Chapter 1:

Wonderful Day

Jolly Good, My Dear Jimothy-Kun (Rewrite)

For once, grey is absent from the sky. Atop a balcony, my palm cushioned beneath my cheek, flesh like an apple—my fingers redden in the sunlight—I assure the air’s freshness, swirling my cheeks, savouring the light taste before it stagnates; then, I separate my lips and deflate.

Why it a jolly morning is today. Finely, yes, I shall say it—that clouds are curses. And to see that dull fluff cured, vanquished and replaced by its colourful cousin, blue, is a wonder. If it were blue last night, if my sight were coherent and not obscured by the darkness, and I could see the vomit that I smelled, I would have dropped no bottle. Its specular form would not have shattered, like the tablets brought down by Moses—although I was not startled by an idolised cow: honest, it was my clumsiness—you, stupid guilt, can quiet up. Had it not been my mistake, would I have cleaned it up? No. Dante could have journeyed the demonic plane, of all its layers, and I would yet to have tidied­, rather, I would not have tidied such a mess. I would have abandoned the place, returning home, never to look back—albeit part of that is a lie. To leave it at a lie would disregard the thing glaring at the back of my head, shaming me. That in, my mind. Darn guilt, how you haunt me. If the bottle smashing was purposeful, or if it was a result of someone else’s stupidity—and shut up with your negative fantasies, guilt, perhaps a positive fantasy would be better—I would have returned early, and I would have sat by my fireplace tea in hand.

And glory to that thought. Yet, it is far too bright out, no, it’s far too warm. My neck stings and sweats. To sit by the fire would be absurd in such heat. But here I stand before an abundantly bright sun—my eyes stabbed by its splendour and their excretion salty enough to qualify as seasoning.

Herein, I speak:

–   An inspirational view.

Today needs some day-ish words. Yes, so I dig into my overcoat. I need my notebook. It’s a harsh thing against my lungs. I unsheathe it and take a power-breath. Holding it beyond the balustrade, I question the freshly flicked page, face-to-face, Hamlet-to-skull.

–   Whilst—

I choke on my saliva. Clear my throat, and I shall not interrupt myself.

   Whilst the sky may bleed with vividness, 
   and though such vividness is wondrous, 
   profuse, abundantly bright and wonderfully charming, 
   a light too sweet is haunting.

Such an abundance of lustre is, indeed, plaguing; thus, I shield my eyes. A minute later, a few minutes later or even hours later, perhaps, my eyes will remain stung by that light. Still, I stand wanting to bask in its splendour. Frozen. Stationary. Like an icy river.

Is this laziness?

The guilt exists within me. Regardless of whether I dropped the bottle on purpose, guilt still infects me. Not for the clumsy act itself but for another act entirely.

If this guilt is the spawn of laziness, am I lazy on purpose?

How charming a talk. Guilt. Such a hateful spirit. It always manages to crawl back to me. If I could remove its existence, how joyous a fantasy that would be, however, I’m certain such joy would be temporary.

And beyond a sliding door, of which I slip through, that box mocks me. It’s locked. It’s unremorsefully stubborn in its inability to give up and open itself. How sly.

A label incites my curiosity. The box has a name. Its name is Jimothy. A bog-standard handwriting seems to render it in capitals. The label is sticky. It’s tacked on with glue, no doubt. But by who? There is no sender—only the name of whom it was sent to. Jimothy. That name is coincidence incarnate. I’m unsure how I will tell him the upset. My daft self, regardless of how I would tell him, could I tell him? I can only wait, no?

–   Ad infinitum: and for eternity, I may stand still.

Her watch is still downstairs.

Irritative, how irritative: an incessant whistling, a needle-like sting of wind, is like a brain freeze to my ears. I shut the door.

Curiosity wracks my mind: why was the box given to me? Who would waltz into someone’s house to deliver a box? For certain, no delivery company would do that. Well, yes, to the door, but this is my bedroom. It would take a questionable fellow to drop by and leave behind a locked box. But it would have been feasible: I think I left that sliding door open last night. Someone must have snuck in whilst I was out. Regardless, no sane person would leave a locked box beside someone’s bed. What is this, a stalker’s love letter? No one else would show such commitment—to scale someone’s house with this hefty thing in tow. What else would motivate someone to such an extent other than their deranged desire for some personal Rapunzel? It would not have flown in on its own.

