2A1J Episode 2 – The Rambling Sickness

In episode two of the 2A1J Podcast Andy and Rachel are very sick. But they persevere against adversity to bring you another brilliant, thrilling, funny, and all-round okay podcast.

We talk about the progress of our novellas, we answer listener questions, talk about moths and Blackadder, and generally make each other laugh.

Scratch that Funny Bone

The Accidental Scoundrel is an Audible laughter factory. It is where giggles are made. Put on your headphones, press play, and soon you’ll be howling like a chuckle obsessed laughter junky.

5 star comedy from Audible. Check out the reviews on Amazon –


Audible UK –


Audible US –


Glass Balloons (short story – SF)

‘Bring it in Stephen,’ the foreman shouted.

It was my first day on Dock One as a fully licensed valet. It’s still called the International Space Station but now it spans half the globe. Like a web of tubes. When the sun comes around this side of the Earth it casts a grid of shadows on the world.

I was in my first customer’s car. My dim reflection looked back at me like a ghost in the convex windscreen. It’s been bugging me for a while but I’ve just realised what my uniform reminds me of. I remember watching a film when I was young with a lift guy in it. In the old days they used to have people who worked in elevators that controlled the buttons. That’s what I look like. I wore a dark burgundy blazer type thing, with gold buttons down the front, and a flat cylindrical hat, black trousers with a severe line ironed down the front, and black shiny shoes. I have a slim shaven face, short hair, eyebrows, nose, mouth; all the usual stuff; ears, etc.

I pulled the microphone down from the rim of my hat.

‘I can’t find the gear stick.’

‘For Christ’s sake.’ I could see my foreman in the control tower pick up a pair of binoculars and look down at me. He picked up the microphone.



‘Look in front of you. Do you see a steering wheel?’

I rolled my eyes, ‘Yes.’

‘Now, look down and to your left, you see that stick with the ball on the end, it’s called a gear stick, now-’

‘No gearstick,’ I repeated.

The foreman picked his binoculars back up and looked at my vehicle again.

Harrison pulled up from below me in a sporty little number with twin engines that cascaded from the roof and ended in two circular giant fans at the back. He performed a reverse U-turn and hooked up at Dock Two about thirty yards in front of me. He switched off the engine, stood up and bowed at me.

I politely showed him my middle finger.

‘Ok, it’s a Chord Galaxy Automatic. There’s a concealed gearstick used for docking, there should be a button by the hazard light button, do you see it?’

I looked across the dashboard and found it.

‘Got it,’ I said, pressing the button.

A square panel sank back into the dashboard and opened sideways. A small gearstick popped out with a button on top with a picture of a hook on it.

‘Yep, definitely got it,’ I said.

‘Bring it in.’

I pressed the button and listened for the hook to mechanically fold out from the side and click into place. A light on the dashboard flashed on to indicate that it had. I put the gear into park and lifted my foot off the clutch. The vehicle moved sideways and hooked on to the dock.

‘Ta Da!’ I said, with jazz hands.

Harrison clapped sarcastically.

I turned off the engine and got out of the vehicle. I closed the door behind me and the automated parking belt wound down another notch making the vehicle disappear below the space station. The belt stopped winding and another dock was left in its place, in position for the next car-hook.

‘Nice work Stephen,’ said the foreman putting his binoculars down.

‘It’s cold,’ I said.

The foreman, and everyone else, could hear me through the communication unit. It’s activated by pulling the mic down though I can hear the foreman at all times through the ear piece.

‘Not for long, we’ve got sun in twenty minutes. Do you think you can do another one in that time?’

I looked up at the tower and shrugged at him.

‘Can you please answer with your voice, Stephen?’

‘Sure, I don’t mind.’

‘Ok, I’m sending him to your platform, make sure it’s clear.’

I saluted up to him.

‘Words, Stephen.’

‘Yes, sir!’ I shouted into the mic.

I saw him pull his headphones off and curse away from the mic, ‘Why do we hire these idiots?’ he muttered.

I wandered over to the platform and looked at it. I surveyed it proudly. ‘The cleanest platform on this side of the station,’ I said.

‘That’s because it’s only been used once you twat,’ said a voice behind me.

‘Hey, Harrison.’

‘Hey, man, good day?’

‘Yeah, it’s easy.’

About three hundred yards out of the Docking Station the first airlock to the parking area opened and a small craft came in and switched from its vacuum engines to its flight engines. The first door closed and the inner door opened letting the hum of its engines din around the dome. I could see the driver squinting over his steering wheel for the right platform and I waved up at him. He gave me the thumbs up and headed over.

The inner airlock closed. It’s normally silent but this time there was a faint bang shortly after it closed. I looked up at the foreman but he seemed unconcerned. I turned my attentions back to the new vehicle.

The hum of the engine turned into a chattering clatter as the vehicle got closer and manoeuvred itself into position. It stopped about a foot above the platform and the driver opened his window.

‘Do you want me to turn the engine off, or are you taking it straight over?’

‘Leave it running.’

The driver turned in his seat to the back.

‘Alright kids, everyone out.’

The back door opened and three excited kids got out. The driver got out and grabbed a suitcase out of the boot.

‘Ok, all done,’ he said, with the awkward smile that comes with handing your pride and joy to a strange teenager. ‘Don’t scratch her.’

‘Not a mark,’ I said.

‘I think the sun is almost around,’ he said nodding toward the Earth.

