Here is my second installment of excerpts from Betwixt The Cup and The Lip; my lipogrammatic* novel in 26 parts. The first installment can be found here. Please feel free to make comments or suggestions; I'm open to any ideas you might have. And if you're a publisher and you would like to publish this collection, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. You can find my contact details here.
* A lipogram is a piece of text that contains 25 letters of the alphabet by omitting one.
Warning: This book is not suitable for anyone under 18 years old. The excerpts that I publish on here are family friendly (ok, they're probably PG if I'm being honest), but some of the completed stories contain graphic scenes unsuitable for children.
To be honest, I don't know why I'm writing you this note. I have too much to say to you but I don't think I can do it face to face. In truth, I have no idea what I'd do if I saw you right now. You know I'm not an aggressive person, but this time you have managed to push every one of my buttons, so a note is the best way of communication for me at the moment. You make me sick.
My hand is shaking. Maybe from the vodka or maybe from seeing you, seeing you. I can't even bear to write it. That image of you and him, you and him, YOU AND HIM, is repeating over and over in my head. What possessed you? In our marriage bed? Did those vows mean nothing to you?
It sickens me to think that you'd treat me this way. Goes to show that I didn't know you as much as I thought I did. And to think that I'd emptied my heart to you. You knew about the others who cheated on me, and you promised. You stared deep into my eyes and promised that you'd never treat me that way. Do you even know what the truth is?
Was that the last time I saw Sarah? Well, no it wasn’t. At that time I was so confused. I needed to know what was going on so I went to her flat the next day. There was no answer so I waited outside the newsagents on the corner because I know she goes there a lot. She came and she bought another pint of semi-skimmed milk. I caught her eye and her face changed. I went to speak to her but she interrupted me. “If I see you around here again I will personally break both your kneecaps,” she hissed. “But Sarah, I love you,” I said. “My name isn’t Sarah,” she snapped and shoved me out of the way.
How did I feel? Well, I felt sick to my stomach. She’d never spoken to me like that before, ever. We hardly ever had arguments, and if we did they were so minor that we wouldn’t even raise our voices. We have a special relationship, Mr. Telfrey. Not many people are as lucky as us. I’ve seen so many relationships fail because people are with the wrong people. They think they’re in love but it’s only an infatuation with their idea of what marriage should be; two people tolerating each other’s negative points and pretending they’re happy to save face. But it’s nothing like that, Mr. Telfrey. Those two people shouldn’t even notice the negative points. They should be so wrapped up in love that the negativity doesn’t have room to rear its ugly head. And that’s how we are; Sarah and I.
Did I leave her alone after that? Well, yes and no. Mainly no really. I didn’t speak to her but I went to see her. I watched her from afar. I knew she went to that newsagents quite often so I would walk past there a few times a day.
Didn’t I have to go to work? Well, my boss had been extremely kind and allowed me to take some time off to try and sort things out with Sarah. He could tell that my mind wasn’t on my work and thought it would be a good idea if I took some paid leave to sort myself out. To be honest, I was very tired and took the leave without a second thought. Since all this started with Sarah, I haven’t been able to sleep properly. I keep waking up in the middle of the night. I have such weird dreams where they seem so real at the time but when I wake up I can’t remember anything. Sarah’s always in them; I know that for sure but the rest fades away as soon as my eyes open. I wish I could remember something.
It wasn’t like all those others you hear of. No. This one was different and I think it is due to how different I am. They knew. I know they knew. They must have known. They wouldn’t have forgotten. No. We only wanted to stay for a short while. It was a fact finding mission, searching new ground for new resources. It was all in the name of knowledge and learning and experimentation. Never harm though. We never intended to hurt anyone or anything. We tried to remain unnoticed. Others like the attention. They like to jump around in full view, having the photos taken. We kept ourselves to ourselves, only removing items that had many duplicates. The things we could not take, we watched and noted from afar. The others would remove anything they wanted and experimented with them and then would return them when they were done. Yet those who were taken would have traumatised minds from the whole situation, and we consider this harmful so we do not do it. No. We live lives of respect and expect it in return.
