Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Weed — sample read

The cover of Weed, the novel by Chris Page

This is weird.

The tv seems to be getting closer. It is creeping across the room during lapses in Warren’s concentration like an ingratiating dog or a stealthy predator. It also seems to be sprouting leaves.

The tv, blaring primary tones, is showing men stuffing wriggling, living sardines into their swimming trunks and chasing wailing bunny girl sirens around the studio while the audience howls, delighting in its own lobotomisation.

Outside the flat, in the sodium-stained night, the city pulses about as low as it ever gets: the police sirens are distant moor wraiths, and the screeches and growls of the elevated railway might be the distracted ruminations of Hell’s teeth.

And the tv just shuffled a bit closer.

The guy watching telly in this dingy little cubicle of a home is Warren. He needs sleep. The week as usual has left him without rest, and this fast Sunday night is nearly done. Back to work in the morning. However, he is not going to sleep, he is not going to let the bastards take even more time from him. His employer, Daikon AirCon International, already has a great deal of Warren’s time and has a contract to take much, much more in the future. It’s not just Warren: they sap time from everyone they use; they are hungry for time — but then they are a growing concern and, time-wise, their nutritional needs are great. They have now taken so much time from Warren they have left him like a rusted and seized old fob watch. So now Warren is stealing back time by petulantly refusing to go to bed at a proper hour and condemning himself to a miserable Monday dragging his hangover and exhaustion round the office. He’s going to squeeze out the last of this weekend, he’s going to wring it dry; he’s going to leave the weekend like Daikon AirCon left his friend Bob Weed: all wrung out.

The monitor in the police Alpha Squad unit parked down the street is cruelly razored by a deluge of gamma emissions so that they have no idea what’s going on. They have called for backup to get some triangulation going.

‘Beats hell out of me,’ confesses sergeant Testosteroni, fingers ineffectually skidding in the sweat-slick on his forehead as he tries to scratch himself. ‘Either the whole damn city’s sitting up and reading Grisham’s latest or there’s a hunk of plutonium nearing critical mass up there.’

Warren pops his thirteenth black bomber of the day, chases it with half a pint of vodka and hangs on for dear life, white knuckles on the chair’s arms bruising consciousness into his brain. Indistinct things scuttle the peripheries of his vision as if the room or his brain is infested with rats.
The walls breathe laboriously and gush sweat.

‘Wrrronnnggg!’ booms Sam Smiles, the game show host, from his ivory lectern. Bwaab bwaab bwaab hoots the studio’s sound system. The bunny girl has got it wrong. Her part in the quiz is to guess just how many sardines the guy has in his trunks. To be fair to the lass, it’s a bit tricky, blindfolded and with your hand down the front of the contestant’s shorts, telling what’s what with all that wriggling going on down there.

Warren wouldn’t mind playing one kind of sardine game or another with the bunny girl. At a push he could even go for a game with just the sardines. Instead he snarls a big yellow-toothed snarl of derision at the tv and punches a finger through the tab of another beer.

Three floors above Warren the tv screams barely penetrate. On the bare wood floor is a fine detritus of tobacco and cigarette papers, flakes of ganja that missed. The occupant is relaxed, muscles uncoil from his bones and hang from his frame like untied ropes. Distinctions dissolve and he melts into the ether or the other of his self.

Warren’s television is definitely getting closer, but that’s ok, just makes it easier to focus and facilitates the omission of the world beyond the box. He is rocking violently in the armchair, bouncing the casters off the floor.

There really does appear to be a whole bush bursting from the back of the machine. But that’s ok. It doesn’t seem to be after any of Warren’s time.

The third Alpha Squad has arrived outside Warren’s tower block and is reporting what the other two have already told Testosteroni, that the gamma emissions are overwhelming. However, together they have located the source in the Heavenly Estate, a brutal convolution of residential concrete blocks. Now they are hoping that the power of their combined suppressors will refine the signal enough to determine in which building and in which flat the interference is being generated. The Alpha Squads edge like cockroaches between the pillars of the estate. Headquarters is curious and has quietly positioned an Executive Action Group in the vicinity. Their dense, light-absorbing APC is like another shadow in the web-like fracture of streets around the Heavenly Estate. Inside sit the executives in stone silence — visored, cradling M16s between their knees; poised and priapic.

Three floors above Warren, our subject Robert D. Weed — Bob Weed, Weed, Bob — has finally keeled over under the enormous weight of his head. He is semi-foetal, half on, half off the thin mattress on the floor, his shoulders cloaked in the greasy grey-ochre huddle of his much unwashed quilt. His eyes are open but he does not see the living green patina on the damp plaster and the skirting board.

Weed has had a hell of a week too. While Warren is stealing time, Weed is simply all timed out: Daikon AirCon has taken so much time from him he has none left for himself. Being exhausted of his time potential, Daikon has thrown him away. Weed has nothing. Weed is nothing.

He really is coming into his own.

He has successfully remained stoned and immobile for the whole week. He was expecting to be picked up by the Alpha Squads in the hour of the first smoke — the same Alpha Squads that cruise our cities for us, monitoring the alphas and gammas of our mind states, assessing our potential for riot, crime, our peace with our lot and everyone else’s, our satisfaction with our jobs and our dinner, our contentment with the Alpha Squads themselves, and generally running to ground any unauthorised mental states that might suggest drug or literature abuse or just an exceptional sense of fun. However, the squads have so far overlooked Weed, and right now when he is traversing the starlit inner spaces of his mind and when his signature should show like a huge warm glow over the city on the police monitors, he is being shielded by Warren’s frantic emissions.

