “Beary’s widow employed their ex accountant…” those 2 sentences just killed me – laughed my pants off. Great writing as there is so much in every sentence.

    More, more need more…