Sat round the bonfire, the battery-powered FM radio scaring the round about with the delightful Fuck Forever by Babyshambles, an acoustic guitar propped up gainst a bin, the youngsters all fighting over a bottle of gut-rot, what happens is a stranger wanders into the scene.
I know you, says one of the cider-soaked teens, you went to school with my brother.
Aye, is what the stranger announces, that I did. A while back now, I dare say, too long for to be bothered contemplating.
What’s your name, an older fella asks?
The Duke, is what stuck. Maybe you could let me sit down by these burning tyres for a time, maybe get the color back in the spine.
For sure, they say, kicking crates out the damn way. Sit your shivering hole down, would you ever? What happened to you anyroad, look like a man just stepped out a pitful a cum-crazed Nazi priests?
I took a fairly lengthy drag on a cigarette some kind soul shoved tween my teeth, and next thing I know a story’s being related.
“Happened round about last Friday”, I tell them…
I feel fairly safe in assuming, see, that Friday past was as gloriously catastrophic a day as I’ve had in months. A day in which a fella’s ineptness was flung at his jaw with stunning precision every which way he dared turn.
Battered senseless by circumstance, yes, and still high from the triumphs of the previous evening.
Only the night before, see, I learned that Blogcritics.org had passed the 10 Million unique visitors mark, learned that all that work was paying off for those folks, learned that all those voices were being heard by more people than a pessimistic sorta fucker like The Duke might ever have dared consider.
Blogcritics.org, where a man can easily bound from an article all bout Tom Cruise Makes Me Wet to Tom Cruise Makes Me Cough Up Fetus with a minimum of effort, where the rabid left and the rabid right snarl and bicker and bite digital chunks off a each other’s shoulders right there in the Real Time, where all there is, is the currency of Opinion, finally, I say, this Blogcritics get-up is attracting the serious attention it deserves.
Thank fuck for that, and for Blogcritic Aaman Lamba, who not only included The Duke in a list of Sexiest Bloggers or some such a while back (keep hold that thought, the irony will be useful later), but also includes a couple Duke-Related pieces in this here selection of His Favorite Blogcritics Posts.
So celebration hung from every limb, and yet woe, woe to you oh Earth and Sea, like in that song by Megadeth or Cinderella or whoever. Y’know, “Night was black, was no use turning back” and so on and so fourth, something about Bring The Devil To The Slaughter or Keeper Of The Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Something about guitars, anyroad.
The following morning, see, I decide I’ll go sit in a few cafés for a time, do some reading, write a couple songs, see what’s to be seen.
Was there an ulterior motive? There may well have been, and what it may have concerned might’ve been something along the lines of the following;
A couple weeks ago, on the day that the new Harry Potter book was released, in fact, I caught the evening train from Up The Road to Down The Road, sometimes around half past the 1700.
Sat there with a head fulla too much caffeine and nicotine, an alarming rattle skittin round the head-space, sat scribbling a couple songs, sat starin out the window and the like, when all a damn sudden a lady takes a seat to my left.
You’ll be aware that she grabbed hold The Duke’s attention-glands with little more than a sweep of a hand through her hair. You’ll be all too sure that, pretty much, by the time her eyes met mine I had already decided exactly how the first song ever written about her would sound.
It would be wrong to assume I maybe stood up and demanded her hand in marriage right there, but it would be just as wrong to assume I didn’t consider such actions.
But no, I let her sit where she was, and now again looked over, and then oh, no, best look back down at this notebook, and then oh, turns out she’s reading the aforementioned Potter opus, and then thinking I should say something like “So, was it worth the wait?” but then no, there’s every chance of a tut and a remark along the lines of “I’ve only just opened the fucking thing, and you know fine well I just started it, on account of you watched me turn every page thus far, so how in fuck’s flange could I possibly have any opinion on it as of yet?”
She’d be well within her rights to make heard such observations, and so no, I said nothing, just the looking and the not looking and the musing.
