poetry | prints | cine | home

Journal of Distraction - by Michael Kelly

Week 3 - Friday

Really, my sex fantasies are not so far-fetched. There is a mystique to the filing-clerk's art which women find irresistible. The girls come in, they say a name - paf, as if by magic, I have that person's whole life at my fingertips. 'So quick, so efficient,' they long to coo. Really, it can only be a matter of time before the whole lot of them get a grip of me. Any day now R. will come in and nibble me on the ear and breathe, 'You set my loins afire, filing boy. Teach me the secrets of the filing clerk's guild. Teach me thees theeng you call...alphabet.'

You may have no wish to know this but I've been more than usually the plaything of passion the past couple of days, for no reason I can fathom unless it is the blossoming evidences of spring, visible for minutes at a time between rainstorms. Last night for reasons which don't concern you I was reading a very staid website consisting of biographies of Finnish writers, and every time I read someone's biography and it said something like 'He married Helgaa Kavelaanaaa in 1947' I became slightly inflamed. (And it said 'He married Helgaa Kavelaanaaa' a lot, she was the good-time-girl of literary Finland.) I didn't quite get the horn, but I was all wistful and envious and went off into happy little reveries. 'He married a woman... they were married for forty years... he must have got plenty... and those long dark Finnish winter nights... and I bet they did it in saunas and spanked each other with birch-twigs... and frolicked naked in the snow... romped through the endless forests... no wonder they're always getting invaded, they're too busy shagging to give a damn... invented the mobile phone so they never have to get out of bed... or off the stripped-pine furniture as the case may be... or out of the ice-fishing holes where they probably have some sort of kinky gooly-freezing icy-water sex... Gomorrah on the arctic circle, it is... I think I will have to bookmark this site... no, better not, my niece uses this computer sometimes, she's too young to know about those raunchy Finns, writing books and marrying each other and fucking like rabbits... bastards...'

And R., or as I think of her, Rrrrrrrr!, has been driving me to distraction and popping up unusually frequently, causing me to simper and stammer, and sigh and swoon and butt my head against the shelves as soon as she disappears... yesterday, largely by virtue of not looking at her and being busy with something else, I actually managed to talk to her properly for a few minutes. Well, I was hyped up on caffeine and slightly manic and largely talking random gibberish, but that was preferable to my usual monosyllables. I was almost human and I made her laugh a couple of times. Unfortunately I blew the effect a bit by opening the door for her again when she left and catching her on the ankle, but she wasn't badly hurt. And later on I brought her a coffee and spilled some of it down the back of her computer monitor and most of the rest on her jacket. But there was enough left for her to take a sip and compliment me on it. How nice she is. I do like her and hope I don't maim her in any permanently lasting way.

(Incidentally it's been suggested that it might be therapeutic for me to tell the tale of the unfortunate incident last time with the girl and the umbrella, but I think not.)

Today, though, I've been brooding bitterly about something she said the first time we met. She came into the main filing room and said, 'So you are the one who makes it all happen.' At the time I swaggered, but now I suspect she didn't mean it seriously. But... I am.

Also, it turns out she paid Mr. Pryor fifteen minutes too much as well as me, the whore. And yesterday in the corridor I caught her talking to ----, a slightly flashy bloke from head office or something who's recently been installed in a room on the third floor. He's the nearest thing we have to a capable male, the rest of the men being knackered old timeservers like Mr. Pryor, who I found wearing slippers in his office yesterday, or undermotivated urchins like me. I won't detail the ways he's annoyed me, because they would sound petty and psychotic, but he has an air of what strikes me as entirely unwarranted confidence and generally carries on as though he owns the place. On Tuesday he embarrassed me by catching me doing a David Bowie impression in the echoey store-room; on Wednesday, sleepless and strung-out, I had a quite disturbingly intense impulse of hatred towards him on catching sight of the back of his head through an office door. I can't quite remember why now but it was something to do with the unjustified disparity of our positions and also I remember thinking, 'We've got a very nice little place here and if he starts throwing his weight about I'll deck him.' Perhaps I just see him as a threat to the benevolent matriarchy ____ my boss has established. We get the job done with no fuss or bother or shoutiness, but if he's some hyper-efficient type from head office he probably thinks we eat slightly too many cakes here... not that that stopped him from guzzling the last slice of the one Mrs. Prendergast brought in yesterday, which I had my eye on. ...Anyway the undiscerning harlot R., who I've now decided is probably from Finland, was talking to him in the corridor and smiling and didn't seem to appreciate how loathsome he is.

But what do I care? I don't care. This is stupid stupid stupid anyway. Office temps can't afford to have a heart; love them and leave them is the game. And if R. wants to go off with a complacent clod like ----, that's her look-out.

Lives of the Great Inventors, Number Three:

The inventor of Rohypnol

Edinburgh University, 1927

'You're mad, Professor Rohypnol! This is sheer quackery! I tell you it can't be done!'

'And I tell you, Thomson,' said Lionel Rohypnol with a quiet determination, 'that it will be done.'

To look at Lionel Rohypnol, you would not have thought him a great man and future benefactor of mankind. He was hunchbacked and dragged one leg, rather misshapen about the face and afflicted with boils and a greasy comb-over. Yet if you could bear to peer closely, you would see there was a resolute set to his snaggle-toothed jaw, and a gleam of, if not quite nobility, at least low animal cunning in his squinty eyes.

