Read by Suzanne Goldberg
Tonight he's been out with a director friend called Tall Tom, building plans to shoot a short film together, moving forward in life, something to take him from the banality of producing tv commercials: meetings with people who want to know if your director is a Cadbury's kind of person in his normal life; if a hippo would fit in a lift, or if Marble Arch could be painted purple and festooned with dancing girls to advertise a Wonderbra. He dreams of chain guns and multiple murder.
In the pub, Jerry's mobile goes. He's got a ringtone he made up himself: 'Jerry . . . Hey, Jerry. Jerry. Jerry! JERRY! . . . OI JERRY! JEEERRRY!' It's his girlfriend, Chloe. She wants to know when he's planning on getting home. Should she cook dinner? Jerry say's he'll be back at closing time.
Tall Tom likes the ringtone. Maybe they could use it in the short film. Jerry's not sure where, but he smiles at Tall Tom anyway and nods, already bleary.
Later, at home, Jerry leans on the bathroom door and rants to Chloe. He tells her about the ideas he and Tall Tom have for a short film about a girl with giant hands who trains seagulls . She tosses a throwaway remark, then wants to talk about painting the wall behind the TV yellow. He watches her in the bath, ignoring him.
It's too much. For too long the same kind of thing. Jerry snaps. As she's drying off, he rails at her: she's nowhere near him, doesn't understand how hard it is to make things happen. She stares at him blankly through wet black wisps of hair. Chloe runs a nightclub and Jerry stands there feeling like a man in jeans and trainers. He smashes plates and glasses. He kicks the sofa up into the air and nearly breaks his foot. Then he grabs the car keys and limps out, leaving her naked and silent in the lounge. He's too wasted to find the car and within a minute or so, he's forgotten the keys are in his pocket anyway.
So he falls into a doorway and wails like a lost cat. The mucus gurgles in his throat, and he gasps and he chokes and he moans, and nothing comes through the booze to help him clear things up. The back streets of ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Camden aren't busy at midnight, but you have to keep a grip in public anyway. He's too far down the line though, too far gone to know better.
'Hey darlin, you alright?' It's a shock through the violent misery. Jerry won't look up. Not into another person's eyes. Not now. He mutters a few incomprehensible words and hopes the do-gooder will just fuck off. Or he hopes they'll pick him up and make it all better. Snot runs off the back of his hand, making a tightrope line between shirt-cuff and knee. He moans again, a sound of hard pain: meant for him and real, and meant for whoever's standing there above him – less real maybe, but something in him hoping for something.
'Come on.' The figure kneels down and he sees boots and the wave of a skirt revealing bare knees. Who is this? He squints through the refraction of his streetlight tears, trying to focus, still sobbing.
A teenage girl with a sharp face and a concerned mouth leans into him, her hair spiky with a streak of some colour he can't make out in the sodium glow. She tries to put her arms round him. He mumbles her off him, but he doesn't mean it.
'What is it?' she says. 'What's up, eh? Had some kinda row with ya girlfriend or summit?'
''m uhright.' Jerry's words gargle through the spittle in his throat.
'If you get up, you can talk to me better, can't ya?' She pulls at him and he levers forward a bit. 'Up ya get, darlin.' Jerry allows himself to be hauled up. He leans back against the door for a moment. 'You wanna tell me what's going on then?'
'I can't . . . it's just . . .' his chest heaves, 'a lot of shit come down all at once, is all.' He's still snivelling but she's caught enough of his attention to hold him. She's cute, he thinks: she's cute, isn't she?
'D'you want to come with me? I only live round the corner. I'll make y'a cup a tea and you'll calm down a bit.' He whispers a few protests, but by now he's in a weird middle state, somewhere between the misery of his homelife predicament – and he's not entirely sure he understands what that is anyway – and a kind of low intensity guilt at talking to this girl fifty yards from the flat he shares with his girlfriend: a guilt enticed by a vague sense of dawning sexual possibility.