So on one journey, we came to track the growth of one of the millions of plants that exist, and although learning is fascinating, it can get slightly tedious when looking at the same plant or a similar plant night after night after night. I only wandered a small distance, just to see something different. I guess it was curiosity that drove me. I wanted to look at something that wasn’t on the list; perhaps find something new that no-one else had found prior to my discovery. I’m sure I wasn’t gone for long. No. Not long at all, yet when I returned to the experimentation area they were gone. They had left me. Something must have interrupted them and in the rush to get away they must not have noticed that I wasn’t there. It wasn’t their fault. No. I shouldn’t have wandered off. I waited for a while just in case they returned that same night. Unfortunately for me, the sky was clear.
I have looked in the sky, night after night for many years, ever since I was left here, waiting for my family to take me home.
Yes, my real family. Not those elderly people who live in my house. They called themselves my parents, yet I called them my carers. They were kind enough to look after me while I wait for me real family to return to take me home. However, for some reason, they were convinced that I was their real son rather that someone they found in their garden one night. Perhaps they couldn’t have children of their own and I came along at the right time. I do find it strange, though, that they didn’t take me to the police. I mean, if you found a tiny child in your garden, you’d think it was slightly strange, wouldn’t you?
Oh my goodness. That woman’ll get a fork stabbed through her face soon.
The same as usual. Mrs. Look-at-Me. Mrs. Know-The-Lot. Mrs. Never-shuts-up-even-though-other-people-want-to-talk-and-are-fed-up-of-her-bothersome-tone.
She’d sat herself down on the floor, as per usual, and spread all of her papers all over the carpet. You know how small that room becomes when there are more than two people there and there were four of us by then. The photocopy queue had already begun to form and there she was, sprawled out so that everyone had to step over her to get anywhere.
Angela came through on her hunt for a cup of tea. She can’t start her day unless she’s had her tea. She’s very fussy about that. Val doesn’t even move. Angela’s rush caused her to stumble over Val’s bags and all of Val’s papers are knocked all over the place. Val then got angry at Angela and then huffed and puffed more than she already was. So not only do we have to look at her fat arse on the floor, we have to hear her too. Angela poked her tongue out at Val but Val doesn’t see. Everyone else laughed so Val started to make more of a racket. No one else can be louder than her. Were Jesus, John Lennon and Bob Marley to walk through the door, Val would make sure that people overlooked them and turned all eyes to her. Val does all she can to keep the focus on her.
Angela was over by the kettle and before she had a chance to ask the other members of staff what they wanted, Val yelled, “Black, one sugar, thanks Ange.” Well, Angela hates the name Ange and she hates that name even more when someone she can’t stand calls her Ange. Some hand gestures followed from Angela but Val hadn’t seen those as she was too busy on the floor. Angela made her own tea then stepped carefully over Val, even though everyone knew she wanted to pour her extremely hot tea all over Val’s head then put her boot through Val’s face.
Oh she can be that bad. She can be that bad and worse. Val then got up and left all of her crap all over the floor. She barged to the front of the photocopy queue.
“These pages need to be enlarged,” demanded Val, as she held a book above her head.
No-one moved to help her. She’s so rude. She never says thanks when you do help her, so people pretend they don’t know how the photocopy apparatus works. And the fact that she pushed to the front of the queue annoyed everyone and made them not want to help her at all. She turned and looked at me, as though she expected me to pander to her every beck and call. She drummed her thumbs on a bookcase shelf and glared at me. That was the gesture to tell me that the enlargement was to be done by me. The photocopy apparatus’s not hard to use. You follow the commands on the screen. All the commands are easy to follow. ‘Press that button’ then ‘press that button’. A baby could copy were they to read and follow the commands. So Val stood next to me; her arms were folded and she watched my every move to make sure the enlargements were done to her standards. Her eagerness just made me go slower. She rolled her eyes and drummed her thumbs louder, and that made me stretch and yawn and turn the pages of her book at a hedgehog’s pace.