Next thing I know the train has stopped, and just as a fella’s about to bid farewell to this latest head-partner, she’s only getting up! She’s only making her way to the very door I was headed towards, only getting off on the same platform, and wandering a couple car lengths in front of me up the very same street.
It stands to reason that a man might make the following announcement to Sir Fleming, head of Mondo Guerrilla Marketing, shortly thereafter;
“Sir Fleming, I dare say I’ve made a fantastic discovery. It turns out a hitherto undetected yet wonderful lass resides within this very town, a lass who is apparently a fan of those Potter things, and also, I’d imagine, probably all manner of obscure poetry from out the Spanish Civil War. I can only assume we’ll end up reciting Lorca to one another in the midst of some tumultuous carnage of some sort that none of us could’ve predicted, and our last words, probably they’ll be “It was five o’clock in the afternoon…“, or maybe something by Stryper.”
I kept a close eye on the streets throughout the next fortnight. Where might she be, this mysterious Harry Potter Woman? Who is she? What was she listening to in those head-phones? Dare I assume that it might’ve been Dizzie Rascal or The Rakes or Ryan Adams or Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen or, holy shit, maybe it was Fuck Forever by Babyshambles? Maybe it was Gram Parsons?
Alas, it seemed hopeless. Plenty faces passed a fella by, none of which had the delightful shoulder-length red hair, none of which had the penetrating eyes going on, the eyes a fella might be inclined to drop a million clichés in honour of.
Last week, myself and Sir Fleming stood discussing Harry Potter Woman, her elusive nature, how come Rubber Johnny turned out to be so fucking shit and so on, when who should appear down yonder street??
Only a drunkard! Asking everyone where they came from, who their folks were, and oh aye, I know him, used to drink in The Central?
But fuck him, since behind him, holy shit! It’s only Harry Potter Woman! She’s wandering into the station for to board yonder train, same as before, Dear God, Sir Fleming, I’d wager she gets this train every Saturday! Possibly every day, even!
And more – As she walked into the station, I decided the time was right for to fix her with the kinda glance can only mean a fella’s got a headfull of loving perversions.
Astonishingly, she held the gaze, right till she was in past the automatic doors.
For fucks sakes, though. I wasn’t getting the train that day. Regardless, I considered running in and demanding to know her name, her number and her possible whereabouts this fine July evening.
However, plenty conversations were held with Sir Fleming, talk of “I will, mark my words, I will ask this lass out. Or at the very least, I will compose a great many verses about it all.”
But herein lies the trouble;
How does one approach such a task, to converse in such a way with a lady he may very well have fantasized about in great detail, but who, nonetheless, is a mystery to him? What age is she? Is she single, even? How can a man begin to make inroads towards the necessary banter?
It’s not like in a pub when it’s obvious a fella’s gonna be fixin for to go ask folks left and right these sortsa things. This is a sober situation, and a sober Duke, a long sober Duke, in fact, in a crowded area filled with folks thirsting for to send horrific sheets of taunting cum flinging t’wards the heavens with the glee afforded by some poor bastard’s misfortune.
So how come, on this most terrible Friday, The Duke decides that no, as Jandek is my witness, I will, by God’s knuckles I will approach this lady, I will say something along the lines of “Hi, I don’t know if you know, but Blogcritic Aaman Lamba considered me to be very attractive, and I think it only right that you should take this into consideration ‘pon learning of my affections towards you.”
It made no sense. What possesses a man to go bounding into these kindsa episodes with not even a name for to pin on this enigmatic maiden?
What deranged notions lead The Duke to the train station at roughly 15 past the 1700, looking round about for any and all hints of Harry Potter Woman?
There were no hints to be found, but no matter, I assumed she worked in the town, assumed it’d most likely be half past before she wandered through the doors. In the meantime, I watched a fella flinging chips to the pigeons, listened to a gaggle of drunken footballers holler about something or other in a language no human ear could ever hope to decipher.
