Because it’s Friday and I have a slight hangover after watching the second episode of ‘Better Call Saul’ last night and really getting through the wine, today’s offering is more shameless advertising. I feel an apology coming on. No I don’t. It’s an excerpt from my kids book ‘Johnny Nothing’, which you can buy, rent and see reviews for here: Johnny Nothing. If you have bittorrent there are even places that you can steal it if that’s your inclination.
Critics have called Johnny Nothing ‘The funniest kids book ever written…’ (Well, actually I just made that up. But it’s a helluva quote.) In an ideal world, of course, you will take one read of what follows, burst your hernia laughing, rush to buy it for your kid(s) or yourself and then insist that all of your friends read it. Shame that the world isn’t ideal.
Anyhow’s, hope it raises the odd titter.
Chapter 03 – Kiss
There. That’s all the main characters in the book dealt with. It’s at this point that you might decide that you’ve had enough and go off and read something by Jacqueline Wilson or Roald Dahl instead. I wouldn’t personally advise it. But there’s no accounting for taste.
If, however, you’ve decided to tough it out for a while longer then it’s your turn to do some work. You have some serious story reading to do. So come with me and imagine a big, dusty old church with Uncle Marley’s icily cold body lying on its back at the front being stared at from the back by a handful of people who really didn’t like it when it was icily warm. Phew.
Have you ever seen a dead body with all its insides scraped out (and maybe sold to the local kebab shop) and then stuffed to the brim with £50 notes? Neither have I. But from the expression on the faces of most of the people staring at Uncle Marley, this was exactly what they were seeing.
When they looked at Uncle Marley they just saw money. Rolls and rolls of banknotes. Bundles and bundles of bunce. Loads and loads of loot. Dollops and dollops of dough. A stash of cash. A wagonload of wonga.
They saw a limitless supply of frozen horsemeat lasagne from Iceland. An everlasting collection of flat-packed cardboard boxes containing things that were impossible to put together from Argos. He was their cold, dead, smelly ticket to everything they had ever dreamed of.
If I had the time and I was feeling in the mood I could give you a lovely description of the interior of the church. You’d be really impressed. I could talk about how the warm summer sunshine was streaming in through the beautiful stained glass windows. About the exquisite carved wooden pulpit that dated back to Queen Victoria. About how John McVicar was secretly questioning the existence of God. Or about how the bloke playing the organ was growing really irritated because he was hardly getting a mention in this story.
But that would be rude because Ebenezer Dark was currently speaking:
‘…so I think we’re all agreed that Jake Marley was a very, very nice chap indeed… Lovely fellow… Splendid bloke… Now for the reading of the will…’
In reality, of course, he said a lot more than this. But one of the good things about writing stories is that you can leave out whatever you feel like leaving out. And I’m leaving out most of what he said about Uncle Marley because it was pretty dull and I’m keen to get on with the action.
‘About time, too!’ said Mrs. MacKenzie grumpily agreeing with me. ‘This is pretty dull and I’m keen to get on with the action!’
‘As you all know, Mr. Marley was an extremely wealthy man… He was also a very unconventional man… Mr. Marley liked to do things a little differently than most people…’
Everybody there silently agreed that Uncle Marley was indeed stinking rich. Rich and stinking. But nobody there was that aware that he liked to do things a little differently because when he was alive he never left his house. But that didn’t stop Mr. Dark from reaching up and pulling back a huge curtain that he was standing in front of to reveal a giant flat screen TV. (Did I mention before that Mr. Dark was standing in front of a huge curtain that concealed a giant flat screen TV? Sorry if I didn’t.)
‘Many of you will not be aware that before he died, Mr. Marley didn’t write a will…’ explained Mr. Dark.
There was silence for a few moments while everyone tried to get their heads around the double negative in the last sentence.1 This was followed by a collective gasp of disappointment. Sort of: ‘Haaawwwwww!!’ The sort of noise that people make when their favourite football team misses a penalty. One or two people said some pretty nasty swear words.
Back to Mr. Dark:
‘…instead, he recorded a short video that outlines exactly what he intended to do with his vast fortune.’
There was a collective gasp of relief from the gathering, sort of ‘Yeeesssshhhhh!’. The sort of noise that people make at football matches when the opposition have just missed a penalty. One or two people reluctantly apologised for swearing.
‘However, before I can play the video to you, I have a minor request.’
Mr. Dark self-consciously shuffled the papers he was holding and cleared his throat, making a noise that is almost impossible to describe in words. Sort of: ‘Hhhmmppphh… Bedrummpphh…’
No, that wasn’t it.
‘Mr. Marley was always touched by how much affection you had for him…’ he intoned. ‘And before he died, your love for him was an undoubted source of comfort…’
Some of the mourners raised their eyebrows. The rest simply lowered their eyeballs. Most people there hated Uncle Marley more than Brussels sprouts boiled in liquid horse manure served with rat tails on toast and knew that he hated them just as much. They were jealous of him: jealous of his wallet, jealous of his big house in the country, jealous of his giant TVs. They hated him as much as Itchy hated Scratchy. As much as grown-ups hate traffic wardens. As much as you hate homework (although there’s always one or two sneaks who pretend to like homework. (If your teacher is reading this story to you right now, turn around and pull faces at the class sneaks to make them feel really uncomfortable.))
‘…so before we play his video he thought it would be nice if you all gave him a tender kiss.’
There was silence in the church for a few moments as this comment sank in. And then Felicity MacKenzie’s voice rang out: ‘This is a joke, right? I’m not kissing a dead body – no matter who it is.’
‘Quite right,’ agreed her husband nervously.
