Thursday 17 December 2015

Episode 39: A Fear of Success

You know me. You followed me around the country. You loved me on the TV when I had you in stitches with jokes about my penis. You followed me in the tabloids, you supported my charitable works. Then you didn't. I don't know why. You just stopped. Now, I have people who love me again. So much that they made me their mayor. This is my new story, From Under Dark Clouds.

My face felt like an over-full shopping bag, fit to bursting. My morning coffee dribbled down my face due to a can of baked beans making its escape through my bottom lip. A packet of spaghetti had broken through my brow but it was the toilet cleaner in my eye that was causing the most pain. A shape moved in front of me that caste a soothing shadow. It was Jude.
“Christ, man you took a proper pasting!”
My reply was the composition of broken clockwork stumbling over a paralysed tongue.
He shushed me and placed his hand on my chest. The toilet cleaner was a camera light behind him in the corner of the room.
“This is the girl I told you about, Veronica. She’s gonna document your campaign.” Jude pointed to the light.
I pursed my eyes but that hurt more than the light. I raised my hand to guard my eyes and she waved from behind the camera.
“Must have got a few in there, big guy, your knuckles are shredded.” How could I tell him it was from Ares’s studded belt buckle.
I waved my hand against the light. She got the message, shrugged and turned it off. “So you really mean to do this, eh?”
The camerawoman opened the curtains.
I spat a word that began with F but simply ended in blooded spit.
“Hey, Roni. The light is bothering him!”
I huffed exasperation.
I had been in the emergency ward most of the night with Socrates screaming about legal action and campaign funding. Nothing was broken but getting the crap kicked out of you on prime-time fractures deeper than bones.
Socrates burst through the door, still yelling, his arms windmilling the way only Mediterraneans can.
“They are going to fucking pay!”
I looked up but Jude said what I was thinking. “You’re going to sue the Golden Dawn?”
“Are you fucking mad? We won’t get a drachma from them!” He raised his hands, palms slightly apart as to explain something to a child. “We’re going to sue the channel.”
The camera was rolling again on Socrates, at least the light was out of my eyes.
“The fucking security didn’t raise a finger—” He paused in thought. “Private security contractor— we’ll sue them too!” He turned to me and started waving again. “Get yourself out of that bed and into the shower, you smell like you shit yourself!”
The channel had laid on a private plane to get us back up north but we’d need to hurry.
The shower of shards left me fresh but sore.
The Lear-jet, or whatever, was well furnished but like riding a limo down a farm track. Every shudder and bump made my features bounce around my face.
Jude pulled out an iPad. “Manic Street Preachers, eh?” He swiped and tapped until a video began. It was last night’s scene dramatically slowed with If you tolerate this your children will be next dubbed over it. “A mate of mine knows James Dean Bradfield, he’d be stoked that you used his words. Might be able to get him on-board.” He scribbled some notes in his moleskin.
I replayed the video, the warped power chord at the beginning was the glass on its trajectory, the drums came in as it smashed across my face. I watched his arm swing the glass of water, maybe just intending to soak me, then his sneer snapped into something else and he released it. The whole motion had been a flinch of time but like this it contained moments. Moments that you only see when adrenaline is coursing through your veins.
Roni handed Jude a bag of ice from the mini-bar. I put it to half my face so I could watch the video again. She resumed filming. When I stood at the end, staring into the lens you couldn’t see how much I was shaking. My words came in English, under pressure I was more common Essex than New Greek.
The wife was waiting at the airport. She looked at me and drew breath to ball me out then just threw her arms around me, it hurt but it was worth it.
“You stupid bastard, now you’ve made another enemy.” She huffed. “Don’t know who’s worse, the Vatican or the fascists.”
“Ain’t much in it, love.” I managed.
Socrates walked ahead, the yelling and flashing started before we entered arrivals. He drew their fire as we slipped out to the waiting car. I couldn’t answer their questions if I wanted, all that came out was spit and bile. Jude and Roni with her camera soaking up every moment followed, she tried to get into the front passenger seat but Socrates pulled her out and pointed to the taxi rank before slipping in himself. He instructed the driver to drop the wife at home but she insisted on coming with us to the town hall. He still couldn’t argue with her.
The familiarity of the scenery calmed me. The wife held my hand, I was safe again. She kept asking me how I felt and if this hurt or that. I just squeezed her hand in reply.
“This is bad. These bastards don’t wear suits! What are we going to do now, where can we go?”
“The boys?”
She hadn’t sent them to school, they were safe with her sister.
I lifted her hand to my knee and turned, slowly. “We are not running!”
We pulled right up to the entrance of the town hall, there were more press waiting for us. Socrates told the driver to get out and help with crowd control, which he seemed to relish.
Two suits and the well-assembled secretary were waiting for us in the main conference room. She crossed the room and ran her fingertips around my face.
“Brave, brave Sir.” It wasn’t often she spoke to me in English. Her hand recoiled as the wife entered the room.
Mike’s juddering avatar was on the main screen on the wall. “I’ve taken all Golden Dawn and sympathisers sites down. They have no channels of communication. The only narrative is ours.” I waved to the screen. “Please don’t ask him to come down” the avatar said.
I didn’t.
The suits were lawyers. They began hitting me with questions before I had even sat down. They had established the studio’s culpability and were working on the exact wording of the complaint, adding a list of laws and liabilities. Socrates added the security firm’s liability and another list began. A photographer came in to take pictures of the damage. I overheard Roni ask for copies. I didn’t notice them arrive until the wife swatted her away.
Socrates even called for a doctor to come and examine me. He winced as he poked me, shook his head as he shined a torch in my eyes and hmm’d when he asked me what I remembered. We had a copy of the hospital report but he felt that they had understated the extent of the damage and suggested some much better symptoms. The lawyers asked him some questions and another list began, titled with the name at the bottom of the medical report.
By the time the police arrived to take my statement, I felt like a bargain bag of ground beef. They noted all my answers along with a few from Socrates and the lawyers. One looked over the officer’s shoulder insisting that all the answers were written as mine. I signed all the sheets and initialled every correction. One of the lawyers scanned a copy with his phone and they were gone.
The door closed and finally it was just me, the wife and Socrates. And the journalists.
“There’s something bothering me.”
Socrates raised his hand and told me everything was under control.
“No, something else.”
He patted his chest and repeated himself adding that those fascists wouldn’t get close again.
“No!” I said.
He was losing his patience.
“That economist—”
“What about him, the fucking neo-liberal!” He stood to leave. “Want me to order some food?” He looked from me to Jude and Roni who smiled enthusiastically.
“He said we had no economic strategy, no viable manifesto.”
“Fuck him! After last night we are on every channel across the globe. You’ve gone viral.”
“BUT! Socrates. If we do get elected, what are we going to do?”


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