J. N. REILLY There is a war on. Know your enemy.

from Triptych
THERE IS A war on. Know your enemy.
In a room on the third floor of a tenement of dereliction, which was in darkness save for a cortege of whispering starlight and flickering horizon lights proceeding through the cracked and broken panes of the window like scents of bouquets, there was a boy. He pissed in the fireplace then picked up the small polythene bag which he had placed on the floor: littered with newspapers, crisp packets and cigarette ends. Holding the polythene bag over his nose and mouth, he repeatedly and rapidly inhaled and exhaled. This done, he smiled, tossed away the polythene bag, which was now empty of glue worth sniffing, and went over to the window.
The horizon was glittering like a Christmas tree, squirming with dancing girls in sequined leotards, lager advertisements, torn purple satin and explosions.
There is a war on. Know your enemy.
Corks popped from champagne bottles.
They are uncivilised. I mean, they simply do not know how to control their… eh…urges. You know, they are always having babies.
Troops kicked down the door and entered the house. Where are they? they demanded. They had received information, they said. She did not know. Where are who?
No more lies. We’ve had enough of lies.
Her husband was away working. She knew what was about to happen. Inwardly she asked her god why. Her son and two daughters were dragged screaming from their room. The troops wore the mercilessly cruel expressions of evil, anticipating events.
I mean, darling, one has to look after one’s own.
I simply could not live without those afternoons at the Savoy.
Riots in London, Miami and Warsaw. Messages hanging from lampposts and escaping from glass skyscrapers. I looked at my hands. They have always looked old. I gazed around: slashed naked cubicles, confessions strapped to luxurious chairs, rainbow coloured with fantasies of fucking appeared before us. I felt a stirring in my balls, saw butterflies fluttering from tenement windows and ragged children with moonlight in their pockets. A blue glow enveloped the boy and the room.
Pictures were disseminated as soon as available; acquired by the few intrepid journalists and adventurers who had dared cross the border.
The first survivor to be seen, knelt on the ground and wept.
You are correct. Arms. That is where the money is. I closed a deal for three thousand M. 16s the other day. If you are seriously interested I shall introduce you to a few contacts.
Well, I have your daughter to keep. The profits from a corner shop would certainly not suffice to pay for the life she is accustomed to.
They laughed.
Quite right, my boy, quite right. And I must let you know, I have had an eye on you, and I think you will fare nicely in the business. I can detect a man who possesses what is required. And I am all for a little nepotism. Keep it in the family
I say. Don’t you think?
Indeed. Most definitely.
I have an appointment tomorrow. In Manchester, you understand. I think you should come along with me.
The bath water drained, she stood in the bath, the steam rising from her. I dried her shoulders and back. While I was rubbing in the talcum powder, I discreetly unzipped my trousers and freed my prick. I then turned her around, put my arms around her hips and lifted her from the bath. I loosened my hold so that she slid slowly downwards and my prick was between her legs. We fucked against the wall.
More pictures of carnage and reports from survivors were laid on the table.
They shot my teenage son.
Sitting there in the dimness of the room with my back against the wall. I inhaled some more smoke and stood up. I went over to the window and gazed into the night. A myriad of great tubes intersecting at various angles and sprinkled with minute illuminated windows, appeared on the horizon and tapered into infinity. Angels fucking on tenement rooftops, the boy smiled at me.
If you get a sniff of that Soman, boy, you will wish you had never been born.
All police leave cancelled. Special courts set up to deal with rioters. There will be no limit to prison sentences. I closed the newspaper and began working.
I’ve had my share of fun, boy. I’ve seen things that would curl your spine. He laughed, scratched his crotch and pulled the boy towards himself.
The boy admired his gold wrist-watch and khaki safari jacket.
That’s it, boy, nice and easy.
The boy sucked his prick, contemplating the machete on the rattan chair beside the bed.
You’ve never lived, boy. That’s it you little fucker. Yes. I remember every minute of every campaign. A house in Sussex for me soon. That’s it, get your tongue right up my arse, boy. You little fucker.
A British ship dumping radioactive waste in the Atlantic ocean. It was said that some the drums cracked open as they hit the sea. A Harwell scientist argued that you are more likely to be killed crossing the roads than by radioactivity. I bet my life on it, he concluded. As for the even more dangerous high-level radioactive waste, they do not know what to do with it. We will think of something, said a spokesman.