Coincidence—if that’s what it is, I’ll chew my foot off. Same goes if it’s from Arabella, not that she could have sent it.

No, I dare not think about her.

I digress. I never introduced her to Jimothy, anyway. Whoever sent it is irrelevant. Even then, it's a bad omen. I should let Jimothy know. He might have some trouble going his way.

In the meantime, what does the clock say? It counts one to three. That could be an odd phrase for conversation: you’re the one counting, not the clock. One to three? No, think of it as one two three. Following on it’d be four five six, and then it’s seven ate nine. But why? Is nine tasty? Where did eight go? Why is seven hungry? So many questions. I’ll write them all down. Might make for a stupid bit of poetry.

The time now? Three o’ clock: bang on. I need to remember to turn off the lights. I must have left the hall lit last night: the bulb’s worn out. Could buy a new one. A cheap one. Could sell the chandelier too. I’ve always liked it, but I bang my head against it every morning. Gong. Jangle, jangle. Gong. Tingle tang. The thing could beat me up and send me to A&E. Devilish delinquent. I’ll sell it after all. Could keep it for the week first—save face in front of a guest. I might come across as trying too hard. I’ll figure something out.

And my notebook? Should I leave it in my study? Then again, I’ll return with a story to tell. Bury me six feet under if I can’t write it down. For now I can pocket it back into my overcoat.

It pushes against my chest again. I’ll manage.

The staircase is lumpy—meaty, perhaps. Carpeted steps were a mistake. Worn plenty; stepped on plenty. Previous owner shared in the frolic—that I’m certain. Stretched flabby more so than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Surely, the sheep would be a size too big. The disguise would work, at best, as a makeshift Halloween costume. Unless that’s what it wants—to look like a demonic lamb or like a child pressing for attention.

I trip. A carpet lump. That’s happened twice to me now. First time was how long ago? Returned with the shopping. A Tuesday like today. Or was it a Wednesday? The fridge was empty on the Thursday.

It’s amazing I remember all this. It was years ago, though that week still haunts me. I still get nightmares reliving those arguments. Why did she do that? Stupid, stupid. I miss that stupid, stupid.

Where are my keys? Not under the rug. Not in any of my pockets. What about behind the plant pot? Rubbish. They’re in one of my shoes. Silly place to put them: they could cut me. I don’t want to see more blood. Last week’s incident nearly rushed me to hospital. I’ll say it was a nosebleed. Really it was, but I’d prefer to lie—whether that’s me lying to myself or someone else, I’ll make unclear; I’ll make it seem like something far worse. How’s that for a red herring?

I fiddle through my keychain; then I render the door open and, giving birth to outdoors, bloom! Brightness bursts forth, sickly to my eyes: and it echoes my shadow into the house and down its halls.

Outside, my garden is vibrant and overly tall; the gardens of my neighbours are kindly shaved to a near-bald state, tasting fresh to the nose’s tongue; diesel leaks into the air but only lightly flavours, as though taking a slice of lemon to water. And dispersedly spread apart, a slew of cars are coloured colourfully—each a different hue from the last.

I stuff my keys into my outer pocket, and I button that pocket. My keys shall never escape. Striding on, ducking under greenery that peek over brick walls, I put on a good dance—my feet playful upon the earth’s crust.

I dip into the road. Someone is speeding. Red, blurry blob-mobile. They’re heading my way.

I step back onto the pavement. Had I been a few seconds late and. Full stop: death. My life would have flashed before me. Glad it didn’t. It would have been a dull showcase.

That driver is probably drunk out their mind. The same ladybug-like thing was parked by the pub last night. It’s still sporting that idiotic sticker: ‘BABY BUCKLED! DON’T TOSS OVERBOARD!’ Watch them bounce over the speed bump. It’s like a land dolphin. Horrid screeching. That must be how cars communicate. Blowhole is the exhaust pipe, and it shoots smoke instead of breathing.

Ow! I’ve bumped into someone.

