The Stopper 'mongst the Wheat

A Short Story From My New Collection I Want to go on the Internet!

Jevember 2005. I’m an inpatient in Saint Oldname’s asylum, the weird boy’s unit. The building sits like a red-brick cat deep in the English moors, 50 miles from the nearest love. Inside the asylum, the walls talk and the talk walls.

My roomate murmurs away in the corner like an irrelevant radio-play. He’s got a silly boy’s body and a collapsed mind. He told me this morning is name is George, but yesterday it was Harry, before that, Paul, tomorrow it might be Vicar Vance or Rails Modernsmith. It matters not. A rose by any other name will still wilt. My name’s Walden Turnpike, by the way. Least it was, last I checked.

The self-claimed George asks me how I came to be in this white-washed wrong-place which leads me to reflect on how I came to be in this white-washed wrong place. I reflect on the recent past like a smashed mirror giving a warped impression of a lady’s face.

I began to recount the events of the last year succinctly.

Earlier that Narrative...

Snowflakes panicked at being released from the sky and moved vertically and a little bit horizontally too. Reaching the ground, they fell to rest, fucking exhausted from their fall. The blanket of snow was like a blanket of snow, hiding the school grounds and cancelling the hills beyond the fence. It was a melancholy scene and the perfect opening image for this sad story.

I turned from the window, to the flabby chops of Mr Dickhead, the headteacher. His face was a different colour from the white snow, which represented innocence and some other things. Mr Dickhead’s face was structured in such a way that suggested how much of a dickhead he was. ‘Bleugh bleurgh bleurgh’ he said. I wasn’t listening - something about me failing my exams and getting expelled from this expensive school, and maybe something about one of his balls hurting, and me letting down my parents, and it being likely I was going to have an unpleasant life. What did I care? Did you know that nothing actually matters? We’re all gonna be bukkaked with sadness when the banks collapse anyway. It was only 2004, and I was only 16, but I am very prescient so you should value me as a character-narrator. I muttered something intelligent and walked out.


Forty Seconds Later

Back in the dorm, Strongleader was holding up photos he had taken from my drawer. ‘Wook at wittle Walden wiv mummy!’ he said. He had a speech impediment. He presented another one to the baying mob of unpoetic boys. ‘Hey look, it’s Abi Hope, you wuuv her don’t you Walden?’ ‘Shame she don’t wuv you’. Despite his prosodic handicap, it was clear he was mocking me. ‘She wouldn’t stop moaning about you to me during the summer’, he hectored. ‘In fact she does a lot of moaning when we’re together. Have to shut her up with my almost adult-sized dick.’ Abi is the only thing that can catalyse the chemical tank of my inhibited emotions, so to hear her misogynised in this way effected a volatile reaction concordant with the previous metaphor. I flew at Strongleader like a coked-up Wolf, but he served me a clean blow to the chin with a tidy-side of cruel laughter.

One Hour Later...

One hour later, muzzle cleaned of blood, and future cleaned of prospects I boarded the train to London. The sky quickly inked black and blue, and as we bezzed through the pointless county-towns. I thought of all the others like me in these dreary homes - lit against the sky like bourgeois LEDs on a circuit board of guilty privilege - unable to play happy with toys of nothing: MSN messenger, Nokia 3310s, trampolines. It was all bullshit.


I take a taxi-cab from Paddington-railway-train-station, and ask the driver where the ducks go when the lake freezes in Regent’s park. He just scowls and calls me a cunt.


My unclever parents weren’t expecting me home until Wednesday, so with my returned school money, I checked into the Badplace Hotel in Soho, the diseased liver of London, my soul a non-place and my heart beating like a lonely metronome, longing for music.

I sat on the cummy bed, smoking a cigarette like a nasty man, and saw a gang of perverts, fucking about with each other through the window opposite.

A grimy queen giggled like a chaffinch as he rolled on a pair of lady’s nylons, and some bat faced moll wobbled through an appalling strip tease to the delight of six rancid deviants who huddled around her, slugging gin and masturbating one another’s knobs.