Police moved in on protestors.
He laid three twenty pound notes on the table. He breathed hard and waited for his wife’s reaction. He did not know what to expect. He sat down on the hard-backed seat by the table so that she would not notice he was trembling. If he had stood any longer, he felt his legs would have folded beneath him.
Where did you get it? she asked, smiling, though ascertaining by her husband’s demeanour that something was wrong.
Aren’t you happy that I’ve brought home sixty quid?
Yes, but…
We need it, don’t we. We’ve got a ninety pound electricity bill to pay. There’s no way we can make up that sort of money from our social security money. And we’ve got to pay it. We need the electricity. We’ve got an eighteen month old baby sleeping through there, and by shit I’m not going to have the bastards cutting off our electricity. We can survive without it, but she can’t. So I got us sixty quid. We’ve got forty saved, so now we can pay the fuckin’ thing and have a ten spot extra.
Fine, fine, I told you something would turn up, but where did you get it?
He looked quickly around, as if to avoid her eyes, then rested his gaze on the glowing orange bars of the electric fire.
Well? Tell me. Did you steal it?
Yes.
Well what’s the big deal? Did somebody see you? Where did you steal it from? Tell me what happened.
Okay, okay. When I was in the post office collecting the family allowance, I heard this old woman being cheeky to the girl serving her. I was in the queue next to the one she was in. Right? Well she was moaning at the girl for giving her a dirty twenty pound note. You don’t expect me to take that, says she, I want a clean one. I couldn’t believe it. Jesus, you would have thought she would have been grateful for the money, dirty or not. It wasn’t even all that dirty. Anyway, I got the family allowance and she got a crisp twenty pound note to keep her other two company. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Anyway, I found myself following her. I wasn’t really thinking. I just kept saying to myself, I’ll be having your purse, you ungrateful old bag. Well, I followed her past the semi-detached houses – you know the ones, that end where the new tenements begin, all on the same street – and I couldn’t believe my luck. She walked along the path of the first tenement. I let her go into the close and I hurried on behind her. Not too quickly, so I wouldn’t be noticed. She was on the stairs to the first landing. I pushed her onto her belly and told her to keep her mouth shut or I would batter her head in. My arm was practically covering her mouth by now, so she couldn’t say much anyway. She was probably shit scared. I grabbed her handbag and opened it. She didn’t just have sixty pounds but near on a hundred, maybe more, but all I was after were the sixty. I took it and beat it into the back court. I should have taken the lot. I knew everything I was doing. I went right because I knew I could sneak through other backcourts. If I had gone left I would have been out in the open with nowhere to run.
You madman. Did anybody see you?
No. I told you. No. It was easy.
She might have needed that money.
I didn’t take all her money. She was an old bitch. I should have taken the lot. I could tell she wasn’t short of a pound or two. I’m telling you, you should see some of the money those moaning-faced old bastards get in the post office. Some of them leave their pensions and whatever to accumulate then cash them, so they must have money to live on or they wouldn’t be able to do that. You can always tell the poor old sods from the ones who are getting all sorts of pensions and allowances. And the poor ones have next to nothing, like us. You can always tell, and not just by looking at their clothes. But don’t worry, I won’t rob any more old folk, unless I’m certain they’ve plenty, and I mean rich.
You didn’t hurt her, did you?
Just listen. There’s no chance of me getting a job. Right? The money we can get from the social security is laughable. You know. We can hardly buy enough food, let alone pay electricity bills and buy clothes. When was the last time you bought a skirt for yourself, or a pair of shoes. We’re always wearing the same gear. And when was the last time we went out for a night. Nearly a year.
I know, I know. Get to the point.
You know the point. I say I get involved with thieving. I’ve got it all worked out. The places, the times and the kind of people to rob. I’ll only work on sure things, that I know I’ll get away with. And with winter coming, the evenings will be darker which will help me. Then I’ll be hidden by darkness. I’ve pissed around for too long.
When you feel the rush, when the heroin is racing through your veins, it’s like .. .eh.. .indescribable.
Tell us, sir, what does it feel like being a millionaire?
Just the same as being indigent, except one has more money.
