Sunday, 31 July 2011

...Joe - Chapter 2

Chapter 2
 I’m waiting for the fuzz to clear. For that bright white light to show me the way I’m going is the right one.


I wake up with the sun in my eyes and a funny taste in my mouth. I reach around until I find the alarm clock that rests by my bed and stare at the neon lights that gaze back at me, 12.20; somehow it feels so much later than that. I roll over to find Jonie perched on the windowsill, smoking, she must have felt me watching her because she turns towards me quickly, enough to give a normal person whiplash. 

“Morning Joe” she says softly, almost chillingly. 

The Jonie that sits before me now is almost a shadow of the girl she was the night before, like a living nightmare. The whole of last night feels like a living nightmare. I run a hand through my too long hair and decide that today is a good day to get a haircut. Unable to find my voice I wave a friendly “hello” back and gesture for a cup of tea. She nods back at me, but before I have time to swing my legs out of the bed her words hit me, like verbal diarrhoea.

“Joe I’m really sorry about last night, I just, she is, and I mean it’s….” Jonie splutters, unable to find any other words she stares at me and I stare back, trying to comprehend the Jonie that’s staring at me and failing badly. I shrug my shoulders and tell her to forget it, my words coming out more like Kermit the frog then Joe the err, Joe. 

She stares at me and I stare back, unsure what to do. A situation like this is new to me, to us, in fact. Jonie has never apologised for anything and it’s a given that she doesn’t need to. It’s just an understood fact. Except when we were 6 and she ripped the head off my G.I. Joe man, then she had to apologise, it was necessary then, it’s not necessary now. 

“Jonie, don’t worry, you know how it is, it’s ok” I say, trying my best to reassure her but not believing a word. 

“I know Joe, but it’s like being in a really long, dark tunnel and not seeing a way out”, with that she turns away from me back towards the window, back towards her memories and I turn towards mine. My head swamped with memories of Anna and those eyes, those perfect blue eyes. They burn through my memory, through my own eyes and I can’t stand it anymore, I need her too much. I rest my head in my hands and wish for the memories to erase themselves, drift from my mind and into another’s – just like she did. 

I stand up and head towards the door, her eyes still swimming in my head; I glance back at Jonie and feel my stomach flip. I don’t understand why I feel like this towards her; after all she’s just Jonie, nothing more, even if she’s all I wished for in a woman. I put these thoughts from my head and concentrate on breakfast and finding food in my bare kitchen. 

I come back up and Jonie’s sitting in a towel, already showered – have I been downstairs for that long? It amuses me that I’ve been so caught up in my own thoughts that time seems to run from me. I hand a cup of tea to her and a slice of toast, she mumbles a thanks. We eat in silence. I keep glancing out of the corner of my eye hoping to catch a glimpse of the old Jonie, but I can’t see her. When did we get this old? It never used to be like this, it used to be fun, and we used to have fun. The silence between us rips through me and I can’t stand it – I have to fill it, God what happened to me? I used to be able to sit through silence and not feel the urge to surrender to it, but this feels like an overwhelming barrier threatening to consume me. 
“Can you drive me to Alexs'? I need to pick up the rest of my stuff”
“Yea, let me just get cleaned up” I say, thankful that Jonie broke the barrier first. 

I get up and make my way to the bathroom, wondering if it’s a good time to shower. I think it is and before I know it I’m standing under the hot water and I feel happy. The water beats its soothing pattern onto my skin and I let go, I release all the shit of yester-night and I’m just happy to be able to have a hot shower. I close my eyes and let the water rinse over me, but there they are, those beautiful blue eyes and they pierce through my own with enough venom to knock a snake out. I open my eyes but I can still see her with me, standing next to me, her hands running over my body, sliding down my chest and reaching for me. I shake my head, knowing that this is just a daydream and I need to force myself back to reality. I dry myself off and look in the mirror – man I seriously need a haircut, I didn’t realize it had gotten so long. I make a mental note to ask Jonie when she’s in a better mood. I go back into my room and find Jonie engrossed on the phone and I mouth “Are you ok?”

She rolls her eyes and mouths back “not now”.

I shrug my shoulders and dive into the back of my wardrobe and pull out a t-shirt that I hadn’t seen in years. Vintage. I shake it out and put it on and finish getting dressed.
I glance back at Jonie and nod my head towards the door, she nods back and we head out.
We drive in silence to Alexs', a sound I’m getting too familiar with. I can see that Jonie’s panicking, she has that look in her eyes and she’s wringed her hands so tight that their void of blood.

