2.1 Kind of quiet in the Edgware Road. Johnny Depp is on the hubbly bubbly but Roy has an American Spirit Black Pack Perique blend filter that he requested from a tourist. Richard has a snus portion under his upper lip. When he spits, Johnny says “You don’t have to spit. That’s the point. The Swedes don’t spit.” Roy nods wryly as if yeah what Swedes ever spit? Roy has this look at the moment: a tee shirt that says ‘I Forgot My Hot Pants’ and a picture of some denim hot pants with sequins. Under a pin stripe jacket. Johnny, largely with kind of a Bedouin thing, nevertheless has a tee shirt ‘Sublevel Yachting’. Roy sees a dog, says “Ah!”, leans over and stubs his cigarette out on its arse. The actual hole. Fucking mayhem.
2.2 The lady who had the dog swung the hubbly bubbly at Johnny’s head at which point of contact it smashed and propelled him onto the pavement he was spark out even as he flew in the air face down. She took the jagged base and went for Roy’s neck but he was rising to his feet and caught it on the shoulder she reared back and kicked his chest with her heels but he caught her ankle and flipped her over she landed on her back on Johnny’s back the dog went fucking nuts and clamped onto Richard’s leg but he did a massive punt and it went vertically up and as it came down later Roy blood all down his look grabbed its ears and swung it so hard the ears came off in his hands. He put them in his breast pocket and pointed at them. He said “My hanky.” And yeah it was a striking effect.
2.4 “Where’s his turban?” Roy said. “I don’t think it’s a turban,” Richard said. “The head thing. Where did it go?” Roy continued. “It’s under that car,” Richard indicated. “Leave it. He looks better, yes?” Roy went. “The cheeks look a bit low,” mused Richard. “Only if you know him,” Roy went. “People do, though,” Richard remarked. A lady came over. “Is that Roy?” she opened. “Ruth,” goes Roy, “How is Mrs Atkinson?” Ruth says “She is as well as can be expected. She lost some clothing on a train and more recently her son was murdered.” Roy responds “Mrs Atkinson’s son was not of the highest cut, to be frank.” “Have you hurt yourself, Roy?” she notices. “Blood of dog,” he says. “That could be a fragrance,” Richard says. “More of a wine,” Roy says. “I think so,” goes Ruth.
2.5 Ruth took Johnny’s feet while Roy and Richard took the heavy end. They got him into the 4×4 where Roy took a couple of minutes reshaping his (Johnny’s) cheeks with small pinches. Then Roy drove to a lady’s clothier up the road with skirts and cardigans and similar things where he asked the assistant to show Ruth some skirts. She got a pleated one like a kilt in different colours and a cardigan in lavender. Plus some brogued walking shoes but the holes don’t go right through. Then in Church Street a street off where they were they got a denim jacket like Lee or one of those. Richard said “It’s a shit look, Roy.” Ruth said “Well, it will cover many situations.” And Roy said “See, Richard? Shut the fuck up.”
2.7 Roy folded down the three seats in the 4×4 and rolled Johnny towards the hatch back. He then invited Ruth to go and lie on the floor with him, next to Johnny. Richard sat in the front looking at the street. Roy and Ruth rose and fell energetically and Richard felt himself flooded with ancient memories. Once again pistol shots rang out in his head and he could not stop them. And he could not stop the pain that flared around each shot. The street darkened and Richard went blind. He touched his eyes and then he reached out to feel the glass before him. He sat in the dark although it was not exactly dark it was nothing.
2.8 When the vehicle was quiet again Richard said “Please excuse me Ruth and Roy but I cannot see.” Roy said “We’ll see about that,” glancing at Ruth for acknowledgment of his swift wordplay. He took the blind Richard by the hand and led him down the road in the Marble Arch a monument direction. “Among us prowl the reptiles, Richard, their skin rife with light-sensitive proteins. For millennia the mammals have have suppressed this knowledge in order to deflect criticism of the vulgar binocular system. Take a leaf from the gecko and the sublevel cuttlefish, use the skin of the head, wear shorts that you may savour the vision that flows from the flanks. See the world anew with your neck.” He led Richard to the middle of the road and walked back without him to the 4×4 with pale Johnny in it and Ruth.
