Mr F

January 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm (NSATC)

A Soul Bean story: 

Mr Fallopian, my landlord, was drunk when he came to collect the rent.“It was a brown envelope – you remember,” I told him on the phone the next day.

“I don’t remember.”

“You were dancing, sir – Armenian.”

“Frank, I’ve told you before – I am not Armenian. Come around in the morning, we’ll talk about it.”

I turned up at his house at 10am the next day.

“Welcome,” he said, ushering me into his living room.

I noticed on the mantelpiece a picture his late wife, Mrs Fallopian, wearing a black headscarf. Like the Mona Lisa, her eyes followed you around the room. But, unlike her, she was not smiling. Nor was she at risk of being stolen.

Mr Fallopian was in the kitchen making tea. On his bookshelf I noticed a copy of The Complete Works of William Shatner. Inside there were pictures of the actor with Mr Spock, numerous aliens, and during shoots of TJ Hooker.

“Sugar?” he shouted, as the kettle whistled.

“Honey,” I replied. “If you have any.”

We sat at a creaky table by the first-floor window and said nothing. He stuffed his pipe.“About the rent,” I ventured.

He lit up, sucked at the pipe, and exhaled.

“So, you’re a writer.”

The aroma of tobacco surrounded us.

“Yes,” I said. Rent was not on the agenda.

“I have something you might want.”

“What’s that?”

“A hook for your novel.”

“The first line?”

Mr F explained that years ago he was writing his own novel but couldn’t get past the first sentence it was so good.

“What wasit?” I asked.

She had to defrost before he could stick it in.

As he spoke these words, the smoke he blew out seemed to fill the room with a divine presence. Mr Fallopian smiled, knowingly. He told me he remembered having turned up drunk and apologised. This sentence was his gift to me.

I couldn’t wait to tell Lou. She hadn’t spoken to me for weeks. She wanted to have babies. I told her we couldn’t until I was published. To cheer her up, I sponsored an elephant in Kenya. It was named Bambi, of all things.I read out the sentence to her:

She had to defrost, before I could stick it in.

Lou said it was misogynistic. She assumed the narrator was a man who worked in a morgue. I told her it’s someone sticking a turkey in the oven.

She left me. I fell into a pit of despondency. I failed to pay my rent. And Mr Fallopian evicted me. Now, I’m back to living with my mother. She tells me to get a job, but I can’t. I blame the sentence for my misfortune. But she tells me: “Your sentence started long before that son.” She does keep up Bambi’s adoption payments though, and it gives me some comfort to have made an elephant happy.


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The Plumber

January 10, 2007 at 11:22 pm (NSATC)

Archibald Norris, my next-door neighbour, had told me to expect a surprise. Knowing Archie, I thought this meant the Polish plumber he’d recommended might invite me to a book festival.

At seven thirty am on Tuesday, however, a woman, one Anna Karasiewicz, turned up at my doorstep. There I was, with morning breath and stuff in my eyes… observing a goddess.

“Shall I come in?” she said. She was wearing a khaki shirt with sleeves rolled up, and combat pants. In one hand she held an enormous toolbox.

“So, you have a sink problem,” she said, stepping inside.

“Among other things,” I said, ushering her to the kitchen.

 “My god!” she said, with what I presumed was a south Warsaw inflection. “You need a cleaner not a plumber.”

She made for the trap pipe.

“This is disgusting. You are single?”

“Yes,” I said.



“Gay men are tidier. You are an animal, right? Grrrr!”

“Yes, I am an animal,” I mumbled. If she had specified kangaroo I would’ve said yes.

“Let’s blitz this place,” she said.

“Did she just say that?” I thought, thinking god had UPS’d a cleaner.

“Knew that would wake you,” she said. “I need a bucket.”

I watched her poke around with the sink trap. She pulled out some gunk. Then she charged me £85.

“You could’ve done that yourself. Next time just send me the money.”

She washed her hands.

“Would you like to go for a date?” I said.

“What?” she said.

“Dinner, a date,” I said.

“With who?”


“No,” she said. “You are an animal.”

