FTMT's Favourite Five Top Tenets

Monday, September 07, 2009



Friday: Jackie ran her finger across the pink ticket and read the numbers slowly, mouthing each one as if reciting some whispered poem or incantation. “ 03 10 14 23 40 47.” They were as wild carded and random as they could be, drawn from a lucky dip setting in a branch of ASDA she’d never visited, bought on an impulse and quickly folded and hidden away in her purse like the golden key to a lost treasure. Trembling she had paid for it with the only pound coin in the purse and all through the transaction she had made deep and uncomfortable eye contact with the young man operating the till and the ticket machine. The she had spun quickly on her office heels and walked smartly out of the door and into the car park and across to her car. Once the door had slammed she pulled the ticket out and read the numbers and repeated them, over and over again. Inside her head, aloud, aloud in singsong, aloud in whisper, aloud in a deep made up voice, in accents and with pauses and in staccato rhythms that just came to her. The numbers were alive with a new identity she had breathed into them. After fifteen minutes she put the ticket away, started the engine and drove away, still recounting those six squiggly and fateful digits.

Once Jackie was safely home and the door locked she undressed and quite naked she took the ticket, rolled it up and tied it with a purple cord like a tiny scroll. Then she laid it on a bed of fresh oak and myrtle leaves and scattered the contents of a small brown bag over it. A fine dust of herb like powder covered the leaves and the ticket and she walked around it seven times. Then she placed a wicker pentagram measuring about two feet across over the pile of leaves. She walked around it a further seven times, clockwise and then anti clockwise. Then she stood quite still staring down at the ticket a repeated the numbers, “ 03 10 14 23 40 47, 03 10 14 23 40 47, 03 10 14 23 40 47.” Many times, I don’t know how many times, certainly until it was dark.

Saturday: Jackie woke up on the floor, she was wrapped in a blanket, a stale smell of incense hung in the air, Jackie coughed and rubbed her eyes. The room still revolved around the sacred pile in the centre, the ticket, the leaves, the willow pentagram and the herbs. She stood still wrapped in the blanket and walked over to the window and tugged at the handle. It was stiff and she wrestled with it, it came unstuck suddenly, the window popped and a stiff breeze flooded the room. The wind seemed to spiral up and around the room as if searching, it whisked the curtains, rustled the flowers on the mantelpiece and then saw the pile on the floor. It spat on the leaves and scattered them all over and then picked up the ticket, blew it across the room and into Jackie’s’ outstretched hand. Jackie looked at the ticket, smiled, pushed the window shut and sat down in the corner flicking the ticket between her index and middle fingers. She closed her eyes and whispered, “ 03 10 14 23 40 47.”

In the distance the church bells chimed twelve noon. Jackie opened her eyes and laid the ticket back into the centre of the pentagram and began again the ritual of pacing around and repeating the numbers.
At two o’clock the phone rang, without breaking stride she swooped on the handset, picked it up and spoke, “Yeah? Yeah! Yeah! Ok, see you at seven”.

Jackie stared at the blade of the dagger. Its polished surface reflected the room interior. She laid the blade flat onto the palm of her open hand, her left hand and squeezed it. She gave a slight tremble and bit the corner of her lip. She squeezed the blade more and trembled more then threw it down. It felt like she’d walked through a mirror or a pane of glass or a wall of ice. She pulled the blanket and walked into the kitchen, boiled the kettle and made a cup of coffee, the knife was too much, much too much.

From the kitchen drawer she drew a sheet of paper, the guide and instructions she’d been working from. The preparation, the steps, the moves, the ingredients, the spells and the commitment, she read the whole thing again. The knife. She clutched a pill bottle and shook out and small handful, pondered and threw them into the bin. Then back into the room with the ticket and the knife. This time she didn’t hesitate, she pushed the blade hard into her pink and stretched palm until a red flow appeared, she muffled the scream somewhere back in her throat and fell to her knees, the knife dropped and she spun her arm throwing the bright red onto the scattered leaves, the willow and in a fine spray the ticket. She grasped her hand again and rushed into the kitchen once more, wrapped it in a towel and lit a cigarette with the other. She sat on a stool and vacantly looked out of the window, the towel pressed hard to stem the flow.