At the first stroke, it will be…
Death for us all, that’s what I’m saying, so long as you sit there doing nothing but watching t.v. and reading the daily shit. You must get out onto the street and let yourself be heard. Death for us all. Do you hear me? Are you listening? Do you care? Listen to this. Each Polaris submarine carries sixteen nuclear missiles. Each rocket has a range of 2,500 miles and carries H-bombs with an explosion capability of 600,000 tons of T.N.T. One Polaris submarine has the capacity to kill more people than all the bombs dropped during the second world war, which includes the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Poseidon submarines carry up to sixteen missiles with ten warheads on each and they are more accurate than the Polaris submarines! And then there are the Trident submarines that carry twenty-four nuclear missiles. Do you realize that millions of people will be killed? That you will be one of them?
There is a war on. Know your enemy.
Friday night and all’s well, the boy muttered to himself as he entered the living-room where his parents were sitting boozing.
Where have you been? his mother slurred at the sight of him.
Out and about, mother dearest, out and about.
You’re a cheeky swine.
Do you think so, mother dearest.
Do you hear this cheeky swine? she called to his father.
He’ll feel the back of my hand, grunted his father, turning his head slightly from the television before pouring a lager and a glass of whiskey for himself.
The boy went over to the settee where his father was stretched out and, shifting his father’s legs, sat down.
You don’t mind if I have a wee drink, he said, picking up and opening one of the numerous cans of extra strong lager which with a bottle of whisky, two packets of cigarettes and two ashtrays full to overflowing, occupied the coffee-table in front of the settee.
Who said you could take one of them?
I did, mother dearest, the prodigal son.
Do you hear this daft swine?
Aye, aye. Watch you lip, son. We had peace and quiet until you dragged your carcass in.
That’s a can of lager you owe us, said his mother, and: Were you running around with that crowd of boys. You’ll end up in the jail, you will.
Anything for eating, oh wonderful mother?
Aye, fresh air. Are you daft. It’s Friday night, get yourself something from the chip shop.
Sorry, wonderful mother. I forgot it’s fish supper day. Cross my palm with a note. A green one. Mind you, a red one will be accepted.
Do you hear this daft swine? Give him a quid.
His father threw a pound note at him.
Go and lose yourself, he said.
At the living-room door, the boy turned and said, Father dearest, oh great drunken sultana of the east, do you still screw that ugly bag? you’re sick enough to.
He laughed. His father had not heard him, but his mother had.
Do you hear this daft swine? she shrieked, do you hear him?
The boy closed the living-room door and went into his sister’s bedroom. She was sitting before her dressing-table, applying eye-shadow and wearing nothing but a pink floral bra and knickers.
Hi sis.
He laid himself on her bed.
You should knock before entering somebody’s bedroom. I might have been naked.
All the better, beautiful sis. All the better.
What do you want? And I’ve no money to give you.
What’s money, sis. I don’t need money.
What do you want? I want to get dressed.
I don’t want anything, sis.
Well, why did you come in here?
Just taking a stroll, sis, in the valley of death, and I fancied your beautiful company. Do you know we are all dying?
Why do you say horrible things like that. I think you like depressing everybody.
I don’t, the opposite is true.
If you weren’t my brother, I’d be scared of you. Do you know that?
He laughed.
I mean it.
She rose and went to her wardrobe, from which she picked a purple satinette dress, shirred at the breast.
Come on now, away you go and take your drugs and let me get dressed.
Drugs? beautiful sister. I want you to be my drug. How about some incest to heat you for the night?
I’m telling you, your head’s pickled. Away you go.
Fine enough. Back to the streets I go, to the destruction, my pleasure and pain.
Where do you find those things to say? You should be on the stage.
Remember, beautiful sister, I’m with you and watching you everywhere you are.
He smiled and departed.
