‘It looks like a dodgem car,’ said Agnes. ‘It looks like a bobsleigh,’ said her husband. ‘No, it’s a dodgem’. Ulick donned his protective goggles and helmet and climbed into the cockpit. ‘Whatever,’ he said to his wife, ‘I’ll be back before you know I left’. He turned some dials and pulled some levers and was indeed back before Agnes knew he left because, as far as she was concerned, he never went anywhere. He just sat back and his expression changed. It was odd though, from Agnes’ perspective, because she never actually noticed him sitting back, he just suddenly was. Likewise, Agnes did not see Ulick’s expression change, it just had. It was as if she were watching a reel of film and a few frames had been removed. Very odd. Ulick’s new facial expression was hardly an endorsement of whatever had caused it. He looked shocked. He looked like he’d seen something awful.
Ulick had been secretly working on the Cosmo-Velocitor for some months and it was only when Agnes went into the garage to shoo an errant cat that she discovered the dodgem like contraption. ‘What’s it for?’ she asked Ulick and he told her. ‘I have found a way to travel faster than light love,’ he said. ‘They say it’s not possible but it is and I’m going to do it. I will travel so fast I will leave time itself behind me and catch up on it again as I return. It’s quite a simple trick once you get the gist of it but I’m afraid it takes too long to explain and I plan to depart at once.’ And depart he did. And then, return.
‘I went right through that,’ said a stunned Ulick of the wall opposite him. ‘But there’s no hole in it,’ pointed out Agnes. ‘That’s because I got back before I left,’ replied Ulick. Agnes became worried. Ulick continued to explain how he had burst through the opposite wall and zoomed out into the suburbs beyond it at such speed as to make the world around him seem to be in slow motion. His speed increased even more so and soon everything but Ulick and his vehicle seemed to be totally static. So rapid was his movement, no one or thing could see him. He was like an invisible ghost whizzing through the streets. People and animals stood like stuffed museum pieces. Insects and birds were suspended in the air. There was no sign of wind or even the slightest breeze. All sound merged into a kind of low hum. The world stood like a frozen monument to itself. Ulick found himself racing from county to county and then beyond the borders of his country and across seas to other nations. ‘I saw all sorts,’ he confided to his wife. Asians, Africans, Eskimos and Australians went about their lives as he shot past. Atrocities stood before him like Goyas at an exhibition he once attended with Agnes as they holidayed in Madrid. ‘It was awful and lovely all at once, it was almost too much for me,’ he said.
The sights seen were not the cause of Ulick’s visibly perturbed demeanour though. That came later, after the next acceleration, after the accidental shifting of gear into a new speed, a new realm. Ulick could tell things were to get even stranger when he realised he could actually see light travelling to Earth from the sun. Then the sun, its light, the Earth and everything upon it seemed to dissolve. Ulick found himself travelling through a vibrating molecular soup. Looking as if what he was about to describe was so heavy it took effort to force the words from his mouth, Ulick turned to Agnes and said, ‘I was part of it too, just particles, indivisible, subatomic’. He went on, ‘I was part of it but alone in that I was the only thing conscious of this state, or, so I thought.’ ‘Or so you thought,’ repeated Agnes. ‘There was someone else there,’ an increasingly disturbed Ulick croaked. ‘Who?’ inquired Agnes, gently. ‘He didn’t have a name. He said he didn’t need one as there was no one else moving at his velocity to call him by it. He was so fast he was everywhere at once but he was alone.’ ‘So you spoke to him?’ ‘Not really, it was more like he spoke to me. His thoughts came into my head quicker than my own did.’
Ulick described how this other person was unseeable. How he was more like an idea, or the shadow of an idea. A shadow of an idea that consolidated in Ulick’s mind, leaving him with the definite impression that he had made someone’s acquaintance. Ulick explained that the communication he shared with this man, this thing, was not really a dialogue but a pre-emptive monologue imposed in Ulick’s mind. ‘He was thinking for me love,’ he told his wife and then he shuddered. ‘He thinks for all of us. Moving from person to person, animal to animal, whispering our thoughts into our ears before we’ve had the chance to think them. He tells us what to say and feel. He tells us to eat, to love, to hate. He’s like a little boy and we’re his toys.’ There were tears in Ulick’s eyes, ‘we’re just toys love’.