Eventually, all the pages had been enlarged and she snatched the papers out of my hand; no remark of thanks or gratefulness. Then saw that Angela held a mug of tea.
“Where’s my tea, Ange?” she demanded.
Angela kept her eyes focussed on her newspaper and slurped her tea.
“Ange? Where’s my tea?”
Angela turned the page and coughed.
“Where’s my tea?”
“Oh, were you after a cup of tea? Couldn’t have heard you. All the hustle and bustle here makes all the sounds merge so can never work out what people say.”
Sorry, anyway, once I’d finished tidying the cupboards I emptied the washing machine and realised that everything in there was his. I just sat down in the middle of the utility room floor and burst into tears. I was surrounded by his damp shirts and trousers and I just wanted to bury myself in them but his smell had been replaced by lavender and jasmine fabric conditioner. I stuffed them in the dryer, poured myself a glass of sherry and set to scrubbing the floor. I needed to occupy myself with something, anything, and put some alcohol in my system at the same time. I could hear his voice, "Christine, what on Earth are you doing? It's 11:30 in the morning and you're already pissed as a newt." I'd heard him say those exact words on more than one occasion, but we were a lot younger then.
When they dryer had finished, I pulled out all of his clothes and threw them into a bin bag. I then went upstairs to the bedroom and started to empty his cupboards and drawers. I couldn’t bear to have his things around me anymore. He was gone and it was silly to hold on to everything. I didn’t truly believe that, but I was angry and scared and confused, and if I hadn’t gone through his wardrobe I wouldn’t have found his diary. Something was telling me to go up and there and sort his clothes out.
I wasn’t on the hunt for anything to start with. I was just pulling out jumpers and ties and anything of his I could find. Then at the top, on one of his shelves I felt a tin box. I was actually a bit scared to open it at first. I didn’t have a clue what to expect in there. I sat down on the bed and held the box in my lap fingering the edges. I closed my eyes and winced as I opened it, as if I was expecting it to explode in my face, or at least have some giant comedy worms jump out.
It was just papers, all handwritten. Some with scribbles on, drawings, maps, diagrams, lists, diary entries. I then felt really naughty, as if I’d found my Christmas presents that my parents were trying to hide. I glanced over my shoulder and even shut the curtains before I started to read the papers.
Listen to this one.
Wednesday 14th May – Doug told me that the card game would be at The Mad Dog and Parrot at the top of the high street. I’d never been to a card game before so I was really quite excited to get the chance. Since marrying Christine I’ve not really had friends of my own so it was about time that I did. He said that I should go to the bar and request a pint of ale. He said not to say anything more. He said that the barman would then say, “Toad’s Testicles or Gutbelcher?” to which I’d have to reply “I’m allergic to nettles.” I thought this was a bit of a strange procedure, but he told me that it was a private party and only a select few had been invited. The password, as he called it, was to ensure only those invited would get in. Doug said that once I’d given the password the barman would then open up the bar and guide me through to the bottom of the stairs leading to the residence above the pub, which he did. I’d also have to give him one of these strange medallions, which I did.
He left me at the bottom of the stairs and told me that I would have to find my own way up. It was actually a bit creepy, but I heard Doug’s voice which made me feel a lot better. When I got to the top of the stairs, a man was standing there. He was wearing white robes and no shoes. He held me by the arm and led me along the corridor into a large room, modestly decorated with paintings of very stern-faced men. I saw five men sitting in a line behind a long table covered in a white and red tablecloth. Around the edge of the room were more men wearing white robes and no shoes. Now, I haven’t ever been to a card game but I was sure that they weren’t supposed to be the same as this. It then started to feel a bit odd. Doug was one of the men sitting behind the long table and he was wearing white robes similar to the men around the edge of the room, but his robes were covered with gold embroidered patterns. He was also wearing a turban type hat, as were the other four men sitting alongside him.
(I'm afraid I can't post any of this story; it's a bit too rude.)
Stay tuned for more stories.