I looked. A crescent of sunlight was expanding imperceptibly across the Earth. ‘I know, about fifteen minutes I think.’

The man nodded and smiled and ran off to catch up with his kids.

‘Sure you don’t want me to do this?’ said Harrison.

‘No, I’ve got it.’

‘Ok, catch you in a bit.’

Harrison slapped my shoulder and took off towards the staff entrance.


The craft was nothing special. It was a family car that looked like it had been on a lot of holidays. The back seat was littered with empty crisp packets and colouring pencils and puzzle books. An interstellar map was unfolded in the passenger foot-well and a bunch of CDs were strewn, out of boxes, on the passenger seat. Retro. I like it.

I put on the seatbelt and adjusted the rear-view mirror.

‘Ok,’ I said, into the mic.

‘Ok, Dock One is ready, proceed.’

I pulled up and glided forward and positioned myself to the left of the Dock.

‘In position.’

‘Ok, check Dock for obstruction.’

I leaned over to look out of the passenger window. Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t tell what. There was no obstruction, but, something. I lowered the car a few feet to get a better look.

‘Is there a problem?’

I twigged what it was.

‘The space bellow is vacant,” I said.

‘That’s impossible.’

‘I’m not lying, it’s vacant.’

‘Move out of the way,’ said the foreman.

The automated belt that housed the dock moved back a space and I shifted the car out of the way. The previous dock came into view. It was empty.

I saw the foreman pull off his headphones again and pick up the mic.

‘Harrison, get out there!’ he shouted, and then he ran out of the room and disappeared from view.

I changed gear and flew the craft away from the station to get a wider view.

‘Oh, fucking hell. Harry, are you there?’

His voice came through on my earpiece. ‘What’s happening?’

I put my hand to my brow and shook my head. ‘I’m going to get fired Harry.’

‘Just tell me what’s happened.’

Several hundred yards below me, the first car I had ever successfully parked, lay in a crumpled smoking heap at the bottom of the dome.

‘I guess the hook gave out or something.’

‘What are you saying? Did it drop?’



‘Not that I can see from here.’

‘Get back up here and get me!’

I flew the car up to Harry’s platform and he opened the passenger door and got in, absently brushing the CDs on to the floor.

The foreman came running out of the staff entrance and got to us just as Harry closed the passenger door.

‘If that car is on the bottom-’

‘We’re sorting it,’ said Harry.

‘Sun is ten minutes away!’ the foreman shouted.

I came off the platform and dived fast toward the bottom.

‘Oh shit,’ said Harrison, taking in the full scene of the accident.

‘Yep, shit indeed. Get out of the way.’

Harry took hold of the wheel and I climbed over me, while I squeezed under him, and we switched seats.


We slowed when we were twenty or so yards away. The scene seemed to magnify as we got closer. The glass around the wreck was latticed with fine cracks that spread silently and slowly outwards.

‘This is really fucking bad,’ said Harry, pulling his mic down, ‘Permanently seal the outer entrance. The inner balloon is cracked.’

‘How bad is it?’ said the foreman, with a weird sort of calm in his voice.

‘I think you’ll need to evacuate this section. The inner balloon is splitting.’

‘Are you fucking kidding me Harry?’

‘We’re going to grab the wreck and pull it up. If the inner seal bursts and the car falls through we could break the outer shell. It wouldn’t take much with the sudden vacuum.’

‘Evacuating now. Sun is in seven minutes. You need to move it now.’

Harrison had already dropped the hook.

‘What should I do?’ I said.

‘Just fucking pray.’

Harrison was a master. The way he positioned the car was like being inside a humming bird. He pulled the break when the hook was a few inches from the other vehicles docking hook.

Harry stopped for a moment. He closed his eyes and took a breath inwards. He let it out slowly. The cracks seemed to spread around the wreck at the same pace.

‘Hurry up Harry,’ said the foreman.

Harry opened his eyes and held the controls still. He pushed the stick forwards gently and the hook moved toward the other. They touched.

There was a faint sound, like two china cups touching, and then the entire inner balloon shattered at once. It was like a bubble popping. It happened everywhere. A thousand yards above us and a few metres below us. The whole thing became a net of cracks and then disintegrated. I looked up through the sunroof. It took a lifetime for that shattered glass to fall. I saw it begin to shower the roof of the Docking Station just as the wrecked car hit the outer balloon.

There was an enormous sound like a nuclear bomb exploding and then being immediately muted. The car we were in lurched and then floated. The falling glass stopped and then fled in all directions at a serenely measured speed.

The earpiece in the headset turned to a frantic and deafening static. I pulled it out chucked it into the passenger footwell. Harry did the same. Then he looked at me.

‘Sorry Harry,’ I said.

He frowned. ‘Sorry?’

‘It wasn’t my fault.’

Harrison looked out of the window at the wreckage of the fallen car floating away from us. I looked at it too.

‘I think it might be, mate.’

‘What do we do now?’

The sun began to breach the horizon and the car, floating further away, lit up momentarily and then became a silhouette. Harry reached down and pushed a button with a symbol of a sun printed on with a line through it. Visors covered the windscreen and side windows. Harry reached up and pulled the shutter closed on the sun roof.

‘What do you think we should do Stephen?’

‘I feel like I might lose my job over this.’

Harry looked at me. ‘Yeah, I think you might lose your job over this.’

‘I blame inadequate safety measures.’