Ulick saw the incredulous pity upon his wife’s face. ‘He’s telling me to tell you about him,’ he said, ‘and he’s telling you not to believe me. It’s a strange game he’s playing, letting one of his toys know that it’s only a toy’. ‘Oh Ulick,’ said Agnes, ‘I think you must be very tired. Come out of that thingy and let’s forget all about it’. ‘You’re going to tell Doctor Lawler about this aren’t you?’ ‘No love, I’m going to ask you to tell him.’ Ulick realised, or realised that he had been instructed to realise, that Doctor Lawler would be instructed to think that he should have another stay in hospital. Such a strange game the thing was playing. Like a little joke. The thing was making a little joke to himself and Ulick was the punch line. The thing told Ulick to feel very sad about this. What a cruel sense of humour.
‘Lie down and rest in your room, I’ll try and get you seen today,’ instructed Agnes as she had been instructed to instruct. She was made to feel concern, not just for her husband but about those few frames of reality that went missing between his departure and arrival. A little part of Agnes was encouraged to wonder if her husband was speaking the truth. Is there someone there, everywhere, behind her maybe, whispering into her ear as he whispers into your ear, telling you to read this tale just as he told me to write it?
More cats have gone missing in the locality. As usual, the eye of suspicion has fallen upon myself and The Mother.
A garda called to the door at the ungodly hour of 1.20 pm (barely lunchtime). Needless to say, I was smoking cigarettes in bed with a copy of Obama's excellent Dreams From My Father on my lap. (Reading extracts from this tome aloud in the best approximation of the great man's voice one can muster provides an inspirational start to the day - I recommend it). Anyway, the bell kept going and I knew herself wasn't going to budge. Unlike most of us, The Mother is usually out of bed by this time but she likes to spend her afternoons sat in the lounge, donned in the wedding dress, looking through family albums and reminiscing. 1 to 4 pm finds her utterly lost, lost in the haunted ballroom of her mind, ghostly renditions of Boyer's Huckle Buck resounding throughout. 'Doing a Havisham' is how I refer to it. There's no talking to her when she's like that.
In high dudgeon, I ceased my recitations and clambered out of the bed to open the door. Once The Mother realised we had visitors, she was up on her feet and treating it like a social call, which it was not. She offered the garda a sherry, put cocktail sausages under the grill and brought out a bowl filled with Tayto and peanuts. The dog's bowl, but never mind. 'The sausages will be a little while but here's some crisps and nuts that are collectively called nibbles,' explained The Mother. She then made a further contribution to both the conversation and circumstantial evidence by adding, 'I once had a cat called Nibbles but my son made me have it destroyed.' Contesting this version of events, I said, 'now Mammy, you know well the vet said we should ease Nibbles' suffering'. 'Ease his suffering, they've euphemisms for everything these days' said The Mother. Becoming agitated, I raised my voice. 'The creature was sick,' I yelled. 'Don't get excited love, we're only making chat,' said The Mother dismissively before asking the garda if he had a cat himself. 'I do,' said the garda. I saw The Mother narrow her eyes and go for the kill, 'and would you like to have it destroyed do you think?' she asked. The unfortunate garda stumbled over his words, trapped as he was between my pyjama clad distress and The Mother's steely gaze. 'Perhaps, if she was in pain,' he mumbled, siding with me. As a punitive measure, The Mother revoked the offer of nuts and crisps, taking the dog's bowl from the garda and carrying it out of the room. 'Nibbles wasn't in pain, he was just poorly,' she said as she departed. The garda looked at me and faintly smiled. His eyes then dropped and I could have sworn he took a mental note of the Sharpton in 04 badge pinned to my pyjama lapel. 'Subversive,' I almost heard him think.
