Category Archives: GJ Hart

Fall Me Twice

Saliva, a wet mouth. It catches him every time; like that line from Montague Terrace or the smell of faeces and newspaper print.
+++++Ike Russell jumps from bed a full hour before his alarm sounds and walks to the mirror.
+++++He sees himself and recognises the man again. The man he used to be, before he became no kind of man at all.
+++++He throws a few punches at his reflection, hears his wife calling to him and heads downstairs.
+++++He finds her in the kitchen frying eggs and singing. She turns and smiles, draws him close, her eyes clear as spring water.
+++++Things hadn’t always been this way.
+++++He remembers: waking to guilt as palpable as pan smoke and petrol fumes; face down in the kitchen or slumped in the front seat as the engine idled away.
+++++She’d eventually kicked him out and he’d moved into a room, empty except for a bible, a bed and his single, solitary urge to drink.
+++++Months passed, until one night she’d rung and thrown him a lifeline. He’d reached up and grabbed it hard.
+++++She’d forgive the broken furniture, the pitiless nights and their pitiful host, under one condition, the only condition: he stay clean, attend meetings and never, ever touch another drop of alcohol for the rest of his life.
+++++So yes, things hadn’t always been this way, and as he sings and spins his wife, he can’t believe how simple they were to change.
+++++Ike finishes his breakfast and says goodbye. They stretch a kiss in the doorway and with a flourish, he turns and trips to his car.
+++++As he drives away, his jaw tightens. The job is at four, at a cardboard farmyard stocked with stolen cars and the kind of animals more likely to do the milking. He knows it won’t be easy, and to make matters worse, today he will work alone.
+++++As he moves deeper into countryside, the road narrows and his GPS loses signal. Above him, the clouds sag like wet plaster and the rain falls hard and black as asphalt.
+++++Turning a corner, he finds his way blocked by a delivery van. He stops and waits. He reads its livery through the rain: Sunny foods and beverages. He can’t see the driver, but guesses he’s on his phone. The giant suns emblazoned across its panels do nothing to brighten mood and he smashes his fist down on the horn
+++++The van stays put.
+++++Ike judges he can just squeeze past and eases slowly forward.
+++++He makes it by inches and pulls away. As he does, he hears the driver shout something behind.
+++++He slams on the breaks, turns off the engine and waits.
+++++In the mirror, he sees the driver gesticulating. Then hears the horn.
+++++He jumps out, dips low and runs toward the van’s door. He bangs hard, pressing his face against the glass. Inside, the driver recoils, then, with one almighty effort, pushes his way out.
+++++The driver is taller and heavier than he’d anticipated. Ike flies backwards, skidding away on his arse.
+++++“Are you some kind of fucking lunatic,” screams the driver, charging forward.
+++++“Shouldn’t have been sitting there, eating all the fucking food,” snarls Ike, hoping to spike a nerve.
+++++“Implying I’m fat. Wow. Never heard that before. Clever, very clever.
+++++“Look, you started this. All I was trying to do was get past.”
+++++“There was an injured bird in the road. I was trying to tell you. You ran straight over it you fucking idiot.”
+++++Ike stands and looks over. He sees the remains on the road, sees the line of blood leading to his rear tire.
+++++He suddenly feels very small and the lower he seesaws beneath the nebulous fulcrum he’s built, from self-help manuals and motivational memes, the more his fury mounts.
+++++“What’s your name? I’m fucking reporting you”
+++++“It’s Dave.” says the driver, unfazed.
+++++“Dave?”
+++++“Gunel, Dave Gunel,”
+++++He folds his arms; his smile steady as a noose.
+++++“Take it down then.”
+++++Ike pretends to tap at his phone.
+++++“Right, as soon as I get to work I’m ringing your company.”
+++++“Go on then prick, I hope you fucking do.”
+++++The driver turns and heads back to his cab. Ike climbs into his car and sits staring ahead, shaking like a hand drill.
+++++He feels stupid and Ike hates feeling stupid. He tries to suppress them, but the Memories return. He closes his eyes and watches them trudge by like some facetious parade set to slide whistles.
+++++He pops the glove box and jams in his hand like it’s stuffed with fire. He finds the vodka behind toffees and tissues, spins the lid and in one, wet gulp, empties the lot.
+++++He grabs the empty by its stubby throat, gets out and runs. He catches the driver climbing and swipes sideways. The big man lands face up. He straddles him and drives his fists down.
+++++With each blow he sees the face change, sees how he can mold it with his fists. I’m a fucking artist, he thinks and plants a kiss on the driver’s shattered forehead.
+++++“Perhaps I won’t report you after all,” he says, standing and pulling out his cock. He pisses down and the driver hisses like he’s made of coal.
+++++Ike finishes and zips up. He returns to his car, opens the boot and retrieves another bottle from beneath the spare tire.
+++++He empties it, throws it to the curb and staggers back to the front seat.
+++++He watches the driver dragging himself toward his cab and smiles.
+++++He feels weightless and turns the radio up loud. He will stop on the way, he thinks; buy flowers and champagne and steak. He will tell her how much he loves her, he’s never wanted to kiss her so bad. He sets the GPS for home, slams down the accelerator and roars away.