‘I blame you, you twat.’

‘Can we reasonably get to the pub on Entrance 9 before anyone catches up to us? I think I’m going to need a drink before facing whatever the fuck we’re about to face.’

Harry shrugged.

‘You alright Harry?’ I said.

He looked at me. ‘I’m fine mate.’ He twitched a bit. ‘Let’s go to Entrance 9.’


Drowning in the Land of Madness (Day 3)

A bed has one function. To be comfortable enough for you to fall asleep on. Any bed that fails at this important and basic function is not in my eyes a bed at all, but some kind of mystery furniture. Whoever invented the pull-out sofa bed that I am lying on now surely did not have the words bed or sleep in mind when they made it. So then, what is this machine that I have been doomed to spend two weeks on? It looks to me like a giant cigarette rolling machine. I imagine the bed popping back into its sofa shape in the middle of the night and me getting wrapped in the bed sheet and dispensed out of the bottom like a giant cigarette.

This evil device of impractical chiropody has twisted me almost in half during the night and now I feel like a rung towel. I stretch to ease some of the tension and feel my spine crack into place with the pleasing sound of falling dominoes.

David has already put the coffee on and a fresh cup appears on the table in front of me.

“Cheers. Jerky,” I say.

“In your coffee?”

“No. Jerky is what is needed. That is what I want.” My head is hanging heavy, looking down into my coffee I can see a circular distorted reflection of my face in the brew and realise that I am clearly not a human. Not yet at least. And I realise, if I intend to have any hope of making sense, I need to concentrate on what I am saying. “Today, wherever we go, I want some jerky. Proper American jerky. I need to start understanding this country. But I know I never will. Jerky will help me along my path. I have seen jerky in every store we have been in so far. It must be important. It must be.”

“Don’t you eat it all the time in England?”

“No. That’s the biltong. It’s more or less the same. Just more misshapen and softer. And I think it’s made of deer instead of cow. And from South Africa maybe. Or not. I don’t know. Maybe. Who knows? It has a different name but is the same but also different in some way I can’t recall. You know? No? Well, never mind that. But it must be better here. They say all the food is better here. Not that that’s been proven so far.”

David takes the seat opposite me. “I just want to find some normal fucking beer.”

“Here, here.” I drink my coffee and then a thought strikes me. “Where are all the girls?”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you seen any? Anywhere? I haven’t seen a single woman under the age of forty five since we got to this country? I thought these lands were bountiful when it came to perfect beautiful women. Where the fuck are they all?”

“I don’t know. Hiding from us probably.”

“I want one. The States should be bursting at the seams with beautiful Hollywood-moulded immigrants (for all Americans are immigrants except the famously moody Natives). I know they’re around here somewhere. I’ve seen them in the movies. I want jerky, a gorgeous woman, and a decent pint. These things are not hard to come by in England. My ex was a beautiful American. And I met her in a pensioner’s clothes shop in Bournemouth. Why can’t I find any here?”

On Venus (the planet) all of the landmarks have female names except one mountain which was named before the idea to give everything feminine names came about. Imagine being the only man on an entire planet of women. Being in an RV park is kind of like the opposite of that. The only women you see are, what people in the know call, Snow Birds. Grey haired women who travel south for the winter. We are awash in a silver sea unable to get to shore, where, in our delusions, a kingdom of beautiful women lies just beyond sight.

After breakfast it’s time to leave the RV Park and drive to Flagstaff; a place we hear to be an interesting stop on Route 66. We put away anything that could move and break or become a lethal projectile should we crash or break suddenly. When an RV of this size starts to move at speed any sudden stop can cause a normally harmless toaster (or cup, or shoe, or frying pan, or souvenir cactus etc.) to become weaponised. Being kicked in the face by a shoe is embarrassing enough. Being kicked in the face by a shoe that doesn’t have a foot in it is an embarrassment one finds hard to live down.

The sun-blinds that shield the windscreen when parked are taken down. The dining area and double bedroom are retracted back into the RV. The hydraulic feet that are used to level the floor are withdrawn. Sewage pipe, water supply, and electric hook-up are unplugged and put away. The beer cooler is stored safely in one of the luggage compartments. Dad takes the driver’s seat. Mum programs the destination into the sat-nav. Me and David lounge in the two double seats in back and we are set to go. The engine starts with a rumble. The CD player turns on automatically and plays Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. We leave this worn out RV Park in search for greener pastures.


“What the fuck was that?” says David.

Less than three minutes into our journey we are forced to pull over to investigate an enormous boom that had resonated around the RV from above. To me it is obvious what has happened. Someone has jumped to their death from a tall building and landed on us. Or perhaps an angel has been cast out of heaven and burned up on entering the atmosphere and is now smouldering on top of the RV, blackened and charred. Some people in the RV seem to have different ideas.

“I left the damn antenna up!” says Dad, coming to a more reasonable conclusion than my own mind tends to allow. “David, get up there and have a look will you? I always bloody forget to wind it down.”

David is not the kind of person that needs persuading to climb up on top of an RV and fix something. He is by trade a shop fitter and is a natural master at fixing all things (this normally involves merely the application of force. It seems there are few problems that can’t be rectified with a good hard wallop. It never works for me. I am always dumbfounded and amazed when he does hit something that was previously broken only for it to spark back into life. I can only conclude that appliances fear him).

“How’s it looking?” says Mum, shielding her eyes from the sun as she looks up at him from the pavement.