“Geez Jonie, calm the fuck down, it won’t be that bad” I say trying to lighten the mood. She shoots me a look that screams die and I back away, cowering behind my wheel. 

We finally get there after what seems like a century and Jonie jumps out before I even pull the handbrake up on Lola. I take a deep breath and allow Jonie that one slip up; she is after all going through something that’s destroying her. I watch her walk slowly up the stairs to her old front door, fumbling with the keys in her hand, she drops them more than once before she is finally able to open the door and go in. I watch the front door for a while, hoping to see Jonie emerge any second.

After 5 minutes I turn away, staring down the street, not looking at anything and trying my best not to think about her. I turn the radio on and let the noise take over me, gently tapping my fingers to the beat on the steering wheel. Lola doesn’t mind, I know she enjoys a gentle rhythm. The thought of that makes me smile. I stroke Lola’s bonnet clean of dust and promise her and myself that I will give her a proper clean inside and out. I close my eyes and rest my head against the headrest. Memories of Anna and I flood back to me, the first time we met, the first time we kissed, the first time we, well I, you know. You see you probably think I’m obsessed but it’s not like that. It’s not like I sneak into her house and sniff her underwear whilst wanking over the family portraits. No it’s deeper than that. She was my first. Ever. And it’s not like I haven’t had girls after her, I have and they in their own right were and are amazing, but Anna. Boy, she just blows my breath away. Everything about her makes me tingle all over; she has this power over me that I can’t control, no matter what. I guess, it means I love her. Geez, that makes it even worse and I know she knows it, that’s why she can do these things. 

Lola’s door swings open and Jonie dives in, startling me out of my thoughts. I look towards her and she’s gone completely red, shaking from head to toe. She’s crying again and I don’t know what to do, loads of thoughts are flying through my head, but before any one of them finds a way out of my mouth Jonie orders me to drive.
I start Lola up and warm her into 2nd; we’re halfway home before Jonie finally tells me what happened in there.
“She was wearing my Stone Roses t-shirt”
“What? Who was?”
“How the fuck do I know who she is Joe”
“Ok” I say trying my best to calculate what to say without riling Jonie up anymore. I take a deep breath and jump into the crazy unknown that’s become Jonie’s world.
“Right, but what exactly happened?”
She stares long and hard at me and I can feel tiny beads of sweat developing on my forehead. I hate it when she looks at me like that, it kills me. I try and concentrate on the road without her knowing how uncomfortable I’m feeling right now. She finally turns away and takes a deep breath. Here it comes. 

“I go into the house and she’s got Jimmy Hendrix blaring out of the speakers. So fucking predictable, I just knew you know, that she must have someone else there. So I try grab everything as quickly as possible you know, but I can’t find my fucking Stone Roses shirt and you know how much I love that shirt and it’s not in the fucking washing machine or the bloody dryer or you know in that pile of clothes we keep by the sofa, so you know I have to go into that fucking room where that fucking music’s coming out of and I push open the door and….and” Jonie trails off and I sneak a glance at her, scared to see what I might see. She takes in another deep breath and continues.
“There’s this fucking girl lying in my bed, in my Stone Roses t-shirt, letting my girlfriend”
She shoots me a look, telling me that I-need-to-shut-the-fuck-up-coz-its-not-helping and continues.
“Letting, letting, my girlfriend pleasure her. Fucking licking her out Joe! Right there in my bed, in my fucking t-shirt and they didn’t even stop when she saw me” at this point Jonie’s started to bawl, loud, hot sobs that rack her body. 

I can’t watch her go on like this. I pull the car over, ignoring the angry beeps of passersby and I wrap Jonie in a hug, pulling her close to my chest, stroking her hair and I give her a kiss on the forehead, letting my lips linger a little too long. I can feel her tears sinking into my t-shirt, soaking my chest; I pull her tighter towards me, letting my head rest against hers, I take in that familiar Jonie smell of cigarettes mixed with that cherry shampoo she uses and my heart skips a beat. Damn I can’t seem to shake this feeling. I pull her away from me and wipe the tears off her face with the cuff of my t-shirt.
“She smiled at me Joe; she looked right at me and smiled”
“Well, Jay, do you know who she is?”
Her face crumples and fresh tears well in her eyes.
“How the fuck would I know the whore’s she sleeping with Joe! It’s not like I keep tabs on all her sordid secrets.”  
“Jonie, I…”
“Oh just drive Joe, please, just take me home”
I go to speak but the words are lodged in my throat like a pill that just won’t go down. I push Lola into first and keep my eyes glued to the road, glad to look at anything but Jonie. We drive for what feels like hours before Jonie stops crying and says
“I wanna go to Craig’s”
I can’t help but smile; she knows exactly what to say and when to say it.
I make her low 5 me before I crank Lola up again and point her in the direction of Clapham and Craig the not-so loveable druggie and head towards a happy, happy ending for the both of us. Well at least for the next couple of hours it will be. I wink at Jonie and turn onto the main road, trying not to speed but I’m so friggin’ excited I can’t help myself.