The train arrives, and all I can do is get the seat closest to the bridge, so as I have untainted view of all passengers heading this way. Will Harry Potter Woman be among them? Who knew? Certainly not the two fellas sat directly in front of me, wondering why this bizarre, twitching malcontent was so keen on straining to see past them every two seconds.
I feel it fair to say, see, that a fella’s physical appearance may have been a tad disconcerting. On account of the nerves, I figured the best thing to do would be drench my innards in caffeine, thereby stimulating the fret-glands beyond any rational expectations, with the theory being that eventually the fuckers would explode in my guts, and a serene calm would result.
Alas, they seemed to be verging ever closer to such a state, but never quite close enough. Close enough for to make every movement seem like the paranoid twitchings of a coked up veteran of some ungodly skirmish, that’s for sure, close enough for have the eyes dart round the head like rats on heated blades, but no, not enough for the plateau to be straddled.
And then she appears, all casual with the jacket folded cross her arm, with the August sun shimmering hind her eyes, looking for all the world like she’s gonna open the very door next to me, but then no, she thinks better of it, spits some chewing gum into a bin and disappears somewheres up North.
The fellas in front of me, they say it all ‘thout mouthing a syllable. “Get the fuck up that train, you jitter-freak bastard.”
Next thing I know I’m diving for the next carriage, scanning the airways for the tell-tale traces of thoughts relating to Harry Potter, hoping to the lords of sweetest fuck that she’s sitting in some gloriously intimate area that houses only her and whatever paperback she’s devouring at the minute, chunks of Dostoyevsky or Donne tween perfectly aligned teeth.
And then I see her, sat reading The Notebook, and in front of her a lady screaming into her mobile. “Do you never answer the fuckin phone? I sent a fuckin text! Fuck off, cunt!”
I dare not sit next to this demented woman raging at some poor absent minded bastard on the other end of a hissing half-connection. What if she sent me a message one time and I forgot to reply? Sweet De Sade, the last thing a man needs is to be martyred in front of Harry Potter Woman. She doesn’t need to see such sights.
Mind you, I’d wager Martyrdom does wonders for a fella’s Filth Appeal.
And I sure as hell can’t sit next to Harry Potter Woman herself.
For one thing, she saw me looking at her from out the window a few minutes ago, and yet now here he is, the fucking Duke, no longer seated comfortably. Quite the opposite. She knows this was a calculated move, and I’d wager what remains of her wits would be frightened out her very bones if I actually went so far as to nestle beside her.
Stood in an obvious state of discomfort in the middle of the carriage pretending not to look at Harry Potter Woman, and so taking a seat facing her, but to her left, next to a fella with a delightful Supergrass hair cut.
Fuck you Supergrass, I’m thinking. Fuck you, Disgruntled Lady. I wanted a chance for to converse with this vixen, for to get at least some sort of sentence out the face before ploughing ahead with the “So, maybe, um, yeah, ah, so, um, tonight?”
There was no chance, no chance at all. Look at this Supergrass fucker. All laid back and with the smug demeanor of a fella not ten minutes ago up to the left ear in vaginal mania.
What could I say? The train was roaring all around, if I leaned forward there’s the chance Harry Potter Woman might not hear. “Could I have a word for a second?” was what I had planned to ask. But how could I? What if she didn’t hear, but Supergrass did? I’d be trapped between two fearsome possibilities. I could pretend I was asking him, and demand to know who cuts his hair, or I could sit back and say nothing and carry on reading Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail ’72. Harry Potter Woman knew I was reading this, since when the fella came to check the tickets, I caught sight of her stealing a glance at the cover.
It’s ok Harry Potter Woman, you can look. More, you can even borrow it some time. Fuck it, take it now, take it now with my torn up pages shoved inside for to keep track of each delightfully vulgar turn of phrase. Take it here, for fucks sakes I shant move till you’ve taken it, and here, magazines, fucking NME, take it for Gods sakes, apparently Babyshambles haven’t broke up after all, I need to celebrate with someone and dear God, who can it be at this moment if not you, since look about, a very attractive fella according to Aaman Lamba, and yet where are the ladies? No place. Where are TXT Woman and Film Noir Woman amidst all this? Who knows? They were “seeing someone”, lest we forget. And what of Sinéad? Where might she be? I’ll tell you where, far fucking away, it pains me to relate. And what of the one who used to be The Duchess? The key words there are “used to be”, Harry Potter Woman.