“It’s fucked.”

“Can you be more specific?” says Dad.

“The bracket at the bottom is fucked.”

“Can you fix it?”

“I think I can help.” I say (although it’s no secret that I am only capable of making things worse), and make my way around the back to climb up the ladder and join him.

“Yeah, it’s fucked.” I say, when I get to the top.

“Great. Thanks for your help,” says David.

“It’s fun up here. I feel like we’re in one of those old cowboy films where they run around on top of trains.”

“You are a child,” says David, without turning to look at me.

“So now we can’t watch TV?” says Dad. “Wonderful.”

David tapes the areal down so it doesn’t come lose and we get back in the RV and carry on with our journey to a place called Black Bart’s in Flagstaff.

The scenery is scenic as, by definition, all scenery is. We roll down endless roads flanked by mountains that are dotted with cacti. So much cacti that if you were to recreate the scene with CGI, or paint it, people would accuse you of exaggeration. Every square foot for miles around contains at least one hostile green plant. It looks fake. Like the land has green stubble.

After driving for a bit we stop at a place called Black Canyon for petrol. Not much is going on here. There are signs on most of the shops that say they are closed on Mondays. I was hoping to poke around the Navajo shop to see if they sell knives. A knife is the only thing I intend to buy over here. Lock knives are illegal in England, though I’m not sure why. I think it has something to do with not being allowed to stab people in the UK. In America you can do what you like so long as you let the police shoot you afterwards.

You can buy knives in petrol stations. They seem to sell them everywhere and they’re always brightly coloured or in novelty shapes. They are either marketed to children or the adults over here have a particularly juvenile mind-set. But I’m not after a toy. I want something to replace a knife I brought in Mont Saint-Michel in France when I was 14. I’ve always found it useful, you’d be amazed how often I used the thing, and I’ve almost never stabbed anyone with it. One day, after making a Galileo Galilei Pendulum Wave Machine with my daughter it vanished. I used it to cut the strings that held the weights after we were done, put the knife down, and never saw it again. I am lost without my handy sharp implement. Kitchen knives just aren’t the same and the kind of knives that don’t lock are lethal, especially if you intend to keep your fingers. There is an idea in England that the only reason you could possibly want to own a knife is if you want to murder someone. However, if you’re the kind of person who likes sitting around a fire, or camping, or hiking, then owning a decent knife is no different to owning a tent or hiking boots. I was hoping the Navajo shop would sell something a bit more authentic than the brightly coloured laughing stock of shitty knives I’ve seen so far but I guess I’ll never know. Still, I have two weeks to find something.

I buy some chilli jerky and David buys a 6-pack of some kind of cherry drink from a convenient store and we climb back into the RV. Before we are all the way in we are startled by a strange sound. A bellowing noise. I couldn’t quite place it. I go back outside to see what the commotion is. It turns out to be something you don’t hear much in England; loud affectionate geniality. A fat American wearing a cowboy hat is impressed by the size of the bus and is practically “Ye-Hawing” in astonishment. What’s with the overt kindness and whooping at strangers that is so common over here? I’m more comfortable with the cynical miserable bastards back home. You don’t have to try and work out if someone is actually happy to see you or just putting on a façade. People are either happy or they are not. They like you or they don’t. They are impressed or they couldn’t give a shit. There’s no guessing in the UK. Although, as the American culture continues to penetrate ours, I’m sure with each passing generation we too will become fake shills. But this man seems genuine in his astonishment. He probably yells in genuine astonishment at everything he comes across.

The weighty cowboy wishes us a good day and safe journey and runs down the street with the bright sun high above him, whooping and firing a gun into the air. So I imagine anyway. I’m in the RV now escaping from his unwarranted kind words. I’m just assuming he’s whooping and shooting his gun. He probably is.

“Well, that’s one goal knocked off my list.” I say to Mum, opening the giant bag of jerky as we pull out onto the interstate.

“I’ve never tried Jerky before. It doesn’t look very appealing,” says Mum.

“No, it’s delicious, try some.” I proffer the bag and she peers in dubiously.

“Are you sure it’s not going to kill me?”

“I can’t promise anything, but it is tasty. It’s kind of like meaty chewing gum.”

She takes a piece out of the bag and puts it in her mouth. She chews, frowns, and then nods. “It’s ok. A bit chewy.”

People who are new to jerky will not know about that one piece of rogue jerky you sometimes come across. For whatever reason that particular piece of jerky is utterly uneatable. You can chew it and chew it for hours and the meat will never separate in your mouth. It seems to be fixed together by an unbreakable bond. The best thing to do when you get one of these pieces is to discard it immediately and pick out another piece. Otherwise it won’t be long before your jaw is aching and you find you can’t eat or speak for the rest of the day due to mouth fatigue.

I am on my sixth piece and I offer Mum another one. To my surprise she is still chewing.

“I don’t know how you can eat them so fast,” she says.

“I think you got a dud one. They normally fall apart in your mouth.”

“I think I’ll take your word for it.”

I think she should too. More for me. I offer David one but he’s happy enough with his bottle of cherry soda.


It was hot in Phoenix, as has been established, but things are set to improve. We are traveling upwards, from 2000ft to 6790ft. As you rise in elevation the air gets thinner and the weather gets milder. The closer to the sun you get the colder you will be. Go figure. Flagstaff is up a mountain surrounded by volcanoes.

