Ken is in his mid-thirties.
He is a dreamer.
He thinks a lot.
He has a failed marriage.
He is a lost soul in a frightening world.
He sits in his old camper van.
I’m walking out the other day, you know, before.
I wander under the railway bridge by the station. Where pigeons heap filthy nests on the shaking steel and cough in the poison exhaust. Why do they live there? Anyway, brittle crack as I step on an eggshell, delicate white thing, in bits on the pavement.
Then, over here in the gutter, the dead chick embryo thing. Egg got jogged out of the nest by the vibrations of the trains above and the buses below, prematurely hatching the little bugger all over the path. I can see it falling now.
Spinning, in slow mo, through the darkening, dead, fume filled air. A spaceship out of control, crashed on re-entry.
If it could’ve held on a few more days! Hardly any buses and trains now.
Frozen stiff in a pose of terror, like it was woken when the shell cracked, headlights flooded in and blinded its eyes, not ready to see...
Stunted wing-arm things held high, in surrender. Neck, impossibly thin for the weight of the head...
Saddest fucking sight in the world. Like a pensioner in an empty aisle. Bewildered.
Jean kicked me out. Said I don’t care about anything but myself.
That egg though. Did it jump or was it pushed?
Not a great time to be on the streets; when the whole world is telling me to stay at home. Everyone except Jean. So I’m in the camper van round the back of the garages. She was always pecking at me to scrap it, just rust and dust. Clung on to it though. Do it up one day. Few leaks, smell of rotting youth… Not too bad. My splendid isolation!
Remember that spaceship? Apollo something, 13? You know? “Houston we have a problem...” It all went tits up. Ran out of fuel or something. Had to fly round the back of the moon. The dark side. The arse end of the moon! And the world held its breath when they went out of contact. Where no man had gone before...
“Will they come back out? What is behind there?”
Is that where God is hiding?
Anyway they swing round the moon and use its gravity or some shit to propel them back to earth. Success! Triumph of Man over adversity!
But they didn’t find God.
I’m the Rocket Man; sitting in this tin can, floating round the backside of the moon. ‘Cept no-one’s holding their breath waiting for me to come home…
They should do research into the senility of waterfowl. Ducks an that. There’s this duck standing on the pavement outside Argos yesterday. “It’s closed mate, come back in August!”
This duck is miles away from a pond or water. Obviously gone off course. Sat nav screwed. Its face looks completely at a loss.
I never considered a duck’s expression before. You don’t say “There’s a happy duck” or ‘an angry duck’ ‘an inquisitive duck.’ This one stares at the ambulances as they pass.
(For a moment Ken is the duck, watching the traffic,)
Maybe he’s thinking that the road is a river of some kind, with harsh, hard creatures sailing past... Dare he swim out to the middle?
(Snaps out of it,)
That bird couldn’t have looked more out of place if it was wearing slippers...
So, it was Valentine’s Day right? The day before the shitstorm. Never a good day for me. It’s also Jean’s birthday. Two chances to fuck up. I’ve got a shit memory; I admit it. But each year I forget she takes it so personally. Like it’s betrayal.
The next day, I’m Camper Man. I get the radio working and on the news they announce the first case.
What if the birds are trying to talk to us? I don’t mean like a parrot or something. Pieces of bloody eight. I mean trying to TELL US. Help us through this.
The egg was a warning…
We’re not the intelligent ones. The birds and bees and shit are. They all know. But they’re on such a higher plain that they don’t speak our language, it’s beneath them. Some of them probably think we’re getting what we deserve. “This is for the birds nest soup you arseholes!”
We’re a disappointment to them.
Although that doesn’t explain the duck.
I sit in the cramper and look out through the rip in the tarp at my shrunken world. Sometimes I think I can see it, a black fog descending, seeping in through the broken air vent. “Keep your distance!” When will we ever touch again? Connect?
When you blow a kiss to someone, they’re right there in front of you, across the room. They see the kiss floating towards them. They catch it. You smile; you share a moment of connection.
But what if she can’t see you? What if she doesn’t even know you’re blowing the kiss? What if she’s arguing with Jack; he’s kicking off because he doesn’t understand why he can’t go outside and hang with his mates. What if my kiss is the last thing on her mind? Is it aborted?
Can I blow a kiss from the other side of the moon and still hit the mark?
I can only try can’t I?
(Ken slowly, with purpose, blows a kiss. Watches it go, a moment of hope that quickly fades. He closes his eyes, moans. Suddenly he opens his eyes again.)
I was asleep. I don’t know how long for, five? Six? Seven days? The worst kind of sleep. Where you think every day is normal when it’s actually turned inside out and standing on its neck. You’re living in the corpse of a van. You lie yourself it’ll all be fine.
Sleeping. Sleep walking. “Move along,” nothing to see here, no shattered lives, no gnawing void of unfulfilled dreams. “Keep two meters. Move along.”
Didn’t know I was sleeping, thought I was drowned. Lungs clogged with filthy water. No Opheliac beauty to it; garlands of flowers strewn across pure blue water. No this was brutal but necessary, part of the process. Preparation for the moment of true. My return.
Took a shock to shake me. Wake me. What do they call it? Chrysalis? Catalyst? The letter from her solicilyst. “Unreasonable behaviour, custody, exclusion order.” That piss was the water-boarding I needed. I let go of the murk of the riverbed, shit under my fingernails, I floated to the surface.
There are over 2,500 different species of Mayfly. Fuck knows why. To the pig ignorant, the Mayfly seems the most pointless of creatures. 24 hours. That’s all he’s got, 24 bleeding hours to live. What can you do with that? God was having a laugh with that one, sad bugger. Its sole purpose in life is to hatch, reproduce and die. Single-minded. If it’s got a mind, mind.
Instinct. Nobody tells it what to do. Negotiate a path through countless threats and danger, drive on to the ultimate prize, la petite mort, then oblivion!
But the best bit? The bit that makes it all worthwhile; as dusk descends, time slipping away, they DANCE! Life almost over, clock begins to chime midnight. Do they question higher powers? Do they cry for lost youth? Do they scream with fear of the great unknown?
No, they dance, up and down, up and down, carried on the breeze they join in beautiful union and die in each other’s spindly little arms.
And that’s what I’m going to do, to win her back and get my boy. When all this shit is over, I’m going to DANCE!