Funny you should mention that, actually, since I noticed a gold ring on the third finger of one of your hands, and spent a panic-fucked couple minutes trying to work out if it was an engagement ring, trying to turn myself on the seat so I could work out if you were wearing it on the correct digit, trying to remember where mine used to be.
And then the train starts to slow. I been looking at Harry Potter Woman on and off for the last fifteen minutes. She surely sensed it. I can hear my fucking pupils screech cross the white, surely to God someone as obviously prodigiously attuned to every flutter of the round about as Harry Potter Woman, surely she too noted the noise?
Next thing I know the train’s stopped. I let Supergrass pass, I let Disgruntled Lady pass, and then, with a smile, I let Harry Potter Woman pass. And I follow her, till next thing I know I’m walking beside her, and fucking hell, she’s walking extremely fast, I dunno if the blood-pump can deal with it, but nonetheless, I’m enjoying the fact that our arms are sort of swinging in unison. The place is crowded, folks with bags and children and stuff on wheels, cars oppressively circling the area, and now, fucking hell, now I must announce to Harry Potter Woman that for the love of god, lass, I’ve built up to this occasion for far too long, and I’ll be shafted fuckless if I let it pass.
I’m about to say something. What will it be? Who knows?
But woe! She’s put on head-phones, she’s got a portable CD player in her hand, has she pressed play? Is she enjoying something off of that fabulous new System Of A Down record, something so gleefully demented and loud that no proposal whatsoever, least of all a proposal stammered in the midst of a thousand pedestrians, none such utterance could ever possibly hope to get through?
So I touch her arm, but in the kinda way that says “Hey, sorry, you forgot your purse” rather than “Hey, sorry, I wanna steal your purse and plunder the contents for crack money.”
She looks round and takes the head-phones out. She stops, all expectant.
There’s a woman a couple steps behind with a baby in her arms. Walk past me, woman, please, for fucks sakes, don’t stand behind me! Bad enough that Harry Potter Woman must hear this pish, no need for you and your first-born to be privy to it all also.
I think I stuttered for a good twenty seconds. I got plenty um’s and ah’s, I think maybe I tried to name Aaman Lamba but it came out as a sorta jittering croak, and then yeah, looking away, and looking back and thinking for fucks sakes, tell her she forgot her purse, then it happens.
I say something about “um, I was just wondering if, um, ah, maybe, I dunno, if, if, if you wanted to maybe go out. Sometime. Um.”
She says “Ummm…”
Maybe she was building rapport? I dunno.
Certainly I don’t remember ever saying “No” during the performance, but yet there it is, flip-flopping off her tongue like some demonically malicious rainbow trout.
What’s that thing about a butterfly flaps its wings and somewheres there’s a volcano or whatever?
Whatever it is, I apologize to the people of Tokyo for the fucking gargantuan sigh I let slide out my lungs right then.
“I’ve got someone.”
I think I maybe said “Fair enough” or “That’s grand, y’know, or…” or something to that effect. Something fucking absurd, most likely.
Whatever the case, I stood back, pretended I had a phone call to make and she wandered on off into the history books. Or maybe a book about Harry Potter turns out to be a gonzo journalist high on ether and hell bent on buggering Ron till his eyes bleed.
I went to sleep for a while when I got home. I think I maybe dreamt about Aaman Lamba.
The youngsters, they all sneer. My fault, I’d wager. I might’ve included something about lesbians or dragons in the tale, given the audience.
I say about “sorry”, but they’ve all wandered off. There’s a patch a fungi up the road that’s rumored to be all sortsa psychedelic. In the morning, three of them are lain cross a hedgerow mumbling about God.
The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando