Come on you've read the other one and you don't need an actual intro, do you? Come on. Come on. Let's stop messing about and just get to it. There's a Labour leadership ballot coming up, and nobody knows who is allowed to vote, who is allowed to run, what exactly the point is and when it will happen, but here are the three main candidates, anyway:
"No I'm not no no I know it no, no. No, right: I know a lot of you didn't want me here today, right, but it's ME DAUGHTER'S WEDDING, yeah, and I don't care, right, I know a lot of you think PHILLIP is her dad but he isn't, that's me, right, just— no sit down YOU SIT DOWN MATE, just because youse raised her and did everything for her and fed her and that, just because you jumped in my be—WOULD YOU JUMP IN MY GRAVE AS FAST, YEAH, PHILLIP, YEAH? Just because all that doesn't mean I don't love my daughter on this, her wedding day.
"Right because no what a lot of you lot don't know, yeah, is that I'm her real dad. And a lot of youse are like— no, listen, I know I've fucked up in my life, yeah, scuse my French, yeah? I went to go live in Thailand for six year when she were two. I were in the army, I moved around a lot. I drove a truck for a bit. I had to live on a big sofa. But I'm through that now I'm through that and it were RUDE and INCONSIDERATE for you to think you couldn't invite me here FOR MY OWN DAUGHTER'S WEDDING.
"Can I have a beat, please? Thank you. I said a hip, hip, a hip don't hop and you don't stop the rock and the bang bang boogie and up jump the riddim and the riddim and the riddim repeat. Nice once.
"Right I'll leave you with a few words about marriage because I can see the coppers coming. One: all women are slags. Two: ... no, I've lost it. If she's nagging your arse off, Dave, and if she's anything like her mother she will, get rid. Come join me on the banter barge! I live on a barge now. Best thing I ever did in my life was being served divorce papers and buying a barge. Sayonara, bitches! Corbyn OUT!"
Owen Smith takes a half step towards you, then turns as if to go back, then around again, a full step now, a nervous little "hi" rolling out of his mouth. "Hi," he says. He coughs twice, a huergh-hurrgh as if he's saying it, not coughing it. "Hi there, hi." He hands you his book to sign. "Ooooooh, eh?" he says, motioning the room. He extends his lips as if in whisper, then says just a little too loudly, "HOT".
It is hot. You are a bestselling author and it is your first and only booksigning in the UK after an exhausting international tour. Your spy novel, He Loved Me Too Hard, is part 50 Shades cummageddon and half Bond-esque subterfuge. It has sold out in every country it's been printed in. The film rights were snatched up before the publisher could ever get a second pressing out. You've been here for hours, patiently, talking to mum after mum after grandma, primarily blushing pink women, the book catering for, all wanting to hold your hand in their two liver-spotted claws, clinging to you, telling them how you helped them rediscover their yoni, their sparkle, their cunt. But not many men, here. Until Owen.
"Owen," he says, a bead of sweat rolling down his face to his lips, which he licks dry. "If you could just make it out to... Owen." He peers over your desk, over the nub of the Sharpie where you're signing, to see you do it. "And if you could put a personal little message, that could—"
You stop at, 'Dear Owen'. The PR girl said there might be... well, the industry calls them 'superfans'. "You know," she said, "you might get some...." There's no delicate way of putting this. "Some really.... intense... fans." Owen seems to be breathing faster, puffing, like he's just ran a mile. You write, 'Great to meet you!' and sign your name. He looks over. "And a kiss," he whispers.
"Just... sign it with a kiss."
You hold your pen so still the thumping from your heart just about shakes it. There is a rustling of people around you. "And if there are," the PR girl says, echoing in your mind from earlier, "and... really intense superfans, just say the codeword 'capybara' and we'll come and rescue you." Owen stares at you one beat, another. Sweat gushing from him now. You notice the length of his briefcase strap is calculated just so, so it hangs down in front of him, in front of his crotch. "Just a little," he says, "kis—" and then you say it, stand and yell 'CAPYBARA', and watch as three hard men called Ian swarm on him in a pile-on, crushing Owen Smith so much they have to ring an ambulance, crushing his ribs so much they have to be regrown.