We finally drive past a sign that says 6000ft elevation and arrive soon after at Black Bart’s RV Park. This park is essentially a restaurant car park. The only difference that separates this from any other restaurant carpark is that the parking bays are huge and each contain a picnic table and a pine tree. The weather is fantastic. It is hot but not so hot it would melt your skin like it was in Phoenix.

We book in at reception and I buy two large bags of ice for $6 and David haplessly pours them into the cooler from standing height. I open the second bag but the ice is stuck together in one giant ice clump.

“We’ll have to get a hammer or something”, says David, passing a practical eye over the block of rock hard water.

I hold the block of ice up above my head and prepare to let it drop.

“Don’t be so fucking stupid,” says David, trying to stop me.

But it’s too late. The ice is already falling through the air. It hits the edge of the cooler and breaks into a hundred pieces. By some miracle most of them land in the cooler. “Problem solved.” I say.

David reaches down and picks up a can. A thin spray of beer is emanating from a tiny hole in the side of the can. “But at what cost?” says David.

Shit. How many cans have I sacrificed for this labour saving ice drop? I dig through but it seems only one of the cans has been hurt.

“Boys, can you give us a hand getting the RV set up?” comes Dad’s voice from inside the RV.

“Yea,” says David, dropping the broken can back into the cooler, where it continues to spray.

I help mum put the blinds over the windscreen while David sorts out the sewage, electricity, and water. We finish quickly and wander down to the restaurant to have a poke around but it’s closed. It looks cool though, from the outside. It’s an old fashioned western place with a wooden porch. There’s a decrepit horse cart by the entrance and the walls are decorated with rusted stirrups and saddles.

“It’s not open till five,” I say, pointing at a board with the opening times. “Shall we cross the interstate and see what’s around?”

“Sounds like a plan,” says Dad. “How do we get there?”

Mum notices a gate in the fence and we make our way towards it but we stop when we see something move. “What are they?” says Mum.

“A gofer, or are they called Prairie Dogs. Or are they the same thing?” I say. “I want one. Let’s see if we can catch one.”

“Andy, don’t be an idiot,” says Dad.

David takes out his camera to take a picture but they all scarper down their burrows before he has a chance.

We cross the interstate without getting killed, stopping at a petrol station on the way to see if they sell fridge magnets (mum is collecting fridge magnets from every state/town she visits as a souvenir. She is also collecting pins that she attaches to a cowboy hat that hangs on the wall beside the passenger seat in the RV). I ask the guy behind the counter if there is a bar nearby and he recommends a place called Porky’s Pub.

Porky’s is just across the road. We enter and hover for a while. A British person in an American pub will always be confused at first. What are the rules? Our natural instinct wants us to go to the bar and buy a round of beers that we’ll take to a table of our choice by ourselves. But they do it differently here don’t they? Or do they? Is it table service everywhere or just in some places? Maybe there’s a sign. If you find yourself in a table service pub in England you’ll know about it without question. There will be a small lectern as you walk in the entrance with a book of reservations on it and a big sign that says, “Please Wait To Be Seated.” If you try and make your way to the bar by yourself you will be grabbed by the scruff of the neck by a mean looking waitress with thick arms and be led to a table where she will then leave you for an unreasonable amount of time before returning to scornfully take your order. But not here. Not in America. The people here are kind and good at customer service. They are the best at it.

Porky’s seems to be run by one man. A thin bald guy, about my age, is standing behind the counter. He sees us looking unsure of ourselves and recognises us for what we are; simple British folk. “Take a seat,” he says, “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

We take a seat and a few moments later he is with us. He doesn’t stand next to us waiting for commands like one of our guys would, instead he pulls a chair from table and sits down. “So, what can I get you?”

“Have you got any Blue Moon?” says Dad.


“Three pints of those I think.”

“What’s that?” I say, having never heard of the beer and being dubious of American lager.

“It’s nice trust me,” says Dad.

“It’s cheaper if you get a pitcher,” says the barman.

Dad looks at me and David for affirmation and we nod in agreement. “Pitcher it is,” says Dad.

“And for the lady?” he says, looking at mum with a smile.

“I think I’ll have a gin and tonic.”

“No problem. Can I get you guys any food?”

“I am a bit peckish,” says Mum.

“Ok,” says the man getting up, “You have a look through the menu while I get your drinks.”

“Cheers,” we say.

“So what is this beer you’ve ordered?” says David.

“Trust me, it tastes like oranges.”

“Oranges? I want it to taste like beer,” I say.

“It does. It just also tastes of oranges. I drink it all the time.”

“Right. I’m choosing the next beer,” I say, picking up the drinks menu.

The barman comes back with the drinks and mum orders a basket of Teriyaki chicken wings with blue cheese sauce for us to share. “Sure thing, they’re on their way,” he says, and disappears into a back room.

The beer really does taste like oranges. It’s drinkable but faintly sickening. I fear more than one pint of the stuff would cause an organised revolt from my stomach. A mutiny of bile.

The barman returns with the chicken wings. “Can I get you anything else?” he says, putting the chicken wings down in the middle of the table. They smell fantastic!

“We’ll have a pitcher of Padst Blue Ribbon,” I say, our beers already finished.

“Ok, anything else?”

“I’ll have another G and T,” says Mum.

“On its way.”

“What’s Blue Ribbon?” says Dad.

