Issue 8: Bloody Parties

9 Jun

Surprise!!!! Bursting out from behind the sofa for you this issue we have three regular FJS party goers: Celia, Jim and Emily. You will always find them in the kitchen at parties. We present a veritable royal flotilla of short fiction, except it’s all in the best possible taste and at no point involves spending tax payers’ money on fireworks. There’ll be snogging, tears and a whole lot of red wine to scrub off our carpets by the time we’re done.

Next time: get behind Team FJS for our Bloody Olympics Issue Deadline: 3rd August

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Bloody Parties Contents:

SNAKEBITE by Celia

PARTY POLITICS by Jim

NEVER GONNA DANCE AGAIN by Emily

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SNAKEBITE – by Celia

I awake around noon, my cheek sticking slightly as I pull my head up from the lino. The smell of cider and blackcurrant lingers. I look at the floor through my one remaining contact lens; it’s not purple, but covered in a congealed layer of black sludge.

The party is being held in honour of my twenty-first birthday in the house I share with seven other girls. I feel I have little in common with the others, except for my friend Sophie who is very shy, until she has a drink inside her.

We both have dyed black hair and have “Bloody Goths!” shouted at us in the street on a regular basis by men with thick Welsh accents. I view my other housemates as ‘proper girls’. They drink alcopops and wear spangly tops and heels to go out for the night. They talk explicitly about their sex lives and make earnest comments about minor celebrities on TV “Oh, doesn’t she look great, and she’s just had a baby!”

We head to the supermarket and lug endless carrier bags of booze and two brand new plastic buckets back through the streets. We use the buckets to make two kinds of punch. One is traditional Snakebite: cheap lager, even cheaper cider and economy range blackcurrant. Into the other bucket we pour anything we can find: vodka, gin, Malibu, Martini, Lambrini, an aniseed drink with a Hebrew label we found in the cupboard and lashings of tropical fruit juice to mask the taste.

The house begins to fill up with people. One of the housemates disappears upstairs with our next door neighbour. He is holding her hair back while she is sick in the sink with the view to getting off with her after. I hope he makes her brush her teeth first.

All the goths form a posse in the kitchen surrounding the bucket of Snakebite. Everyone is smiling. Leighton, a small time drug dealer and local goth has poured all the rejected Es he couldn’t sell, like broken biscuits, into the punch.

Everyone is dancing and the mass of people surges out and down the stairs. Someone is bleeding down the front of their shirt. A man is thrown out down the stairs by four goths each holding one of his limbs and the door slammed behind him. Another goth boy weeps, mascara and white foundation runs down his face. The Spanish exchange students laugh as they try to pull the hall radiator off the wall.

Sophie is gone, she left wearing her nightie as a top with Leighton. I wander serenely around the house, smoking and dancing with people I have never seen before. A man tells me him and his friends heard about the party after the DJ announced it over the PA at a club in town. The Spanish students cheer as they succeed and stale water soaks the carpet. I grin as my Anthropology tutor passes me a joint. We are never going to get our deposits back.

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PARTY POLITICS  – by Jim

I draped my pants over the radiator below the window and shivered. With its mouldy walls and scatter of damp clothing, my pad had all the ambience of a bronchial lung.  Down below, shoppers hurried up and down Byres Road.  It was Hogmanay 1989, the January sales were already under way and no one was paying much attention to the anti-poll tax protesters outside the subway station. Parts of the megaphone rant kept floating up to me as I got ready to go out: ‘Stand up to Thatcher, stand up to the sheriff’s officers…’.  Beside the familiar firebrand doing all the shouting was his usual sidekick, inviting passers-by to sign the petition, while a couple of younger lads held up the latest issue of Militant.  I wondered ruefully how many copies were still where I had planked them in my mum’s attic. ‘The working class of Scotland will not accept warrant sales!’