‘Not likely,’ added Uncle Sydney.
Mr. Dark looked uncomfortable for a few seconds. Then his face hardened and he stared intently at the piece of paper he was holding before he spoke again. ‘I’m sorry but I really must insist. It specifically says here that there will be no will unless everyone kisses Mr. Marley.’
‘Why don’t you kiss him then?’ demanded Mrs. MacKenzie.
Once again Mr. Dark looked at the piece of paper. ‘It says here that I mustn’t kiss Mr. Marley. Which is a great pity, you know, because I was terribly fond of him.’
‘Gimme that piece of paper!’ ordered Mrs. Mackenzie.
Mr. Dark looked a little scared for a moment and hugged the paper to his chest. His face softened. Then it hardened again. Finally it softened one last time: ‘It says here that if anyone else reads this paper the will is cancelled,’ he said cagily.
The gathering once more fell silent for a moment and then Billy MacKenzie spoke for the second time in this story. ‘Come on Fliss’, he said (‘Fliss’ was what Billy sometimes called Felicity. Like a lot of people he was simply too lazy to be bothered to pronounce all the syllables in a name. It was too much like hard work.). ‘Just get it over with. Think of the dosh.’
There was a further spell of silence as everyone wondered what they were going to do next. It was bad enough spending a morning sniffing a dead man but kissing him?
‘Oh very well!’ said Mrs. MacKenzie angrily, looking over at Mr. Dark and then at her husband. ‘Go ahead and kiss him then.’
‘Me? Why should I?’ said Mr. MacKenzie looking aghast.
‘You do it then!’ ordered Mrs. MacKenzie, turning towards Sydney.
‘After you,’ replied her brother, edging away from the coffin.
Mrs. MacKenzie stood and looked at the body of her brother for a few moments. She turned her nose up at the smell, which seemed to be getting worse with every second. She crinkled up her nostrils. She shrugged her shoulders. She closed her eyes. She bravely clenched her large and floppy bottom cheeks. Then, without warning, she reached over and very quickly planted the briefest of kisses on one of Uncle Marley’s face cheeks. A bit like the one that you give to your grandma when she tries to kiss you with a runny wet mouth that tastes of old humbugs.
‘Uggggghhhh!’ she spluttered, showering Mr. Dark with a delicate fountain of spittle. ‘Happy now?’
Ebenezer Dark slowly shook his head and once more regarded the paper he was holding. ‘I’m sorry but that won’t do,’ he said, although from the tone of his voice he didn’t really seem that sorry at all. ‘It’s says here that you have to kiss Mr. Marley on the lips.’
‘You what?!’ exclaimed Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘I’m not kissing a dead man on the lips!’
Mr. Dark shrugged his shoulders. ‘Then there’s no will,’ he said. ‘It’s all written down here in black and white.’
‘Really!’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘This is outrageous!’ Nevertheless, after a moment of hesitation she reached over to the corpse of her brother and quickly gave him another kiss, this time on the lips.
‘Your turn,’ she said in relief, spitting something gunky onto the floor and looking angrily towards her husband.
‘I’m terribly sorry,’ interrupted Mr. Dark. ‘But it says here that the kiss must be for at least half a minute or all of Mr. Marley’s money will go to Battersea Dogs Home or somewhere else like that.’
Mrs. MacKenzie looked like she was going to explode. Her face turned bright crimson until it began to resemble one of those tomato-shaped ketchup dispensers full of vinegary red fluid that you get in poor peoples’ cafés. She did a lot of cursing under her breath then she yelled: ‘I’m not doing that you horrible little creep!’
‘Very well,’ replied Mr. Dark, starting to put away his papers.
Mrs. MacKenzie took a deep breath and swore again. ‘This is the last time,’ she scowled.
Almost in slow motion, Mrs. MacKenzie moved her face closer to her dead brother’s. She took a nose-full of the horrible foetid smell that was pumping from the corpse and closed her eyes tightly. Then she pressed her mouth to Uncle Marley’s cold, blue lips and waited.
Standing in front of the curtain Mr. Dark looked at his watch and began to count.
After only ten seconds Mrs. MacKenzie began to feel faint. She could feel her dead brother’s whiskers tickling her chin and she could taste his dead taste. (Strangely enough, he tasted like Southern Fried Chicken.)
After twenty seconds her stomach was making strange gurgling noises like a dishwasher stuck in rinse mode. In her mouth the taste of Uncle Marley flavour Southern Fried Chicken was replaced by sausage, bacon, egg and beans with brown sauce and egg yolk all mixed up in the beans. This was what she had had for breakfast that morning.
After thirty seconds what remained of that breakfast was splashed over her shoes in quite a nice pattern as it happens. You could easily have framed it and hung it in the Tate Modern. And she emerged, breathless, white and gasping for air from what had been the longest kiss of her life and – coincidentally – the longest kiss of Uncle Marley’s death.
‘Will that do?’ she garbled weakly, hardly able to speak as she moved away from the corpse on unsteady legs.
‘Yes, I believe so,’ said Mr. Dark, smiling politely.
‘Now it’s your turn,’ she coughed. Staring over at the horrified faces of the other two men.
‘No need,’ said Mr. Dark jauntily, looking once again at the piece of paper. ‘It says here that if anyone here brings up their breakfast while kissing Mr. Marley the others are excused from doing it. It’s only fair and decent.’
1 What’s a double negative I hear you ask? Well I’m not going to not tell you. It’s when you have two negative statements contained in a sentence that sort of cancel each other out.
‘I’m not going to not do that!’ is a double negative. It means ‘I am going to do that!’.
Do you not see what I don’t mean?