­­–   Oh, sorry.

I need to watch myself. Whoever I’ve bumped into better be a kind person. No, I’m stupid! I’m screaming inside: it’s a lamppost. Embarrassing. I’m getting weird looks from across the road; I play it off as nothing.

Ancient thing—that lamppost. I doubt it works. It’s stained plenty and covered with flyers. Underneath there’s a crusty line of red. Whatever happened here seems suspicious. No, never mind. I’m mistaken: it’s rust.

A bird squawks. It’s either mocking me or crying for help. The distressed screeching makes me think the latter. Whilst I’m not so keen to find out, I have little choice in the matter: the longer I walk the closer its noises get. Perhaps, I should take another route. Which though? The crying has stopped. It could be right where I’m heading. It’s a nightmare to navigate these streets, this tricky labyrinth. I’ll have to take my chances. Oh, but I recognise this junction. The market is not far from here. Might go later, granted there’s time. A nice pastie would be grand. If fortune strikes me, I’ll also find macaroons—I could go for one about now. It’s unlikely that anywhere is selling: the stars may never align for my sake, for coincidence’s sake, or for the sake of whatever you may call ‘luck’. Not that I care. Imagining the possibility is pleasurable enough. Then again, calling ‘luck’ anything—giving it any attention at all, as if it were a thing—is premature. It’s merely coincidence. Foolishly, anyway, here I am giving it a name and attention: luck: coincidence. Perhaps, I possess no instinct to act upon these things; I can call that statement premature at the very least.

What would Jimothy think? He would say I’m thinking too much. And that I am. Then I would shut him up—only takes a few words for better or worse. Too obedient for his own good. It’s bad for him—unknowingly self-destructive, even. He’s less crash and burn, more reverse and crash.

If that’s Jimothy, what am I? Who am I to think this? I often crash into things myself; the lamppost is proof. It’s infuriating. If that was a person things would be problematic—even worse if it were a police officer. I’ve got no one to help me. What if it were someone with a bad temper? What if that person had a weapon, a knife, a gun? Can you get guns in England? Worst case scenario, yes. In an even worse worst-case scenario, I could’ve bumped into a bigshot of some underworld mafia or whatnot. If I were to meet someone like that my luck would be undeniably awful. I’m glad lampposts don’t carry weaponry. Oh, and here’s a thought: suppose, as a sick joke, someone tapes a gun to one. What a situation. The news would get a lot from such a story. Morbidly funny, no?

I wonder if journalism would suit me. I have enough formal wear thanks to my parents; however, non-fiction is a tad dull. Some of it I mind. Philosophy is nice, but that’s only because it turns life into fantasy. It’s dramatization. Oh, but that’s also journalism. Forget it. I need to sort my problems out first before making any decisions. Let me think: to maintain the house I need more money; to get more money I need a better job; a better job requires effort, but where do I find effort? What is effort for that matter? Darn! oh, darn.

I collapse.

My hands are trembling. My hands are trembling. The thing in front of me, dear all holy thingamawhatsits, oh dear. I’ve ran into the devil. After turning the corner—wallop to my heart—I see this? No, no. What do I do? Was it the car? Who do you call for something like this?

A corpse. A bird’s corpse. Its grotesque form singes my senses. Its dark feathers are spread out, the body in cradle position. I reach for it hesitantly but pull back emptyhanded. Before I can think a line like ‘poor thing’ a big, white bird zooms by and plucks the dead thing up. I wish I could do something like fly into the sky, defeat the giant bird and take back the littler one; yet reality grounds me—quite literally, so. If there was a reason, a form of logic or karmic retribution, as to why the bird deserved death, I might understand. No, there’s no reason. It’s coincidence. Bad luck. I’m frothing with madness and sweet anger. I’m beginning to hate ‘coincidence’. But! I will not let this ruin my day.

I press on and soon arrive at a house backlit by the golden sun. It’s the only house on this street—its presence is intimidating. Pure white paint. Built on wood. No dints, no scratches. Simply flawless.

Once I see him, this is what I will say: it’s been a year, Jimothy, and we’ve done nothing. Let’s make this the best week of our meaningless lives.