“It’s the beer the Hipsters are drinking. I’ve been wanting to see what all the fuss is about for some time.”

The barman returns with the pitcher and mum’s drink. We thank him but by now all the chicken wings are gone so we order more. Those chicken wings, my god, I wish you could taste them. I must remember to Google teriyaki sauce when I get home. I don’t know what it is but spread it on chicken and dunk it in blue cheese sauce and you will create, in your mouth, a kind of heaven.

Sadly with the new beer comes more disappointment. The regretful taste of Padst Blue Ribbon splashes over my tongue and down into my gullet, destroying any taste recollection of the delicious chicken that came before it.

David frowns at his glass. “Great choice,” he says.

“What is that?” says Dad, trying to place the flavour. (Note the “u” in the word “flavor”. Americans, take note, it might not make any sense but it is a well-loved language the quirks of which should be embraced. These random letters that are not needed are relics, a small reminder of the languages origins. You wouldn’t burn all the fossils because we no longer have dinosaurs would you? Wait. We do do that don’t we? Isn’t that what petrol is? Never mind, you know what I mean. Sadly, your version of English makes a lot more sense, is easier to teach, and much more economic. The spell check on my laptop was automatically set to American when I bought it in England, and with the flood of American culture that whispers in the ears of our teens, soon the American way will be the only way. Your power and charm will overwhelm our pointless holdfast on a beloved yet outdated tongue. I must try and stop going off on these tangents, it distracts from the scene).

I have another sip of my beer and the taste brings on a feeling of nostalgia and then a clear memory. “I know what it is. Do you remember those milk bottle sweets we used to get when we were kids?”

“Yes! That’s what it is! It has an aftertaste of milk bottles,” says David.

“It’s not bad,” says Dad (who will admitted drink anything), “A bit strange but quite drinkable.”

“One of these days I will find a normal pint,” I say.

“We could just get a Bud?” says David.

“No! We must persevere and find a beer you can’t get in England that doesn’t taste like fruit, candy, or furniture polish! Once we have found it we can give up and just drink Bud. But not until we find it.”



We’re back at the RV. We left Porky’s, looked in a few shops, and since then we’ve mostly been milling around. David managed to take a picture of a gofer. Other than that it has been relaxing and uneventful. We sat around the RV, enjoying the sun, smoking cigarettes (I was anyway, the others don’t smoke). Now we are heading over to the restaurant for dinner.

We enter and are shown to a table a row back from the stage. The back wall of the stage is a book shelf loaded to the brim with music books. There is a piano and next to it, at the front of the stage; a microphone.

The waitress appears at our table and asks if she can get us any drinks. She’s kneeling, looking up at us with wide welcoming eyes. They really have nailed the customer service over here. If a British waitress knelt down at a customer’s table in the UK she would be fired for public indecency. She would probably get a good tip though.

“Do you have a beer menu?” I say.

“Yes, sir, right here,” she leans forward and takes a meu from a small stand on the table. She opens it and hands it to me.

“Bloody hell, quite a few.”

“Yes, and they are all brewed locally.”

Here we go again, I think, and David flashes me a look that suggests he’s thinking the same thing.

“Get me a drink, I’ll be back in a minute,” says Dad, excusing himself to use the restroom.

Me and David look through the menu and settle on two different ales. For me and him we get an ale called Left Hand into the Dark Side. Not a promising name but its description makes it out to be a light and refreshing ale. For Dad we order what is called Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale and is described as a Scottish IPA but is actually made locally and the reference to its Scottish-ness is ungraspable and probably non-existent.

Dad comes back and the waitress joins us again to take our food order. “Have you decided?” she says.

“Yes, could I-“

We are interrupted by a sudden tinkering of keys from the piano on the stage.

“Could you excuse me for a moment?” says our waitress.


“Thank you,” she says, and then puts her order pad down, walks up on to the stage, up to the microphone, and sings Sweet Virginia. The song ends, she thanks the audience, we clap vaguely, and she comes back to finish taking our order.

“What was that about?” I say, as she picks up her order pad.

“This is a live music restaurant. When we don’t have a band the waiters and waitresses take turns doing Vaudeville songs.”

“Got it,” I say.

“I’ll have a 9oz steak,” says David, presumably finding nothing noteworthy or unusual about our singing waitress.

“Me too,” says Dad.

“And me,” says Mum.

“And you sir,” says the waitress to me.

“I think I’ll also have the 9oz steak. But can I have peppercorn sauce with mine?”


“Pepper what? Where’d you see that?” says Dad.

“On the menu.”

“Add that to mine as well please,” says Dad.

David and Mum also add the sauce, for what is steak without peppercorn sauce? Nothing but a bit of dead cow, that’s what.

The ale, as you will be expecting by now, is another disaster. The worst yet in fact. It has the consistency and hue of dirty toilet water after a bad night on the curry. It is just unpleasant. I can’t understand why anyone would consider this a drink? Not one to be beaten by a drink I force mine down. I have a taste of Dad’s but it is just as bad, not that he seems to mind it. He acknowledges that it is indeed disgusting but drinks it without issue regardless. David gives up on his and calls the waitress over. What is left of David’s beer dad uses to top up his own, creating a combo that would, I suppose, now be called Dirty Bastard Left Hand into the Scottish Dark Side (which is a hideous yet apt description).

“Any chance we can get a few tasters of the rest of your ales?” says David, to the waitress.