It doesn’t take us long to reach our destination, you can tell just by looking around you that it’s not exactly the greatest part of Clapham; most of the shops have shut and their windows boarded up and so many kids just hanging around, what for only God knows, but there they are and there they’ll always be I guess. But the unfortunate outcome of small children isn’t my concern right now.
I find a spot around the corner; I hate to leave Lola where I can’t see her but I don’t want anyone to think I’m associated with Craig. Jonie’s out of the car like a flash – I’m beginning to wonder if there’s some sort of competition I’m not in on and that I’m losing horribly. 

I clamber awkwardly out of Lola and give her a once over to check that all’s ok, and nothing dodgy looking is lingering around her and I lop after Jonie – who by now is a long way ahead of me. By the time I catch up to her she’s waiting patiently on the steps leading up to Craig’s door. She doesn’t want to go in first and that’s understandable – Craig always gives Jonie the once over and not on the sly. I’ve always felt uncomfortable around him and I’m a guy – God only knows how Jonie feels. We knock twice on the door, the staple greeting for those coming to buy and not smoke. A guy opens the door and looks at us through blood shot eyes so far in the back of his head he might as well turn around, it’ll probably feel more comfortable.

“Who the fuck are you?” he asks in a grizzly bear tone and I’m convinced that by the way he’s rocking backwards one blow would knock him over.
“I said who the fuck are you?”
“We’ve come to see Craig” Jonie pipes up in her I’ve-had-a-bad-day-don’t-fuck-with-me tone.
The guy laughs and staggers back a little and I can see Jonie getting angry.
“Just move out of the fucking way yeah” Jonie growls.
The guy stops laughing and he’s glaring his bloodshot eyes at Jonie, I grab her arm and pull her behind me, as if that’ll protect her from the crazy druggie.
“Look mate, we come here all the time and she’s not in a good mood yeah, so don’t listen to her yeah, just let us in, yeah mate.” 

I make to move past him but he blocks the doorway. I sigh and look him straight in his eyes. Fucking crack head. He looks from me to Jonie then back again and thankfully steps out the way, well just enough for us to squeeze past him. I get past him fine but Jonie has the unlucky pleasure of brushing up against him. Nice. He laughs and eyes her up as we make our way down the hall, littered with crack heads and junkies. The place is dark; it seems as if they don’t know how to pay their electric bill. Either that or if the lights were on then they’d be able to see what sordid condition they managed to get themselves in.

I open the door to Craig’s “den” and I swear it’s darker in here then it is in the hallway. Jonie squeezes past me and closes the door, it takes awhile but my eyes adjust to the dark and I can make out a dim light in the corner, which is emitting a muggy red sheen over the whole room – ties in with the crack smell I think. Through the dim of the light I can make out 3 figures sprawled on what looks like a makeshift bed and a dirty mattress. Why is it that dirt always shines bright in the worst conditions? I ponder this for a while whilst taking in my surroundings, until Jonie gives me a sharp kick on my shins. 

“Joe, what the fuck are you looking at?”
“Nothing” I mumble back, trying desperately to adjust my eyes to the light.
Jonie shoots me a seething look and whispers “Is he dead?”
“What?” I whisper back, not trying to hide my shock.
“Is he dead?” she furiously mouths back.
“What! No.” I say still shocked at such a ridiculous question, but curiosity takes hold and I glance at Craig lying precariously on the floor and I go to kick him but Jonie stops me. Damn.
“What are you doing?” she whispers angrily at me.
“What? You thought he was dead” I say forgetting that we’re meant to be whispering.
“Well, I didn’t want you to kick him” she whispers back, visibly pissed.
“What you bitches want?” floats at us from the darkness and we both jump, startled by the sudden sound and movement. I turn in the direction that it came from and I see Craig propped up on his arms, supported by his bitches – I mean women.
“Well we’ve come for some weed” I say tentatively, disgraced by how small and pathetic my voice sounds. Man, I’m such a wimp.
I snap back to reality and hear Craig laughing; it rips through me like a knife – why does no one respect me?
“You want weed yeah?” he laughs again, “how much you looking for? A blue? A ben?”
I go to speak but Jonie jumps in before me.
“A ben” she says coolly. Damn I wish I was like her.
“Aite” he says slowly and in the darkness I can just make out the whites of his eyes and their rolling just as much as my head from the fumes in the room.
“Well? Don’t you want it?” he says angrily, pissed off that we’re taking up way too much of his time.
“It’s in the box” he points lazily to a small green, at least it looks green, box and I go to open it but he stops me.
“Not you, you” he points at Jonie and laughs, I swear he thinks I’m undercover police, he keeps giving me that look – why the fuck do we keep coming here? I run a nervous hand through my hair. Damn I need a haircut. That’s probably why Craig doesn’t like me.

