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by Paperback 

Posted: 27 March 2004
Word Count: 3618
Summary: Here's 'B'. It's a lot longer than all the others, and it needs a lot more work, especially to sort out the ending. Any help and advice would be much appreciated.

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


In an attempt to increase our fitness, Burgundy and I had taken to using the local duck pond as a kind of free swimming pool. Although the Park Warden had made things difficult at first, once he’d realised that we didn’t pay any attention to the things he said, his attempts to move us on soon became half-hearted. I used to enjoy practising my breaststroke out in the deeper water and pretending I couldn’t hear the noises he made.
“Get out of there!” he used to shout.
“Get out of there right now!”
I did okay most times, though occasionally, and no matter how hard I swam, the shouting would bother me. If I ended up losing my rhythm and swallowing some of the dirty pond water, the Park Warden would know that he had won and move on to Burgundy. I tried hard not to let it bother me, but it often made me cough and worry about Weil’s disease.
The shouting didn’t seem to get to Burgundy though. Whenever he was bothered, he’d just stay right there, in the shallows, and concentrate on perfecting his front-crawl tumble-turns. The Warden always waited for him to finish and I think, in a way, he was impressed by Burgundy’s technical proficiency. Sometimes, when the Warden said things to Burgundy, he would just reply that he was a stronger swimmer than I was and besides that, he didn’t need the practise as much.

After a few months, and once it got cold, the Park Warden disappeared completely and the council paid for a small wooden sign to be put up.
“NO SWIMMING!” was all it said. It made a handy spot to rest our towels.
Burgundy told me that they’d put the sign up because it was the middle of winter and that it was too cold for most people to come to the park at the moment and so the council didn’t need to employ a Warden anymore. I nodded my head but secretly worried that we’d upset the Warden and he’d had to go and find himself another job. That or we’d got him the sack.
“It’s not swimming, anyway.” Burgundy said, staring seriously at the wooden sign. “It’s training.”

I first noticed it one cold February morning when Burgundy and I had just finished one of our early morning swims.
“What’s that?” I said, pointing at Burgundy’s chest.
“What?” said Burgundy?
“That. That purple thing below your nipple.”
“Which one?” said Burgundy? He looked down and sort of clawed at his chest. He left wide red marks all over his skin.
“Which one?” I said, confused.
“Yeah. Which one. Left or right?”
“Left or right what?”
We were both pale because of the cold and the new welts across Burgundy’s chest were becoming more prominent.
“Nipple. My left or right nipple. The purple thing. Which nipple is it under? The left? Or the right?”
“Oh that. It’s under the right nipple. What is it?” I reached out to poke it with my finger. Burgundy slapped my hand away and stuck out his chest.
“Oh that.” He sounded relieved. “That’s my gift from God. It makes me special.”
It didn’t look that special to me. It looked more like the teat of a nipple, only purple – the same colour as a fine French wine.
“Why’ve you never mentioned it before?” I asked.
“Why’ve you never noticed it before?” Burgundy replied. As usual, he was becoming aggressive.
“I dunno. Is it always so purple?”
Burgundy stuck his chest out again and pushed his chin tight against his neck. It made his jaw line look all fat with lots of double chins, but I guess that was just his way of doing things. His welts had begun to fade and become untidy but, once again, I thought it best not to say anything.
“No. No, I don’t think it is always so dark. It’s probably just the cold.” Burgundy, like the weather surrounding us, looked mildly worried.
“I hope it’s alright,” he said. “It makes me go faster.”
“Go faster?” I said. “What do you mean, ‘go faster?’ How does it make you go faster? It just looks like half a third nipple if you ask me.”
“Well, the Doctors didn’t say that. They said it was special. That it was My Gift From God. It helped me win my medals, you know.”
I looked over at the ‘NO SWIMMING’ sign where our towels hung. Burgundy’s medals hung with them. It was a sort of nice day and the light made them all shiny. I could definitely see why he always wore them. After all, three gold medals are certainly something to be proud of, it’s just that I thought he made too big a deal of them. He took them everywhere and I often feared for their safety. But still, Three Gold Medals! Imagine that. They’d sure fetch a pretty penny, I’d bet.
“I thought you’d had to give those back.” I said, motioning my wet head towards the medals. “The newspapers and television men said that you’d cheated.”
“Nope. Changed their minds. Said I could keep them.”
“Oh. When did they do that?” I asked.
“Last week. Sent me a letter, straight to my door, saying they’d had a new set re-cast.”
“Oh. That was nice of them.”
“Not really.” Burgundy said, as he continued to drip himself dry.
I was cold and huddled into my towel. I didn’t know how he did it, standing there all-naked, letting the air dry him. Shivering I said,
“Hey. Why don’t you give it a name then?”
“Give what a name?”
“That. That there, on your chest. That thing we were just taking about. You said it made you special.”
“Yeah, it does. So?”
“So, if it’s so special, why you don’t give it a name? You know, like a pet or a lover.”
Burgundy seemed confused. He looked down and did that thing that made his chins go all fat and then looked back up at me.
“Why don’t you give it a name.” Burgundy looked pleased with himself.
I knew exactly what he was doing. Although he was the driving force of our partnership, Burgundy wasn’t really very creative. His leadership skills were built on physical attributes, like his muscles and loud voice, rather than his imagination.
“Go on then. You name it.”
I thought for a second and then moved my head towards Burgundy’s chest.
“Whoa there, cowboy! What do you think your doing?”
“Getting a closer look,” I replied.
Burgundy picked up his clothes and began to walk off. He was still naked but things like that never seemed to bother him.
“Not here your not,” he said. “Let’s go back to your place.”
I sighed and set off after him. We never went back to Burgundy’s house. He’d once told a group of us that his father, who he still lived with, was an alcoholic and he was ashamed. I didn’t believe this and just thought that Burgundy would rather dirty up someone else’s home rather than his own. Besides, I’d once met his Father and he looked perfectly fine to me.

