Wednesday, 6 February 2008

night owl


Brandon Scott Gorrell has an e-book published today here.

to commemorate this, i am posting below my re-edited version of his short story Night Owl.

you can read his version here.

then Mazie Louise Montgomery wrote an edited version here.

now i have 'jumped on the bandwagon'. my version is below. it uses parts from both his and Mazie's versions.


Night Owl (edited again)

Carol sits on her bed. She’s looking at a computer screen. She’s clicking on things, randomly, one thing after another, and nothing is happening. There are no new emails, not even spam ones about enlarging her penis or buying discount golf equipment.

Carol imagines an email from a man she was going out with but is no longer going out with. She imagines impossible things inside the email; declarations, proposals, three-word sentences, sudden changes-of-heart.

Carol is drinking a glass of white wine. There’s an empty bottle of white wine standing on the floor next to her desk. Carol feels fuzzy and a bit sour. She feels like something pickling. She feels like she could do something and it wouldn’t matter, that she could do something and it might not even happen.

Carol looks on You Tube for any new videos of the man she was going out with. There’s only one video, the same video there always is; of his band, taken at a gig on a camcorder. He’s playing guitar in the band, and the voice of the singer is drowning out his guitar, and the singer is standing in the way of him for most of the video. For most of the video Carol is just looking at his arm.

The man was fucked in the head, anyway. He seemed to always be wanting to do about three things at once: fall in love with her, and be by himself, and hurt her very publicly and dramatically.

Carol hears people moving around in the living room downstairs. She goes into the living room. Her housemates are in the living room. They’re watching something on the TV. Carol notices that there’s no room on the sofa for her to sit down.

‘What are you watching?’ Carol says.

‘An American comedy,’ one of the housemates says.

Carol thinks about sitting on the arm of the sofa and watching the American comedy with them.

‘It’s funny,’ one of the housemates says.

Carol watches a few minutes of the American comedy. It’s not one she’s seen before. She doesn’t laugh. She waits to laugh. Laughing feels kind of impossible.

‘What’s it called?’ she says.

‘It’s called …’ one of her housemates says.

She waits for him to finish the sentence.

‘I don’t know what it’s called,’ he says, finally.

No one else says anything.

Earlier on, Carol bought the bottle of white wine from the corner shop. She put on her jacket and walked down the street to the corner shop and bought the bottle of wine from a man who was speaking on his mobile.

‘You look good,’ the man said to the person on the other end of the phone, as he handed Carol her change.

Carol goes into the hall. She takes her jacket off the hook and puts it on. She puts on her trainers. She takes her mp3 player out of the pocket of her jacket and turns it on. She presses play, and then goes out into the street, not hearing the click of the door behind her or any of her housemates calling after her to ask where she’s going.

She walks into town. It takes her half an hour. She passes an old brewery and the train station and a shut-up sandwich shop and an adult video shop and a rough-looking pub and then goes through an underpass. She listens to The Smiths on her mp3 player. She imagines her housemates catching her on the way out the door and asking her where she’s going.

‘Where are you going?’

‘To a club.’

‘Who with?’

‘Um …’

She imagines this conversation five or six times, and can’t think of a good way of saying she is going by herself. She’s glad she didn’t speak to them.

She walks into the city centre. Things are shining slightly. The pigeons look wet and ruffled and confused. An old man walks around in the market square, shouting. Someone’s put washing up liquid in the fountains again, and it’s frothed over the edges. She passes a group of skater kids. She passes some men in shirts. She passes a pair of girls with thin legs and mini-skirts.

‘It’s three pounds tonight,’ the man at the door of the club says.

Carol gives him three pounds.

‘Put the insecure stamp on her,’ the man at the door says to a girl sat just inside the door on a stool.

Carol holds out her hand to the girl and the girl puts a stamp on the back of Carol’s hand. The girl holds Carol’s hand when she puts the stamp on her. The girl’s fingers feel warm. Carol doesn’t want the girl to let go. The girl lets go and Carol looks at the back of her hand. It says INSECURE on it in black ink.


Carol walks into the club. It smells of sweat and dry ice. The DJ is playing something rubbish. Carol goes over to the cloakroom and hands in her jacket and pays the cloak room person a pound. The cloakroom person gives Carol a pink raffle ticket.

Carol goes to the bar.

There’s no one at the bar. There’s not even any bar people. She looks around the club. There are only about seven people in the club. Two of the people are dancing around inside a cloud of dry ice. The others are sat together at a table.

A barman appears out of nowhere.

Carol asks the barman for a glass of white wine.

The DJ puts on another song. He puts on The Smiths. Something changes in Carol’s stomach. She turns to look at the two people dancing inside the dry ice. She turns back to the bar and the barman is saying something to her.

‘Pardon?’ Carol says.

Two fifty,’ the barman says.

‘Sorry,’ Carol says and gives the barman two pounds fifty.

Carol walks over to the dance floor, into a different cloud of dry ice than the one the two people are dancing in. She stands inside the cloud of dry ice. She doesn’t dance or anything. Then the music stops. It stops halfway through the song. There is no music. Someone cheers sarcastically. The DJ says something muffled into the microphone and puts on a different song.

Carol goes and sits down near the door.

The club is not filling up. She feels like a pickle of some kind, or a prune, maybe. She feels like a thing left too long in the bath.

She finishes the wine and goes over to the cloak room. She asks if she can take out her coat and then put it back in again later. The cloak room person shakes their head.

Carol gives the cloak room person her raffle ticket and takes out her coat and puts it on.

‘Do you allow re-entry?’ she asks the girl sitting on the stool at the door.

‘What?’ the girl on the stool says.

