Short story: “Indestructible Everything” by Ben Brooks

The novelist's idea of what it feels like to have your ear spat in, and other troubles of the English country

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Taken from the January issue of Dazed & Confused:

I delete six unread text messages and give up counting notes. Mum is colossally a spastic over my constant deathisising and refusal to participate because of how come she castled me in her womb for a long period of time and experienced fourth degree perineal tearing during my birth. I am eighty per cent certain that this means a split from the V to the A and I agree with her in toto that a dead thirteen year old is not suitable recompense for her stitches, so I urge her; try again, do not give up, do not tie your bedsheets to the curtain pole and disappear into the wardrobe. You can do better.  

Hi mum!  

And it begins.  

I am in the bathtub of a three star hotel approximately fifteen miles from our family home, which is in Longlevens, which is in Gloucester, which is in England. Truthfully, I wish I was in the bathtub of a four star hotel in continental Europe (I am one hundred per cent a Europhone, excluding their cooking methods and talking styles) but I lack the necessary paperwork, money, and “street smarts” to get there, meaning I would be denied entry, not granted keys, and brutally raped until I had perineal tearing of my own. No, thank you.  

The name of the hotel I am in is Hotel Isis and something about Hotel Isis is that it does not provide razorblades for the use of its enervated guests. The immediate consequence being that my dramatic re-enactment of every hotel film death ever ever will not go ahead and instead I’ll double shampoo, triple condition, and ruminate on other exits (actually, I am a very resourceful human person and considered smashing beer bottles until I had a knife, so don’t think I didn’t think of that, because I did think of that, only I considered it too haphazard, or whatever).  

*

At the park, we meet where we always meet; in the pit below the bridge where it continues to rain forever even after the rain stops because of how come water collects in the road pockets to bleed slowly down like sand in a sand clock. Angelica’s staring down at her phone so I pull my phone out and stare down at it too because I don’t want to look more interested in her than she looks in me.

“Hold this,” she says, passing me a polka dot umbrella, pocketing her phone, and turning through her pockets. She produces a cigar the size of a rolling pin and lights it with a diamante Zippo. “I’m sleepy.” 

“Where’s the wine?” 

“Somewhere.” 

We relocate to the steep concrete bank that rain can’t reach and uncork the wine and position ourselves, Angelica with her legs on top of mine, me with interlocked hands cradling my head, the umbrella wedged into a crack between our thighs.  

“You haven’t been at school.” 

“I’ve been in trees.” 

“What?” 

“Nothing.” 

“Ken found a secret room. Mila’s been using it for titwanks.” 

“Boring.” 

“I know. They aren’t even real. Her mum was in the Daily Mail. Joe said she did it herself, with a cheese knife and two packets of Skittles. He said she rubbed coke on them first so she wouldn’t feel it.” 

“Oh.” 

“You didn’t come from The Meadows. You came from somewhere else. I was watching. Where were you?” 

Me, Mum, Kahn, and Dot live in a colossal block of pavement colour flats behind a team of supermarkets and DIY shops. Once, during a hot Friday journey home, Scott Tipton spat in my ear and informed me that we lived in High Meadows because we were poor as shit and I told him that yes, we lived in High Meadows because we were poor as shit, and he headbutted me in the neck, leaving behind a purpleblue bruise in the shape of a koala bear. I didn’t hate Scott Tripton because I don’t hate anything, so I didn’t headbutt him back but I also didn’t want him to continue headbutting me any more than was absolutely necessary, so I delicately asked him whether or not his mum approved of headbutting then set calm course for his orange brick semi-detached house, at which point tears bled from his eyes and I was invited on an excursion to ten pin bowling, which I politely refused, citing exhaustion and an overwhelming desire for near-death masturbation and king prawn foo yung.  

“I’ve taken up temporary residence at Hotel Isis, on Tybalt Lane.” 

“Why?” 

“Personal reasons.” 