‘You tell them, Rab,’ I muttered, scanning the rogue’s gallery on the anaglypta, there to convince me of my own popularity, but more like the archive of a rapidly receding youth.  There he was, right in the middle:  Red Robbie, the Tartan Trot, Terror of the Tories – not.  Not any more, anyway.  Not since the Falklands War, the miners’ strike, the council housing sale of the century, Maggie’s third win in a row and the campaign of expulsions from the Labour Party. In the picture, me and Robbie were shoulder to shoulder in a five-a-side line-up at a fundraiser for the miners. Robbie had been wearing a big black moustache at that point, like the dancer in Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  If he had been an actual pop star, instead of an activist, or the pro footballer some said he could have been, it would probably never have bothered anyone how much shagging he was doing, but campaigners for social justice weren’t really supposed to have groupies.

There was a female comrade whose face appeared more than any other on the wall and I focussed on one photo in particular, of Elaine on her graduation day in clichéd mortarboard throwing pose. Thankfully for her career, she had seen through me and Leon Trotsky at one and the same time and actually finished her degree, a first in German, been taken on as a researcher at the BBC and, after finding herself in Berlin at just the right moment, ended up posting reports for Newsbeat from on top of the crumbling Berlin Wall.

I took my cash from its hiding place in the freezer unit of the fridge. I was ending the eighties the way I’d started them – skint – but I’d been saving up from my dole-plus-tenner job creation scheme for a New Year blow-out and was off to meet my old school mate Spike in the Curlers.  Spike had begun the decade wearing a mod suit, wafted through the mid-period in lipstick and a blonde bob, and was now about to greet the nineties with a dreadlocked, new age traveller look.  During his David Sylvian period, him and his girlfriend had frequently been mistaken for two gorgeous young women; now his face had a grizzled look which he put down to the years of shaving twice a day with a blunt bic, though it probably had more to do with alcohol and drugs.

‘Still living in a wigwam?’ I asked him.

‘It’s a teepee,’ he corrected.

With a professional mix of nonchalance and discretion, Spike produced two tablets wrapped in cellophane.  It was the first time I’d seen Ecstasy.  We necked them in the toilets and half an hour later I was entranced by the luminous fish tank of my lager, but this lightly mesmerised wellbeing was soon punctured by the entrance of the street petition crew, minus Robbie himself, now with his lieutenant Kevin in charge.

Spike followed my nervous glance towards the circle of neat and tidy young men. ‘They look like Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ he commented.

‘It’s the guilt I can’t stand.’

‘You paid your dues, man.’

I knew this was how I would always be remembered in North Kilbride: standing outside the Lite Bite in the rain selling the papers, hoping if I looked cold enough I could boost sympathy sales.  Of the other Young Socialists only Big Diner Dolan had helped me one Saturday morning, but even he had to leave early to catch the Thistle supporters’ bus to Arbroath.

‘Remember we visited Faslane Peace Camp in Diner’s dad’s ice-cream van?’ said Spike

I laughed.  The cadres hadn’t approved of that expedition, because it was before the days when they were willing to rub shoulders with middle class single issue groups.  The peace campers themselves had put me in mind of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, as played by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

‘I never realised posh people could have such lousy teeth,’ I reminisced.

‘The gumsy ones were the fruitarians,’ explained Spike.

‘That’s right, vegans and that – they couldn’t even take a cone off us.’

I realised Kevin had broken ranks with the other Millies and was homing in on me.  ‘I’m about to get the come-back-to-Jesus routine,’ I warned Spike.

‘Alright Ally?  What have you been up to?’

‘Oh, you know, getting a life.  You should try it.’

Kevin smiled wanly, like a world-weary teacher in the face of yet more adolescent sarcasm. ‘We miss your defiance, Ally.  Don’t you live round here now?  You should join your local Anti-Poll Tax Federation. It’s where the struggle is.’

I raised my glass.  ‘Let’s hear it for the struggle,’ I said, before downing a bitter mouthful.

‘You don’t belong on the fence, mate,’ Kevin persevered. ‘You’ll get skelfs up your arse.’

‘I’ve just grown out of this whole fucking back gardens analogy for human existence, Kevin.’

‘Eh?’

‘You know, the old two gardens and a fence down the middle routine.  What if there are loads of gardens?’

‘Herb gardens,’ added Spike, mysteriously.

Kevin shook his head.  ‘What are you talking about, proportional representation?’

‘Look, just forget it, Kevin. Pretty soon you’ll have to decide on an operation to remove your balls completely, or else give up the struggle and finally get a love life.’

‘You always managed to combine the two, didn’t you? Do you still see Elaine?’