Infinitesimal light particles pass my shoulder, and the sun harshly cuts the littered pavement. Bent, another rusting lamppost in hardly any condition to work—when I consider how, in the day, you rarely think about lampposts, it makes me grin—a magnet to dead flies that clump together in their little glass chamber, catnip for flies and a lighthouse for those who roam the night but useless for anyone with a decent sleep schedule, disregarding pub outings in the early nights of winter, like last, last winter with Jimothy lugging my drunk self home and me giving him trick questions on literature. Most memorably, I asked, ‘who is Odysseus?’ to which I revealed the answer, ‘nobody’.

I hop up a staircase. This jacket of mine flops around. And my top hat is a size too big: when I jump a step, my hat jumps two. I clamp it down. A loose hair strand gets under my glasses and pokes my eye. I lick my thumb and bring the strand under my hat. Stamp it like a sticker. And: it slips down again.

A plastic table. It, like the house, is a clean white—so are the chairs. In fact, pretty much everything is white. Daises are planted in a flowerbox. Tons of them. That calls for a fair amount of maintenance. Same for the house: how long does it take to repaint? Not a small home. Quite the makeover compared to the flaking burgundy it used to wear. Only get a glimpse of the new look going to-and-fro work. 

Right, then. Enough ogling.

I adjust my overcoat and necktie—scratchy things. Shake like a dog; cough thrice, knock on thrice. Do a little jump and a ratatata; bring my ear to the door: slaps of feet. Slippers, I think.

There’s a crash. I like to imagine a cartoonish orchestra of elephants, screeching cats and car horns. Add a chainsaw in, and you’re set.

A number of locks turn. Chains. Jangling keys. Metal clicks. Unstrapping Velcro. Hopefully that’s a mere hallucination. Rather unreliable for a security measure. I peek through the door’s eyeglass; an emerald eye stares back. Like gem like shine. Stand back! for inwards the door swings. And now I see him after long—after waiting two eternities—he, for a change, dresses formally. Such niceties are wasted on me. A waistcoat so silver and sparkly grand. And its hem glimmers, sine qua non, duly, as the beaming outdoors commands it to. Jimothy caresses said hem. He weakly flops it up and down—enough so to see its golden flipside. A lacklustre gold, or, more specifically, a gold that lacks lustre.

Later, I should thank him for his effort. Then again, his shoes are upsetting. Pink? What the holy hand grenade is he thinking? No, no, it’s the classic colour scheme: silver, gold and by glory a touch of hot pink. Jumped right out the 80s, I’ll tell you. No, I’ll tell him later. First, we reune’.

–   Jimothy! I say.

The pale-skin string bean of a man teeters on his tiptoes. I now add:

–   Time’s done us distance.

–   Are you warm? he asks. It should be cool inside.

–   I’m boiling. Let me IN, I beg of thee.

Cramped hall. Leaning walls. Dome-like ceiling lights. White wax. Lavender. Oh, sweet honey and hazelnut alure. Very airy despite the closed space. I’m rejoiced to be here. I stretch out to form a Y. Then I realise the hanging arch above me. Don’t want to hit my hand.

–   Quite the renovation, I say with an arms-crossed spin.

–   Hadn’t it been asking for a revamp?

–   That it had. I envy your pay.

He leads me to a nice painting of a moonlit forest. It’s a tad dark and depressing for me. A sad man, like Osamu Dazai, sits on damp grass and watches a tree stump. As if it’ll grow. Though, it seems Jimothy is directing me elsewhere. Heed my left: a door swings open. Swivelling dodge. And I stumble—bang! into the wall. Darn me.

–   What’s wrong, Morris?

–   Your concern isn’t needed. I’m fine.

Jimothy nods and takes me into an expansive room. Versatile, all mighty! Kitchen and living room—all in one. Thus, such mighty might might mighty prove its worth today.

I’m adding that to the notebook.

And in we go!