2.9 Fucking Richard man. He’s what 100 yards from where Edgware Road hits the park so we’re talking major traffic coming through and he’s holding up his arms out with the palms out moving them around people are swerving and yelling then he drops back his head so his neck is pointing to the sky and he shouts “I see through my throat! I see through my throat!” and runs towards the park right into the oncoming and he’s dodging and they’re careening and you wonder How does he do this? It’s a matter of time before he’s dogmeat but then he spins round, heads for the pavement and he’s running along away from the park and there are some guys with hubbly bubblies and he’s got his head so far back the scalp is practically between his shoulder blades and he goes “Hey! Guys! Hello!” and some of them are clapping and saying “Hello how are you?”
2.10 “Take it round the park,” Roy says. Richard pulls off his shirt and vest in order to optimise neck and shoulder vision. At first with dermally distributed visuality you can’t process the inputs – the brain can’t stitch them together from so many perspectives. Entomologists have stated that young flies also have this problem. Ruth is intrigued by his head lolling over the back of the driving seat – his eyes, were they not defunct, would be peering at her chest. His throat is taut and he has pushed the seat almost up to the steering wheel. “I’ll just check Johnny,” he says, raising his left hand to the roof of the 4×4 so that with a twist of the palm he may periscopically survey the rear area and its insensible resident. “Still still,” he reports. “Anyway, Rockahula,” he says and takes off down Park Lane a rich road.
2.11 He does well. Takes it at a fair clip, mind you it’s pretty much like a short strip of motorway along there, using his hands in all these increasingly snakey moves, it’s like rear view mirrors but on all sides (he has one hand through the sunroof) but it isn’t because with a mirror you look in it but with this his hand is looking you don’t need anything more. “I’m getting into it, I’m getting into it,” he declares and he’s whipping in and out past the shit statues and Ruth says to Roy “This is quite exciting” and Roy says back “I can see you like it” and Ruth says “Can you see what I’m doing?” and suddenly Richard’s skin goes off, just when it was so good it just goes off and Ruth looks down and sees his eyes go on and she shouts “He’s looking at my chest!” and in that dark gap Richard mounts the pavement.
2.13 Roy was in the finals of a Shaving Competition with five other men who had not shaved for two days. They would sprint through a cornfield to a roar from gathered men and women who understood shaving and supported the Shaving Group’s waiving of the No Cut rule, which disqualified contestants who drew blood, however modestly, in the course of the high speed challenge. At the far side of the field were the shaving stations, each bearing a disposable razor, an aerosol of unscented foam and a small bowl of warm water. Roy enjoyed the No Cut Waiver because he had mastered the Single Sweep, wherein the shaver describes a series of unpunctuated undulating crescents across his face and neck regardless of nicks and gouges. But to his horror he could not move his hands.
2.14 And who should Ruth see in that bare corridor but Anne of Austria. “Who are you with?” Ruth asked. “I am with Hildegard of Halifax and the Lady Jean of Jarrow.” “Will you dance when you get to where you’re going?” Ruth asked. “We will dance all the way there,” said Anne in a deep metallic voice and the three royal women began to spin and as they spun they spat. Then comes Louis the Eleventh and he does some neat capers involving small jumps and tiny turns with the toes just so and Ruth says “That shit is so cool” but she can’t hear herself speak because now they are being abrupt with each other like those air guns for wheel nuts vootvootvoot and Louis the Eleventh he just barrels down through the floor and he’s gone and Ruth asks someone “I’m so thirsty” and they say “I’m afraid we can’t give you any liquid yet.”