He was lying on his back. Between his legs, the boy was madly and speedily fucking him. He felt the semen rising. He was ready to ejaculate. The boy knew this and prepared to make his move. This is it. He began bellowing like a bull. As the semen began spurting onto his chest and face, the boy reached over to the rattan chair, picked up the machete and, with all his strength, thrust its blade under the man’s ribs and pushed and pulled it from side to side before withdrawing and pulling on his trousers. He watched the blood dripping onto the bed and the semen trickling from the prick of this man whom he had been servant and sodomite to for the last month. He had hated him and could now truly rejoice in his cunning. He slapped his victim a few times, to be sure he was dead, before taking the watch from his wrist and picking up the khaki jacket and using it to wipe the semen from his face and chest. The jacket was too large for him, but that did not matter. He filled its pockets with the packets of cigarettes he helped himself to from the trunk. Ready to depart, he took what money he could find in the pockets of the dead man’s trousers, grinned, and hurried off. Yeah, it was fun.
I know what you mean. Why, we’re doing them a favour. All their swollen bellies because of malnutrition. We used to puncture them with our bayonets. It passed the time. We were putting them out of their misery. They would have died anyway.
There were fears that deadly anthrax had escaped after a mysterious fire had ravaged a laboratory on the outskirts of the city. Firemen had to wear chemical suits to protect themselves.
Forty dangerous chemicals, there are all sorts of viruses in that building. We weren’t going to take any chances. °’
A spokesman said that radioactive isotopes had not escaped, that they were, and are in metal containers in a concrete-lined fireproof room, that there was ‘-‘” and is no cause for alarm.
They tied him to a lamppost and shot his knee-cap off in the name of freedom. It was his fault. He’s to blame. I sawed the bastard’s arm off. Will you be my sweetheart? You should have cut his balls off, more like.
You’re taking too many chances, said his wife, counting the proceeds of his evening’s operations. There were ninety-three pounds in all. Did everything run smoothly? I hope you’re not being reckless.
Don’t worry. I worked the bars. Friday night is pay night and that means drunk night. I robbed two guys tonight to get that money. Piss easy. He laughed, lit a cigarette and:
I’ve got a plan to make us some big money. The only thing is that it will involve you. I could maybe do it by myself but I think it would be safer if you’re my look -out. It will be a one-off job. We might make at least five hundred quid. What do you think?
I don’t know.
Well there’s this newsagent’s. An old Pakistani runs it. At the best of times he’s alone in the shop. Sometimes a young couple help him out but hardly ever. It will be easy as long as we do everything as planned. What about the baby?
We’ll get your mother to look after her. We’ll tell her we’re going to the movies.
I suppose so. You’ll do it? I suppose so. I’m really excited.
So am I.
And you really think we’ll get away with it?
I’m positive.
You’ve got to make up your mind.
All right then. Yes. We do it. Do you fancy a cup of tea?
The boy had found a tattered easy chair in one of the adjoining rooms. Having dragged it over to the window, he sat down and, although the room was only dimly illuminated by the light from the street-lamps, rolled a joint of the marijuana he had acquired from an acquaintance. He would give him the money for it later. The effect of the marijuana exquisitely offset the effect of the cocaine he had been sniffing at his acquaintance’s. Puffing on the joint he looked out of the window. Although it was winter, he did not feel the cold. He gazed into horizon, the past, present and future: dusty street messages in a distant sky rockets streaming tails of incandescence red with love affecting with bliss recurring amongst afternoon strolls exploding playing cards glittering signals drifting on the evening girl laughter naked breasts of forgotten names and days bleeding immortally.
The river is so polluted that the local people, their children and unborn children, are being infected by one or more of the following diseases: gastro­enteritis, dermatitis, hepatitis, diarrhoea, typhoid and polio. Who cares? you garbage pukers.
She played in the river that afternoon and woke the following morning covered in ulcers.
Missiles lit up the night sky.
It would cost too much to clean the river. We should need to expend five hundred million dollars over the next five years to make any impact on the pollution. Industries would have to be closed down. We couldn’t do that. If we did, we should not have an economy.
Thanks for looking after her, mum. You don’t know how grateful we are.
It’s nothing. You need to go out and enjoy yourselves sometimes. Give me a shout any time. Cheeri-bye.
The door closed and locked behind her, they hurried into the living-room.
Where’s the gear? he asked.
It’s all here, look, replied his wife, lifting the shopping-bag containing their disguises from behind the couch and emptying it onto the rug in front of the fire, to set his mind at rest. The money, she said, impatient to see it and count it, for he had told her as they were walking away from the newsagent’s that he was sure they had more than a thousand pounds, most of which he had taken from the shopkeeper’s pockets.