Jonie takes out a small bag and holds it up so Craig sees exactly what she’s got and I hand over the money tentatively. I always think he’s going to cut me and I jump slightly at my own thoughts. He laughs at me and I feel like a right prick. We head back down the hall and past the crack heads and the junkies and the guy that gave us shit at the front door. He’s passed out in his own sick and I give him a good kick for luck and I have to use all the power within me not to run towards the door. I refuse to believe that I’m a pussy.

We’re out the door in no time and I can finally breathe. Jonie looks at me with a “what the fuck” look. I just shrug and lead the way down the stairs on our mission back to Lola, looking to my right and to my left; you never know who’s watching you.
I check Lola over and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with her so I climb in and wait for Jonie who’s trailing behind me, looking less like herself. I sigh and wonder if she’ll ever recover, but as soon as she gets in the car she has that look on her face, that greedy, weed look and I catch on to her excitement. Man we haven’t been this excited over a spliff since year 10. I catch her eye and we laugh. We both know that this is going to be a good evening.

We take the long way back home to avoid Alex. I don’t know why but it feels necessary. I’m skipping red lights just to get back home; I’m that eager. I can feel the weed burning a hole in my pocket and then I see her, standing on the corner of my road talking to that guy, fuck, what’s his name? Jack? Lucas? Wait no Stephen. That’s it, Stephen, the guy who she dumped me for at that party and then who dumped her, so she called me and of course I came running to save her.
I can’t fucking believe it, there she is, flipping that gorgeous mahogany hair of hers and laughing with him and oh my gosh she just touched his arm! WHAT THE FUCK! She used to be like that with me, she used to touch my arm like that and look at me like that and…
I turn round just in time to slam my foot on the brake before I run over a kid whose standing in the middle of the fucking road, clutching a bloody red football.
I’m shaking all over and my hands seem to be glued to the steering wheel.
“Fuck me; he came out of fucking nowhere!”
“No he fucking didn’t Joe! What the fuck were you looking at?”
Jonie swivel’s around in her seat looking around the street and then she stops and turns towards me slowly
“Oh my gosh Joe”
“Wait Jonie, it’s not like that”
“It’s not like WHAT Joe? You nearly ran over a fucking kid coz of her, of her Joe? You could have killed him! When will you finally get it into your fucking head that she’s no good for you! She’s a fucking crack whore and not worth a minute of your time, you, you, ah just forget it, I just, enough. I’m not gonna tell you again, this has been going on for way too long Joe. Way too long.”
“Let’s just go home, yeah Joe”
I finally peel my hands of the steering wheel and shift Lola into 1st and then 2nd and make the short journey home.


  1. Ha, I get to type a resounding FIRST! on this one.

    A great continuation. I really felt for Jonie and the mannerisms and emotion you put into her fleeing the flat are really apt and strong. I also enjoyed Joe's vicarious uncomfort, painfully aware of traveling with the weed, the half feeling that you're gonna get caught out just by being out and existing, like it's written on your forehead.

    The one thing hat grate's, and it's not a negative and actually very realistically unfair is Jonie's constant attacks on Joe about Anna. I know we haven't got the WHOLE story, however what with Jonie being in the same situation with Alex giving her the runaround and having gone back to her repeatedly, I'd have hoped that Joe would have a little more frustration at her needling and aggression. Not saying Jonie wouldn't say those things, I'm just saying that the little rebellious voice in Joe's head would be saying "Oh yeah, well who are you to judge?"

    Love Joe's constant checking of 'Lola' and the repetition no-one dodgy being around every time he gets out. Fun.

    The ONE true criticisum I have is... No-one says G.I. Joe man. It's a G.I. Joe and that's all :-). Besides, all the cool boys had an Action Man...

    Looking forward to more, very compelling and addictive.

  2. Yes Action Man!! That has been bugging me - I couldn't remember the right name and all I could think was G.I. Joe man - thank you!