The liminal space. How empty. In the furthest corner are two bookshelves: one is lined with thin books—same bright shade as everything else—and the other bookshelf is lined with folders full of plastic wallets. Jimothy points to a table in the opposite corner, set for afternoon tea. It’s by a window. Gives you a right gorgeous view of the sun. Natural rays beam in. On the table, a transparent vase filters red light. As well, two teacups steam. And by dear pa, father of all that is holy, what a treat. A wishing fountain tosses itself a coin in hopes of becoming so splendid. Three silver plates, skewered by a beam, a kebab of delight, house the high-class sweeties’ suite with—thank the Lord—macaroons, Oreos and jammy dodgers. They, who are addictively poignant, smite contempt upon the lowly-placed savoury, thumb-sized quiches and triangular sandwiches—ham and mustard, chicken and pickle.

I sit down, and I sure down my drink quick. Teacups are too shallow. Tilt it, eye it, gawk at it. Two droplets run down as I tilt, racing from the stained depths. Two snails in a hare’s race. Looks more so like a wee bit of diarrhoea, semi-stuck down-under, trickling down slow. A bidet would be useful. Power wash it. Perhaps, it's more effective than soap: that way it kills at least 99.9% of germs.

Plates are fancy. Flower-patterned ceramic. Just fit, I’d say, for my hands. For Jimothy to have carried them here one by one, he’d have needed both hands; I bet the last macaroon on that. Though, however he set them down, he sure knows how to make a table look nice.

I’m going to lose two drops of tea. They’ll crash into each other in not so long. A thrilling snail-pace game of bumper cars. The impact is traumatising. It will splash everywhere. The tea, that is. If it were non-metaphorical bumper cars, you would leave with a scrambled brain. Who am I talking to? Am I talking to my brain? Will my brain respond? Yes, if it turns insane from a bumper car ramming into my skull—but that has yet to happen. Though I should be careful dismissing the ‘yet’. I do not welcome jinxes.

The droplets are close. I tilt the cup upright again; they drip into the depths, slow. Regardless, no matter what way I spin this, they will meet and crash. Could steer them—guide them like marbles through a maze—but it seems wasted effort for a couple tea drops. I would be better off crying over spilt milk.

–   Compliments to your table’s garnish, I say.

Jimothy tilts his head and holds his jaw like a pencil. I add:

–   It’s well decorated. I’m not crossing my fingers, no, not at all: everything’s positioned masterfully. In composition, what was it called? The golden ratio, I think. Nature’s miraculous formula or of the like.

–   You think I intended to make art?

–   Of course, no, not intentionally. If I did, a resurrected Leonardo da Vinci would slap me silly. Besides, this is artistic science. I expect you know something about it.

–   Golden ratio? Rings a bell. Anyway, what’s with your joke? If you were to resurrect someone, out of all the landmark people throughout history, why da Vinci? A painter might be low-hanging fruit.

Pastry debris rolls off my finger after I pop a quiche. Not sweet enough. I twist an Oreo, scrape the cream with my teeth, and then munch. Try to speak and I’ll gargle: chocolate phlegm at the back of my throat. I need water. Jimothy pours me a glass.

–   Make it reincarnation then, I say.

–   I don’t think painting skills transfer over reincarnation.

–   Ignore that for a second: Jimothy, you’re the reincarnation of Hokusai.

–   Are you saying I don’t keep them then—the skills. He crosses his arms. Is that the punchline?

–   No: quite the opposite. I lean forward. I’m saying you’re great.

Jimothy thumbs his cheek, softly, and then he averts his eyes.

Did that come across as pressuring? Greatness is intimidating: it’s a giant tide. It takes, it gives, it destroys. It pulls back to nab litter from the beach; it darkens the sand into sulphur-like grey—prime material for a temporary castle. Then, when the tide washes back over the sand, the castle crumbles. No sand is lost. It’s all recycled. A breath-taking thought. Suffocatingly brilliant. That or I’m drowning.

Those sweet goodies—few are left.

–   Thanks, Jimothy. The service has been grand.

He nearly says something but stops, rests his head on the table, and then nods.

After reraising his head, he stabs a macaroon. It crumbles some—scattering purple dust—but he manages to take it to his lips, leaving one left. Some residue is stuck to his fork’s prongs.

I crave sugar.

–   Outstretch your hand a moment.

Jimothy lends his palm; I plop a plate on. It spans from his fingertips to his wrist. Losing balance of it, he grasps with his other hand—dual-wielding.

