My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who looks like the big lad out of the Magic Numbers.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal.”
MENK SIX: I Spy Something Beginning With S…
Summer is over and the spiders are preparing to move into the flat. Above the walkway outside the front door there are lots of egg nests. Little balls of yellowing cotton wool pushed flat to the ceiling, each with one female standing guard. There are cobwebs everywhere, attached to the brick pillars, between the bars on the front door, blowing like tendrils on the breeze. Maria hates spiders and asks if I am alright to take care of it, before going out for a long walk with Little John. Lined up as if on parade on the bathroom floor are a bottle of bleach, some marigold gloves, a toilet brush from the pound shop that can be disposed of immediately afterwards, some cloths, a spatula and a bucket full of hot, soapy water. I choose to wear a white t-shirt, so I can see easily if anything’s on it and tie my hair tightly into a top knot and put a hat on. I think seriously about shaving my beard off. It looks like a potential nature reserve.
I can’t remember being afraid of spiders when I was a kid but if there was ever a moth in the house my mum would run up and down the stairs shrieking as my Dad would yell: “Fetch the jar! Fetch the jar!” One of his few pleasures in life was capturing insects and arachnids and then either destroying or releasing them depending on whether he classed them as bad or good. The only thing he enjoyed more than this was removing splinters from himself or the flesh of my sister and I with a series of pins, scalpels and craft knives and then repairing the cuts he’d made with surgical spirit, tape and gauze. My mum didn’t get splinters, a skill she had no doubt learned very early on in their courtship.
By the age of 22 I was having bad nightmares about insects and spiders and by the age of 24 these had started encroaching into my waking hours as well. At the end of really punishing drinking sessions, the night horrors of delirium tremens coaxed tarantulas out of wallpaper patterns and formication meant my bed would often look like it was writhing with micro-life. It didn't help that I usually lived in the kind of substandard housing that tended to be overrun with insects. At night I would sometimes think that my eyelids had gone transparent. Through closed eyes I could still see the entire room, as if through night vision goggles, exactly the same just crawling with horror. Though these episodes didn’t happen all the time, things did intensify as the years dragged on. The Grand Guignol horror visors made me sense spiders made entirely out of their own eyes, out of cloves of garlic coating the floor like a shifting carpet, out of rosy pink smooth baby flesh. One time I spent a few days thinking there was a spider clamped to the back of my head sticking its legs through holes in my skull, making me do things by manipulating the surface of my brain.
In my 30s it got less intensely visual, however. A more prosaic form of temporary dementia started happening. I simply started feeling indescribably awful; it was like my brain had removed the gloves. I remember once 'being told' some information which was so terrible that I jumped out of my bed, ran out of my room and fell down a flight of stairs. Then after a few minutes of slowly realising what was going on, I thought, ‘Now that I’m down here, I might as well have a few glasses of wine.’ And things went downhill from there.
I scrape the little nests off with a fish slice, fling them to the floor and stamp on them, grinding them into the paving slabs and I’m doing alright until I notice them shooting across the ceiling, down the walls and past my feet: “Ugh, you little shit house!” I start scrubbing manically at the ceiling with the toilet brush and cobwebs start wrapping round it and then my hand. Some lands on my cheek and I let out a shriek: “Fuck you, fucking cock rash!” I’m brushing down the brick supporting pillar when I see three black, spiky chitin legs, measuring probably a couple of inches each slip out of a crack in the dried mortar. I grab the bottle of bleach and squirt as much as I can into the gap. A fucking behemoth of cancerous charcoal strands, blackened iron filings and skittering rotten tree bark plops out of the unfeasibly small hole and onto the floor. I run into the house and come out with my hammer. In reality, it's a garden spider, it isn’t that big and is already slightly broken and stumbling through a pool of bleach, but I’ve let the experience get the better of me and start smashing it until I can’t tell what it is anymore: “You fucking cunt! You fucking horrible little cunt!”
The old man from around the back walks past. I wave feebly at him with the hammer but he kisses his teeth at me. It’s over three hours before I open my lips and unclench my teeth and I have to wash my hair three times before I can stop checking it in the mirror.
I’ve always been a socialist. It’s easy when you’re a drunk because your need for people to do stuff for you far outstrips your ability to do stuff for them in return. The balance has now shifted in the right direction, though in some cases I’m still learning what I have an aptitude for as an adult. The trouble with stopping drinking is literally the only thing it fixes in your life is the amount you drink. Everything else in your existence that is a mess because of decades’ worth of unearned and extended childhood, remains an unknown quantity. You’ve spent your entire adult life learning how to be neurotic and mentally ill instead of learning how to clean round your front door in a dignified manner.
Later in the week we see a little spider in the front room. Maria picks up Little John and points him at it, saying: “Look at the lovely, eight-legged… thing. Isn’t it nice?” She takes him into the bedroom and puts him in his cot. She comes back into the room and stamps on our uninvited house guest once, killing it. Because she’s brilliant like that.