So I realize it has been pretty quiet here since the year changed. This is because I have been working on a new novel, and I thought it would be quite harmless to post a preview here. This section introduces our heroine, Joy Fairfield, on the Thursday preceding the weekend of the Mayoral election in Paradise.
Chapter 1 – Fairfield
Joy Fairfield wakes up coughing, blushing. She buries her head under the cover, and feels a squirm pulse from her tailbone up. A sex dream, with Jacob, the belly-hanging spanner-tosser who has had her moped for the best part of a fortnight, and who is apparently engaged in an infinitely prolonged quest to find reasons to declare it unfit for road motoring.
Not much worse was Paul, the flabby cretin spooning up to her right now. And the sex with him last night had been real! Actual, tangible, bad sex.
She sparks a cigarette and looks at him: his helpless, pussy face. A modicum of gormless spittle on his lip. Did she have a sign outside her house, exclaiming: ‘I fuck scrubs’? Or was it written in her eyes, and in her actions. Did everyone know?
She blows some smoke in his face, getting no reaction. He’s probably still drunk. ‘It’s time to go, Paul,’ she says, sharply, naggingly, and slaps his face a bit. He mumbles, and she gets out of bed. She’s dressed in pants and not anything else. She slumps into the bathroom and studies herself in the mirror.
It’s the beakish mouth that she hates the most. Why does she put that weight on her face? Her lips protrude, and are dragged down by the excess flab on her cheeks. Like a sad duck. Of course, there’s also: the paunch, the fat ass, the double-chin and the pancake tits. A general shapelessness. But why the duck face? She throws her cigarette in the toilet pan.
Joy moved to Paradise sixteen years ago now. She’s thirty-four. She looks older. This is what Paradise does to a person. Why did she come here? Because she hated home. The traffic, the climate, her parents. Her parents! It seemed ridiculous, to be a thirty-four year old woman, living in the bottom right corner of the continent, basically because her parents lived in the top left. Four thousand miles away. Sixteen years it has been, and she just guessed four thousand. She doesn’t actually know.
‘Paul! I said it’s time to hit the road!’ She’s in the kitchenette now. She can’t be bothered to clean a pan, so she is making her eggs in the same one from yesterday, with the dried, yellow egg-film still crusted on it. It’ll wetten and loosen and mix in with the new batch. She knows this from experience. She pours in a glug of Harpress “Vegetable” Oil, and a spoonful of Technically It’s Not Butter. She cracks some battery eggs from Orga Nick’s Farm. She microwaves the Denmark Castle Bacon, and dresses it with Aunt Maple’s Syrup.
‘Paul! Eat then go.’ That gets him moving. He bumbles down the stairs shirtless. For a microsecond Joy feels like she is going to cry when she sees him. He’s in bad shape. But its not that that upsets her. It’s that he’s in better shape than her.
The kettle clicks off and she pours the boiling water over a bag of China Town Green Tea. There’s a cliché: start as you mean to continue. But that’s not how Joy feels. On one reading that’s too big an ask, on the other it’s deleterious. No: Joy starts as well as she can be bothered to, and gets gradually worse. Ideally she’ll go from green tea to coffee, to beer to wine, and maybe on to cocktails. Sometimes she starts up a notch, sometimes she skips a few, and sometimes she progresses beyond cocktails. She has a feeling that today calls for a fast progression, but she manages to hold it together for now, puts it down to the hangover, and eats her saccharine bacon.
She looks out of the window of her dining-room-cum-lounge-cum-bedroom, and watches as Paul exits the main door of the apartment building, and mounts his pickup truck. Surely he’s too drunk to drive. Mind you, if he’s too drunk to drive now then he was way over the limit last night too, and that didn’t stop her taking a ride. He almost reverses over a poodley-looking mutt, who takes umbridge, eyeing the motor furiously over the bone in its mouth.
Paradise isn’t even big. It’s a small tropical island, attached to the mainland via a spindly causeway. You could probably walk the circumference in a couple of hours, and you can walk from Joy’s work, The Garden of Paradise, to Joy’s apartment in twenty minutes, maybe thirty after as many cocktails as she’d imbibed last night. And it’s a pleasant walk, often a sobering experience, never regretted. The five-minute drive is, of course, regularly regretted. So why did she accept the lift?
Paul is a fixture at the Garden of Paradise, in his baggy jeans, tee-shirt and baseball cap, on the stool in the corner furthest from the entrance. A beer and a shot in front of him, another in the back of Joy’s mind. She’s a decent bar tender. She knows what the customers want. A beer and a shot, and keep ’em comin’.
It’s a nudist bar, although you wouldn’t necessarily guess. Not all that many naked people drink there. Sure they turn up now and then, and they always regret it. The regulars are mostly dressed, that is, the every-nighters. They drink there because they want to see naked people. So to keep them coming back, they have to employ naked females. On weekends they have dancers, fire-eaters, a magician—any half-arsed talent will do. The main requirement is nudity. During the week they just pay some teenagers twenty dollars and as many beers and shots as they want to nudely fill the place out.
The proprietor had noble intentions. A genuine nudist bar, for philosophical nudists to network in, to discuss the great naked issues of the day: that was the dream. But the renaissance nudists never showed up, and the bills piled up, and the tills were empty (and even they were hire purchase), so the dream was quickly forgotten, and ‘talent’ was hired. At least it wasn’t a titty bar. It wasn’t quite a titty bar.
Yes, Paul was a fixture, with his beers and his shots, and his wandering, lecherous eyes. And at closing time, once the last nipple had covered itself up and skedaddled, he would turn those eyes to Joy. Most of the time she’d tell him to fuck off. But not last night.
She locks the door behind her, descends the stairs, and walks out onto the sidewalk to walk the walk she forewent last night, albeit in the opposite direction. She is hours early for work, but there’s nowhere else to go. She could have hung around for hours with Paul, fitted in another two fucks even, and she feels bad for ejecting him abruptly. But today feels like a day for solitude and self-analysis.