"COME IN MY DEAR," Angela Eagle says, "COME IN, COME IN." Angela Eagle is your aunt who you've been sent to live with for the summer. It is the 1970s, an idyllic time, the sky bright and orange and umbre, and you are sent to live with Angela in her little cottage on the outskirts of Dittisham. Fronds of honeysuckle and lavender bob by the entrance of the door. Dusty red brick and a neat little thatching. The garden, lush and dappled with outcrops of vegetables and high, veranda-crawling blackberries, sings with life. Butterflies, white tailed rabbits. Inside, the hallway is dark. "COME IN, COME IN, COME IN," Angela sings, teetering towards the hysterical. Her hand is on your suitcase. You don't want to let go. She hasn't blinked in seconds, in days. "O!" she says. "What fun we shall have this summer!"
At night time it is quiet and it is bright. The curtains are heavier than you have back home but the starlight pushes through, your room blue with it, your room grey. You can't sleep anyway. You're 11 and you know why they sent you here. The hushed arguments, the sudden closed doors, dad always home late these days, out early. The house creaks. A rush of air from the sea. You left the home you grew up in and you're going back to something broken, split. "A summer with Aunt Angela by the seaside!" your mum said, dad nowhere to be seen, your bag already packed. "Doesn't that sound exciting!"
You wake before the birds and lie still, your arms stiff by your side. There's nothing to do here. "Pack a book!" your mum trilled. You've read all your books. "Pack a game, then! Pack Mousetrap!" There's nobody to play Mousetrap with. Aunt Angela lives alone, miles from anywhere, no neighbouring children to play with, no dogs. You creep downstairs, still early, hoping not to wake her, hoping that maybe, just maybe, she has a TV, hidden under a blanket, tucked away in a cellar. You're stunned to find her sitting upright at the kitchen table, emotionless and beaming, facing you as you walk in. "And good morning," she says, "to you."
You spend a day arranging Aunt Angela's wool samples in silence. She brings you delicate cups of thin flavourless tea and turns swiftly on her heel to go and potter in the garden. That is how she describes it: "pottering". She hums as she leaves the old cottage, an old beekeeping hat around her to protect her face from the sun, and you take your chance to bolt. You crawl around the house, slowly, slowly, so as not to creak anything, looking in cupboards, peering through doors. You make it as far as the last step on the attic ladder then pull short, the air cold in your lungs, the blood still in your heart. Did you hear something? No. No. Surely. You look through the hallway window and see her there, distantly, still at the bottom of the garden. You run downstairs and sort the wool.
Weeks go by like this, but they feel like months. Some days Aunt Angela rustles up a thick, flavourless yellow cake from somewhere. Sometimes she lets you walk outside on your own. You get as far as the cliffs, one day, your little hands bending down to stroke the long grass, marks on your knees, a cheese sandwich growing squidgy in foil in your backpack. You lean forward and squint. You tuck to the floor and smell the soil. Out there, on the beach— it can't be. Out in the shale and the sea, Aunt Angela, alone in the gunmetal water, a thick white frock slick to her body with the salt of the sea. She seems to be singing a high, distant note. Her eyes are closed and her face is pink and she is swaying. You run home, all the way home, back to the cottage, the air like fire in your lungs, panting, panting, panting, through that thick reinforced door, and— she's sat there, rigid at the table, dry as a bone, smiling that smile, dear, why, you seem ever so out of breath. For dinner you both eat a thick, stringy stew in absolute silence.
Midnight, dark, navy midnight. You rustle in your stiff white sheets. The house is silent. The wind is dead. You tiptoe down the stairs, socked feet stretched wide to mask the creaking, out through the kitchen, through the stone-floored pantry, slipping like a shadow out through the unlocked back door. You flitter from beanpole to beanpole, wade through lavender, crunch your way down the garden to the distant path where Aunt Angela toils all day. A less organised patch where the gravel meets the grass, strewn with fresh soil, strewn with limp gardening gloves and tools. You sink to your knees and pull at the ground with your fingers. Nothing, nothing, soft soft soil, and then: small, hard like a pellet, pull it to your eyes and clear them, something white in that waxy way, a bone, a small sharp bone, a finger, maybe, or a toe. And then you hear the crunch behind you, and there's Aunt Angela, slick and wet and singing, eyes open, eyes unblinking, and she looks down on you with that beam, locks you with that beam, and sings: "JEREMYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY"
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