A few words from your regular Friday Host, Russel D McLean (this week's post contains some very strong language, so send the kiddies out the room)
A few years ago, I crossed the border to England, ostensibly on some gig that had to with me writing. Now, I have some skills in life, but map reading ain't one of them. Suddenly I found myself completely and totally off the map, and I noticed something very strange - all road signs pointed to one place, a town called Mangel. Only on some of the signs, some chancer had spray painted, "shit hol" in great big, wobbly letters. This particular grafitti only worsened as I got closer to this mysterious town, hoping they might have a tourist information or at least a friendly pub where I could find a way back onto the main roads.
I wound up standing outside a pub called The Paul Pry. Some big fellow was on the door, so I asked if he knew how to get out of Mangel. He just looked at me like I was insane. I told him I had to get out of here because I was already late for meeting the bloody talented writer Charlie Williams, chronicler of some of the funniest, foulest and smartest British noir ever published. The bouncer - his name was Royston Blake - told me that if I did meet Williams, I was to "bash his swede in" for "saying he made me up."
I never did meet Williams that trip, but I was always haunted by the words of that doorman. And then, when the invitation came through to Free The Mangel One* on facebook, I knew something serious was happenning. Even more so when I got an email from one Royston Blake, telling me if I didn't give him a voice on this blog and get folks to sign up to the Free The Mangel One group then he'd be "sending a few of them computer mails" to some important publishing types to tell them about what really happened in the Pry that evening. So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Doing Some Damage for Mangel, Mr Royston Blake:
I am Royston Blake, hardest pound-for-pound doorman in the Mangel area (currently out of a job, though), all-round community pillar and fictional character, if you’ll believe certain cunts. Personally I choose not to. I mean, what would you think if some wanker comes up to you and says ‘Oi, mate, you ain’t real. You’re just a pretend person thought up by Charlie Williams so he can get you to tell stories for him and make him rich and famous.’ Serious, what would you do if you heard that? You’d have a chuckle, wouldn’t you? You’d laugh long and hard and then give the bloke a smack for being cheeky. That’s what I did anyhow, leaving him out cold on the deck and possibly sporting a bust cheekbone, unless he was like that already. Then I went away and got on with my day-to-day affairs, going down the arcade and popping into the bookies and sinking a few down the Paul Pry and ending up here at the library, where they let you on the computers all day if you’re claiming dole.
But all the while it stayed with me, the thought that I might not be a proper person. In the Paul Pry I went to the bog and looked down at my tadger, asking myself if this was a real tadger I saw before me or a fictional one? Course it’s fucking real, I replied. Look - piss is coming out of it and everything, you daft twat. Then I did myself up and caught a bit in the zip and nigh on put me swede through the wall, so chronic was the fucking pain. But was that pain real?
‘What I say is this,’ Nathan was saying, pouring me another. I was back out by the bar now and I’d just asked him if he’d ever posed himself the "am I a fictional character?" question. ‘A heart that speaks is a heart that beats.’ He winked and put the full pint of lager in front of me.
‘Fuck sake, Nathe,’ I said, after thinking about it for a couple of minutes, ‘just tell it straight, will yer? I fuckin’ hate riddles.’ Straight away I set to work downing my pint in one. I wasn’t even thirsty, just wanting to avoid Nathan’s glare that I could feel on me just then, me having spoke out of turn. And I didn’t wait for his answer neither, going straight out into the sunlight and telling myself aye, of course I ain’t a fictional fucking wossname. Did I not just offend Nathan? Did I not spray piss out of my cock? And did that cock not hurt like Billy-O when I caught it in me fucking zip?
I was in the library when the next bit of shite hit the fan. It was the Writer AKA Charlie Williams AKA him who is meant to have made me up, which is bollocks. He’d sent me one of them computer letter wossnames, and in it he said we got a fucking problem, Royston. The publisher feller ain’t gonna print our fourth book, known as Wrongun. He reckons too many cunts failed to buy the last couple, meaning it ain’t worth shelling out for the new one even though it is fucking brilliant.
A bit later, after I’d put me fist through the computer and they’d called the coppers and I’d told em all to fuck off and walked the streets for a while, Nathan’s riddle came back to me. I understood what he meant now, I think. If I could tell my stories, and folks listened, I’d be real. The blood would pump through my ticker and the wind through my lungs, and out my arse. But if no cunt was listening, or they shut my stories down, I’d be a shadow.
I walked around town for a couple of hours, thinking about that and despairing. Then I went home. Then I went out again and got wasted down the Pry. Life goes on. Don’t it?
*A fourth book following Royston Blake and his misadventures in Mangel (to find out what I thought of the third book, go here) is being touted, and to prove there's an audience, Blakey wants to get as many followers as possible to show their support for the publication of Wrongun.