Excerpt from My Name Is Tom
Bob could see I was struggling to get my words out due to the excitement. So instead of making me do so, he reached under the counter and produced a twelve-inch-sized colourful paper bag, stapled at the top with a label on it reading, “New Order – Blue Monday 12 - Tom – Saturday PM”.
I thanked Bob. He patted me on the head and simply said, “Enjoy.” I had every intention of doing so.
“Thanks, mate. See you next week.”
I didn’t really want to leave the shop, but Bob was pretty busy putting labels on things. We could chat later.
I began to make my way home with my head down and one eye firmly on the bag in hand. Bob chose to use paper bags for his customers’ wares. I imagine that was a financial decision on his part. It didn’t exactly fill me with confidence that there wouldn’t be an accident, though.
As I approached the top of my road, I began to periodically break out into a series of small runs. I was getting closer to my record player all the time, but it seemed like an age before I made it to my front door.
When I finally did arrive, I rang the bell, as, of course, I was not allowed to have my own key. My mum answered and looked quite happy, which was strange. She didn’t even give me any instructions with regards to volume. She just let me in and watched me as I made my way upstairs. All was good. I still waited for something to go wrong.
I sat on my bed, carefully removed the two staples from the top of the bag, placed the label on my bedside table as a keepsake, and pulled out my new twelve-inch single.
It was a thing of beauty and made to resemble a computer floppy disk with no mention of the band or song name anywhere on it. I lifted up the creaky lid to my record player/sideboard, carefully placed the vinyl upon it, the needle on the vinyl, and sat back to listen.
Dum dum dum dum, dumma dumma dumma dumma, dum dum dum dum, dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. It took me a while before I realised that the intro was going on for too long, even on a song that I hadn’t heard before. I approached the record player and watched as the needle got to the second lot of dum dums and kept shooting back to the beginning, thus repeating the same dum dum, over and over. So this was what was going to go wrong. The record had a scratch. Bollocks. Not good. My day was ruined.
All the anticipation of the last week or so seemed to be pointless for that brief moment. No matter, I thought. I’ll just go and get another copy. Bob would oblige. I closely examined the record and could see that, right near the start, there was a small line that looked out of place in the otherwise shiny-looking piece of vinyl. I decided that I would go and try it on my parent’s record player.
The scratch, although visible to the naked eye, had no effect on their turntable at all. Mine was incredibly old and, let’s face it, up till the days of the record box had only had complete shite played on it, so it was probably still harbouring a bit of resentment.
I briefly looked at my parents’ collection of god-awful records. Several of them by James Last, others by Mantovani, and an Abba album. All of the J. Last albums featured dubious-looking pictures on their covers, a far cry from the artistic nature of all the records I owned. I thought it might be amusing to put one of them on for a few moments. It had been at least a couple of years since I had heard any of them.
My God, what is this crap? I quickly removed it and decided to get myself back down to see Bob as soon as possible, but first off, I needed to return to my bedroom to listen to “The Lovecats” as the mental residue from that few seconds of James Last had to be removed from my mind before it had any lasting effects.
“Bob,” I said. He looked worried.
“What’s up, Tom? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“The record, Bob ... dum dums ... it’s scratched. I can’t get past the second set of dum dums,” I said, breathing erratically.
Bob took the record out and placed in on the in-house record shop turntable. It made it past the second set of dum dums without a problem. This was alarming. The only realistic conclusion that could be reached was that my turntable was not capable of playing it, which of course I already knew.
“The only conclusion I can reach Tom is that your turntable isn’t capable of playing it,” Bob said. I knew that.
“Yes,” I replied “That seems to be the case. Er, leave it on anyway.” “How does it feel, “To treat me like you do, “When you’ve laid your hands upon me, and shown me who you are?” it went. What ... the fuck ... did that mean? About halfway through, I turned ’round to see everyone in the shop looking towards the counter in total awe of the song. It was like a spaceship had landed near the chart listings. But it hadn’t. It was all down to the amazing tune.
As it faded out and the shop patrons went back to their businesses, the world didn’t seem the same anymore. Before the song started, there was an audible murmur in the shop as everyone chatted about music, but during it, the shop became bathed in silence, everyone just trying to take in the new sound that planet Earth and its inhabitants had made.