‘Fuck off,’ I spluttered. ‘She’s too busy covering the fall of communism, okay?’

‘Joshua blew his trumpet,’ Spike nodded, sagely, ‘and the wall came tumbling down.’

‘Right,’ said Kevin. ‘Well whatever herbs you guys are growing in your back gardens, I hope they bring you wisdom. If they do, you know where to find us.’

I watched Kevin edge back to the comrades with a round of drinks.  ‘He’ll tell them I’m just bitter and twisted about Elaine now.  Do you mind if we get out of here?’

Spike knew about a party up Park Circus.  It was a grand house on three levels, divided into flats full of young professionals and postgrad types. We followed the thumping rhythm to the top floor where a guy in a bush hat was bent over a mixing desk, next to a screen showing laser patterns.  By the glow of this DIY lightshow, a handful of people in baggy gear were making strange, spread-fingered hand movements in front of their eyes. Spike seemed to know them all – everyone wanted to put their arms round him and even round me.

We progressed to another room where a crowd had gathered at a bay window, smoking a joint and waiting for the fireworks that would kick off Glasgow’s year as City of Culture.  Somebody tapped me on the shoulder.  It was Elaine.  We had a hug, but not the eccy-induced, love and peace kind – much more prim and polite.  We sat down and she asked how I was, but then her questions took on a professional edge.  She said she was making a programme about the ‘other’ side of Glasgow, away from the new coffee shops and arts venues.  She was going to include an interview with Robbie.

‘It’s about the reality, the dark underbelly.  You could describe what it’s like in that awful dump you’re living in’ she said.

‘Thanks very much.’

‘Well, it’s a platform, isn’t it, to say what you want.’

At that point Robbie entered the room and stood in the doorway, clearly expecting Elaine to leave with him.

‘Is that what you’re doing for Robbie – providing him with a platform?’

She sighed.  ‘Well, you can think about it.’

‘I don’t have to think about it, you can just fuck off.’

Robbie gave me one of those stoical, downturned smiles that him and Ronald Reagan were both so good at, as if to say, ‘Times are tough, but we’re all in this together,’ before he and Elaine made their exit.

Spike told me some people were going on somewhere else, then put a hand round the back of my neck and looked me in the eyes.  ‘Looks like you’ve missed out the high and gone straight into come-down mode,’ he said. That’s when I realised I was crying like a baby.

We got out onto the pavement just as the sky erupted and everyone started cheering and kissing.

‘Think I’m partied out,’ I hollered above the explosions.

‘I don’t think you should be on your own,’ Spike shouted back, waiting for me to follow, so I stumbled along behind him and his happy-clappy friends, all the time gazing up through my tears at the dazzling sparks raining down from above.

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NEVER GONNA DANCE AGAIN  – by Emily

The dress was my first ever purchase from Chelsea Girl.  I wasn’t sure about it from the start but couldn’t find anything else.  Besides, I was yet to understand fashion, finding it unfathomable, in those horrible early teen years before I discovered the joy of wearing dead people’s clothes from charity shops.  Pale pink and grey checked, it had a collar and buttons down the front, and a strange cuff at the hem which made it both very unflattering, and difficult to walk in.  When I put it on before the party, still unsure, I decided I was willing to take the risk, and wondered what the other girls would be wearing.   The tights, my first ever nylon item after a lifetime of natural fibres made me feel better.  Ivory coloured and gloriously smooth, taking them, pristine,  out of their packet I felt sophisticated and ladylike. I tried out these new, thrilling, scary sensations as I pulled and jumped them on.

Nathan Ashdown was one of the popular boys in the year, but to be invited to his 13th birthday party wasn’t as much of an honour as it appeared.  His parents owned a hotel and he had a whole marquee to fill, so practically the whole of the second year was invited.  I hardly knew him, but knew he was one of the posh kids who travelled miles through the countryside every morning to get to school.  The birthday party had been the talk of the classroom, corridor and playground for weeks beforehand, with much talk about who was going with whom.  I only had eyes for Jason Proctor, but knew my love was futile.