    Your comment regarding Jonie's opinion of Anna is a good one, I didn't think about it before but now you've said it you've got me thinking what his reaction would be. They have a close relationship and they can freely say what they want to each other but if I had a friend constantly bad mouthing an "ex" it would piss me off. It should aggravate him.

    Thank you!

  3. Hi Rachel,

    I've enjoyed the development of your characters as the story progresses and you really took on board the comments from last time. I think it was Ashley who suggested more description in your work, and you've really stepped up to the plate. I can really see the seedy dealer's house in my mind's eye. The description is vivid and you've also given us a lot of uncomfortable details which really make the scene stand out as a place where the characters go because they are compelled rather than because they enjoy spending time there.

    I also think the use of first person narrative continues to be very effective, offering us a good insight into Joe's inner workings.

    There was a couple of grammatical things to think about:
    1. "We drive in silence to Alexs', a sound I’m getting too familiar with. I can see that Jonie’s panicking, she has that look in her eyes and she’s wringed her hands so tight that their void of blood." I think you should have Alex's instead, as it's the possession of Alex rather than the possession of Alexs. Does that make sense?
    2. “Geez Jonie, calm the fuck down, it won’t be that bad” I say trying to lighten the mood. She shoots me a look that screams die and I back away, cowering behind my wheel". Maybe you should think about having speech marks around the word 'die' to emphasise that this the word being screamed as a result of Joanie's expression?

    I foolishly commented on chapter 3 as well, so check out my comments there too. :)

  4. Joe gets lost in his own thoughts and often. Like it but I think you should have a check list of senses to help 'ground' the work in reality. Too many thoughts can cause the reader to become confused when actions and events happen in the protagonists exterior world. Combine actions with the thoughts a bit more? You did with Joe having the shower, so that was cool. Like the reoccurring need for him to shape up his ego (using the haircut to illustrate his need for transformation) but there is no need for you to have him tell us how pathetic he feels - hint it/imply it/show it but let us work it out. Subtly is what this piece needs methinks.

    Oh and before I go, I'll explain the sense's check list: Write your piece and then look for ways to illustrate what we are hearing (what noises are in the crack den?), what we are tasting (Joe has an odd taste in his mouth....explore this but just a little. What did he last eat drink last night), Sight happens naturally so focus on touch, an often neglected sense and oh, taste! Spiderfingers can't taste and his inability to do so sends him a little crazy in The Killing Moon. I hope these random tit-bits help!

    One last thing; I often type in red ink and approve the parts I like in black. I don't know why, but red reads as 'pencil' (draft) and black reads as 'ink' (keeper). I ALWAYS turn everything back to red when I stop for the day so that when I come back, everything is up for improvement. Stops you from accepting your work as done. Wasn't happy about the 'blows my breath away line'. Intentional mixed metaphor to help his thoughts appear real? People mix metaphors all the time I guess. Have someone learned chastise Joe for it I reckon.

    Fav bit:

    'The place is dark; it seems as if they don’t know how to pay their electric bill. Either that or if the lights were on then they’d be able to see what sordid condition they managed to get themselves in.'

    I like this and might I suggest a slight change?

    'The place is dark; it seems as if they don’t know how to pay their electric bill. Either that or if the lights were on then they’d be able to see too much.'

  5. Thank's Leanne for the Alex's/Alexs' thinkg it has been bugging me and I couldn't figure out which way around it should go so you've cleared that up nicely :)

    I will definitely develop the description of Joes' primary senses, I think it will help gain a better insight to the character.

    Cheers folks! My brains turned to mush and I have no more to say, but somewhere in the back there it's ticking over all your comments :)

  6. I like this chapter. I’m really enjoying your story so far. I really want to know what went wrong between Anna and Joe (and why she’s such a bitch). But I guess I’ll have to wait, lol.

    I agree with Sim about Jonies’ attacks on Joe about Anna, I mean, after all, she IS in the same situation with Alex (any reason why Alex and Anna’s names being with A and Jonie and Joes names are similar?)

    Um... my only niggle, and it’s probably only because I don’t like the word - ‘Geez’. It’s associated more with American slag that it is with English. I, personally, don’t know any British people who say it – unless, they have American friends/family. I’d be interested to hear how the others feel about it though...

  7. I didn't think about the names properly before. Thanks for that! Weird isn't it? Will give that some thought!

    RE: "Geez" I've been wondering about htat and whether or not to put in more British slang - it'll be on the "to do list" for the re-write.

    Unfortunately you will have to wait to find out about Anna and Joe! Mainly because I haven't written it yet (eep!)