Thursday, 5 August 2010

Confessional - #fridayflash




He plucked the sheet from the birdcage. The mynah bird still had its head tucked under its wing. "That time I said I had to drive to Leeds for a meeting, I was actually down the clap clinic getting a prescription". A mixture of drowsiness and not having been exposed to those particular words before, meant that for once the bird didn't come back with a snappily inappropriate retort.

He bounded up the stairs into the bedroom. His wife caught sight of him looming up in the dressing table mirror and turned to put up her arms to warn him away from her facepack. Undeterred, he gently cupped the back of her skull and drew her forward so that their foreheads met. "When I was thirteen, I caught a frog and pulled it to pieces out of some sort of perverse desire to see how it was made". He pulled away and she handed him one of her wet cotton wipes to remove the cream transferred to his brow. She put it down to the significance of this red letter day and offered a silent prayer it wasn't going to be like this for the next three weeks.

Ensconced within the plush leather in the back of the limo, he levered himself forward as he depressed the partition glass. The back of the driver hove into view. "Anytime the family au pair was out the house, I would go to the laundry basket and take out a pair of her stockings and wrap them around my face and inhale. Just once I tried it around my neck and squeezed, but I'll admit, I got scared." Apart from a slight cocking of his head measured by the tilt of the peak of his cap, the chauffeur managed dutifully to keep his eyes on the road.

He pulled on the sash cord and the curtains parted from the plaque. The applause from the old people's home residents was somewhat subdued by their arthritic venerability. But he wrought an even greater bewilderment when he informed them that not only had he smoked cannabis regularly in his younger days, he had most definitely inhaled. He had only desisted from the happy habit when his dinner party circuit supplier had been caught and imprisoned. As he left the building, a wheelchair bound lady winked at him. But it could conceivably have been a twitch.

Perched on a soapbox to address a precision engineering factory's shopfloor, he opened his arms out wide in a gesture of embrace. Then he scissored them back into his chest as he regaled them with details of stealing reams of paper and typewriter ribbons from his first office job. How he had even managed to smuggle out one of the company's two VCR machines. The workforce then broke out into a riot of mockingly trying to lift their hundred weight machine tools and miming trying to stretch their pockets over them. He turned rather helplessly to his host who glared daggers at him.

At the Police Federation he blurted that he'd launched surreptitious spitball after spitball from the observation deck of the Empire State Building and tried to imagine them landing on pedestrians below. At the children's hospice with the camera whirring, he leaned in close to a little girl hooked up to drips and told her he'd started drinking in pubs at sixteen and his first X-rated movie was when he was seventeen. Her medication meant she fell back into slumber while he was talking. The boom mic did however pick up all his words.

On the podium at Pride, he owned that he'd loved taking his children to playgroup as he got to ogle all the breast-feeding mothers. At the Inter-faiths conference he came clean about his Gap year antics. All those interminable train journeys around Europe were spent playing gin rummy for money with his card novice travelling partner whom he had just taught the game and therefore gradually cleaned out of money. An Imam replied that gambling was a sin. A Rabbi stroked his beard and told him he should go make recompense to the man even thirty years later as it was now. A priest took him by the elbow and quietly inquired if he thought of converting to Catholicism. After all it wasn't unheard of within his line of work.

After the polls closed on election day, the country had revealed itself split right down the middle. Half the nation had welcomed his uncommon honesty as evidence of a man who could be trusted to tell it like it is. But the landslide of support his strategists had anticipated was undoubtedly compromised by their man's unfathomable compulsion to confess anything, anywhere, at any time. This had prompted a backlash coalition, ranging from those Dutch uncles aghast at his moral reprehensibility; through those amateur psychologists gauging that he had just too many character flaws to be depended upon for the pressures of high office; down to the pragmatists who merely doubted his abilities at summits and treaties, given the lack of tact and diplomacy witnessed during the campaign. His now estranged wife fell into the first cohort of the naysayers.

His intention to step down from the Party rather than contest the re-run election, was announced on his behalf. Since his aides couldn't be sure he wouldn't be overcome with the compelling urge to confess that retirement hadn't actually been his decision.


from the flash collection, available on Amazon Kindle


29 comments:

Linda said...

Oh Goddess, this is funny. If only there was something in the air that made our politcos spew their truths. Love the lady in the home who 'twitched' at him. Peace...

L'Aussie said...

This is an unusual story and I had to read it twice. Maybe I'm a bit slow, or maybe I'm weary since I have the Australian elections on 24hour TV and I'm wishing our prospects were more honest than they say. Maybe not as honest (if that is what he was!) than your character.

Just imagine if this happened in reality. A bit Jim Carrey? I would have liked more dialogue but that's just me.

A smart story..:)

Mari said...

