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by geckoboy 

Posted: 02 December 2005
Word Count: 2519
Summary: Ray Dennis feels he is destined for greatness, but has alienated all those around him with his wild tales. So when Ray mistakenly sells himself to the Mafia as a contract assassin it places him upon a path of self destruction that promises to spiral rapidly out of control, and when Ray tries to escape the web of lies he created, he is embroiled in even more danger.

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Chapter 1

No matter how you dress it up; for some people, life stinks.

For some poor, unfortunate folk, life is just one big disappointment. You are pushed from pillar to post, from heartache to happiness, from triumph to tragedy. You are a feather in a wind tunnel, forever buffeted and thrust into moments of high anxiety only to be dropped down to Earth with a bang. There’s no middle ground, no peace to gather your thoughts, to rest and take stock. You’re on the rollercoaster ride and can’t get off. This continues every day of your meagre life, until you are measured by the sum of your parts and can finally obtain a semblance of calm when you die. For some, I suppose it helps to have death to look forward to.

At school they tell you that every human being has the potential for greatness, be it a medicinal breakthrough, technological feat or some other act destined to benefit mankind. The problem with that is, the more the teachers try to create an atmosphere of ambition, the risk of children feeling that they are failures increases. As the foundation of early education is built upon, a more realistic approach to your own expectations is introduced. When you reach school leaving age you realise the futility of hope. You had always thought that your success in life would be mapped out for you, dictated by a mystical force such as destiny or karma. As you grow older you realise all too quickly that somewhere at school, somebody lied. They made it sound like all you had to do was turn up for lessons and your dream job would fall in your lap as soon as you left school. Some people, it seems, are destined to populate the ‘must try harder’ generation.

When Raymond Dennis was eight years old all he wanted to be was like his father. He would lay awake at night wondering if he were going to follow in his footsteps and become a postman or if he were destined for greater things. Becoming a window cleaner was not even on his list, let alone being at the bottom of it.

Ray’s alarm clock pierced his silent slumber, grabbing him by the hair and dragging him kicking and screaming into consciousness. Not a state of mind he particularly enjoyed, nor had any liking to spend much time inhabiting. The gift of sleep every night was a welcome distraction from all that came before it. Each day was a mixture of failure and disappointment, where Ray’s hopes and confidence in his future were regularly dashed like an inmate on Death Row desperately seeking that last minute reprieve that is destined never to arrive. Ray leaned over and pressed the ‘snooze’ button on his clock; a button faded in colour and texture from obvious overuse.

Ten minutes later the clock screamed his name once more. The beeping was more frustrated now, as it tried in vain to wrestle Ray awake. After a good five minutes of solid beeping, it gave up with a depressed high pitched whine, as it realised that it had failed in its primary function to wake its owner. The mobile phone that sat half obscured amongst a selection of pornographic magazines on the bedside cabinet decided that it needed to step in and pick up the slack, as it usually did at this time of day. Why it was always up to it to go out of its way and wake up the owner was beyond it, but its duty was to serve and all that, so the alarm clock would owe him one. It was now getting on for eight o’clock in the morning and for Ray, he was on the verge of being inescapably behind schedule. He snatched up the phone, careering the stack of magazines onto the floor and yawned a greeting down the mouthpiece of the unfashionably large mobile phone. To the caller, this sounded like a familiar answer.

‘For God’s sake, Ray, I can’t believe you aren’t up yet! It’s nearly eight o’clock, what are you trying to do, get the sack on purpose? But it’s not like you need any help is it? Surely someone as messed up as you could manage to get fired without any help?’ said the tinny, slightly nasal voice.

Ray rubbed the colony of fresh sleepy dust from his eyes, stifling another yawn. ‘Carol…good God it’s early. What’s wrong?’

‘Ray, have you forgotten what day it is? The company is sending inspectors out on your round today! If you haven’t started work on that bank by nine, you may as well not bother getting out of bed!’ said Carol. The most humorous thing about Carol was that her voice was in fact naturally tinny and slightly nasal. The distortion on Ray’s mobile phone only heightened this unfortunate disability.

‘Carol, I know you find it difficult to distinguish between being my secretary and being my wife-‘ Ray started.

‘Ex-wife.’ Carol interjected quickly.

‘Ex-wife…how could I forget…but I’ve got everything in hand, trust me.’ said Ray, scanning his bedroom for the strewn debris that he loosely termed his ‘clothes’.

‘Oh, I stopped trusting you years ago, Ray, that’s why I divorced you!’ Carol laughed a triumphant ‘Ha!’ inside her head.