After my girlfriend left months ago, I kept away from women – without Celia I’d be celibate. Now here I was, hitting on the plumber. The next day I left her a message saying my boiler was not working. She didn’t get back. I said my drain was blocked. No answer. The flush is not working – nothing. I started running out of plumbing problems. Then, finally, a text arrived: “Up for that D8 Mr str8?”

Naturally I sent her a text back. That evening we went to The Sanitarium, a members club in Chelsea. Phil Bender was there, the comedian. She handed him her card: “Polski Plumber. Anna Karasiewicz. Chif ecexutive”.

The chif and I got tipsy and kissed. We ended up at her shoebox in Notting Hill. She refused to come to mine. (Couldn’t resist checking the taps at hers – great water pressure.) We kissed, violently. We tumbled onto her bed and took each other’s tops off. I was overwhelmed. 

“What’s the matter?” said Anna.

“Nothing,” I said, not letting on that George Bush Jnr had joined the coalition of the unwilling.

I backed away, upset. To save face I pretended I was having a turn. I put my Superman T-shirt back on and, to her amazement, left.

The next day I saw Archie in his driveway.

“How’s your plumbing?” he said.

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No Sex and the City

September 2, 2006 at 7:06 pm (NSATC)

Friday 1 September 2006

Marina Waldorf looked beautiful last night. I approached her at the bar in at Argyle club in Mayfair.
“Waldorf”, I said, “No relation to the salad?”
“Haven’t heard that one before,” she said.
The barman popped the cork and spilled Moet into our flutes.
Marina was wearing black, a designer dress, with no sleeves. I was also wearing black, and had taken a shower. Her two friends, Stephanie and Elspeth, joined us.
“Elspeth,” I said. “No relation to the salad?”
Well, there might have been an Elspeth salad. Marina helped break the silence that ensued with a polite giggle. She and I had got off to a good start, albeit because I had bought her champagne. (Still reeling from that one – a Coke cost the best part of five quid – that’s four one-litre bottles from KwikSave.)
Marina told her friends I write a column.
“Who do you write for?” said Stephanie.
“Agriculture Week,” I said.
“Agriculture Week?” said Elspeth.
“Yes, farming, combine harvesters, pesticides.”
“Cool,” she said, unconvincingly.
“Are there other magazines you’d like to work for?” said Marina, diplomatically.
“I wouldn’t mind Vogue or Tatler,” I said. “But neither has a farming section.”
She smiled. The other two made their excuses and walked away.
“Ýou told me you write for The Times,” said Marina.
“I do.”
“Why didn’t you tell them that?”
“I thought farming would impress them more.”
“You’re a bit mad aren’t you,” she said.
“Possibly,” I said. We found a table.
“Are you gay?” she said.
“Here we go,” I thought.

A man stepped up, hair tied in a ponytail, mid-forties, sporting a
belly and the menacing self-assurance of the nightclub owner he turned out to be. “Fabio!” said Marina. She got up, hugged him and left an imprint of her lips on his cheeks.
“Marina, Marina!” he said, in an Italian accent. “You look beautiful, cherry.”

Then he sized me up.

“This is Paul,” said Waldorf. Not my name but who was I to complain.
“Paul,” said Fabio, looking at me but addressing her. “Is he gay?”
“Are you queer Paul?” said Waldorf.
“Not only am I not gay”, I wanted to say, “I am not Paul” – sixty pounds for a bottle of grapes and this is what you get.
They summoned a waiter and snuggled up to each other. Then, at last, Oscar turned up. He loved taking me to these places and leaving me to my own devices. Then, knowing my devices to be faulty, he’d come and rescue me.

“Marina!” he said.
“Oscar!” she cooed. Oscar knows everybody.
She hugged him and kissed him on both cheeks.
“You look like gold ingots in a Swiss bank vault Marina!” he said.
Stilton and cheddar can woo. It’s all about delivery.
“Thank you handsome. How do you know Paul?” she said.
“Paul? ”
He clocked she meant me.
“My best buddy,” he said. We met the other week. His Rolex, glistening, seemed to wink at me.
“Oscar I want you to meet Fabio, he’s the owner,” she said.

And boy was the owner fuming. He looked like he could eat Oscar for breakfast. Whoever he was, it was time for him to leave. This was some consolation to me as once again, I made my way home on my own.

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