I wonder what was he on during confessional day, heh. Poor wife.

Laura Eno said...

Loved the last paragraph! Alas, I don't think you can combine 'honest' and 'politician' in the same sentence.

Maria A. Kelly said...

Love this story. I can only imagine what hell it would be if we all were compelled to confess. Nicely done.

Eric J. Krause said...

It certainly would make for interesting campaign seasons if all politicians were forced to tell the truth about everything. Good story!

mazzz in Leeds said...

A compulsively honest politician? I see you've gone for surrealism today!

Very cleverly put together as always.

spitting from the Empire State Museum was my favourite :-)

Alison Wells said...

Ha ha ha. How I laughed out loud (most loudly as the breastfeeding mothers but that's just personal). This is absolutely brilliant, very clever examples, carefully metered out. Reminiscent of something I read during the week saying that social media was going to give such transparency but that the younger people, having grown up that way wouldn't care less about these revelations. Will have to see. Very enjoyable, well written and of course one of your most accessible pieces.

Diandra said...

Speaking he truth at all times surely must lead to disaster of some kind. However, why does he only tell the "bad" truths?

Sulci Collective said...

Diandra, it's because they are all confessionals - the type of things a Catholic might confess as sins to a priest

Sulci Collective said...

Testing, testing, people seem to be having problems posting comments

Liras said...

Amusing, wise, and thoughtful piece. What a sad sorry state our politicians wind up being in.

The Four Part Land said...

Very well written story. The idea of a politician who tells the truth the whole time seems almost cynical, just another strategy for getting into office. Him being replaced when it didn't work strikes me as what would happen. Makes me wonder just how low politicians will stoop.

Gracie said...

Oh, this is rich. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Seemed a stacked deck, though, for him to be the only one compelled to confess everything. There should be a pill all politicians are required to take that would make them tell all up front like this. 'Twould be a different world...

Great story.

Timothy P. Remp said...

I enjoyed this a lot. I came away wondering what would really happen..Hhmm

-Tim

John Wiswell said...

"That time I said I had to drive to Leeds for a meeting, I was actually down the clap clinic getting a prescription" What a confession to open on!

Hope you're enjoying Chronic City. Lethem was an amiable guy the one time I met him.

Sulci Collective said...

John, IMhO Lethem is the best damn writer writing today. That said, there was something slightly unsatisfying about Chronic City. I will be sending my book review to Booksquawk.com for next week. When I've composed my thoughts. He is still a great writer though.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Outrageously funny!
So properly outlandish - my favourite bit was him grabbing his wife's grease-caked forehead and touching it with his - but there are so many steamy quirks. It's all in the details and your details are loaded for bear.

G.P. Ching said...

Wow- if only a politician could be this honest. Of course the scourge of politics is that the honest truth changes with the day and the information available. Clever story, well developed and wonderfully executed. Very nice work.

Travis King said...

I loved this concept and the way the story unfolded, slowly revealing the confessions and the identity of the character--but I'm not too sure about the ending, which didn't really stand out. Maybe because it was just too plausible? I think I'd have liked to see such an honest politician actually get elected (maybe he starts out telling only mildly embarrassing facts) and then see what kind of things happen once he's in office (and the confessions become increasingly detrimental to his image). Overall, though, I think it's a job well done. Keep up the good work.

Lou Freshwater said...

Reminded me of that Jim Carey movie, which I believe was called 'Liar, Liar' or some such. Except this was, you know, smart. And because of my current job, I would ask that my comments be kept off the record. ;-)

Rebecca Emin said...

What a colourful life your narrator has had! Reading this made me smile. An interesting way to include a lot of shocking detail in a story. I like it.

Carrie said...

It is ALWAYS a guaranteed pleasure to read your words. This was unexpectedly damned funny, and the twitchy behavior of the subject added to the fun. It made me think of a four-year-old boy walking around, jerking on pant legs and making those embarrassing revelations. The kind that horrify a parent. Brilliant.

Icy Sedgwick said...

It was this line that did it for me.

"A priest took him by the elbow and quietly inquired if he thought of converting to Catholicism."

Great stuff! Very timely, too.

Valerie said...

That's certainly one way to run a campaign. While honesty is the best policy, running around confessing every minuscule oddity is clearly not advisable. Interesting story.

Deanna Schrayer said...

Man, does this guy need some attention or what? :)
Love the image of him going "head-to-head" with his wife. Fantastic story Marc!

Pamila Payne said...

This was such a quirky good read. Enjoyed every bit.

Bukowski's Basement said...

Oh wow... this is one seriously funny post. Quirky, indeed...

Anonymous said...

Fairly Fascinating post. Couldnt be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He usually kept talking about this. I will forward this publish to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!