Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Like A Deflated Rubber Doll

by the Six of the Clacton Writer’s Group

We are Six.

But that’s another story. Below is the real story. The real magic.

At first glance they didn’t look like twins. One was round and lumpish; the other was skinny and gaunt. If one was to deflate the round twin or inflate the thin twin, then it would be come apparent they were identical. There was the same snub nose, thick lips, scrubby wire hair sticking out at odd angles, and large bulging eyes. Not a pretty sight. As nobody else found them attractive, they lived solely in each other’s world. There was safety in numbers, namely two.

It was their birthday and as usual, time for a treat. It was the roly-poly’s turn to choose. Her name was Sheila, shortened to She. Her collapsed equivalent was named Hermione, shortened to Her. Having no one to contradict them, they decided to have two birthdays a year in honour of each other. Her had already had hers in April. She had planned a mystery expedition this time and both were very excited.

They set off down the road. One bounced along, the other shuffled behind, like a stick bowling a ball in front of it. They gabbled at each other incessantly and to the untrained ear, incomprehensibly. She always referred to herself in the third person singular, as did Her. Hence, when Her complained: 'Wait for Her, She, Her is getting tired,' She replied: 'Well, She can’t wait to get there, and it is her birthday!'

They caught the bus to town and had to stand because there weren’t any double seats available. They always sat together or not at all. The town was very crowded. It was nearly Christmas. They risked getting separated, but thankfully the building She had in mind was near the bus station. It wasn’t long before She led the way to the entrance of the Town Hall.

'And now for the surprise,' She enthused.

The Town Hall – unsurprisingly in these depressed times – had seen its best days. In fact, strictly speaking, it was no longer used as a Town Hall proper. A few odd Council committees still took advantage of the aging rooms for meetings. The Fish & Fowl Federation was in fact on site at the moment when She and Her entered. Also, as the twins later discovered, the Cycle Pathways Steering Group was in a decrepit backroom arguing about the piles of used Bicycle parts that had become an eyesore along some of the town’s canal towpaths.

None of this seemed to be anything to do with a birthday surprise. Indeed the twins had perhaps forgotten who was surprising whom. Such confusion was not unusual. It didn’t seem to matter as they would both politely show surprise in case they were the one intended to be surprised. It would have been difficult, in any event, for any bystander to make out who among the two twins was gabbling what words to whom, as they wandered through the dim corridors of the near-disused Town Hall followed by one fat shadow and one thin shadow.

Suddenly a few individuals in lycra passed noisily along the end of one corridor apparently carrying armfuls of old pumps, trill-bells and saddlebags. There was to be no closure for their emotions – it appeared – within the walls of the slowly morphing municipality of the building in which a lot went on but little happened.

The birthday surprise had eventually passed them by without notice before Her and She emerged into the bright sunlight of the town square. Neither would raise the subject of surprise, for fear of upsetting the other. But this would be a birthday neither would forget, and somehow each of them, in their own way, would make sure of that, because, without further hesitation, they boarded a bus without first looking at its destination board.

The bus conductor was an old-fashioned one who visited all parts of the bus’s two decks reeling off seemingly endless spools of ticketry from his contraption.

‘Where are you going?’ he asked the twins not sure who to direct the question at.

‘Her doesn’t know.’ One of them replied. A confused crease broke out on his face. He wished it wasn’t a Monday and he was at home reading the juicy novel beside his bed.

‘Just give me a destination,’ he sighed.

‘Make it a surprise for She’s and Her’s birthday!’

‘Great’ thought the conductor, ‘looney cases.’

There was a pause where he folded his arms and stared at the twins unsure of what to say. He wasn’t trained for this sort of behaviour. Funnily enough How to deal with different shaped twins that don’t make any sense? wasn’t in the bus conductor’s manual of knowledge.

‘She has arranged the surprise at the Town Hall and wants to go back there because She remembers it now.’

So they squeezed past the conductor who was thinking about his favourite sport – cricket – all of a sudden. This was probably because the twins reminded him of a bat and ball. He continued down the aisle of the bus as if he hadn’t met them.

She and Her were at the Town Hall again with renewed hope that its municipality would be invigorated by a renewed sense of constructive fantasy that the recent long period of world peace had otherwise deflated by its underlying sense of impending war.

From this revival of magic reality, She remembered that the surprise was something to do with the Cycle Pathways Steering Group so they went back towards the backroom. The Group seemed to have finished their discussion about bicycle parts and were starting to depart. A thin young man about their age bumped into Her.

‘Sorry, He didn’t see you there.’ He spluttered.

‘Nor did Him.’ Another man larger than the first one was following not far behind. It took the twins a few moments to realise they had met their match.

‘We saw you earlier,’ He said, ‘Didn’t we?’ and he turned to his companion.

‘He did. Him didn’t,’ said Him. ‘Him was busy adjusting the gears but Him did look up when He said “They’re here”.’

‘Do you have it?’ she queried.