“Sure,” she says, “Back in a mo.”

She returns with a wooden rack of shot glasses each filled with liquid that goes from amber, to burgundy, to brown, to black. After tasting them all we order two pints of the amber coloured ale, the name of which I never discover. Dad pours the undrunk shots of ale into his pint glass creating a mixture David and Me are both unwilling to try. Dad continues to drink it like water but grimaces when he finally polishes the thing off.

The streak is good but the Vaudeville tunes are sung with the gusto and brevity of a dying breeze. They inspire boredom and a deep overwhelming sense of loneliness. As they sing you can see the emptiness in the eyes of the waiters and waitresses as they are forced to perform every day for a weirdly delighted, and easily pleased, gaggle of Snow Birds.

The moderate food, iffy ale, and terrible live music has finally taken its toll. As I’m watching the big finale (where all the waitresses and waiters gather on stage and sing something very proud and patriotic about America and how great all of its citizens are), someone taps me on the shoulder.

I turn in my chair and there, at the table next to us, is a young and very excitable Chinese guy. “Yes?” I say.

“I’m sorry to bother you.”

“That’s ok. What do you want?”

“I was just wondering, that guy, is he your dad?”

I look over at the man in question and am quick to surmise an answer, “Indeed he is.”

“Is he famous?”

“That depends. Who do you think he is?”

“Is he the guy that played the doctor in Back to the Future?”

“Great scot!” I shout, “We’ve been rumbled!” David starts laughing, but Dad, in his curiously vacant way, hasn’t seemed to have noticed the interaction. “Let’s get out of here,” I say to the table at large. (Dad is not, by the way, Dr. Emmett Brown.)

Dad calls for the bill and I chuck some money on the table for my bit. David and I wait outside while the rest of the bill is paid so I can have a cigarette.

The evening at this elevation is chilly (a welcome break from the sweaty night that preceded). Luckily David brought a spare jacket with him so we are able to sit outside and have a few cans before we shoot off to bed. I, stupidly, did not think I would have the opportunity to get cold enough on our journey between Arizona and the Mojave Desert in Nevada to need a jacket. David, on the other hand, has enough scepticism (when it comes to weather) to bring two jackets.

It’s FREE! The Accidental Scoundrel is FREE!!

The Accidental Scoundrel CoverThe Accidental Scoundrel is free right now. If you don’t already have it, get it. Kindle e-reader, kindle app on your phone, go to Amazon, download it for free. Read it. Laugh. Go back to Amazon and tell the fucking world how brilliant it is. Do it now. Go on. It’s free.

What else are you going to do? Eat crisps and watch Hollyoaks? Fuck that. Read the book. Jem Roberts likes it and he’s a comedy historian. This is what he said –

“Anyone disappointed that Hugh Laurie’s second novel never turned up will be glad they picked up The Accidental Scoundrel and gave it a damn good reading.” – Jem Roberts, author of the upcoming official Fry and Laurie biography, Soupy Twists!

The Accidental Scoundrel is free now and will be for the next few days. But don’t wait. If you all download it at the same time it will shoot up Amazon’s hourly charts and get it in front of more readers. I don’t even care if you read it. Just download it.

This is my new sales tactic. I’m just going to badger and harass people into getting it. Get the damn book! It’s free! What’s your fucking problem? I think this is going to work.

Get it here my wonderful friends – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Accidental-Scoundrel-Andrew-Chapman-ebook/dp/B01M23R7F1/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1500124216&sr=8-1

Tripping the Night Fantastic – Chapter 5

‘Charlie! Wait up.’

Charlie turned around, ‘Run!’

‘Fucking hell Charlie what’s the rush?’

‘What’s the rush? Give me a winning argument for being slow.’

‘Because… Just hold on!’

Charlie stopped to let Simon catch up.

‘Thank you. Where’s the Basement then? Shall we get a taxi?’

‘What’s the rush?’

‘That’s what I just said!’

‘Yes, but I wasn’t actually rushing or even moving particularly fast. I was just slightly ahead of you. You’re the one inflicting me with verbs.’


‘Safe answer. Actually I don’t really want to go to the Basement. Not right away anyway.’

Charlie looked at Simon in a way Simon didn’t recognize, at least not on Charlie. He seemed Sober. He seemed like he was about to be serious.

‘I need to visit someone, and I can’t do it on my own.’

‘Who do you need to visit at this hour?’

‘My daughter.’

‘You have a daughter?!’

Charlie’s expression saddened, ‘I need you to come with me. Please. I really need to see her.’

‘Ok, let’s go and see her.’

Charlie looked over the road, ‘She’s not far from here.’

Simon looked over. They were standing opposite a cemetery.

‘Charlie, please tell me now if this is one of your jokes.’

Charlie crossed the road and climbed over the main gate to the cemetery. Simon stood for a moment wondering if this was one of his jokes and if it was it was a sick one. Simon crossed the road and followed Charlie into the cemetery.

‘Charlie, where are you?’

‘Over here.’

Simon weaved through the graves until he found Charlie standing in front of a small heart shaped gravestone. Someone had left a yellow rose in front of Claire’s grave.

‘There she is,’ said Charlie.

‘Claire Deavon,’ Simon looked at the gravestone next to it, ‘Samantha Deavon.’

‘She’s my wife. This grave was reserved for me. I never thought she would be filling it for me.’

Simon opened his mouth but couldn’t find any words.

