A Variation of Laughter
by René Adams
We celebrated in the crappy noose of a bar. I forget about what, but it was the type of place where the rats had time to roll about on their backs, the bar staff were updated more regularly than love, and the juke-box was hard wired to the landlord’s mp3 player, only playing a select section of 80’s hard-core and reprobate synth. It was my favourite place to live and die.
I wont bang on about how I really got into it. I met Levetna there however, in that bar, and we spent around nine to ten years creating our own insanity in space. I know that sounds crazy. But that’s how it was. We met when I was at the edge of twenty, fairly skint, and ten or so pints into a session. And then we were dancing. And then we were exchanging old stories about the things we wanted to do, realising that we still could. I was working part-time on the doors, and apart from the way I worked out, there was little animal left.That changed when we hooked up. Levetna was a quick thinking type of woman. A little too tall for me, 5′ 10” maybe, then near my height in heels, hair darker than onyx stone.
But she smelt like the sun, and probably still does.
The kicker, and the thing that really put the tobacco in my pipe about her, was that she never lied. Don’t ask me how I know that, or do, I’ll tell you the many ways I knew, over a walk in the moors, the old places where I work, then we can go to the Tambourine & Poacher. If it’s still there.
Then I worked in some shopping centre, customers and staff alike taking me seriously as I stood looking around for theives, shoplifters, and other tryers on. I dreamt and stared through the krakatoa hours, half lobotomised, and watched my life wonder off like some smokey ghoul. Crap. What really got me about Levetna was one single thing she did. After she’d been kicked out of her home, somewhere in the north of the city, and I came to collect her, and we began our strange existance in the small room I rented, she’d been busy one day when I arrived home. All of my poems were scattered around, some on the bed, some on the floor. And this woman from Latvia, who drank even heavier than I did, when we had some money, had been researching creative writing classes for me all day.
A woman that does that, is too good.
Things went well with the creative writing class Levetna found for me. Mostly obscene. And more than anything it struck me how little everyone read. I don’t read a lot, but I like to cover the masters. Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Bester, and Rancine. The class was held in a small ex-insurance office, above an offy north of the city, about a twenty minute ride by train. The only interesting things discussed were the stiffled laughs at the crazy teacher. He spat on the floor once, and apologised, saying that he was a little upset that day. I would return home, writing crazy things on my phone, sending them to Levetna, and wonder where the hell she was. We didn’t go as far as getting our names tattooed on each other, but we did get tattooed on the same days. I have a thing about stripes. No idea why. Maybe I think I am a member of my own army. My girl had a thing about pirates. She got a skull and cross bones tattoed on the base of her neck. And love makes children of us all.
I look back at it all and realise that it was a set up. Levetna just needed a place to stay at the beginning, and she wasn’t cleaning, she was nannying at a local home, just a few hudred meters down the road. The man was old-school Cypriot, owned the entire road, and I’d met him long before Levatna. I always paid my rent in cash. And the office where he worked had some type of strange sexercise machine back near the back. Some kind of old knackered step-machine mixed with a bike. The bluey black eyed receptionist was always there. And cash was fine. Most of my income were from things off the books anyways.
I came home one night and found no-one at home. To be honest, I loved that home. One of my room-mates was a composer, another a seamstress, and there was never a time when you felt that people wern’t creating. I was drained from martial arts class and drank some milk. The workmen were working on the near-by station, and drilling. It was raining in a way that could flood the bible, and Levetna was out. My poems were made from a neophyte tongue, and the only thing really existing in me was a type of servitude. The buzzer went, and even looking back now, I knew that Levetna was drunk outside, and bringing a guest home. My hands flicked near the kitchen drawer where the cutlerey was kept. I looked at the knives. And said to life: there is nothing stopping me from doing it. Certainly, it would be better if this was France, and we had the same things as crimes of passion – but I’d have to be more careful. Things were good. No witnesses. But I’d have to be damn bloody careful as hell.
I drained my cup of milk and shut the kitchen drawer. I walked over to the front-door and picked up the phone. I was still sweating. The sound of two people talking vibrated in the background of the handset. I hit the button and opened the door.