‘I thought it was a mutual decision.’ Ray said weakly. For him, it was far too early to get into an argument with his ex-wife. He normally preferred late afternoon after he had eaten his lunch and the day had by then had a chance to get its grips on him.

‘Ray, when a wife tells her husband that she wants a divorce, and the husband breaks down and grizzles like a child on his hands and knees begging her to change her mind – that’s not a mutual decision!’ Carol snapped.

‘Right, I’m awake now, all right? I’m leaving. Are you happy now?’

‘As long as you get to the National Bank by nine, yes I am happy! I’ll see you at lunchtime in the pub. And Ray, make sure you try at least to look a little bit smart this time, first impressions and all that. This is important; these inspectors may offer you a job that’s a bit more regular. Now, don’t forget your keys!’ Carol’s voice was cut short as she hung up the phone at her end.

Ray tousled his thinning hair in frustration. ‘I thought the whole point of divorce was to get away from all this nagging! She’s acting like I can’t even function without her! I mean, what has it been since we split up? Three years?’ He shook his head, remembering her words, ‘I think I’ve proved I can live the single life by now! I do my own bills, cook for myself, clean for myself and never need anyone to help me struggle through life, like she seems to think!’ Ray said to the ether of the room, scratching his head. ‘Now…where did I put my bloody trainers?’

Down on his hands and knees, Ray was deep amongst the catacombs of dirty linen, sifting through jeans, t-shirts, odd socks and potentially hazardous discarded underwear. Ray proudly produced a trainer, and then promptly threw it back under his bed. With a startling ‘Aha!’ he produced another item of footwear. Like an amateur angler, he squinted at the shoe with dissatisfaction and threw that back also. Finally, he gave up trying to find a matching pair and the only option he had was to settle on a pair of fluorescent yellow trainers. They were so bright that they were like the effect you get when you look at a light bulb and then stare at a blank wall. No matter where you look, the shape of the light bulb is always there. Once you stared upon the glare of these trainers they burned themselves into your retinas to the extent that they were all you could see for a good five minutes. It was a mystery how Ray managed to get to sleep at night considering how bright these awful shoes were.

Ray swallowed his pride, weighed up the potential for embarrassment and slipped on the trainers. He comforted his doubt about the shoes with a wafer-thin veneer of confidence and hurriedly attempted to track down the rest of his clothes as fast as he could.
Minutes later, Ray slammed shut the door to his one bedroom flat. Straight away the loud sounds of a television set reverberated around the small corridor.

‘Keys!’ he yelled, slapping his hand against his forehead. God, why did Carol always have to be right? At least this time thankfully she wasn’t here to see it, thought Ray.

He checked all his pockets twice and squeezed his eyes shut in frustration at his forgetfulness. With his eyes still tightly closed, he rolled back his sleeve and flopped his head onto his chest as if his neck had lost all its strength. He knew in advance that he was late, but he thought that if he imagined that he were far later than what he really knew he was perhaps destiny would be kind to him and freeze time so that he was actually early. It was this derailed train of thought that Ray often travelled on during his working day. He slowly opened his eyes one by one and checked his watch. It read an impossible ‘eight twenty-five’. He had missed the train of thought once again. The drive to the National Bank building could take as long as forty five minutes, but if he took the shortcut across the housing estate (which he was loathe to do since the truant schoolchildren threw the remains of a pizza at his van, forcing him to scrape ground beef and olives out of his radiator for weeks afterwards) he could shave a good twenty minutes off that time. The kids were all on summer holidays from school, but there was only a fraction more of them seen out playing and causing trouble, considering the amount of truancy. It seemed as if Anti-Social Behaviour Orders were almost like a community award scheme in Ray’s neighbourhood. At least it was something for children to aspire to in today’s world.

The hallway of the large converted house was stark and bereft of any colour, decoration or atmosphere. Directly opposite Ray’s flat was a similarly coloured front door, with a large green number ‘1’ painted on it. An array of junk mail and empty milk cartons decorated the slab of painted concrete that served as a front doorstep. Searching his pockets one last time to no avail, Ray pressed the doorbell for flat one. It was immediately yanked open and a very large eyed black woman stared at him angrily. Her hair was a bird’s nest poking out from a brightly coloured scarf tied around her forehead and from her ears hung a mixture of jewelled grapes and golden hoops. Ray often mused that her ear lobes must perform some extraordinary feat of endurance on a daily basis to support the weight of her large earrings.

‘What you wantin’ then?’ she yelled above the sound of the television, raising her arms as she asked the question. The noise from inside the flat went up a few hundred decibels as the door opened.