In his present state Weed is primarily smile. He is good at smiling, he has been trained to smile properly, trained meticulously and thoroughly. He has been trained by his employer Daikon AirCon, who, in case you’ve never heard of them, make air conditioners.

Weed was the lucky recipient of this invaluable training because he was an actual salesman. Well, perhaps the term ‘actual salesman’ is a slight overstatement. He was actually an actual trainee salesman, and not a very good one at that. For part of the week Weed worked on what the company liked to call the front line, on the floor of their big central showroom, the Daikon AirCon Human Communication Venture, but for most of his Daikon week he was required to work in the riskier, more challenging, and consequently more exciting spaces of no man’s land — which meant selling door-to-door. In both these tasks, smiling was essential and the company had in the interests of maximising the satisfaction of the sales experience for both their staff and their customers — about whom they care deeply — altruistically incorporated smile lessons in the training schedule.

Recognising that the world contained an uncountable variety of cultures, races and individual types, Daikon’s elite Human Communication Enabling Group had formulated four smiles which could be used safely and effectively in any nation on any continent — and were, daily and to great benefit for the coffers of Daikon AirCon. Behind this was the Otherness Overcoming Approaches Project who, after much painstaking research, identified four broad human types, each deserving its own special smile. The four groups were: people who clearly wanted an air conditioner, people who were unsure whether they wanted an air conditioner, people who were under the impression they did not want an air conditioner and people who thought they themselves did not want an air conditioner but who may know someone who did — into which category fell all children, hunter-gatherer tribes and domestic pets.

In each room of Daikon AirCon’s huge, nebulous and space-age training complex deep in the countryside, overlooking an industrial estate and conveniently located to take full advantage of the copious rail and road links to the capital and other significant centres — Camp, it was called — were to be found four giant plastic smiles, each mounted on its own stick. Each smile was different from its three siblings; each set of four was identical to all the other sets. These were the models to which each of the student sales people, all the Joyful Encounters Division hopefuls, aspired — with varying degrees of success.

‘Why are you snarling, Bob?’

‘I —’

‘Please, Bob,’ complained Ms. Wap, his trainer. ‘Smile, please! Take it from me, snarling does nothing for sales. It puts people off. And then they don’t want to buy anything from you. I think you’ll find that holds true of most products, Bob.’

‘Yeah, I — ‘

‘Do you have many friends, Bob?’ asked Ms. Wap, full of concern.

‘Well — ‘

‘You’ll find,’ continued Ms. Wap, ‘that people who smile a lot have lots of friends, Bob.’

A big blob of pink, gelatinous concern oozed over her collar and dribbled gloopily over the breast of her uniform. ‘And when you have a lot of friends, Bob, the world seems a much brighter place and we find less and less cause to snarl which brings more friends and more happiness until we wonder why we ever bothered to snarl in the first place. And when we smile we make other people want to smile, and when they smile, still more people want to smile. Smiles are exponential, Bob. Do you know what exponential means? It means something gets bigger quicker than you would expect. And when eventually everybody in the world is smiling, Bob, there’ll be no more wars. In this way Daikon AirCon is making a unique and meaningful contribution to world peace and harmony and understanding between races. Because we do business on all known continents.’

She cocked her small and perfectly oval head to one side and flashed a big number two smile, the one for people who were not sure whether they wanted an air conditioner. ‘Ok, Bob?’

Concern in large pink jelly tears were evident on Ms. Wap’s knees just below the hem of her skirt and were edging down her shins and calves.

‘Ok,’ said Weed, ‘it’s just — ‘

‘Yes, Bob?’

‘It’s just that — ‘

‘Why are you snarling again, Bob?’

‘I’m not snarling, this is a number one,’ the smile for people who were sure they wanted an air conditioner.

‘It’s not a number one, Bob, it’s a big, ghastly, insane snarl. Trust me, Bob. I’ve been a fully-trained trainer at Daikon AirCon for quite some months now and I think I’m pretty intimate with this manual. Please trust me when I tell you that’s a snarl, not a smile. Learning the difference can be awfully useful,’ she said, ever so reasonably.

Weed honestly did want to smile — if only so they could get this interminable training over with. However, whenever he tried, his face would contort into a foul rictus. It was just that these smiles did not seem to fit him; different smiles grew on Weed’s face. And this he was going to explain to Ms. Wap.

‘The thing is, Ms. Wap — ‘

‘Oh, please call me Ms. Wap, Bob,’ said Ms. Wap, ‘there’s no need to stand on formality here. Just Relax.’

‘Why can’t I just use my own smile?’

Ms. Wap looked at him with all the sympathy and compassion she might show a child dying of starvation. Specifically, she beamed at Bob all the compassion she would show a child that was dying in a country totally lacking modern infrastructure, which was ripped apart by internecine warfare, and whose population was almost entirely without air conditioners; a child that could have made the more sensible and considered choice of being born to different parents in a stable, wealthy country; a safe, middle-class country. It is all about choice: we are exactly what we choose to be and we should pity the poor souls who are unable to grasp this simple fact.

All books available in paperback from Amazon, and ebook from Kindle and Apple Books — or direct from the author(email link).

Amazon/Kindle North America

Amazon/Kindle UK

Amazon/Kindle Japan

Or try your preferred regional Amazon/Kindle.

Apple Books [No, the sporty books on the Apple Chris Page page are nothing to do with me but have become conflated by name!]

Or read short samples of each book:

Weed

Sanctioned

Another Perfect Day in Fucking Paradise

King of the Undies World

The Underpants Tree

Un-Tall Tales (Will open separate site in new window)