“That, Bob, is the future, is it not?”
Excerpt from His Name Is Chris
“Let’s go this way,” I said.
“I want to go this way,” Chris replied.
Perfect, I thought.
“Okay, I’ll see you later then.”
The two of us standing there on the street about to head in different directions must have looked a bit like the scene in Star Wars where R2-D2 and C-3PO first arrived on Tatooine and have an argument regarding which was the best way to go, with C-3PO suggesting that R2’s chosen route was “far too rocky.” Turns out that neither of them were right as they were both captured by Jawa’s pretty quickly. But then they were sold to Luke Skywalker’s uncle, which, in turn, led to the Empire getting a rather large kick up the bum when the Death Star was blown up. Didn’t see that coming, did they? Ha, in your face Empire.
Anyway, I then proceeded in my chosen direction, and after twenty paces or so, I turned ’round to see Chris making his way back up into the flat.
Despite the weather, which was awful, warm but wet, I was well up for a visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or MCG, that day. I had a map of the area supplied to me by Gary. It wasn’t too far away on the tram and, amusingly, to me anyway, also not that far from “Batman Avenue.” But because of my ineptitude when it came to map reading, I had absolutely no idea if I would actually make it there or not.
I knew roughly where to catch the tram but had to live in the hope that it would drop me off at the gates of the MCG or I could have ended up anywhere and without a clue how to get back. Nevertheless, I applied my own sense of direction to the situation. A sense of direction that had let me down so many times before, but it was the only one that I had, so I had no choice but to trust it. It was a bad idea, as it usually is, and soon enough, I was officially lost in a foreign land.
“Excuse me, mate, can you point me in the direction of the tram to the MCG, please?” I decided that rather than get lost further and have to be rescued by Gary—or even worse, Chris—I would ask a local.
“Ah, mate, you a Pomme?”
It seemed that I had selected someone quite normal until he spoke. Then it was clear that he was either a drunk, or was just drunk then. And considering it was only 10:00 a.m. on a school day, the former seemed more likely. Plus, he just had that way about him, like he was a regular drunk and had just topped up whatever alcohol was already in his system from the previous night before he left his house that morning.
“Err, yes, mate, I’m Tom. How’s it going?” I held out my hand to greet the man officially.
“Aww, come ’ere, mate. You Pommes and yer fackin’ handshakes. Fack,” he said.
The man grasped my hand firmly and propelled me into his chest for full-on hug.
At the best of times, even when I knew the hugger, I had always felt that there were strict hugging time limits that must be adhered to. However, my new friend didn’t seem to be aware of them. And so, despite only just meeting the bloke, I was now embracing him in the middle of the street. He held it for far too long, too long for an Englishman anyway, especially one like me.
As the hug ended, I became acutely aware that just as the man released me he took a whiff of my hair.
“Did you just smell my hair?” I asked.
“Yeah, smells good, mate. Now, where did you wanna go? I’ll come with, I reckon.”
This was not good. I started to visualize myself locked in this man’s basement. I had to think quickly.
“Nah, you’re all right, mate. I’m meeting my girlfriend. It’s our wedding anniversary.”
“Surely, she’s yer wife then, not yer girlfriend, mate.”
He was right. I did think fairly quickly, but not quickly enough to make any sense. Plus, I wasn’t really giving this bloke enough credit to think that he would have noticed.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what I mean. She’s always having a go at me for that,” I said, attempting to continue the charade.
“Is she? Sounds like a bit of bitch, mate,” the man replied, smiling.
Despite only making this woman up a few seconds earlier, I was quite hurt that he would call her a bitch. She wasn’t a bitch—even if she did exist. I felt that I should defend the poor woman. Fictitious or not, she didn’t deserve to be spoken about like that. However, I chose not to, in the hope that he would just fuck off.
“Well, it’s been nice speaking to you, mate. I best be on my way,” I said, trying my hardest to leave.
“Bonza, mate, my Mrs. is just over there. We’ll make it a double date, yeah?”