I was shocked and confused when Nathan’s best friend, Daniel Ravenscroft asked me across the quad if I would go to the party with him.  I asked if he was taking the piss and he shook his head. I was overjoyed, even though I barely knew Daniel. We were in the same set for French but in different forms, and I was not part of the popular group he hung out with who went and smoked fags at lunchtime in the park.  I said yes, deciding to put my love for Jason on temporary hold, but wasn’t really sure what going to a party with a boy really meant.  I invested some pocket money on a can of Impulse and practised my nascent mascara skills for a week.  In what seemed like the longest week ever, I blushed each time I saw Daniel at school.

The marquee was large and chilly, with groups of girls sitting in groups, boys standing about, everyone a bit awkward in this unfamiliar social setting.  Some boys from my form asked me why I was wearing a nightie.  I told them to fuck off, but was mortified that my dress choice had definitely been a mistake.  Lights flashed and a DJ played chart hits: Stevie Wonder, Duran Duran, Prince, but no-one was dancing yet.  I sat with Sharon Williams and Kirsty Hall and they quizzed me about Daniel.  I couldn’t see him anywhere and was kind of relieved.

Suddenly, Daniel and his friends, all dressed in a uniform of red corduroy trousers, grey sweatshirts and checked shirts came striding onto the dancefloor with a roll of lino.  Some girls gathered round but I held back – what the hell was going on?  When I caught sight of what the boys were doing, I was suddenly paralyzed with fear.  I was meant to be at the party with Daniel but saw he was attempting a headspin while his mates cheered.  I didn’t know how to talk to someone who was breakdancing.  I stayed with Sharon and Kirsty, wondering what I was meant to do, what would happen next.

Inspired by the breakdancers, a few kids started dancing now to Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  It was only Two Tribes, but this gave us hope taht maybe Relax would be played later.  Sharon danced with Michael Green, the only black kid in the year, and then came back to us to make racist jokes about him.  Her racism didn’t stop her returning to him, however, and soon they were kissing, while me and Kirsty looked on.  I wondered where Daniel was and whether I was supposed to kiss him.

I found him on my way to the toilets, being comforted by two of the popular, bitchy girls who scared me.  In the toilet I wondered why he needed to be comforted like this and assumed I wouldn’t be spending any time with him this evening after all. As I hobbled back in my embarrassing dress, one of the girls stopped me and asked me why I didn’t want to be with Daniel.  I said I did and hearing this gave him the courage to come and grab my hand, guiding me onto the dancefloor, where a few couples were smooching to Wham.  Careless Whisper.  Oh god, I thought, this is awful.  Being new to it, I had no idea that kissing could be so sloppy and wet, so endless and strange.  I chose to ignore Kirsty and Sharon’s round of applause when it started, and Daniel and I managed to snog our way through about an hour’s worth of slow dances.  When I took a break, Sharon did impressions of her Michael’s kissing style.  I decided to be more loyal and not report back on Daniel’s, although I was relieved it seemed I was having a slightly better time than Sharon.

This was my first proper party, but my last without the help of Merrydown or Leibfraumilch, Special Brew or Martini Bianco.  The feeling of being pressed up against a boy was strange, comforting, terrifying.  We didn’t speak, nor did our hands wander; more sordid, alcoholic encounters were still a way off from this innocent night.  I could smell Daniel’s washing-powder smell, as I felt wanted, relieved to be finally properly kissing a boy, despite my terrible fashion faux pas.  But mostly I was elated that this public display would prove to my whole year, including the bullies, that I was absolutely, definitely not a lesbian, despite the rumours about my mum.

The music stopped and the party over, Daniel and I exchanged a smile and parted.  I rejoined my friends as he rejoined his, and I slightly floated on my successful transition, my rite of passage. Despite having numb lips from kissing for far too long without a break, I felt glowing. My future  seemed to have opened up and become tangible.  Then in the toilets I saw my face in the mirror.  As well as my embarrassingly flushed cheeks, I was mortified to find that the mascara I had bought from a plastic basket on a market stall had melted all around my eyes into a black and greasy mess.  No one had told me but everyone must have seen.

The next Monday at school, I saw Daniel Ravenscroft in the corridor and he pretended he hadn’t seen me.  On the Tuesday he sat behind me in French.  Despite my telepathic messages, he didn’t speak to me, and it was only then that I decided that I was in love.

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