Oyibo Pepper

Just a cave-dweller trying not to leave the house

Soliloquy

“If fish-eyes weren’t so accusatory, I’d eat fish.

Scaly bastards,

They know,

They know I’m on edge and hungry,

Drawing back from their stench.

They stare me down and dare me,

They swivel when I look away,

They’re from a whole other world,

It’s wetter,

Darker,

It’s murk and salty fog with fins

And eyes on the side to watch for sharks.

It’s a whole

Other kettle of fish.

[Pause]

That’s quite funny when you think about it.”

“There’s a scrap of blue wrapping paper off some Quality Street in that drain.

It’s sad really,

I could really use a Quality Street.

Those toffee ones.”

“We’re in a traffic jam again.

When you look ahead, you can see heat-haze and exhaust and lights,

Like a shot from a documentary in India.

The radio’s shite,

I’ve finished my Quavers. “

[Loud exhalation.]

My head vibrates as I lean against the bus window, watching the rain come down, and wondering if there’s anything to do in this city.

[Ambulance whizzes by.]

'Twas the night

‘Twas the night before Christmas and it was nippy as hell

They forgot to put grit down so ‘twas super slippy as well.

While I walked I saw a guy who looked like a dealer

So I brisked my walk and tightened my hold on my pashmina, took a sip of my Ribena.

Under this sky of festive grey,

I passed by numerous Christmas displays.

There were onesies and 1D and 8-packs of Fanta

Crocodile Dundee and punk tees and twerking santas.

See, that’s when the bile rose and the red mist descended

As I saw that all I had loved about Christmas was ended.

God, back in my day, ‘twas a thing of mirth,

We’d sit around the space heater with gifts from Woolworths.

What’s happened? Now it’s all Apple, Windows, Samsung – bananas!

Software, hardware, getting iffy emails from princes in Ghana.

No, I don’t want moustache fridge magnets or a shirt with a meme.

Novelty? To me, it seems as repetitive as a cop-out rhyme scheme.

So as I tasted the remnants of my lunch,

I drew back, took a run-up, and delivered a yuletide punch.

Smashed the glass, picked up a ‘Comfort Bliss’ back-scratcher,

Went slightly mad, there was an old lady walking past, might have accidentally whacked her.

But I was defending Christmas, that thing we hold so dear.

I stuck it to consumerism, did it without fear.

Like some snowy version of Che

I started a revolution, and that was without a beret.

Okay, okay, okay stop with the moaning, alright, whatever, I’m a fail.

I don’t know how long the guard will keep me phoning and the long and short of it is

I need bail.

A Character

It’s loud. Smell that, weed smoke. See that? Strobe-flash. All these stopmotion people, can’t even tell whose party it is. Davie’s leaning on the makeshift bar. His eyes show he’s yat surveying. Harry’s by his side making eyes too. In the corner on a settee there are a few others, staring out with ragged fringes and old t-shirts. Look on to the next settee and see another group, bit more lively, they shout over the pounding. The whole place has a pulse pushing 160, hits the hi-hats hard and fast, wobbles the haze and cuts through. The holy wobble. Dirty.

Jump with the bounce at the dancefloor. The bass, mate, fucking mental. Words just get lost to the dub so poon and stag-nights, hen-dos, forgotten names and 2am faces, plus the headache to come, that’s the world we’ve bought into. This is the witching hour, shake off uni stress and let out the demons. Let’s get smashed.

The man waltzes in. 

The sound of a distant vuvuzela heralded his arrival and the 3ft sombrero telegraphed his entrance. I swear I heard a synth fanfare too. He wore flaired leggings, literally, so jokes, then below that Air Jordans. Top half – sombrero-shaded – had an oversized basketball jersey, something dip-dyed, then chains and leather somewhere. He glided across to stage centre, cha-cha’d to the DJ, brapped the barman. He didn’t even look drunk, that’s the thing. Didn’t even have friends with him.