The man pointed to a girl a few yards up the road who was swearing at cars as they passed her.
“You f-f-f-fackin’ fackers,” she said whilst kicking out at a BMW M3 as it waited to turn into a junction.
I could see the face of the bloke who was at the wheel. He looked slightly fearful, but also somewhat resigned to what was going on. It clearly wasn’t the first time that this woman had attacked his car. She must have been regularly working the same route, I thought.
“Okay, mate, you go get her. I’ll wait here,” I instructed.
The minute the man turned, I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me in the opposite direction. The man gave chase, leaving his wife to continue shouting at cars.
“Mate, come back,” he shouted. “Right, you’re gonna get it. Hey, Tanya, this blokes fackin’ running from us.”
Excerpt from Her Name Is Teyah
“Nat,” Tom shouted down the stairs as he bided Teyah a fond farewell. No time like the present, he thought.
“Tom,” Nat replied as he appeared at the foot of the stairs with a piece of toast hanging out of his mouth.
“Spit it out, dickhead.”
“OK. I’m not coming to the Star Wars thing tomorrow.”
“In what way?” Nat asked, whilst shrugging his shoulders.
“Like, in the way that I was coming, and now I’m not.”
“Right. So, I didn’t even want to go, Tom, but you convinced me to buy the tickets. And now you, the person who wanted to go, is not going, and I, the bloke who didn’t want to go, is stuck with two tickets he doesn’t want.”
“Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I’ll pay for the tickets, like.”
“Obviously… Well, you better either be seriously ill, or preferably, you have come to the conclusion that I have been right all along and you now agree that Star Wars is, in fact, a great big pile of shite?”
“Its neither, Nat.”
“Right - It’s a woman then, yeah?”
“Correct. Anyway, just rewind that back a bit, mate – I’ve known you for a while now, and initially, I didn’t think this was going to come between us, but I’m sorry, mate, I just don’t think we can continue while you insist on this line of thinking about Star Wars. It’s a classic tale of good verses evil.”
“And why does that mean I should like it?”
“Oh, OK. I get it now. You don’t like because it reminds you of your increasingly frequent evil tendencies.”
“What evil tendencies?” Nat replied, looking genuinely offended.
“What you do to spiders.”
“I don’t do anything to spiders.”
“You kill them.”
“Doesn’t everyone? They’re on my property and likely to cause alarm in some way. So the solution to that is to remove the spider and thusly, remove the threat.”
“There’s not one part of that that I don’t agree with, Nat. But that should be achieved by picking up the spider and placing it outside to continue its life.”
“Its not like I kill peoples pet spiders. They’re just those little shitty ones that climb up your wall and possibly, worse case scenario, like, crawl into your ear and give birth to other spiders who then start to control your emotions to the point where you actually start to think you’re a spider. And then your life’s over really, mate.”
“OK. I didn’t hear any of that other than ‘you’re not killing anyone’s pet spider’ - people don’t keep spiders as pets.”
“They do,” Nat insisted, still stood at the foot of the stairs but now with a cold piece of toast.
“They don’t,” Tom replied, still stood at the top.
“They do. People have aquariums in their house with tarantulas crawling around in them.”
“Well, some people, yeah. Not everyone, though. I mean, have you got one?”
“Of course I haven’t, Nat - I’ve only just heard that it’s a thing. I would have to hear about the thing, go home, get my wallet, go to the spider shop, pick one, take it home and presumably acclimatize it to the aquarium, and subsequently, be the owner of a pet spider to the point where people would question me regarding my possible ownership. Are you sure that’s true?”
“It’s true, believe me, Tom. I’ve seen it many times.”
“Back in Australia. Do you remember Mohammed from Sydney?”
“He had two of them. Scary bastads they were. He used to get them out and let them crawl all over his shoulders.”
“That’s a shame,” Tom said, looking somewhat dejected.
“I always thought me and Mo were good mates. He never asked me to come round and see his spiders.”
“He probably knew how you’d react - like a very frightened small child.”
“Well, spiders are a bit different in Australia, ain’t they? Seemed to me when we were there that just about everything was capable of making your head swell up to the size of a pomegranate.”