I produce my keycard and deftly roll it through my finger gaps like a coin, allowing to Angelica to catch a glimpse of the room number, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. There is a sixty per cent chance that my planned death is, subconsciously, a dull cry for help, as transparent as the evenly spaced cuts made by compasses on Angelica’s forearms during periods when she felt her prescriptions becoming unexciting.  

“Are you okay?” she says. 

“Yes,” I say.

Like every other girl in our class, Angelica has a trail of diagnoses that hang from the end of her name like qualifications, and include trichotillomania, unipolar depression and pica, the latter being my least favourite on account of her hijacking it as an excuse to eat entire wraps of drugs and blister packs of benzodiazepines.  

“I’m going to disappear,” I say. “Into nothingness.” 

“Cool,” Angelica says, passing me the cigar. “Me too.”  

“You can’t do it. I’m doing it.” 

“We can both do it.” 

“We can’t both do it. Then it’s a cluster, and you get blamed on me, or I get blamed on you, and everything gets blamed on the media, and my death becomes tainted.”  

“You and the media.” 

“Fuck you.” 

Last year, when I expressed an unremitting desire to gun down every one of our schoolmates, Angelica said that I was under media influence. I uppercut her cunt for being patronising then asked whether or not her self-induced post-pasta vomiting fell into the same bracket. I didn’t want to shoot up my school because of positive reinforcement from the supposed glorification of school shooters by colossally obtuse television presenters who believe that there is a choice between the future and something else. I wanted to shoot up my school because everything is ultimately meaningless and everyone is too soft to notice. What kind of reason is that? Exactly. Calabassi, my third best friend, says free will is the one religion humanity will never be divorced from. The eternal husband, he sometimes calls it, partly because it’s also the name of a Dostoyevsky novella, and Calabassi says that Dostoyevsky almost understands.  

Every school shooter so far ever ever has been supremely unsuccessful, with the highest recorded body count awarded to Virginia Tech, at thirty-two. 

Thirty-two! 

With heavy firepower in a useless sea of unarmed children!  

School shooters give school shooters a bad name.  

If I was going to shoot up my school, I would hop up mid-assembly, reveal two sub machine guns, and begin spinning like a hammer thrower, knees bent, swaying, catching everyone between the eyes. Untouchable! Anyway, I don’t care enough about anything to do that now. I’m ready to be nothing.  

“Whatever,” Angelica says. “I feel like a dude.” 

“What?” 

“I want food.” 

“I’m going to go.” 

“Whatever.” 

I stand up, knock pine needles from the folds of my trousers, and hack up a heart of snot.  

Angelica is only bearable to me because of how come she shies away from being categorical and never talks about hating people or them being wrong or anything being anyone’s fault. Neither of us think that our Primeminister is evil. We think he’s an unfortunate looking man, with overactive sweat glands,
trying his best.  

 * 

So you don’t have to...  

Edward Talbot-Scott was a go-getter, a team player, an all-round stand-up purveyor of joy, wit and warmth. An avid sportsman, he has been known to knock cricket balls through clouds and set shuttlecocks alight. He is the author of several plays, two novels and the poetry collection Dear Mother, Go Back In Time And Abort Me (An Atlas Of The Gravid Uterus).  

Talbot-Scott attended St Angus’ High School, where he was loved by students and faculty alike, excelled academically, and nailed several of his hottest teachers, who went on to describe him as being blessed with a tenderness desperately beyond his years.  

I myself first met him in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he reset my motionless heart with his magic hands, and carried me two hundred miles bride-style to the nearest hospital. For this I am eternally grateful.  

You will be severely missed! 

(Universe: not by me.) 

He is survived by his sister, Ellen Talbot-Scott, who is not to blame for anything, and his mother, Katherine Talbot-Scott, who would like you to know that she is going through an extremely difficult ordeal at present and is colossally devastated to an unprecedented and unparallelled degree.

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