Talking Shit (4)

“That doesn’t quite make sense, mate,” one of the friends said.

“Yes, it does.”

“No it doesn’t. You told us your surname. So what.”

“So my mum divorced a man named Stephens and married another man and called her next son Stephen. It’s not hard to figure out.”

“It is when you don’t explain it properly,” chipped in the other friend. The friends were becoming indistinguishable now.

“And what does the lighter have to do with all that?”

“Nothing. That was a coincidence.”

“A coincidence?” said Lukas … or was it Juan?

“Why make so much of a big deal over a coincidence?” said the other one. It was probably Lukas. They were both indignant. They felt their time had been wasted. They weren’t even wary of Duke any more.

“Well that’s my story anyway.” The older man seemed somehow impotent now. Unable to hurt them. “Who are you calling impotent?”

“Who are you talking to?” the pair chorused.

“Oh, you’re ‘chorusing’ now? I’m talking to the narrator. He’s beginning to annoy me.”

“I know what you mean.”

“Same here.”

“He hasn’t even differentiated us properly. It’s not clear who’s talking right now, and it makes no difference. We’re just props to advance the plot …”

“All characters are, to an extent.”

“Yeah, but we exist merely so you can tell your story, and it isn’t even a very good story.”

“Come on! I was in Afghanistan.”

“For about five minutes.”

“It was like a waking nightmare.”

“But it could have been anywhere. Any warzone. It would have been Vietnam if this was written thirty years ago.”

“Listen mate, I know where I went. I know what I saw.”

“But you can see horror anywhere. That’s the point. We needed to hear your speech about the waste and misery and that stuff. But it really doesn’t matter where you were to see it. We needed to know you had been through an ordeal, which also set up the whole name mystery.”

“Only a mystery to you guys. You aren’t scared of me any more are you? I could have been completely insane or anything.”

“We thought you might have been. Or that you’d done something to Stephen’s family. Or that Stephen might have been dead. That was the mystery.”

“I could have had amnesia. I was wounded pretty badly.”

“And that would have made the resolution of your story even more tedious.”

“Tedious!”

“Well, long-winded then.”

“Fair enough.”

“Hey, you two,” said the other one.

“Which one are you again?”

“I’m the other one. Look, we shouldn’t be squabbling amongst ourselves. We should be telling the narrator off for putting us in this embarrassing excuse for a story.”

The three nodded and grunted.

“See that’s what we always do. Nod and grunt. Make a comment and then giggle or stare at our glass or some other forced piece of behaviour like that.”

“Good point, Lukas. Is that your name? Not that it really matters.”

“We’re indistinguishable. The narrator even wrote that. One of us is apparently shorter than the other.”

“Yeah, that never worked for me either.”

“Nor me.”

The three men continued in this way for some time, like old friends now as the alcohol ran warm through their veins and lubricated their conversation. Behind the bar the fat owner of the pub rang a bell and called, “Time gentlemen, please!”

“Hey, he’s trying to end this, I think. Stop it!”

“Yeah, he’s cutting the conversation short. Narrators can do that. At least they think they can.”

“The whole thing is a postmodern game. I think he’s playing with the concept of authorial voice.”

“Playing with himself, more like.”

“He’s trying to leave us here forever in an unnamed bar at closing time, having all learned something profound about experience.”

“I haven’t learned anything.”

“Neither have I.”

It wasn’t clear who was talking. Their voices all melded into a low mumble as other patrons began reluctantly filing out of the pub.

“You can’t do this!”

“I think he can.”

“It’s not fair.”

The publican closed the doors and locked them, and he turned the sign in the window around to Closed, and he turned off the lights.

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Published in: on May 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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