‘Ah, Mrs. Marvellous! It’s only me from flat two across the hall.’ Ray motioned over his shoulder at his front door. ‘I, um, I seem to have done it again.’

‘It’s Marvellius! Mrs Marvellius! How many times must I tell you? Anyway, I don’t have your keys, boy! You took your spare set off me last weekend! You want to be getting’ yourself in order now, y’hear? No wonder you never bring any ladies into your house. You probably get as far as your door only to lose your keys again!’ Mrs Marvellius said. Actually, ‘said’ was not really an apt description, as Mrs. Marvellius was incapable of talking at any volume quieter than shouting. The thick lyrical twang of her Jamaican accent was a great symphony of noise in full effect, more like a gospel choir than actual words, thought Ray often.

‘Um…okay. My mistake…sorry!’ said Ray, only to be stopped in his tracks by the unmistakable ‘BONG’ of Big Ben on the Ten O’clock News. He checked his watch and turned back to Mrs. Marvellius with a perplexed look on his pale face. ‘That’s odd. That’s not the Ten O’clock News by any chance, is it?’ Ray asked.

‘So what if it is! Is there a law against watchin’ the news, now? You going to grass me up to the council again, like you did when I had that lodger?’ Mrs. Marvellius asked.

‘He wasn’t a lodger; he was an international diamond smuggler! He tried to sell a bag to Milton’s Jewellers on the high street and got caught on the tube at King’s Cross. And anyway, that wasn’t me, it was Mr. Aberhard upstairs in flat four!’ protested Ray. ‘I was just checking that I hadn’t gone completely insane and that it wasn’t ten o’clock at night!’

‘Boy, have you looked outside that window of yours yet today?’ Mrs Marvellius motioned outside. The light of the morning was streaming through the stained glass effect front door creating a kaleidoscopic rainbow of colour on the opposite wall. ‘I taped the news on me video recorder! I was out at the bingo last night. Why, did you want to borrow the tape later?’

Ray couldn’t waste any more time trying to analyse the utter stupidity of video taping the news. What did she think she would miss that she couldn’t catch up on in today’s news? That’s why they call it ‘news’, because it’s current events. It made no sense to watch the news a day later, because then it wouldn’t be the ‘news’, it would actually be the ‘olds’.

‘As a matter of fact, I saw it yesterday. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you the end. Anyway, I’m going to be late for work, so thanks anyway. Cheerio.’ Ray checked his watch again ‘Now I really am late!’ he muttered under his breath.

‘Next time, remember your damn keys, child!’ Mrs Marvellius yelled as she slammed her door shut. Immediately the noise in the hall abated. Ray sighed and opened the big heavy oak front door. He leaned against the outer wall and depressed a button marked ‘Flat 3’ on a panel of five silver buttons. The button made a pitiful electronic whelp. After a long pause, a frail sounding old woman answered in a thick foreign accent.

‘Ah! Mrs. Pinkernickel, it’s only Ray from flat two downstairs. Listen, sorry to trouble you but I’ve done it again! Would you mind-‘

Ray was interrupted by a jingling sound and thud as a set of door keys hit the pavement from an upstairs window.

‘Thanks!’ Ray sang upwards through cupped hands as he quickly scooped up his second set of spare keys and strode towards his van.

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Comments by other Members

Anj at 20:00 on 04 December 2005  Report this post

Welcome to Writewords.

I love the way you write, very easy to read, plenty of dry humour. For me though the story got a bit swamped by various musings on things, and only really got going with the phone call (the dialogue throughout is great, lively and natural). I love the relationship between Ray and Carol, it makes him sympathetic that despite the divorce Carol still doesn't hate him. But as it's the opening chapter, I felt you needed a hook, an event that's gonna set the story in motion - all that had happened by the end of the chapter was that Ray made it to his van, but from the brief synopsis at the top you have a big story in mind - I felt you needed to use some of it here to drag readers in ...

But as I say, I love your style and, by the way, that's a fab title ;)


geckoboy at 08:50 on 13 December 2005  Report this post
Thanks to Andrea, I have edited out the whole prologue chapter and now the novel begins with: Ray's alarm clock pierced his silent slumber... Which works so much better and immediately kickstarts the novel. Big cheers to you!

Anj at 12:53 on 17 December 2005  Report this post

Glad what I said was helpful :) Look forward to reading more


tusker at 15:06 on 04 October 2007  Report this post
Hi geckoboy, Hope this isn't too late to make a comment noting that your chapter was sent in on Dec. 05. Loved the chapter. Glad you started it on the 3rd paragraph. Enjoyed the humour and want to know what happens next. Tusker

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