The two colleagues stormed up and down the university biology lab expostulating at each other, Rohypnol grabbing Thomson by the lapels and Thomson trying to avoid his halitosis.

'Lawks a mercy, gentlemen,' called McDougall, the genial old dean of science, who had been passing by when he heard the commotion. 'Whit's all this mitherin' and haverin' the noo?'

'Rohypnol is about to demonstrate his latest great breakthrough,' said Thomson with undisguised sarcasm.

'Oho!' said McDougall with a merry glint in his eye. 'What crackpot scheme are ye aboot noo, man? Splitting the atom, is it? A cure for the influenza?'

'Pah,' said Royhpnol impatiently, 'I have put such childsplay behind me.'

'Indeed,' said Thomson, 'he has abandoned his pie-in-the-sky ideas - to develop a love-potion!'

'Laugh if you want,' said Rohypnol, 'but we live in an age of miracles. Radio waves unite the globe, the aeroplane has mastered the very heavens, and Professor Einstein's theories have given us an understanding of time itself! Yet one last frontier remains to be conquered - female meanness. For the fact remains that for all our learning and power, in the year 1927 a man who is somewhat... who chooses not to conform to conventional beauty paradigms has the devil of a time getting a hold of some titty.'

'Aye,' said McDougall, 'the lassies can be awfa stingy about giving up the houghmagandie. So ye think ye've invented a potion to make them say yes instead of no?'

'No, I have invented a wondrous drug that will make women say Guhhh, buhhh, wuhh instead of No.'

'Och, man, but ye're going off the deep end. As rational men we have to accept that we unworldly scientists will never be attractive to the hairies. Make do with the corpses from the mortuary like the rest of us.'

'Or tadpoles,' said Thomson with a faraway look in his eye. 'A man need not be lonely who has a beaker of tadpoles.'

'Aye, ye cannae beat the tadpoles. I mean...a philtre of love! The thing just is nae feasible!'

'That's what they all say,' said Rohypnol bitterly. 'Try getting a research grant for a drug that will allow you to have sex with any woman you want! Why, I've pitched it to every investor in the country, and all they gave me was a measly 800 million pounds per month. But I'll show them! It's taken me years of work but now it's perfect!'

Before his inner eye there passed a grim review of his years of fruitless struggle, abject failures, near-misses, and patient perseverance. The wrong turning taken with nitrous oxide, the months of lugging the pressurized cylinders round dance-halls and tea parlours. The experiments with ether and chloroform, the failure to find the exact right moment to produce the bottle and rag during a tete-a-tete. The nights of lurking in dark alleys with a sock full of wet sand.

'...Then I became... distracted for a while, deciding that if you had a sock full of wet sand you didn't actually need a woman.'

'Aye, ye cannae beat a good Argyll sock full of wet sand.'

'Except perhaps with a sock full of hatching tadpoles.'

'And then I thought I had a breakthrough with the idea of kidnapping the woman's pets or family,' Rohypnol reminisced.

'Aye, ye cannae go wrong threatening to vivisect her pets, or her mother.'

'But a... statistically significant majority of women preferred to watch me dismember her pets and loved ones before her eyes rather than let me anywhere near her. So it was back to the drawing board. But never in my darkest hour did I consider giving up. For I had a vision, a vision of a world where any man regardless of looks, charm or smell could know the joy of a pretty female head drooling on his shoulder. And now, the great day is here! The work for which the ages will acclaim me is complete, as I will demonstrate to you now!'

He whisked aside a curtain to reveal a cage containing Marjory, one of the science department research chimpanzees.

'Och,' said McDougall, 'you'll not get anywhere with Marjory in a hurry, for she's a chimp of some standards. I can tell ye from experience, it'll take a deal o' pretty words and your own bodyweight in bananas even to get to second base.'

Professor Rohypnol got into the cage with Marjory. McDougall and Thomson exchanged knowing glances as she immediately looked haughty and slapped his face.

But their smugness was replaced by amazement as Rohypnol fed Marjory some of his new formula and her aloof frigidity gradually gave way to an unresisting semi-consciousness.

'By George, he's got it,' said Thomson.

'Och, it's the wonder of the age.'

Discreetly, they turned their backs.

'But will it work on human women?' Thomson asked over his shoulder.

'Who cares?' muttered Rohypnol distractedly. 'Marjory, oh Marjory - I mean, we must find out at once.'

Eagerly McDougall and Thomson picked up the supply of Rohypnol's marvellous new drug.

'Quick - to McKechnie's bun shop to find some test subjects!'

'Wait, though, how are we to administer the drug? I suppose we could talk to them for a bit and buy them a drink but I... don't know how to.'

'Och, ye great nelly, we'll get someone from the humanities department to do it. Either that or deliver it by blowpipe.'

And so the great day dawned where, blah, blah...

...Alas, Professor Rohypnol came to a tragic end, his health ruined by years of tireless and devoted testing of his wondrous drug, and died early, a broken but not at all bitter man... Asked to describe the manner of his passing, the nurse who attended his deathbed said, 'I don't remember anything since yesterday.'

(By the way, by the grace of Jeremiah I'm going to extend this journal a bit and keep it going until I actually finish at work, next Thursday.)

< < | > >