I wasn’t disgusted, rather scared and sad, but nonetheless I felt the blood surge in my groin and a sudden protrusion 'tween my groin-flanks, as if I had been fitted with a magnetic baton, positively charged and and pulling me to the negative of the Soho night scene. I had an erection and wanted to use it.

On Berwick street I sneak [your tenses are all over the place - Ed] [fuck you, mate - Liam] into a grotty basement bar, where media types dance ironically. I take a table and am approached first by a panda-eyed blonde in a wine-stained sheer-white blouse, sharking for slurps, and then a tired waiter who takes an order and returns with drinks. There’s a beer, diluted like a toddlers squash, for me, and for her, a double Bells and ginger ale which she employs to numb a pain she’s been carrying round since age 28. She speaks of a failed marriage and a regrettable acting career, then leaves on the arm of an unfeeling Eastern European stud, leaving me to meet the tab.

And then the street again, and a traditional English telephone box, displaying picture postcards advertising love-for-hire. I try calling Abi but her Dad answers and tells me she’s not home. I weep briefly and look at the prozzie-ads. There’s an alabaster skinned model, a two tone-black and white - pale of face, and dark of hair, who reminds me of Abi. My memory media-player streams bleary footage of our first try at love, when Abi lowered herself onto me, slowly and tentatively like a pensioner getting into a hot bath. We shared scared eyes in her girly box room, photos of magazine boys on the walls, and soft-toy reworkings of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh and friends around us on the bed, watching our unimpressive sex act like an ashamed Greek chorus.

In this new Abi’s blood red room, I am ordered to undress by an emaciated coke addict and I shiver and take a long time unlacing my hush puppies. She waits for me to make good on my purchase, but being so young and without Thanatos, I fail and ask to hold her and maybe just talk. She grows mad and I fumble myself into a clothed state, fingering nervously at buttons as I used to in the changing rooms after rugby.


I collect my case from the hotel and check out before Soho ruptures my soul and take a taxi back to the beginning. The meter tallies each damn-dumb minute as we head south and I ask the driver where the ducks in Hyde Park go where the lake freezes. He just scowls and calls me a cunt.


So as not to disturb my parents, I let myself in the back door, and creep through to the living room where my sister is watching a film about American puppet-people going to the dance. ‘Walden!’ she says from her mouth. She is surprised and nearly happy to see me. ‘What are you doing here?’ she asks. I tell her about school, getting expelled, and claim not to care. She accuses me off not liking anything, gives some silly lecture about me being a numbheart and enemy of joy, and I irrelevantly start talking about an old Robert Burns poem Mum taught us when we were little kids. I want to be the ‘Stopper ’mongst the Wheat’ I say and cry like a widow. It’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ she says. I pretend not to hear and continue saying poetic things. “All these children, all of them getting older and running through the wheat, just running, not knowing where they’re going and they don’t know that there’s a poacher hiding in the wheat, ready to catch them in sacks. Gold sacks. Gold sacks for catching men. Gold man sacks. It’s like a personification of the investment bank, UBS. There’s a man in the wheat, and his name is greed. ‘I’m staying the night and going at dawn’ I upsettingly say. Then I spend a few minutes plugging my iPod into the TV, arseing about with myriad cables, and play Eagle Eye Cherry’s ‘Save Tonight’ as to really up the pathos. We listed to it 10 or 11 times, then go to sleep, in separate beds, both crying pretty hard by now.


In the morning I wake early so as not to disturb my parents and she’s waiting in the kitchen with her pink suitcase. She tells me she wants to come and I don’t say anything.

Then we go to the fair for no reason. She rides on a merry go round and I cry again because it’s very sad.

I can’t actually be arsed to talk about how I ended up in the asylum.


Now, it’s time to close the narrative frame. Back in the asylum, where I currently am, (remember?) I finish my story and notice George has stopped listening. He’s just staring at the wall and imagining something weird in his mad mind.

Being a teenager is very shit; please buy my book.