The girl takes his arm, ignoring his objections. He leans into her and finds himself resting his head on her shoulder. They walk, and, as they walk, she runs her fingers lightly across his arse, quickly but with just enough intent for him to know there's no mistake. He's more awake now: the heaving of his voiceless misery distracted. They stop then and, as he stands on his own and wipes at his face with the back of his sleeve, he looks at her. She must be, what, about twenty? She's sexy, yes, the short hair giving a boyish frame to a sweet face and full lips. There's just a hint of something about her. What is it? A hardness somewhere? Something thin about the line of her smile.
She meets his gaze. 'Bit better now?' She leans in towards him, still looking him right in the eye. Jerry goes to kiss her and she doesn't push him away. He licks at her mouth, some kind of anger and revenge adding to the lust, making him nearly lose his balance. He falls against her and her hands scrabble all over him. They move up his back inside his coat and one hand plays across his cock. He gropes at her breasts and her arse.
This goes on a moment longer and then she pushes him backwards, friendly but to the point. 'Oi, easy tiger!' Jerry staggers back a bit, dizzy for a moment, and then the curtains pull back and he can see again through the windows of his street-savvy.
He peers more closely at her. 'So where exactly are we going, then?'
'My house's just down the road,' she sounds different now, tighter, her lips thin. 'Where d'you live anyway?' He looks around him, up and down the street, getting his bearings at last. About twenty yards away, there is a pedestrian passageway leading between the Victorian terraced houses to the next road. A man stands half in shadow watching them.
Of course he does.
'I'm just back here,' Jerry says. 'You know what, though, I feel a lot better. I reckon I might just go home now.'
'Alright. Good.' She turns away. As she does so, his mobile phone rings. 'Jerry . . . Hey, Jerry. Jerry. Jerry! JERRY! . . . OI JERRY! JEEERRRY!'
The thing is, it's coming from her pocket.
She looks at him, afraid.
He laughs. He laughs until he chokes and coughs. She doesn't know what to do. It looks like she wants to run off, but she doesn't get it. He's laughing like he's nuts, like he's dangerous. He knows that's how it seems, and it makes him laugh even more – loving the power of it, even out of control as he feels.
After a few moments his hysterics subside enough for him to speak. 'Just give me back my phone,' he digs around in his pockets, 'and my wallet, alright?' He moves towards her. They are standing right in the middle of the empty street.
'Whada FUCK ya doin t'er?' The man emerges into the streetlights. Jerry is still laughing so hard, though. It stops the pimp in his tracks as well.
'Mate, I don't care. I really don't. But your girl's nicked my phone and my wallet, and it's just gone off in her pocket. It's fucking genius, man.' She backs away now down the road. 'I just want my wallet and my phone back.' Jerry meets the man face on. He's thin with a sharp scar running from the outside of his eye to the front of his chin. It stands out pale against the dark skin of his face. He's young, which, even pissed as he is, Jerry knows is bad news, but the guy doesn't get the laughing thing either.
'Look, darling, just take whatever cash is in the wallet and give it back to me with my phone, alright? I'm not gonna do anything. Honest, you cheered me up. It's worth it.' She's still backing away. 'I'm not gonna do anything!'
She looks in the wallet, and pulls some notes out. She pulls the phone from her coat pocket and holds it and the wallet out towards Jerry, just as it makes the sound to say there's a message – woodleydoodleydoo. That sets Jerry off again. Even she almost smiles. Jerry watches the man – her pimp or whatever he is – more than he watches her as he steps forward and takes his things back. The man's still not sure. Maybe he thought she had a score but now that she's a thief he doesn't know what to do?
'Take it easy, sweetie.' Jerry turns around and walks away back up the road, leaving the two still standing in the sodium-lit silence. He doesn't walk too fast, but he's not hanging around either. He listens to see if their footsteps follow him, feeling crystal clear now.
Round the first corner and he stops for a moment, leaning against a wooden fence. He looks at his mobile. The call was from Chloe.
Five minutes later, having ducked and turned to throw off any scent trails, he stands outside his front door. He sees the lights are off and his girlfriend seems at least to have gone to bed. He's got a story to tell. Will she want to hear it?
It might make a good short film.