Blame it on Tillie. The Pep Boys.
A refugee from Asbury Park. Retired. Residing in the armpit of a tattooed driver in Santa Rosa.
Or Dr. Josef Mengele. On vacation by the sea.
I have not written a word while under the influence of lysergic acid diethylamide for quite some time. Since I was, twice, beaten so severely that the nerves down one half of my face have never healed. I have not written a word for close to two years. Nor worked with pen and ink for ten uninterrupted hours, the psilocybin pumping up from where my feet are rooted to the floor.
I don\’t know why I mention this. It does little to intrigue me.
I wake up. Plug straight into the mainframe. I do not light a cigarette. I do not plumb in the kettle or fill my little china cup to the brim.
I check my mail. The sort which does not drop through the letterbox in a brown envelope marked, \”this is not a circular\”. I huff and puff and hum along to the white collar noise of fans starting up.
I startle the mouse and stroke some keys.
Make light of these chores with my son, Milo still safely tucked up in bed.
Millport is a tiny island anchored off the coast. Thirty miles from my front door, give or take. A grassy pimple the approximate size of Alkatraz.
A retreat, like the more up market Rothesay, for gangsters and bicycle enthusiasts.
I have a tea towel with a heart shaped map of San Francisco printed on it, a wedding gift, hanging on my kitchen wall. I have a more concise understanding of its topography than I do my native burgh.
You can cycle right round it in a couple of hours or less, I am told. They had a little fairground with bumper cars then; the dodgems, we call them here. I went on them one brisk Saturday night, the wind whipping at my collar. My hair a blindfold. I was the only child out there on the polished hardwood deck. The embarrassment was excruciating. I drove around in diminishing circles for the duration of my ticket, one song by Engelbert Humperdink on the tannoy, a string of lights reflected in the spectacles worn by my grandfather – my grandfmother too – their faces wracked with a kind of anxious telepathy as they watched me sailing round and round. Willing me to enjoy myself.
Later. We return to the guest house. My grandparents sit drinking whisky. Toasted by what may have been an open fire, the roaring houndstooth sports jacket. I do not remember if there was a working television in the lounge; if it was tuned to snow.
I remember my grandfather\’s face beginning to redden. His voice turning louder. Slurring. Lingering near the ceiling before drifting onto the hearth as cinders.