Firstly he threw onto the rug the one, five and ten pound notes he had taken from the till, then four rolls of notes; each held together by rubber bands; which he had taken from the shopkeeper’s pockets.
I told you, I told you. We’ve struck it rich.
She laughed and reached out to pick up one of the rolls.
No, count the loose notes first, then we’ll count the rest.
From the till he had taken five ten pound notes, eight five pound notes and sixteen one pound notes. Of the rolls, one was of eight hundred and forty-four one pound notes and the others respectively five hundred and twenty-two five pound notes, one hundred and thirteen ten pound notes and thirty-six twenty pound notes. In all, a tally of five thousand four hundred and ten pounds.
I can’t believe it. She knelt gazing at the piles of money between them.
Neither can I. But here it is. Maybe it being Saturday, this is the week’s takings, that he forgot to take to the bank. That must be it.
I thought maybe a thousand or so if we were lucky, but this…
Yes, We’ll have to be careful with it. We can’t go spending it here, there and everywhere, or people will begin to wonder why we’ve got so much money, especially with me being unemployed. But so we can get some benefit from it, what we’ll do is this. We need a washing machine, right, so we go and buy one but on a hire purchase agreement. It will cost more money that way, but at least we know we’ve got the money to meet with monthly payments. That way we won’t attract suspicion. We also need clothes, so what we’ll do is buy something every now and then. We’ll get a good living from it if we take it easy. Remember, we’ll still be getting our social security benefits.
We’ll certainly be able to sleep a lot easier now. It’s good to know for certain we can pay our heating bills and rent and won’t have to do without food. It’s a miracle.
You’re right, and I won’t need to go out robbing folk for six months, maybe a year.
We’re in the money, we’re in the money.
I didn’t say that.
I did.
Sometimes I lie back and let the boat drift, through the clear blue rushes and the movement of smaller animals on the banks, or else I dip into the water and swim for a while in geometric pleasure.
I rowed through the shades of evening, the stillness, the implication of forgotten tongues twining around floral scents came night. I pulled by boat ashore, onto the bank of eternity, illumined by starlight and thoroughly refreshed, I lay down.
A rocket in the distance.
There is a war on. Know your enemy.
They are all around, in buses, in cars and tenements, counting out their avaricious dreams, so apathetic they stop and stare at the blood, counting out their avaricious dreams, they will betray you for a television or a nine to five lobotomy, or murder you and your family in the name of a god or liberty. I tell you, I want to apply myself to the pleats in her skirt and the creases in my sheets, but no, not just now, no rest for you, you bastards. Sit up, shit eaters, and you look in this direction and see the slavish Charlie turning folk away from checkpoints, folk running from the bloody pernicious fist of totalitarianism. Charlie dressed in red and blue guarding a long row of companies spreading diseases, starving bellies and minds, arming for oblivion, that’s your Sickles and Stripes, bomb-toting Charlie carving them up, eh Charlie, hear them scream like stuck pigs. I tell you, if I believed in a god I would thank that god for sunrises and sunsets, ghostly moons all swirling mists and forests at night, oh yes, and a little boy dropping his ice cream on the road, girls smiling in bikinis and the stars glittering over the squalor of tenements, damp and steaming streets, my darling, if I believed in a god I would thank that god for my faith in spite of evil churchmen and statesmen, venal senators and ministers, so indignant and pious, licking manicured claws and ensanguined jaws, rapaciously praying, in the names of Christ and Marx and Moses, on their crusades of crucifixion once again I earnestly admonish, if I believed in a god I would thank that god for bestowing in me the will to retain my sanity amidst the miserable, drunk and ignorant, the Saturday night heroes, those quotidian people dissembling before televisions and mirrors and auntie Main the machiolated: Bring back the birch, hang the bastards: and the laughter from the shadows, girls and boys stoned by parents, teachers, radios, magazines, pills, dreams hold on, wait a moment, listen, howling dogs in the night, the sound of shattering glass in the distance, pipes and engines, and the warmth of her softly breathing the yawning scents of dawn, an ornithic aubade adorned with the eternal here in my room the white net curtains gently swaying.

 

From:
Workers City “The Real Glasgow Stands Up”
Edited By Farquar McLay Clydeside Press

 

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