2.16 We know from EEG that persons in coma are not brain dead. The comatose have brain activity, they are not flatliners. Their brains respond to stimuli by emitting an electrical impulse. But if Johnny were in deep coma they would not let him go home. If he were in a vegetative state, with modest reflexes and sleep-wake cycles, he could go home. But you wonder now if he thinks or sees pictures in this place beneath the sea. There is no way of telling. Is it a thought if there is no thinker? If there is no thinker then are there pictures floating down there and what are they of? Are they of things that we never see anyway even when we have the full box of waves?
2.17 Keira and I agreed that we had a sense of foreboding. As if a loathsome vapour or malodour were closing down the sky. “Perhaps we do need stars of the screen, Johnny,” said Keira, alluding to my suggestion (see Season 1:26/07/15) that actors should fully extend the scope of their impersonations so that they might step into everyday life and apply their strengths there rather than on the screen where people know it’s acting. “I suppose,” she continued, “there could be problems with getting carried away.” “In a sense that is collateral damage,” I opined. “In the world of entertainment we see many professionals, take Matthew McConaughey for example, who achieve remarkable verisimilitude. Such protean figures must, at this tipping point in the story of civilisation, make the transition.”
2.19 Just two days later Keira had gone. I was so sad. I knew that I would miss her dreadfully. For much of her life she had been feted as one of the beauties of her generation. She had a tremendous openness and spent much of her time in a state of delight. As she faded away I held her hand, her features softened and her breath grew light. “Can you remember when you knocked me over in the café?” I whispered. “No need to whisper,” Brogan said, “I’m not the nervous type.” “Hey, Brogan! What’s new?” I said. “Who are you?” she asked, matter of factly.
2.21 Brogan, I’m afraid I don’t know Harry, Amy or Paul,” I said to Brogan. She turned from the window and looked firmly at me. “David, because I have had largely unsatisfactory relationships in one way or another, both intimately also with friends and acquaintances, such as with John who has, I must confess, faded in my mind of late, I tend to focus my energies on the travails of others. This should not be seen as somehow explaining my activities – I have skills and they are, I can say this, successfully applied. I can cut to the heart of the matter. I am driven, if you like, but I have found in life what I can do well and it pleases me.” I felt warmth towards Brogan. “Yes, Brogan, I see that,” I said.
2.22 It was clear that Brogan was feeling cooped up. We went for a walk in the neighbourhood. She moved quickly through the knots of passersby, sometimes pausing to scrutinise individuals who, for reasons that were not apparent, caught her attention. As we passed The Amount of Beer a young woman seated with friends at a streetside table looked up and smiled broadly. “Brogan! Wow!” she cried. Her friends seemed similarly delighted. The young woman was scanning the street beyond Brogan. “Are you doing another one?” she asked. Brogan replied “Are you a friend of Amy’s?” “Er…no?” said the young woman. “I’m looking for Amy,” said Brogan. “With Johnny?” the young woman said, looking at me. Brogan said “Johnny’s not around. That’s David.” The young woman grinned. “Right,” she said.
2.23 Brogan told me that while she was keen to locate Amy in order to ascertain just what happened with Harry after the dinner with Paul, she sensed that for the next few minutes it would be a waiting game. She said “From time to time in this caper, David, there are little gaps and it is in these that I pursue my personal interests.” “Good idea, Brogan,” I said, “I’m the same.” Brogan said “I like ornamental gardens. I have a dog, called Andrew. I am fond of jazz. There are some cousins. I relax when I can. I am drawn to certain sorts of figurine. My mother is blind. I dislike people who search their pockets for no reason. Before John there was Frank, who was moustachioed. My little nieces love me and I them. My best friend drowned. There is no God. Picasso is admirable. Let me be clear. There is so much.”
2.24 We passed a house in flames licking high and screams coming from it of despair. Brogan tore off her coat which was rayon and therefore a fire risk. She ran into the house as I held the coat. From all the windows came thick smoke and cries. Was there a person in every room? It could not be ruled out. To my amazement Brogan appeared at a window holding a side table which she repeatedly dashed against the window frame. “David, stand back!” she cried and moments later came an armchair. “Position it, David!” she instructed hoarsely as it went hard to the pavement. I shoved the chair round so that the man thrown next landed in it. “Reassure him!” yelled the tireless figure. “And look in my coat!” There was a bottle of Cien (the Lidl own-brand) aloe vera lotion. I smeared it on the man saying “No worries. Shit happens.”
