He is dying, but of nothing preventable. He's just reached the end of his allotted time. His brother is here, though too busy attending to Jenks to even allow the possibility of noticing me. The skin on his face is slack and pale, except where a nurse has taped a nasal tube to his cheek; under the strip of adhesive the skin is pulled taut and a stretched yellow age blotch gives the impression of colour.
It is too gradual for anyone else to notice, but I am observing the slow clouding of his eyes, a gentle tide of white overpowering the last of the colour in his irises. I can also detect the minute increase in the gaps between his heartbeat, the ever more tortuous struggle of his blood around his body. I can feel him giving up.
It would be fitting to say Jenks was looking at me at the last, but he wasn't. Unaware that I'd held his hand since the day he was born, he let go, and the warmth of his fingers upon my palm was quickly usurped by the cold and a voice calling me away.
Part SevenThere's a huge jolt. An electric crack, a lurch, and the amplified sound of paper tearing, that might be the unamplified sound of sheet metal being ripped. A grey-brown cloud blooms past the window, accelerated by the confined space of the tunnel. This is followed by people screaming, a sound not delayed by the relative speed of light, but by confusion. Yes, it had happened, and yes, it was ok to scream. The lights flicker and go out, and with the darkness comes sensation; the heat presses in, and the whimpers of a guy sitting three seats away corkscrew down into my ear.
Bullets buzz by Jenks' head, too close for him to be able to guess their trajectories. They just resemble a fast-moving grey swarm of midges like the ones familiar from football by the conifers in his parents' garden. I am of course standing nearby, blending in. Jenks' helmet is large, the lip overhanging his forehead by about an inch-and-a-half. It has brownish camouflage netting hooked over the top, and he looks silly, like a dirt-smeared mushroom crouching behind an armoured vehicle in the dust of a street a long way from England.
A small speaker positioned near his ear tells him to break from cover and make towards a building less than ten feet away. The voice is extremely clear - millions of pounds in investment have banished the phantom tinny voice breaking up over distance. The commmands are clear and precise. As Jenks moves, I move.
I position my body behind his, the curve of my back equal to the curve of his back. As he straightens, I straighten, and place my flattened palms either side of his head. Jenks cannot feel it, but as he scurries frantically from the cover of the truck to the shadow of the door, I guide him smoothly from side to side; his head tracing a complex trail across three planes while he moves. Bullets buzz by Jenks' head, and I see every one of them.
I don't really like Jenks that much. If I was in any position to, I'd tell him to work a little bit harder and cut his hair, which hangs in ridiculous creepers in front of his eyes. He's not the worst though, I can say that at least. I get reports of other jobs where the subject does little more than sleep all day; at least a drunken Jenks stumbling around near the traffic gives me something to do.
You might be wondering why I don't mention more of my colleagues, specifically the ones watching over the other members of Jenks' family. I see no reason to hide the truth; I am quite low ranking, and don't have permission to say much about their activities. I could be wrong, but I'd be surprised if they amounted to more than the examples you're reading about here, so don't feel I am selling you short. The specifics may be different, but there are only so many kinds
of trouble people can get into.
Part FourThis old guy on the street the other day, wearing a pretty nice fitting grey suit, stopped me and asked me if I felt safe in the world. It was an interesting enough question, and I was going to be late anyway, so I hung around for a few minutes and spoke to him. I refused the chunky little book he tried to press into my hand, and told him that I didn't think anyone was really safe in the world, and then said my goodbyes and moved on. He called after me that one day I'd have to ask for protection, but he didn't say it in a mean way - it was kind of like friendly advice, like he was smiling as he said it.
The door of their building was permanently locked, and you had to be buzzed through, which I thought was pretty fucking over the top considering they were just a regular recruitment agency. Nothing special going on here. A girl in one of those cutely tight-woven wool sweaters that looks really good on a curvy figure was sitting behind the reception desk, and she gave me an effortful smile as she called up a couple of floors to let them know I'd arrived. She pointed me over to a sitting area and mentioned something about coffee, but when I looked closer the machine needed coins, which struck me as kind of cheap. I thought she was finished with me, but out of nowhere, as my back was to her, she spoke up; 'Jenks, thats a funny name', and I gave her my best grin because I was still thinking about her sweater, and told her my mom was a little crazy and had given me her own mom's maiden name as my first name. 'Could've been worse' I joked, just as she cut me off and told me I could go up to the fourth floor.
Jenks was not the first, I'd had several over the years. Even if I am a complete success, old age or disease always require that it ends the same way, in failure. They all died as children though, either afraid or uncomprehending.
Does anyone out there have a clue why the blog posts should suddenly have stopped wrapping around a floated menu bar?