My house wasn’t that far from the pond and, this being early morning, we arrived back at my gate just as the postman was delivering his parcels and letters.
“Morning ladies!” he sang as we reached my gate.
Burgundy threw a stone at his head and gave him a look that meant business. The stone looped off at a right-angle, missed the postman and smashed one of my windows.
“Ooohh. Not again Burgundy,” I said. “I’ve only got a couple of those left. It’s getting dark in there.”
Burgundy looked up at my house and saw that where all the windows should have been, I now had heavy wooden boards.
“Where’s all your glass gone?” asked Burgundy.
“Oh,” said Burgundy. He was quiet and sounded surprised.
“I know someone who could get you some more if you wanted. Y’know, let some light back in. Do you some good.” He slapped me on my back.
“Nah. They’d only get smashed up again. You know what they think of me around here.”
Burgundy looked hurt, knowing what I was getting at.
“Suit yourself,” he said. “Just don’t complain about it being dark in there then.”
We both looked back up at the boards, they were untidy and some were covered in rude daubings that had upset many of the neighbours.
“BUMSEX!” screamed one. It was sprayed on in big red letters and was difficult to miss. “BOTTY FuNK” read another. It covered the space over my bathroom window and made it hard for me to shave.
Burgundy looked at me and shook his head. He walked up my garden path, unlocked my door with a key that he’d copied, and went inside. I quickly followed and locked the big, green, door behind us.

I liked to keep my house tidy and free from clutter, ‘Minimalism’ I think the magazine people call it, but Burgundy didn’t like things that way. Whenever he came round he’d always leave a mess; empty teacups and crisp packets would litter the floor and he’d always leave a trail around the toilet bowl. He liked disorder you see and, on more than one occasion, I’d been woken in the middle of the night to be confronted with a tatty piece of furniture that Burgundy said he’d found.
“Fill out the place,” he said one night as he dumped a moulding brown armchair in the centre of my living room. It smelt funny and looked uncomfortable but I’d been too sleepy to protest so instead, I just let him leave it right there.
On another occasion he’d come round carrying a decorative golden picture frame that still held the picture that showed the people who weren’t sure, how to use it.
The picture was of a pretty lady in a blue top. She smiled nicely from behind the cracked flexi-glass but was really a bit out of our league.
“Woo-woo!” Burgundy had whistled, as he held the picture frame in his left hand and his crotch in the other.
“Man. She sure is a beauty. A real looker! That girl right there, she’s a real honey. I think we’ll call her ‘The Princess’.”
I couldn’t be bothered to say anything at the time and had let him put it on my mantelpiece. It actually looked quite nice up there and the girl certainly was something pretty to look at, but I still felt uncomfortable with it all. Burgundy never said where he got these things from and, whenever I turned and looked at the Princess’s pretty, golden, hair or her long, delicate, fingers I’d turn red and begin to panic.