The Mother came back into the room, dispelling an awkward silence. 'Would you like to see a picture of him?' she asked the garda. 'Who?' asked the garda. 'Why Nibbles of course,' answered The Mother, picking up a family album and searching through its pages. She carried the album over to the garda and pointed into it. The garda's face crinkled into a portrait of uncomfortable bewilderment. 'That's your cat?' he asked. The Mother took a closer look and laughed. 'Oh no, not at all, what am I thinking?' she said, 'that's not Nibbles, that's my late husband'. The Mother then informed the garda, with excessive bluntness I thought, how my father died in hotel fire during their honeymoon. 'It matters little,' she said, 'I had conceived by then, his lordship over there safely stationed in the womb.' The 'lordship' referred to being me, as The Mother made clear via a disdainful nod in my direction. 'You know,' she added wistfully, 'a hotel fire is not a pleasant way to go but had my husband lived I've no doubt his lordship would've found a way to, what's the expression, oh yes, . . .ease his suffering.' I attempted to counter this salient attempt to place me in the dock as a potential cat vanisher but The Mother spoke over me. She told the garda how she was once considered the belle of the ball and could've had any man in the town. 'I settled for his lordship's father as he owned the local newsagents and was well stocked in Curly Wurlies, my favourite foodstuff at the time,' explained The Mother. 'Of course, you can't get Curly Wurlies these days,' she went on, 'I suppose someone eased their suffering too'. As The Mother pontificated the fate of the Curly Wurly, the garda made his excuses, backed into the hall and darted out the front door.
From my bedroom window, I watched the garda quickly make his way down the drive. I hope he made it back to the station safely. Nyx's gloomy cobwebbing still covers the sky and there are things out there. Bad things. Was that The Mother's lacy gown I spied in the undergrowth? Was there a hint of something peeking from the hedges, that crossbow she ordered from the outdoor activities shop? Regardless, we've not had any cat related inquiries since.
Rock mainstays Status Quo are releasing a brand new album this week. Fugger jumped on Skype to grab a few exclusive words with band leaders Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt.
FUGGER: So what can we expect from the new disk?
FRANCIS: Basically it's the same as last year's 'best of' album but with the songs in a different order. Oh, and we've left out that In The Army Now one.
RICK: We wanted to have it out for Christmas, y'know, something for Dad's stocking, but the Chinese mucked up the consignment or something.
FRANCIS: It's all the usual hits, people know what to expect.
RICK: People like to know what they're getting and we like to give them that.
FUGGER: So, no surprises then?
FRANCIS: No. No one likes surprises. We're not into pulling all sorts. We have a good thing going, or at least good enough. Both ourselves and the audience know the parameters. It's just a good time in an appropriate environment and everyone's back at work the next day. No harm done.
RICK: We'll leave the surprises to Kate Bush.
FRANCIS (mutters): Bloody nutter.
RICK: Everyone likes to rock but you can't go rocking the boat, someone might go overboard.
FRANCIS: The whole boat might capsize and then we'd be at the mercy of large ocean waves and mad fish. It'd be horrific.
RICK: It'd be weird.
FRANCIS: No one likes weird.
RICK: Best to keep things on an even keel.
FRANCIS (to Rick): We were going to call the band that, remember?
FRANCIS: Even Keel.
RICK: Oh yeah.
FRANCIS: Anyway, it's basically just about having a bit of fun. Three chords. Nothing too heavy. Let off a bit of steam and then back to work. It's like a game of squash or something.
RICK: Yeah. If people want to change the world they should go and explore a jungle. That's not what the rest of us want, this band, our fans, everyone.
FRANCIS: It's just a laugh between shifts. We keep the head down, bash out the riffs and try not to get too carried away or make twats of ourselves. We don't get that look you might get. The look people give the likes of Kate Bush.
RICK: Or Hitler.
FRANCIS: Not that we're saying Kate Bush is as bad as Hitler but that's where it all starts, y'know, trying something different.
RICK: Yeah, you're trying something different and next thing you know, POOSH, six-million Jews, all dead. We're not into scaring the horses.
FRANCIS: We like things stable.
RICK: We like a stable stable.
(Both look to each other and loudly laugh).
FRANCIS: Oh, nice one Rick.
RICK: I just thought of it, (snaps fingers) like that.
FRANCIS: Anyway, it's a good album. The fans know the procedure.
RICK: People like procedures.
FRANCIS: That's what we were going to call the band, remember?
FRANCIS: The Procedures.
RICK: Oh yeah.
Francis clears his throat and adopts an assertive demeanour, leaning forward.
FRANCIS: Look, it's like this, we've got kids. Those kids need dental work and the dentist has to be paid. That's the real world. That's the size of it. You've got to think of the kids and not go mad.
RICK: Yeah. It's all about the kids at the end of the day.
Satus Quo's new album, 'Exactly What It Says On The Tin' is in shops Friday.
