Jakob Zaaiman is an artist and writer living and working in London, UK. He is
interested in creating works which are strange and disturbing, and which hopefully
defy easy explanation. He writes poems as well as prose fiction, and has also written
extensively on modern art. Some of his writings have been published online and in
It was no more than a trace
I heard being told in a lowered voice
to somebody else, and told to them
only in passing.
So here we have a well-to-do couple, deeply respectable,
and respectably aged but not infirm,
living in comfortable retirement,
hosting a dinner party
one of many
and wanting of course to present their guests with something both
pleasantly reassuring yet reassuringly special,
say roast chicken with a sprig of
something special on the side, rosemary perhaps, or
something even more interestingly special,
whatever that might be, I'm no cook.
Our elderly couple lived near a golf course,
with the golf course bordering groves of trees,
making it almost country living,
inviting long healthy striding walks
with a walking stick and dogs running ahead;
and with the trees and open fairways
giving you a sense of not being
hemmed in by other people at all.
Fairways, and wild flowers, and mushrooms in season.
Say roast chicken with a sprig of something on the side,
say wild mushrooms in season, if mushrooms have a season,
maybe they do, I wouldn't know.
So car doors closing, and the front doorbell ringing,
and greetings and friendliness with light drinks and sherry and
conviviality rising to pleasant and educated conversation,
leavened with cyclical party laughter.
And then the food, whatever it was, say roast chicken
with a sprig of something special on the side,
in this case golf course woodland mushrooms picked locally,
picked by hand, handpicked with this very dinner in mind.
Then a horrible sudden and unforeseen madness
with a violent thrashing and trashing of the big front room,
involving the breaking of furniture and the smashing of windows
and the throwing of books and vases at one another,
and the destruction of artworks
and the scrawling of 'cunt' and 'pig' and 'kill' on the walls,
and a shouting and ranting and waving
at the hundreds of terrible phantoms
raging all around about them,
their elderly naked bodies covered in excrement and chicken vomit,
in a total desecration of
everything that is holy and comfortable and reassuring about
sports coats and expensive cardigans and retired faces
beaming gently from beneath elegantly combed grey hair,
but there you go.
What will get rid of you? What could?
Long-lived and indestructible.
Turns out she's a fighter, not a self-pitying cry baby,
the sort of woman who would moan about aches and pains,
and things not working out
just the way she wanted.
And you'll not get through that metal vest of herself
solely by vicious insults
flung like tennis balls at a wall, no,
they'll bounce off her like joke dog turds
off a clown.
Making her the topic of your poisonous conversation
makes her think you're paying her a compliment.
Bide your time, wait your turn, it's a funny old world,
said Margaret Thatcher
when she crashed down to earth, big time.
Yes it's a funny old world.
Then, one day, once upon a funny old time,
someone else, not even you,
not even me, none of the above,
mentions a wheelchair.
Don't worry, they said, we'll get you a wheelchair.
And we'll wheel you around in it.
Those wheels, those horrible wheelchair wheels and spokes,
wheels of a horribly modified medical instrument,
a nightmare shopping trolley, a mobile pre-coffin,
those horrible double wheeled wheels, inner wheel to wheel the wheel,
and the outer for you to push, or pull, or something,
so as to inch yourself horribly jerkily forward.
Then that bastard special rubber,
that snake tongued 'thiththth' of wheelchair rubber on polished hospital floors,
a horrible hiss of loss, diminution and reduction,
wholly confirming invalidity, disablement, the loss of face;
shawl over swollen knees, ankles, hiding horrible rotten-leggedness.
There you go.
Images of Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, Thatcher, laid low, having to lie
on a hospital gurney, lying on their back,
covered only in a flimsy see-through plastic sheet,
essentially naked, people staring at your privates, giggling kids giggling
while being wheeled up and down the
streets of Covent Garden, past the designer shops and on to the Freemasons Lodge
and then back again, back down to the Royal Opera House,
getting in people's way, making a horrible fucking nuisance of yourself,
getting stuck in shop doorways,
blocking the pavement, blocking their passage,
with your passage blocked,
and dignity lost, status destroyed, authority gone.
People gawping, staring, giggling, loss of dignity.
So that's what did it.
Gone in no time.
Dead in a matter of months, of a vicious stroke.
Don't worry, you can go to London,
because we'll get you a wheelchair, and then
we'll wheel you about in it.
Spend a penny for the guy, get a penny for the doll.
[I don't know if this is exactly what happened,
or if this is the precise course of events:
or who spoke to who,
if any of them ever did.
But I remember the wheelchair,
and the stroke
and the death.
I didn't make them up.
I'm sure it happened exactly like I said it did.]
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