“But Pomegranate’s ain’t that big, Thomas.”
“Right. OK. So, did Mo know about you’re killing of the spiders when he asked you ‘round.”
“We didn’t discuss it to be fair. But like I said, you couldn’t really compare his spiders to the sort that I have been known to kill. I mean, you couldn’t stamp on one. It would make a right old mess. They’re about seven or eight inches long and with a big old body that would burst open like a… I don’t know, like, something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“I love that film.”
“Get real. Its garbage.”
“Garbage?? We say rubbish in this country, Nathaniel. Anyway, I was on about the Gene Wilder film, not that bloody Johnny Depp one.”
“Right - that is a better film. But to bring us back to the original subject, the reason you love it so much is because it reminds you of your childhood, like Star Wars does.”
“There is an element of truth to that, yes. But Star Wars is more than that. You can’t compare the two in terms of romantic childhood back memory thoughts type of thing. Star Wars is a cultural icon to millions, if not billions.”
“There must be something about it you don’t like, though?” Nat asked.
“Erm… it’s not something I don’t like, but there is something that I don’t get.”
“How they make the light sabers?”
“How the land speeders work?”
“No, neither of those things.”
“So, you do know how those things work?”
“Well, yeah. The light sabers are made with, like, a collection of crystals from a cave, and the land speeders, I presume, work using some sort of technology developed in a galaxy far away and a long time ago, like.”
“But there’s no such thing as a crystal cave, Tom.”
“It’s a film, dickhead. There’s no such thing as a 7-foot tall growling hairy thing like what Chewbacca was. Light sabers aren’t made by fucking Hasbro, dude - it’s just how it’s explained in the story. I mean, they don’t explain the speeder thing in the film because they obviously presumed that the viewer would be clever enough to realize it’s just a film and accept that it works.”
“So, who does make the light sabers then?” Nat asked.
“They’re, you know, like… made by each individual Jedi using crystals, in some way.”
“But how, though.”
“I don’t know, they probably put them in the handle or something like that.”
“Right. OK. So, what is it that you don’t get, then?”
“I don’t get how anyone can understand the droids.”
“Well, they’re droids, ain’t they? They just can I suppose.”
“Nah, I get why the droids understand each other – even the English speaking C3-PO…
“…Because he’s fluent in over six billion forms of language?” Nat interjected.
“Erm, yeah… How the fuck do you know that?”
“I think you might have mentioned it once or twice, along with the rest of the flippin’ script.”
“So, you do listen to me?”
“Rarely. But the more you say something the higher the probability that I might actually hear it.”
“Oh, OK,” Tom replied, with a smile that struck fear directly into Nat’s heart.
“No, no. Don’t even think about it, Tom”
“Stands to reason though don’t it, Nat? You just said it yourself. The way to impart information in you is to repeat it many, many, many times.”
“Right, I think its time I went to bed.”
“Well, you’ll have to get past me first. Anyway, now I know you have this ability to take in Star Wars related information, maybe you know the answer to the question.”
“How do the humans understand what R2-D2, in particular, is saying?”
“I have no idea, Thomas.”
“OK. Well, what about when R2 goes missing in the first film and Luke goes outside to find him, and then C3-PO turns up behind him and says, words to the effect, that R2 is a bit of a dick.”
“What about it?”
“Well, how the fuck did a slowcoach like 3-PO catch him up so soon?”
“Please stop, Tom.”
“OK. How about when Ben says that the blast points on the Jawa transport are too accurate for Sand People and only Imperial Storm Troopers are that precise.”
“Oh, for the love of God.”
“Well, its just they seem to miss their target quite regularly for the rest of the bloody franchise.”
“Or, what about when Ben says that you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy as Mosisely spaceport.”
“Well… what about where you used to live in Australia?”
“Is this ever going to stop?”
“Possibly not. So, Nat, would you say that you couldn’t really get much more pissed off with me than you are right now?”
“It would be a struggle to muster up much more distain, Tom, yes.”
“OK. Well, in that case, she’s having your ticket for the Massive Attack gig as well.”
“Fuck you, knobhead.”
And with that, Tom returned to his bedroom and Nat to his.