He was getting attention now. He jogged people, spilt their drinks, they looked round and were met with this smile and that was it; forgive and forget, it’s a good time and he was jokes, what the hell. He’d tap a guy on the shoulder, do a twirl with his girlfriend, give her back then do the same with him. When he requested WHAM! everybody loved it, even the guys with the fringes in the corner. So many cabbage patches and running men but he went all out moonwalking. At the shots table he was knocking them back – right after that he beer-ponged with the best of them. Lads on the lash and their dads floored without mercy. He might have pulled, might not. He was untouchable, novelty. A god, a legend, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, one man myth, lone rider.  Insane.

See him, shades on with a smile no dimmer from the hangover, weep at his feet, banter. Pinch him to check if he’s real. Chunder on his nice shoes. We’ve all done one of them; he still smiles, he’s still jokes. He’s one of those guys. I made a facebook page when I was still buzzing. It’s called “Leggings are jokes”. He says it’s old hat, I tell him it’s about his leggings not his sombrero. He loves it really.

We sprawled out late, pulling ourselves together, giggly, and there he was. The lightest rain fell, like speckles of dew, sky seemed low and shaded in grey and brown except for street-lights. He was sat there in the urban twilight, side-saddle on a railing with the most shameless grin. He yodelled sweet nothings to the sky; crowned half-cocked with a traffic cone.

4pm

Robert came home, passed the railings, undid the latch and took off his shoes and satchel. Loosened his tie, through to the living room - there was Father; sitting in the armchair by the wireless with today’s paper. At intervals he turned a page. At intervals he restocked his pipe. He turned, “Good day today, old boy?” Robert mumbled assent and kept moving, kept moving past Mother also. She was folding clothes, freshly pressed, half-singing ragtime. She smiled as she was wont to do and kept going.

They were always like that: very postcard, very nuclear. Yesterday had been the same positions, though Mother was ironing then. The day before, well - the rest of the week, altogether similar. To move back through the house’s history would be like watching timelapse, minimalist timelapse. Might mistake it for being a still if not for Father’s steady moustache growth and Mother’s scheduled rota of brooches. And the slowly warping headlines, Rorschaching the house’s mental health. Mother and Father: both were predictable, lovely, but predictable; eccentric in their monotony, like the poshest pair of goldfish ever to swim round South Ken. Very black and white. Caused a minor scandal when Father bought a Telegraph instead of a Times. He read it differently that day too, to adjust perhaps, snuff instead of a pipe and foot-tapping instead of the wireless. Thought they had abolished the monarchy, the way he shifted in the chair. Family.

Walking down the long hallway, leaving school behind, Robert went. Past family pictures and watercolours, souvenirs on mantlepieces, a miniature conga drum from Cuba; on past the drawing room and study. Up the stairs, repainted walls, night blue, chose it himself - and in towards the posters and Playstation, the sick speakers and comfy rug and the laptop. Collapsed on the bed, Robbie blew out the day’s smoke and breathed easier. Got out the phone, flicked through, texted a bit. Sat at the computer, Facebook up, checked the scores. Turned up the speakers, blasted dub and forgot.

Downstairs Mum and Dad exchanged a look and a smile then Dad put the kettle on.

Being Pretentious (pt 2)

We did it again, this time in reverse. I wrote a poem, Eesa drew a picture on it:

Hello, it’s good to meet you, how are you?

You’re well? That’s great, you know, me too haha

Ha. I’ve been told that you are my master.

It’s up to you what you would have me do.

My functions, versatile, will please – no doubt

BEGIN LIST 1: I’m able to resist

Virus, can mimic speech, and stay devout

I’m programmed thus: your wish is my command

Prompt.

 

In binary, therefore I think in twos

Reliably never malfunction, no,

I only do what I’m supposed to.

If you maintain me well my fuse won’t blow

I’ll stay efficient, functional, brand new.

 

And I’ll never be alone.

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