The Body In The Bed 

The Body In The Bed

There was madness in his method, peculiarity in his expressionless face, a quiver threatening his steadfastness ... but he was the same man, the man I'd always loved: Jess - except he'd changed his name.

I tracked him down to an obscure town up North - yet, of course, the town was never obscure to those who'd grown up there. The first person I met in that town, however, was as lost as I was. The second was little better, but pointed me towards a pub which, in a million years, I could never then have brought myself to enter. This individual - the one who shakily pointed a finger at the pub - told me something I couln't believe I heard straight, namely:

"They keep my bones in that pub."

I shrugged, knowing that I should walk as far from that pub and that individual as it was possible to walk if I wanted the nicer end of town.

How I reached the exact building where he was disguised as someone else my mind cannot now recall. I suppose - in hindsight - it was the namr on the sign: KINGS ARMS. Jess had always fancied himself as royalty - but when he opened the side door to my knocking, dressed in a gold-plated crown and very little else, I didn't know where to put my face.

"You!" he said breaking the silence and untying my tongue in the process.

"Jess, what on earth..."

"They don't call me Jess here," he said quite seriously, maintaining sanity in the face if not in the rest of the body. His lips were on the brink of a smile, a smile, I knew, which would break the spell of self-restraint.

A woman, I could now see, was slowly shuffling in huge bunny-rabbit slippers along the hall behind him towards where Jess and I stood. She was dressed in a tiara and tattered sari. I recognised her as the woman who had - a half an hour before - pointed out the dowdy pub and prattled of the bones therein. She had evidently walked faster than I.


My mind cannot recall who spoke to whom, but a you can surprisingly condone, cover, collude better than any me or us.

We hugged each other, Jess and I, while the woman crouched in the hall sobbing. After we kissed with tongues, he went off and kicked her silly.

"No, Jess!"

But he would have none of it, as if he knew I knew kings could do anything they liked to whomsoever they wanted.

"Kick me instead, Jess."

And he did so - with a bare foot.

The woman was dead.

He went off to the pub.

I carried the woman's body to her bed, where we laid down together.

"You are my sweetest, sweetest child," I crooned as I kissed her all over to make her better.

When Jess returned blind drunk, he kicked me out of bed.

And he coupled with the body.

I disgraced myself on the bedroom lino, because I had not yet got used to the building's appointments - and it was too dark to see where things were going.

"You're making too much noise," said Jess, but I don't know how he heard amid the overlapping sounds he made with the body in the bed.

I left the obscure town the next day, taking an obscure train that happened to be running amid an extremely sparse timetable. Having tracked Jess down, I need not have stayed. The mere tracking down had been my goal and, once accomplished, I could return south whence I came.

I had satisfied myself that I could do it.

There's a lot of thinking time when a train's delayed as mine was that day. Good job, though, it had arrows in the carriages to appoint the way.

He was in the buffet bar, when I passed through it.

The building in the obscure town remains dark and silent. Only ghosts know how to keep bodies disguised, allowing the flesh to slip free and the bones to settle into shapes skeletons wouldn't be seen dead in. The sound of distant trains and the odd bus straining up the avenue outside makes loneliness seem tangible. And my mind remains unaware, even today, that Jess changed not only his name but also his mind. His madness was so very methodical. And some delays are like never starting off, you see.

(Published ‘Nasty Piece Of Work’ 1996)

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