‘Have it? Have it?! Of course we have it. That’s what Him was doing, adjusting your gears.’

‘Adjusting She’s gears?’ said Her. 'I didn’t know She had gears. If she has gears then Her has gears too. We’re identical, see?’

‘You don’t look identical,’ said Him. ‘She’s fat and she ain’t.’

‘Who’s “she”?’ said She and Her together, both sensing, identically, the lower case ‘s’ that Him had used.

‘Oh, don’t mind Him,’ said He, ‘he gets confused very easily. Look, I’ve got an idea. To avoid this confusion what say we – that’s us, Him and He – what say we call both of you just “Ladies”?’

‘Ooh, and we can call both of you “Gents”. How’s that? Said She, beaming at this new-found possibility of conversation between Them and other parties.

‘If you’re going to be Them,’ said He, divining She’s intention, ‘then we’ll be Us.’

‘Sounds confusing to me,’ chorused She and Him together.

‘And this, He believes – no, Us believes, is Her birthday present,’ and he pointed towards a tandem leaning against the wall.

‘This one?’ said Her.

‘No, that’s Us’s,’ said Him.

‘This one, then?’ Her walked towards a flurry of pink paintwork, deep pink saddles and adorned with pink ribbons fluttering from the pink handlebars.

‘I’ll take the front,’ said She, pushing past Her and taking hold of the handlebars. ‘It is your birthday present, after all, and the one at the back doesn’t have to work so hard.’

‘But then you get to steer.’ Her pouted. ‘And I want to steer.’

‘Oh. All right then.’ She stepped back and Her took the handlebars and threw her leg over. She threw her own leg over behind Her and they were ready to go.

Him took the handlebars of the plain black tandem and soon Him and He were ready for the off as well.

‘Where are we going?’ Her asked.

‘Down to the canal and then along the towpath, I thought’, said He.

‘Sounds good to me,’ She said. ‘Come on Her, get a move on.’

Him and He took the lead down the hill which gave Her and She an opportunity to discuss these strange men they had just met.

‘They’re a little odd,’ Her said.

‘And that’s a problem because ….’

‘No, no problem at all. In fact I rather like odd people. You and I are so normal that it’s nice to meet people who are a little different.’

‘I thought so as well,’ She said. ‘That’s why I arranged this meeting.’

Her nearly fell off the bike. They careered across the road, narrowly missing a mother duck and her offspring and catching the kerb on the off side of the road before Her managed to get the tandem back in control. ‘What do you mean, you arranged it?’ she asked finally, a little breathless and just a little bit trembling.

‘Part of your birthday present,’ She said, smugly. ‘Blind date.’

‘What, Him and He are our dates?’ Her asked.

‘Not ours. Yours. This is my present for you. The ability to wake up!’

She glanced at Hermione. Hermione glanced back and they screamed.

‘I’m Hermione’ She screeched. ‘Now what’s happened?’ She asked turning to face her brother. ‘You’re now me. No, you’re changing again. Stop it. Stop it. Who are you? What’s happening?’

‘Are we still dreaming?’

‘No!’ A voice from the ether called softly to them. ‘Settle down under the bedcovers and I’ll tell you a long story but one that will be finished by Six.’

The story was one of a magic mythic reality that transcended the fantasy by paradoxically using fantastically strobing twists of narrative thread that tangled and untangled with multitudinous municipalities and stand-in names and mistuned twins and proxy denouements and other pro-nouns amid many replacements for reality that were more real than reality itself.

Two tired bodies snuggled under their “his and hers” matching eiderdowns preparing for sleep. By Six, the voice, soft and low spoke of ideas, worlds and people that the cousins had yet to meet in a long dangerous life. All those Cycle and Psycho Paths ever steering back on themselves.

Sleep did occasionally claim them as they innocently wandered between hearing the voice, being warmed by deep slumbers, tossed on light sleep, pumped by deep breaths disguised as snores and very occasionally – short periods of wakefulness.

The voice, for so long just that, had started to take the shape of the most beautiful person ever seen – the Narrator called Six. This apparition smiled down on the boys while floating over their heads. The soft voice of Six filled their ears and filled all available orifices in the room with gentle padding.

He held her breath as once again he (in the shape of the Six) glided over the sleeping forms as they metamorphosed between being children, assorted sexes, pigs, sheep and several real and mythical or magical or municipal creatures that had no reason at all to be where they were. In fact, if their Nanny had found them in bed she would have scolded them most roundly for cheating when throwing sixes on every turn.

‘The …’

The apparition called Six said in a voice loud enough to disturb the slumbers but not strong enough to break the spell.

‘…rest …’

Six spat, placing a prawn between lips who’s colour matched perfectly the flesh of the fish.

‘… is …’

Six added another word, holding the cooked morsel daintily between finger and thumb with nails that reflected the colour of the unfortunate creature.

He bit and she swallowed.

‘… silence …’.

A Sixth Sense that only twins could manage.


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