Burgundy had gone straight through to my living room and sat down in his big brown chair. He had put his arms on either side of the chair and, looking up at the Princess, had started to need at the mouldy fabric with his fingers. When I came in to the room, carrying two hot mugs of tea, there were white flakes of mould all over my hard wooden floor. I opened my mouth to say something but once I’d taken a look at Burgundy, I changed my mind. He was mumbling to himself and looked nervous.
As we sat there in my darkened living room Burgundy carried on digging his fingers into the chair. Deeper and deeper they went, until eventually his hands had disappeared right into the chair. He looked like a poor war veteran or someone who’d been attacked by a large animal – all wrists and no hands.
I looked at the mounds of mould, and now foam, that had formed up into little mountains underneath each arm of the chair, and then back again at his arms. He was in almost up to his elbows. I thought about telling a joke I’d heard about a man with one arm until I realised I’d forgotten the punch-line.
Finally Burgundy broke the silence when he said that he was frightened.
“I’m frightened, worried about it, you know.”
“Worried about what?” I said.
“This,” Burgundy said, motioning his head towards his chest.
“What?” I still wasn’t sure what he meant. Burgundy’s indication hadn’t been clear and I’d gotten myself confused again.
“This!” he bellowed. “This thing!”
And with that, there was a huge ripping noise as Burgundy freed his arms from the chair and tore open his shirt. He hadn’t, however, tried to pull his arms back out through the holes he’d made to get them in the chair in the first place. Instead he’d just pulled his forearms straight up. The wooden frame of the chair must have been as rotten and mouldy as the rest of it because, instead of the fabric tearing and Burgundy’s arms pulling clean free, he now stood there with the two arms of the chair dangling from his elbows.
Standing there all worked up, Burgundy looked like he was dressed in an elaborate foreign costume. What with the grey foam and wooden splinters hanging out, his torn shirt, shiny golden medals, and his fancy arm movements distracting my eye - he could have been in some sort of parade. He’d made a real show of things.
Still surprised by such a fine display, it took me a while to realise what Burgundy was so antsy about.
Finally I said, “Oh that.”
“It’s not special,” he said, as he decoratively stood there.
“I lied. The doctors didn’t say it was special. Motherfuckers just took one look at it and laughed me out of the hospital.”
Burgundy’s eyes were filling with tears but I could see their point.
“Well, I can see their point,” I said. “I suppose it is quite funny to look at.”
For a second, Burgundy didn’t move. He looked like he was going to burst into tears, which would have been fine by me if he had, but then he seemed to change his mind and he charged right at me.
“FUCK YOU, BITCH!” he screamed as he swung his leaden arms at me. Both his fists missed my face, but the pieces of chair that were still attached to his elbows sort of arced around behind him and then swung up and under before catching me square on the jaw. I fell onto the floor and hurt my shoulder.
Burgundy towered over me as I sat on the floor and rotated my arm to see if my shoulder was broken.
“Sorry,” I said.
Burgundy got ready to hit me again.
“FUCK YOU!” he screamed again.
I flinched and tried to protect my face from the bits of chair that still hung from Burgundy’s crazy arms and waited for a beating.
It never came.
He didn’t hit me again.
He never does.
Instead he just helped me to my feet and asked me why I always made him do that to me.

We sat there in silence for what seemed like hours.
Neither of us knew what time of day it was because, ever since I’d lost my job, I didn’t see the point in knowing the time. I’d given all my clocks and watches away to a lady in the street who looked like she might be able to use them. She had seemed very grateful at the time and asked what I planned to do with all the digital clocks on things like microwaves and video players. She had seemed disappointed when I told her how I’d stuck small pieces of green electrical tape over the blue digital numbers and had never been happier.