2.25 I was trying to get a sense of what Brogan was. For example, from where did her memories come? The moustachioed Frank – had she encountered him in the course of her entirely prescribed and necessarily episodic past? How could it be otherwise? Unless her psychology was such that she was able to generate material to fill the biographical gaps. But to use the term ‘psychology’ was itself ridiculous. And how would she recognise that there was a gap to be filled? I was familiar with the work of Anheuser & Busch on confabulation but to apply that to Brogan would be to pathologise this exceptionally resourceful individual. And, of course, it was also my belief that since our future was now in the hands of those whose psychology was largely extinguished our salvation lay with those most adroit in the management of surfaces.
2.26 After the Fire Chief had warmly congratulated her, and the burned man had clasped her hands, I resolved to traverse with Brogan the archipelago the waters of which might prove to conceal branches, bridges, aspects opening onto aspects, in short, a body not pinned with trinkets but itself full and fruitful. “What’s it like having a blind mother?” I asked her. “You are not seen. The silver of the mirror is blackened. You are not carried in her mind. How then could you carry yourself? There is no echo. All moves ever outward, fading into air. I made my own sandwiches. I cleaned my own face,” Brogan said.
2.27 She sat beside me on a bench and I was able to study her in repose. Generally she looked resolute but I began to notice something odd in the way she composed the muscles of her face. It was the fact that I found myself using the word ‘composed’ that made me pay closer attention. We are used to seeing people drumming their fingers on tabletops or nodding absently in thought but Brogan seemed to be cycling through a repertoire of small facial movements that had the effect of slightly altering her expression then returning it to its initial state. This state, that I have called ‘resolute’, would liquefy – momentarily assuming an almost expressionless condition – then reproduce itself. It seemed odd rather than neurotic, almost as if she were using her spare time to perfect something.
2.28 “What are you doing later?” I asked her. “It depends what happens,” she said. “What if nothing happens?” I said. “That doesn’t arise,” she said. “But would you go home? To your house?” I asked. Brogan reached for her bag. She peered into each of its several compartments, working from the smallest, which bore a pair of fastenings, to the most capacious, which would normally lie beside her hip. Then she returned to the smallest and removed from it an ivory comb to which she quietly said “No”, then from the next a purse of coloured sand to which she said “No” from the next a jar of white dried beans to which she said “No” and to the most capacious then to the smallest again and “No” and I said “Can you not find them?” and she said “I can’t find them.” Then she said “But they must be there.”
2.29 In this way she searched her bag many times. The narrow boats passed, one with a sleeping cat on the hatch. A phone rang. Brogan reached into the inside pocket of her bright rayon coat. “No,” she said. It was mine. I said “David here.” A voice said “David, it’s Amy.” I said to Brogan “It’s Amy.” She took the phone. In a honeyed voice she murmured “Amy.” Then “We will.” Then Brogan turned to me and said “Let’s get up and go. Amy’s coming round.” “Where?” I enquired. “Where’s she coming?” Brogan strode away from the canal. “To mine.” After a few minutes we were at hers. Brogan released the fastenings on her bag. She put her hand into the smallest compartment at the front and took out her keys. They were on a fob with some bright fur.
2.34 All at once Amy put her biscuit aside and curled up on the floor in a ball as if there were a fire there there wasn’t. Brogan (from the hugely successful ‘Brogan’) jutted her chin forward and gazed down upon Amy recently bereft. She (Brogan) walked from the pale space to an adjoining one and came back in with a stick. This stick was not dowel but pretty straight with like a handbrake kind of hand grip on the holding end and a knob of soft leather like I believe they are called percussion mallets in music at the other end. She prodded at Amy’s back and Amy said “fortunately” then at her neck Amy said “that question” then her thigh she said “de la rue” (of the road Fr) then her wrist she said “factory” then her navel she said “inasmuch Bobby”. It went on. I have to say, it was actually kind of okay.