The first thing that surprised me the most about the Cypriot man was that he was like myself. In real life that is, not as a consumer of my dirty money inside dirty envelopes. He was fairly short, but had that look in the eyes of an old wolf. I left the door off the latch and walked up the hall towards the bathroom. I felt like doing something I didn’t understand, pissed, and walked back out. I didn’t worry about much, I left my gi open, and let my belt hang on the shoulder. Yet, the strangest surprise for me was that he got straight to it. It was obvious that Levetna was one of his. They were drunker than all moons put together, and a part of me wanted to be that way too. They stumbled in and we sat in the kitchen. I still felt like practising some drills on his skull, but the aggression was leaving me as I moved my thoughts towards the spars I’d been having earlier that evening. I was always the guy who could go bang bang bang. I lost a lot. But I placed my ability in the will of always being up for another fight, and, unlike many of the newcomers who were immediately over-powered by our master, I had no anger in my heart, and understood that martial arts training was a thing that represented the proletariate. That could not be beaten by sheer size or vulgar passion, and was more of a stance of learning, in the rolling sweat of life. So my anger dimmed as I spoke with the man, and I asked him about work.
It was no doubt to me that they had already spoken about all things. Had figured on a great many things. And it was no doubt that I had the lower card, rising. Yet, I was happy for the simple things that my relationship with Levetna provided. There were undismable things. Like how she would turn on the shower early in the morning, after burshing her teeth, since our boiler was a little knacked, and took at least five minutes to heat the water. Knowing that the mornings were always crappy for me, and that I swore when the water took so long.
The gent wasn’t laughing anymore as we drank together. And neither was Levetna. It crucifed my body to drink after training, and made me drunk faster, but I agreed with time and let it happen. I felt like death anyways, and wondered how long it would be before I killed them both. I had no-where to move. The only things singing in me were the facts that I had to pay my rent, I was a chump security guard, and that I couldn’t live without this strange ghost. Time proved my fears different, and even more strangely: provided me with my profession.
We didn’t get down to it for a long time, but eventually, it was clear that my landlord wanted a few people to dissapear. And even the set-up started to piss me off less as we spoke about it. I doubt that anything was intentional. I was a rat, he was a sewer, and she was a swan of types. Years on, they still come into my dreams, the Cypriate man who owned the street, the lass who I met downstairs one day when I ordered a full English, and everything after. We won’t bang on about what I did, but Levetna was a good worker, as I was, and I completed each contract without question.
I had a simple technique, an old red Volvo, and the old landlord always paid on time.
You would never see it coming. I never drove fast. And my skills as a parker improved over time. I never played music whilst on the job – and yes there were a few of us, we discussed tips, ways of doing things, and ways of staying out of jail – nah, the music has a way of putting you off. And when you pull up you have to ask a quick question, it can be anything, depends on the contract.
My favourite question however, that I asked a few hours ago, was “Remember me?”
The landlord was the same as I remember him in my boot. Levetna would have liked the conversation, a thumping. A deep, deep, heavy, heavy thumping. I still always miss her. I miss the way I would say things quickly to confuse her. And how she catched on, and once quoted back to me Rimaud’s The Drunken Boat, in perfect diction, better than my broke drunken North-east accident, one day when it rained, and we just amazed each other, and watched a film. I miss her bad food. I miss her arse. So so so many years ago.
I drove Mr Sarulle back up to the north. I thought it would be fitting if he died in a place that he hadn’t been to before. He knew that death was coming, and that the ride was a pyre, which I understood as he squealed back there. He stopped just passed Middlesborough, and we had no more trouble. I was amazed by his appeasment to my numb wrath. I had imaged all of this stuff a long time back, maybe in that kitchen. I opened the boot and offered him a pie and coke in a lay by. He accepted the food and we were ok, there were things that I wanted to ask his turtled form, but I didn’t.
Although, and this pint needs another go.
“Here you go love, ‘notha bash maybes.”
The thing that really got me about him was that he just walked with me. I’d clubbed him quite a great deal at the beginning. Near death. But I get kick if you let them live longer. And he was the one who gave me the job anyways. Can’t kill a ghost if you create it. I even forgot myself at times as we walked into the woods. It was strange. We didn’t need anything, and the man accepted his contract, lamb accepting knife. He walked ahead of me, like a dead leper, like the rustling foxes, coming out to see what was disturbing their shadow. I picked him up by the belt when he started wailing, and set him back up. And the smell of wild garlic was what I had been seeking.
He lost it at the end, and became unpleasant.
But it was night in the middle of my home, in the moors, and the face of death was mine.
We found a nice fat tree. I had to knock him out to tie him properly, and walked around him more antediluvian than human, duck-tapping the cunt. I slapped him awake. He murmed. New year began. I kissed his forehead with the gentleness of Cerberus, then woke him up with some lighter fuel, then lit him up.
I could tell you what I saw in his face as the fire burned through his bones. But I won’t bang on about that.
It was New Years eve, and the fireworks were fighting against the rain.