Just as I was thinking of that very lady and what I’d like to do with her, Burgundy announced that he was ready.
“I’m ready,” he said and he jumped up from his chair.
He’d taken the chair arms off of his human arms, and they now lay on the floor next to the piles of white mould and small bloody puddle that my nose had made.
“Ready for what?” I asked.
“I want you to get rid of it for me,” Burgundy said.
Now that his arms were free, he could point straight at his strange blemish. We were both happy about the lack of confusion but just to make sure, Burgundy jabbed at the purple growth just under his right nipple.
“If the Doctor’s won’t do it, I’ll have to do it myself.”
I didn’t make Burgundy explain that by saying ‘myself’, he really meant me.
“What should I use?” I asked. “I don’t think I’ve got anything up to the job.”
I was right. I hadn’t owned anything to do a job like that for quite a while. I thought back to the time after the incident, when the police and social workers had come round to my house with a piece of paper from a judge, and I’d lost most of my cutlery.
The police lady had told me that the judge had decided that I couldn’t own anything sharp for a little while and that they had come to take everything away. She was very pretty and I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I just kept my mouth tightly shut and nodded my head.
Eventually, once they’d turned my mattress upside down and leafed through my magazines and naughty catalogues, they left my home with most of my cutlery and a few other things like a razor and my garden strimmer. It didn’t seem like that big a deal at first and it wasn’t until I’d decided to cheer myself up by cooking a big steak that I’d found in the corridor at work just before they had let me go, that I realised how difficult my life would become.
I cried salty tears as I sat there that night. Trying to cut my meat up into small, manageable, pieces with only a blunt plastic teaspoon and splodges of gravy spoiling one of my favourite shirts, i knew then that everything had changed.

“Oh right,” said Burgundy as if he had read my mind. “Your incident. I’d forgotten about that. You don’t have anything sharp then, eh?”
I could feel my cheeks flush and those same salty tears began to well up once more. I felt ashamed and small.
“…no,” I whispered.
I tried not to look at Burgundy who seemed to be thinking quite heavily. Again, we sat there in silence, which was finally broken by Burgundy saying,
“Well, it’s not a problem. We can still get rid of it, you know. You don’t have to feel bad. You can just bite it off.”
I looked across at Burgundy. He was still sat in his chair without arms and being very serious. Burgundy didn’t know how to make jokes or play tricks but he probably made up for it in other ways.
“You’re being serious?” I said. I was becoming fidgety and excited.
“Yup. I don’t want it no more. If you noticed it, then what the hell are all the ladies going to think?”
I still don’t understand why Burgundy lies so much, especially after all these years.
“That you’ve got a third nipple?” I queried.
Burgundy quickly stood up and made like he was going to hit me again. I rolled out of his way and realised that I was excited again and hadn’t thought about what I was going to say.
“Sorry,” I said, once I’d found my bearings. I made sure I’d thought about that.
Burgundy paused and seemed to have a change of heart. Although he still stood over me, I didn’t feel overly dominated, and when he changed his tone and said,
“Come here. Come here, sweetheart. Why don’t you come and do old B’ a favour?”
My heart felt like it was doing a summersault.
Sweetheart! For somebody who had dropped out of high school, Burgundy sure had a way with words. He could make me feel like a hundred dollars.
I ran across the room and straight into his arms.
“That’s it baby!” said Burgundy as he stroked my head. “We’ll do this together! This is gonna feel just fine, y’ know. Just fine.”
Then, like a million times before, Burgundy was gently exerting pressure on my head to move my face down his body. I’d closed my eyes as I set off on my run across the room and clenched them even tighter as soon as I‘d reached him. So, as I felt the movement of my head stop much higher up than normal, and being curious as to where I was, I decided to open them up again.
It was then that I was met with the strangest sight I’d ever seen!
My left eye was totally in line with it. It was beautiful in an accidental kind of way; all crinkled and cracked like a purple peanut shell. I wanted to stay there and look at it all day but I could tell that Burgundy was becoming impatient.
So, slowly, I lifted my chin slightly higher, took a slight pause to take in Burgundy’s smell through my swollen nostrils and, ever so gently, placed my lips around it.
I allowed my tongue to trace around its shape but once I’d decided that it didn’t feel nearly as nice in my mouth as I thought it would, I bit it off. Burgundy didn’t even flinch.
I passed Burgundy a box of tissues to stop the blood which I knew he didn’t like.
“Thanks for that,” he said and, as I looked up at him, Burgundy smiled straight at me for the first time in months.

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Comments by other Members

Jumbo at 00:27 on 28 March 2004  Report this post

This has a very strange feel to it: surreal in places, rambling in others and bizarre in parts - like the section with the hands inside the chair - all wrists and no hands,

There are a number of places that need some heavy editing, for example this been early morning and there sentences that I can't make sense of, such as I cried salty tears as I sat there that night trying to cut my meat up into small, manageable, pieces with only a blunt plastic teaspoon and splodges of gravy on one of my favourite shirts. How do you cut meat with the splodges of gravy on your shirt?

Fascinating - in a strange way! I might add that I don't think that I would change the ending, given the sequence of events that lead up to it. Biting that 'purple' thing off is a better ending than the one I thought you were leading to!

Best of luck with this.


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