24 hour comic day requires that you draw a 24 page comic in 24 hours. I took this opportunity to become reacquainted with an old character I used draw called the Rabid Dog Christ. Like his old owner, he seems to have lost some of his bite. I wasn't too happy about that but I recently looked at it again and decided the Dog Christ is on grand form, just a bit mellowed. I'm going to dig out the old stuff though and give the blasphemy laws a test run. (I doubt my scribblings will be of any interest to the authorities.)
I was drawing amongst other toonists in a hotel in Dublin city. I ran out of things for Dog Christ to do so a couple of others helped me with suggestions - hence the ball licking.
P.S. I actually managed to finish everything but the text in 24 hours. This was cunningly achieved via the use of A5 paper (as opposed to sheets of paper the size of a kites like them other suckers)and f-all background detail.
P.P.S. They are adapting Rabid Dog Christ for the screen with heavyweight Thespian/insecure bully Russell Crowe cited for a role as Dog Christ's droppings.
P.P.P.S. My 24 hour comic managed to raise a staggering €22200,0000900.45 for my chosen charity (The Little Sister's of the Fearful Contraption were raising money for a Sri Lankan boy born with an arse for a head).
P.P.P.P.S. This kid showed up and drew a dog too. I didn't think his was very good.
'Will you be much longer with the dinner?' I asked The Mother yesterday. 'Wait now and be patient' said The Mother so I sat there at the table and waited. Something occurred to me as I waited, an idea like, and I put it to The Mother. 'The Mother' I said, addressing her by her full title, 'it has just struck me that waiting could be defined as the distance between desire and fulfilment'. I went on to explain to her that a man who desires a meal has to wait for that meal to be made before he can feel fulfilled, therefore the wait is merely the temporal distance between desire and fulfilment (see fig 1.1).
Taking to my topic, I continued to explain to The Mother how desire should be foreseen by those whose job it is to fulfil desire, thus wiping out the very existence of waiting. I put it to The Mother that had she predicted my hunger (and God knows, it isn't an impossible forecast to make as I'm usually sat at the table giving her an expectant stare come 5pm) she could have eliminated the distance between my desire and my fulfilment entirely. 'Just think,' I said, 'by having the dinner ready the moment I sat down you, my mammy, would have been the vanguard of a new paradigm, the pioneer of an age where desire is fulfilled the very moment it is conceived.' I told The Mother that if she were to adopt a more punctual approach re: mealtimes it might serve as a prototype for an era in which humankind fulfills all desires at the speed of thought. 'We would be like Gods Mammy', I said to the Mother. The only thing that separates our species from this evolutionary leap to omnipotence is the wait caused by tardy mammies and the like. I told The Mother that the abolition of waiting should be number one on humanity's 'to do' list. 'And no dilly dallying' I added for emphasis. I concluded by telling The Mother that she could start to bring our species a step closer to Godhood tomorrow by having the dinner on the table at 5pm sharp.
Well, guess what happens then? Doesn't The Mother turn to me and say: 'I like waiting. Waiting can be good. Take suspense, the required ingredient for all good thrillers. Suspense is a wait of sorts. Abolish that and you abolish Midsomer Murders and where would I be without my Midsomer Murders?'. The Mother then continued to explain, like some domesticated Bertrand Russell if you please, that our species was not yet mature enough to become Gods - capable of instant gratification. 'Most people don't even drive responsibly' said The Mother (a snide reference to my habit of taking the car to the pub I have no doubt). I could see she had a point but unfortunately my belly was rumbling and I had lost the mood for rational debate. 'Well, you're a fine one to talk about responsibility,' I bellowed, 'when you won't even take responsibility for the bloody dinner'. I continued to shout for sometime but was so incensed and caught up in the moment that I can't rightly recall all that was said. I can only assert with any degree of confidence that I continued to berate The Mother for her slipshod attitude and may have mentioned something about not asking to be born.
The discussion ended upon The Mother's realisation of just how strongly I felt about the topic. She quietly returned to the stove and I resumed my wait, realising, as I sat there, that I had actually lessened the malign experience of waiting and contributed to its obsolescence by raising my voice and loudly expressing my desire to be fulfilled 'this instant'. (I also recall using the very words 'this instant'). Let me tell you, The Mother certainly had the dinner ready on time today. I rest my case.