Following Jenks around I'd eventually get to see many different places as he grew up and moved away from his family; first travelling wherever his boredom prompted him, then later following opportunity wherever he perceived it to lead. His first trips though were more mundane, made on the whim of his mother and father on sunny days when their family home seemed shrunk by the heat, and the cool expanse of the coast was too cheap an invitation to refuse.
Although the journey to Weymouth in reality only took about 40 minutes, to a small child like Jenks it seemed like hours. The walk from the station was a staggered procession involving breaks to purchase sun-cream from the chemist when Jenks' mother decided his skin was too fair and the factor of the lotion they already had was too low, followed by a long browse at a wooden walled hut hung with nets and spades, which concluded with the purchase of a bucket with a crab imprinted on the base. Then, stretched out beyond a stout stone wall was the sand, and on the sand, like a crowd of swaying birds stark on the rock of some wave-broken atlantic island, were hundreds and hundreds of people.
It's easy for a child to get lost at a beach. A simple three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn and Jenks no longer knew where he was, in which direction he'd come from, or where he ought to run to find safety. Droplet speckled boys ran along the billowing water, kicking spray high into the air as they sprinted by. Jenks spun around again, as if to see whether a repeat motion could set the world back in order from whatever disarray his movement had imposed upon it. Still, strangers all around him.
Now it was Jenks stumbling in the surf, taken with what seemed like a clever idea to run the length of the beach, his head turned to the side, scanning the sea of bodies for familiar faces, or the bright stripes of his mother's one-piece. I could see he was running the wrong way, but I was too distant; I'd stayed away from the water (my footprints would have shown) standing with my toes sunk into the pale gritty sand. I raced along lightly, skipping over roasting bodies searching for a way to catch his attention, to direct it back to the family he'd stared straight at and not noticed.
The sun was bright, and I could think of nothing else than to shout, to be heard for once. As I scrambled for the words, so long unused, Jenks slammed head first into a tall man wearing blue shorts, who picked him up from the damp sand and held him up to his face. I could hear perfectly. Jenks was lost. The man hoisted him onto his shoulder and together they began to scan the oblivious faces with shared intensity. I watched helpless as Jenks' arm shot up, spring-loaded with released tension, and the man strode easily in the direction he pointed. I remained where I was, still watching with my feet sinking deeper beneath the unhelpful sand.
I'd looked out for Jenks from the moment he was born. From the moment he slivered out of his mother, caked in white goo and bawling at the sudden chill, it was my breath that warmed him and my shadow which shielded his just-opened eyes from the glare of the delivery room lights.
When he was a child, my voice carried far enough to warn him when he was on the verge of stepping from the path and into danger. Sometimes I felt like I was keeping him from harm by will alone, with no help from the others who were charged with his welfare. Still, he managed to reach adulthood without injury; his bones unknit, his skin unscarred and in his mind, complete ignorance of my existence.
His brother was a different matter. Occasionally he would claim he'd seen me (not that he knew who I was, far from it) and he would shiver and cry and cast his eyes wildly from side to side as if he were surrounded by lurking assailants. Eventually his eyes would tire and his lids would droop until he slept peacefully, forgetting everything he had seen for a year or too until it was his time to be observant again. Jenks remained subordinate throughout, and would never try and reassure his brother, even when he protested for hours that he'd seen me outside their bedroom window (he was not believed because it was the middle of the day, and Jenks' mother was outside cutting the lawn, pushing the mower right up to the wall of the house, certain that she'd seen no one, and he was being a baby, even though he was the oldest). I took no pleasure from upsetting the boy, and did everything I could to remain hidden. If I made mistakes, it was better for them to be lapses in anonymity, rather than allow Jenks to come to harm.
1) How many books do you own?
We've got more than a thousand in our flat. It's a small flat and I can tell you that books are not as comfortable to sleep on as they look. More books elsewhere. Most of the books are C's, but I own one or possibly two, and have read some of those.
2) What was the last book you bought?
Gods and monsters, by Peter Biskind. Essays and articles about film. Actually, just realised that both the books Phil and I bought recently are top of the pile at Fopp. We're just slaves to fashion!
3) What was the last book you read?
Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut.
4)Five books that mean a lot to me.
Glamorama (Brett Easton Ellis)
Slaughterhouse 5 (Kurt Vonnegut)
Digressions on some poems by Frank O'Hara (Joe LeSeur)
Lunch Poems (Frank O'Hara)
These were the first five that came into my head.
Ps. A prize will be given for the comment which takes most exception to my laughing at the bible.
A new link at the top of our page for the first time in a while! Chiarina
, aptly named The Lovely Chiarina by Tom
. Two links for the price of one!
Am thinking about the book thing...