An hour later the bleeding had stopped and she returned to the ticket. It was still rolled up and now flecked with red speckles on the outside. She picked it up with her right hand and began the circling and the chanting again, “ 03 10 14 23 40 47,” a sing song tune seemed to accompany her numbers recital. It was nearly four in the afternoon but she had decided to consciously lose track of time, if she could.

There was a thud at the front door, she jumped in surprise and clutched the blanket. She was still naked underneath and sweaty and dizzy with number dance. She was also suddenly aware of a heavy tiredness that was falling all around her. She unlocked the door and saw Buzz standing there. Buzz was dressed head to foot in washed out black jeans and a t-shirt, a heavy silver bracelet was round his right wrist and a chain around his neck. He wore motorcycle boots but didn’t appear to have arrived on one. They exchanged few words, he tried to kiss her but she pushed him back, the pushing continued as they walked (her backwards, him forwards) into the lounge. They stopped and she showed him the ticket. The lounge was sparsely furnished, a couch, a TV, a coffee table and few baskets in the corner. Jackie was suddenly aware of the leaves and the blood stains splashed and scattered across the carpet. Buzz noticed them also, shook his head and smiled “You’re a good girl, let’s see your hand”.

The blood had dried but had been diluted with sweat, the thick red line of the diagonal cut remained and Jackie’s fingers curled in towards it protecting it and pointing like a road sign. She was in pain. Buzz pushed her again and in a quick and mechanical move she grabbed the back of his head with her right hand and planked a deep kiss square on his lips. They coupled and toppled onto the couch, Buzz pulled himself out of his clothes, Jackie’s blanket dropped and they rutted together in the cushions and then across the floor. Time swam for both of them, the ticket had passed from hand to hand to floor, the chanting had long ceased to be replaced by grunts and sighs.

Buzz stood up, pulled on his trousers and hiked the t-shirt back over his head. Jackie was rolled up in the blanket asleep. It was grey dark and cold. Buzz moved through to the kitchen and emerged carry two lit candles, he placed them on the floor by the pentagram, he returned to the kitchen with another two and formed a cross around the shape, he picked up the rolled ticket that had been discarded earlier and returned it to the middle of the remains of the leaves and herbs. The flickering lights awoke Jackie, she sat up on the couch and moved her knees under her chin still in the blanket. Buzz was in the kitchen, glasses clinked and he returned with wine for each of them. Hardly a word had been spoken for some time but after a mouthful of wine Buzz seemed eager to talk and began musing about the lottery ticket, the spell, the candles and how “everything was about to change”. Jackie, slowly coming back to life assured Buzz that she had done everything according to the instructions. “The spell is set, the time is right, everything is coming together for us.” Buzz gently stroked her injured hand, held her fingers and kissed her fingertips and nodded. It was seven thirty, they stared down into the candlelight and onto the tiny numbered paper.

There are many things in life that you can control, there are many more that you cannot. The tension between these two positions, those points and circumstances, has baffled and infuriated the greatest minds, the commonest man and noblest of kings. Seizing the initiative and making a change, willing your position on, against the odds and against the forces of nature, time and the will of whatever god you can name are constant markers in our lifelong struggle, and the struggle to control goes on, by any an every means possible and imaginable.

280 miles north of Jackie and Buzz’s couch, in Berwick upon Tweed, Jackie and her husband Bob were sitting on the couch finishing a Chinese carry out and watching the credits roll on the X-Factor. Bob flicked the remote and called up teletext screen 555. In the back pocket of his jeans was a ticket with three lines on it, he checked the results and swore under his breath, he turned to Jackie, “nothing for me this week darlin‘, you get a ticket?” Jackie reached for her handbag and pulled a ticket from her purse, she read the numbers aloud and watched as Bob’s face lit up in a huge and uncharacteristic smile. “My God! 31, 1, 4, 23, 40, 47...we’ve won!”

Buzz looked at the ticket, “a bloody tenner, all that for a bloody tenner!”

No comments: