“Are we ready for the last recording?” asks Rik in the studio. “If Jason’s client hasn’t got enough for a spokes-sheep after this one, then I’m sorry but I can’t help them. I only hope the sheep gives all this stuff a good home.”
“After tonight, I’ll never need to tune in to any of them again—it’s the end of an era,” I say.
“Hear, hear,” says Alaia, “I applaud you for that,” and I feel as if I’ve just been given marks out of ten by some strict but strangely glamorous maths teacher.
“Oh, something for all the family.” I feel an exhilaration of finality infusing me, as I psych myself up to project two tune-ins from last night and five from today, vowing maximum accuracy…
First off is Angel’s love for the waxwork, glimpsing himself as an elf in a turret, one dagger in his hand and another in his chest, his heavy violent feelings and his constant excitement.
Next comes the only stoned tune-in I’ll have projected (and the only unreliable one), to Shigem in Paradise: his memory of the imperious club owner, the five non-existent bartenders and his weighty conversation with Tapette.
Now here are Kim and Shigem waking up this morning, their pleasure, their remembering Kim’s blue elephant dream; and going out and bumping into Evelyn.
Here’s Kim leaving Southport alone for London, and meeting people but still being alone; and the Asbury Park waterfront staring at him quietly.
I pump out Angel’s foreplay, then his anger and haste, then his relentless nakedness in public and his spiritual enrichment on the crucifix.
Here comes Pippa’s rainy walk, her sinking, not connecting on the street, her friend’s silence on the phone, and her wander through the lonely edge of town to sit by the highway.
And we coast in for an unforgiving finish, with Angel exhausted in the Cadillac but unlikely to escape Lucan; Angel’s Baby Doll on her trapeze, his dancing in the empty hotel ballroom—and grabbed awake.
The talk wanders in many unpredictable directions during the fourth and final bottle. “Talking of ducks,” says Rik at one point, “my father was once staying in a bed-and-breakfast in the countryside, and he went to the local pub and got drunk, then he tottered back to the bed-and-breakfast for the night. The door was unlocked, because it was the countryside a long time ago, and he went in and made a cup of tea and a sandwich in the kitchen, and went out the back door and down the back garden and started feeding the ducks in the stream at the end there. Very peaceful, very mellow, just feeding the ducks and thinking about life. He was like that—philosophical. Then a hand grabbed his shoulder and he turned and saw this frightened guy with a gun. The guy was saying ‘Who are you? What are you doing?’ My father just stayed calm and peaceful: ‘Feeding the ducks,’ he said. ‘Just feeding the ducks…’ But then he realised: this wasn’t the bed-and-breakfast at all, but somebody’s private house, which he’d walked into and made a sandwich in!… Not long afterwards he took his own life—hanged himself at home.” A silence descends at this, during which Rik gives a gently exaggerated smile, as if to say “But do please talk amongst yourselves, regardless!”
Through the dimness of the room a twist of candle-smoke streaks towards the open window, bends to clear the raised sash’s lower edge, and shines intact in outside lamplight. The comfortable, still centre of the room hovers quietly above the coffee table, where three or four feet are resting.
“Evelyn and I were high on Ecstasy about a year ago, one evening in our old flat,” Rik continues in a meandering fashion, and she laughs as she pours out the last of the wine for us all. “And we were both floating around like headless truffles … and at one point, for some reason, she was washing the dishes and I was drying them, and I said to her, ‘Evelyn—I don’t know whether I’m lying down now or whether I’m standing up now,’ which at that moment was the absolute truth. ‘Which is it?’ I asked, ‘I’m curious.’ And she thought about that one for a while, as we washed up. She understood that the answer wasn’t so cut and dried, if you thought about it … which it really isn’t, by the way. Anyway, then she had a gradual breakthrough at last, and she said, ‘I’ve got it! I’ve figured it out … I’m standing up. And I’ll tell you how I know. You see—I never do the dishes lying down!…’ And I said to her, ‘Ye gods, you’re a fucking genius, Evelyn. You’re dead right. I think I must be standing up too…’”
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