2.36 I was beginning to understand the situation. If I could somehow intervene in the scheme that animated Brogan, in some way divert its fitful expressions so as to seize authorship then I might realise my ambition to visit upon the world beings whose perfection of intent would quite eclipse the stuttering endeavours of those who merely made things up as they went along. Were I simply to execute my own designs then matters of light and shade, considerations of tone and tenor, all manner of titrations and refinements would cloud if not wholly entangle my purposes. How much more inexorable would these be if Brogan, the embodiment of gung ho can do know how, were my proxy and prosthetic!
2.37 “Brogan,” I said to Brogan (yes the one from ‘Brogan’) “Do you have any small talk?” Brogan, wearing a sky blue duffle coat of felted duffel with the horn fastenings (the blue was of the purest altitude I had seen) and beneath it a lime shift, said “How is it measured?” I replied “Well, it is to do with matters of little consequence and often used to make situations pleasant and make time pass before you get to your floor.” “You see,” she said “all that I say advances me. There is no slack, no roll of chub. Who of us can locate the wellsprings of our utterance? Not me certainly David. Even when I say Can’t complain or Is she really? I am in a situation that moves things towards something.” Brogan paused. Her eyes welled with tears. “I would like to say something that was nothing.”
2.38 “Amy is in the past now,” said Brogan. “That’s why she’s asleep. She might not wake up unless she is needed. She might not be needed. I’m usually the last to know. It’s not a problem though, because I’ll forget her. And then it’ll just be her clothes. They’re usually left in a neat pile. She herself will have gone. I don’t know where they go.” “Are there lots of them then?” I asked. Brogan frowned. “I suppose so,” she said. “It’s not something I dwell on. Did you see I’m wearing blue?” “Are there sausages to be had?” I heard myself saying. They were in the cupboard. Pork and lavender. I fried six. Brogan put one to her mouth. But whereas I munched mine hers came out untoothed. Again.
2.39 We looked up and there was this guy on the sofa. “That’s Big Vague Michael,” said Brogan. “Does he have a key?” I asked. “He doesn’t need one,” she said. Big Vague Michael had an interesting way of moving. He didn’t move much but he was moving all the time but not leaving the sofa. His head was big and you know where sometimes with people you can’t see them but you’re looking right at them? Well it was like that. We’re not talking invisible or anything, it was certainly there and plus there was nothing to stop you looking at his head but when you did it was unsatisfactory. You thought this head doesn’t sort of hang together. It’s not like deformed or anything. It’s like you could look all you want but there was nothing coming back. That’s a good way of putting it.
2.40 “Mike!” goes Brogan. “Mike!” He’s just across from her. Big Vague Michael hears this but his eyes are kind of nystagmus (see Pampas: Season 1: #93 09/07/15) but then he clicks them to a stop and looks at Brogan. “He’s…he’s..” he goes. “It’s Brogan, Mike.” She turns to me “We haven’t met,” she explains. “He gradually composes himself,” Big Mike says. “Yes,” Brogan says, “You do.” And as I’m looking his head is tightening together like air is sucked out. “See that?” asks Brogan. “They all do that. Sometimes as men, sometimes as women. Or before that.”
2.42 “He came here to die,” I said. “A man comes in, heaves soot and snuffs it.” “No, he didn’t come here,” Brogan explains, “He is the next thing. We must search the body for identification.” She starts going through Mike’s pockets. “He’s Mike,” I said. “I know no Mikes,” she said. “Look…” She extracts from his inner breast pocket an oilcloth wallet and passes it to me. It was still warm. There was nothing in it. “I wish Jean and Max were here,” Brogan said. “I haven’t seen them in years,” I told her. Rather ruefully, Brogan said “They’re so good at this sort of thing, you know.” The doorbell rang. “Funny,” she said, “Usually they don’t ring.”
Readers: the Editor of Pampas would like to apologise for the uncharacteristically protracted gap in publication between the previous and the above. This is due to circumstances well within my control.