‘Can I go out and come back in again?’ Carol says.

‘Yeah,’ the girl says.

Carol walks out of the club. She walks down the road towards the city centre again. She stops outside a takeaway. She looks in through the window. She goes into the takeaway and orders a pitta bread thing with chips. She waits at the counter. There are no other customers in the takeaway. The man disappears into the back for a bit. He comes out carrying a pitta bread with chips in it.

‘Pitta bread with chips?’ he says to the whole takeaway, looking around.

‘That’s mine,’ Carol says.

‘Salad?’ the man says.

‘Please,’ Carol says.

‘Do you want this?’ the man says, pointing at slivers of red onion.

‘Yes,’ Carol says.

‘Do you want this?’ the man says, pointing at lettuce leaves.

‘Yes,’ Carol says.

‘Do you want this?’ the man says, pointing at slices of tomato.

‘No,’ Carol says.

‘Do you want this?’ the man says, pointing at a sort of white yogurt sauce thing.

‘Alright, just a bit,’ Carol says.

‘Two pounds,’ the man says.

Carol gives the man two pounds and takes the pitta bread with salad and chips. She eats it as she walks back towards the club, first eating some of the chips and salad with a plastic fork, and then rolling up the pitta bread and eating it like a sandwich. She gets to the club before she finishes it, and stands outside with some smokers. It seems like there are more people at the club now. She watches four or five people go in and pay and get stamped. Then she hears a voice. It’s the voice of the man who was fucked in the head, the man she used to date.

Carol turns to face away from the entrance of the club and puts her hood up on her jacket. She hears the voice of the fucked-in-the-head man talking to another man. She hears him go in the club.

She finishes her pitta bread and shows her hand to the girl on the stool and goes back in.

There are more people in the club. Carol feels confused. She wonders where the man who was fucked in the head is. She wonders what will happen. She takes off her coat and stuffs it down the back of a seat in a corner. She goes up to the bar and buys another glass of white wine.


She takes the white wine onto the dance floor and stands there holding it. There are people dancing around her now. She holds the white wine in both hands and brings it up to her mouth very slowly and carefully and drinks it in big gulps. She drinks it in about seven big gulps. She drinks it over two songs. Then she just stands there.

‘Hi,’ says someone, over her shoulder.

Carol looks round. It’s the man who was fucked in the head.

‘Hi,’ Carol says.

The man says something else.

‘What?’ Carol says.

The man repeats himself.

‘What?’ Carol says.

She leans in close to him. She feels like she might be sick on him.

‘Can I get you a drink?’ the man says.

‘Okay,’ Carol says. She is shouting. She is swaying around. ‘Can I have …’ she says.

‘You look like you don't need any more,’ he says.

Then he says something else, then he disappears into the dry ice and dancing people.

Carol goes over to the corner to try and find her jacket. Her jacket isn’t there. She starts moving chairs and things around and swearing. Then she sees another corner. She goes over to that corner and reaches behind a chair and pulls out her jacket. One of the arms is wet-feeling.

She takes out her phone from the pocket of her jacket and presses one of the buttons and the display lights up. No new calls or messages. 1:34am.

She puts on her jacket and feels like she might be sick and leaves the club.

On the way home she listens to The Smiths again. She sings along. She feels like she doesn’t care if she gets mugged or abducted. She feels like a thing blown along, an empty crisp packet, maybe, with a wrinkled old prune inside it.

She has trouble with her key in the lock. She goes into the kitchen. She turns on the light. She opens the cupboards in the kitchen. There is nothing in the cupboards, nothing immediately edible, apart from a bag of pine nuts in one of her housemate’s cupboards. She takes a handful of the pine nuts and puts them in her pocket.

She goes up to her room. The computer’s still on. It’s on the screen saver. She touches the pad on the computer and the screen saver stops and it is still the You Tube video of the man she used to go out with. She feels confused. She thinks she might be sick. She’s not sure if she was sick the night before too or if that was a dream. She gets into bed, still in her jacket and her shoes, and hears the pine nuts rattle against her phone and her mp3 player. She pulls the covers over her head, too tired to turn off the light, and then goes to sleep and has a dream where she is in America and everyone thinks she’s an American and if she tells them that she’s English they won’t like her anymore. She feels awkward. She tries to think of a way to ‘let them down easy.’

6 comments:

Frank Morgan said...

was that 'the' Carol?

It's nice to hear what she's up to these days, it's been a while . . . Sounds like she's having an 'ok' time.

I wonder how her knee is?

brandon said...

yes

Mazie Louise Montgomery said...

This is very nice. I like it.

Frank Morgan said...

talk about coincidence, carol's only turned up in the pub over on Untitled 'supermarket nightmare' 2

Socrates Adams-Florou said...

I've never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight
I've never seen you shine so bright
I've never seen so many men ask you if you wanted to dance
They're looking for a little romance, given half a chance
I have never seen that dress you're wearing
Or the highlights in your head that catch your eyes I have been blind
The lady in red is dancing with me cheek to cheek
There's nobody here, it's just you and me, It's where I wanna be
But I hardly know this beauty by my side
I'll never for get, the way you look tonight

I've never seen you looking so gorgeous as you did tonight
I've never seen you shine so bright you were amazing
I've never seen so many people want to be there by your side
And when you turned to me and smiled, It took my breath away
I have never had such a feeling
Such a feeling of complete and utter love, as I do tonight

The way you look tonight
I never will forget, the way you look tonight
The lady in red
The lady in red
The lady in red
My lady in red (I love you.)

mark said...

Hello chris,
i have reviewed your night owl. I have reviewed the "night owls"
check it out at everyday yeah