–   The last macaroon is mine. I say.

Chuckling from confusion, Jimothy responds:

–   Sure, have at it.

And swipe; stuff it in my mouth. Oh, delectable. Sweeter when you taste the centre. Crusty outside. The innards are almost buttery. My teeth will be a hassle to clean. I still want more. Scavage my fork for remnants. Some but not enough.

Jimothy. His fork. I snatch it. Sure, he’s confused now; and that matters? No. I scrape off the macaroon residue. Jimothy’s not doing much. In fact, is he holding his knees? Seems to be waiting for me to return his fork. Too entrusting. Makes me feel bad. I roll purple crumbs between my fingers.

I’ve given him his fork back now, but that hasn’t cured his confusion. I gobble what residue I had scraped off. Jimothy is quiet. Why? Did I upset him somehow? This can’t be about me salvaging his leftover crumbs. It shouldn’t be a big deal: he’s done eating. Perhaps he’s concerned about something. I should ask him. No, that’s too direct. Then again, I’m not the type to beat around the bush. But why don’t I do anything? If I’m a direct person, I shouldn’t wait to act. I shouldn’t be a helpless thing stuck at sea—a boat with no oar and no sail. Stagnant. That’s like the bird from this morning. I didn’t even check if it was dead. It may have been breathing. There was no movement. It got taken. Like I took the fork. No, that’s a stupid comparison. There’s no reason to worry over taking a fork. That’s not what Jimothy’s worried about—I’m certain. But the bird. Is it alive still? Chances are it’s dead. It was swiped by that other bird for a reason. It was food. But what if I could have helped it? If I had acted would things still be the same?

–   Morris.

What do I do? Well, there’s little that I can do. It’s dead. And this is reality: nothing lives forever. Nature is cruel like that.

–   Morris.

Did I hear something? No, I’m mistaken. I think it was Jimothy. It sounded like a bird—like something mocking me. The cry from earlier. That bird. Is it still alive? I hear something. Could it be that same bird and that same cry? What if it’s the other bird? Is that other bird crying? Does it feel guilty for what it did? Can birds possess guilt? Guilt is human. Can birds possess humanity? Why is humanity limited to humans? Do all humans possess humanity? Do I?

–   Morris. Would you mind hearing me out?

Oh, I lost myself. Jimothy’s talking to me. I better answer. How should I answer? For now, I’ll respond with genuine interest:

–   Yes?

–   No, It’s nothing. Jimothy adds, no, that’s not right: it is something.

He’s clearly worried. I’ll be there for him.

–   What’s on your mind? I ask.

His face. It’s red. Jimothy is tense; yet, I can’t tell if he’s flustered, angry, or both. He sighs and then speaks:

–   Should I say? No, you can ignore me. Don’t worry. Really.

I lean close, like I’m interrogating him.

Jimothy points to his fork. 

–   Okay, how about this then: can you promise me—can you not eat something that’s been in my mouth?

Huh? Was that it? Oh, no, that won’t do. It’s too funny. I reel back and slam the table. Momentary silence. All that over me using his fork? And he tells me this, oh, so, nervously. Was he that worked up over an indirect kiss? I can’t stop myself from laughing. That’s all? I can’t look at him. I’m clutching my belly as if it might explode. My goodness. What does Jimothy’s face look like right now? I can’t help but curl up. Knees, my sturdy servants, cover my guts and don’t let them spill out!

–   You’re great. You really are a brilliant specimen, Jimothy.

I manage to glance at him through my joyful tears. His eyes are also teary, and yet he’s not laughing. I stop my boisterous cackle and can’t help but worry. Perhaps, I’m missing something; perhaps, he thinks I’m laughing at him; or, perhaps, it’s something else.

–   This isn’t about the fork, is it?

–   No, no, no, it’s not because of you.

–   It’s fine. It’s been a while. I’m still a good stupid one, eh, Jimothy? I’ll make it up to you. Let’s make this the best week of our meaningless lives.

He nods.

Who cares if I’m overthinking this, but this better not be serious. If it is, I’ll devote my entire soul to you, Jimothy. Our friendship shall reign supreme. 

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