‘Samantha died in childbirth. She never even got to meet her.’

Charlie took a cantina of whisky out of his jacket pocket and took a sip. He passed it to Simon and both of them sat down against the opposite graves. They sat there silently for a while. Charlie lit a cigarette and looked at the Cantina in his hands.

‘I’m a cunt. You know that?’

Simon didn’t answer.

A tear began to form in Charlie’s eye.

‘It’s all here, all my problems, in this fucking cantina!’

Charlie stood up and threw the cantina as far as he could. He sat back down again.

‘It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to,’ Charlie took the picture of Claire from his inside jacket pocket and looked at it, ‘she was seven when she died. It would have been her 18th birthday today.’

‘I don’t know what to say,’ said Simon.

‘I was giving her a lift to her friend’s house. I’d had one glass of wine. Just one! But it was enough to lapse my concentration for a split second. And now look at me. What have I learnt?!’

Charlie stubbed his cigarette out in the grass and lit another one. He put the picture back in his pocket.

‘We weren’t even in the car a whole minute before it happened. We got in the car, we were both in a playful mood, you just don’t expect anything to happen, and I pulled out of the drive without looking. And that was it. Our friendship was no more. It was my fault but the guy who drove into us was drunk. He was sent to prison for twelve months for driving while intoxicated but hung himself before his sentence was up. Claire died on my lap in the car. I wasn’t even scratched. I hate alcohol for everything that has come of it yet I consume it like it’s all that matters! What the hell is wrong with me!?’

‘If you want to quit I can sign you up to a group.’

‘No, that won’t work. I just need to stop.’

Charlie stood up and walked over to the grave stone. He took a diamond ring out of his pocket and placed it out of site in a gap between the grave stone and the soil.

‘Happy Birthday Princess.’

Charlie took a step back and looked at the two gravestones standing quietly together.

‘And besides, I’ve got nothing to lose now have I. Come on, let’s go and lighten the mood a bit.’


The doorman at The Basement noticed Charlie and Simon walking toward him and immediately stood in front of the door.

‘He seems to recognize you,’ said Simon, as they approached the bar.

‘We’ve had our differences,’ said Charlie.

‘Charlie Deavon, how nice of you to pop back for a visit,’ said the heavy looking bouncer.

‘Stand aside kind sir! I’m here to visit the king!’

‘I just want you to know, before I let you in, that I don’t like you and I think you should have been barred!’

‘Bizarrely, I tend to agree. Alas, your landlord does not.’

Charlie pushed past the doorman and headed up the stairs, Simon hesitantly followed.

‘I’m warning you!’ the doorman shouted after them, ‘any fires this time and I’m not letting you back in!’

‘Fires?’ enquired Simon.

‘I may have set fire to the place last time I was here.’

‘Any particular reason?’

‘Describe our current motion,’ said Charlie.

Simon thought for a moment.

‘We’re walking upstairs?’

‘Correct, and what is the name of this pub?’

‘The Basement.’

‘Thus we have good reason for fire.’

‘I’m not sure I follow,’ said Simon.

They arrived at the bar.

‘Such a callous use of irony puts me in a state of serious disrupt. And so I set fire to the bar.’

‘And you didn’t get barred?’

‘No, luckily my friend Keep here agreed with me.’

‘Charlie,’ said Keep, ‘what can I get you?’

‘Two of the usual,’ said Charlie.

‘You usually have a bottle of whisky.’

‘Right, two please.’

Keep went out back to get the bottles of whisky and Simon and Charlie went to the back of the bar to sit at a table.

Keep arrived with the booze and sat down. The Black Keys filled the room with whisky soaked rock music.

‘I think I’ll join you,’ said Keep, ‘You know, since you set fire to the bar last week we’ve been packed. This is now officially the place to be.’

‘Great, let’s start another fire and lock the doors this time so we can kill them all for being populous chasing cunts.’

‘We could, but then I really would have to bar you.’

Charlie smiled, ‘Did you keep the name change?’

‘Yes, thanks for that,’ he said sarcastically, ‘people seem to like it.’

Keep could see that Simon wanted some involvement in the conversation and so involved him.

‘After the fire last week we had to evacuate the pub so Charlie and I decided to have ourselves a little lock-in.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Simon, imagining Charlie in a fire burnt bar with all the free alcohol he could consume.

‘Charlie can be quite persuasive at times,’ continued Keep.

Charlie nodded in agreement.

‘He had been calling me Bar Keep all night even after countless attempts to teach him my real name. After we had consumed enough alcohol to fuel a small plane he had convinced me that changing my name to Keep would be a really good idea.’

‘And I stick by it,’ said Charlie.

‘And so, he went online and changed my name by deed poll.’

‘The pleasure was all mine.’

‘I hadn’t actually remembered any of this until my official papers arrived in the post a few days ago.’

‘Oh god what have I got myself into? Please promise me that I’ll wake up with my own name tomorrow,’ said Simon.

‘I promise I won’t change it but I can’t promise that you’ll remember it.’

‘That’s fine. So, do I call you Keep? Or… what is your real name?’

‘You can call me Keep, everybody else is.’

‘Ok, so how come you didn’t mind when Charlie set fire to the place?’

‘He helped!’ said Charlie, ‘I can’t take sole blame for this!’

‘I was having a bad day and Charlie came along like a catalyst. He has a way of explaining things that makes you think venting in such an extreme way is normal. Or at least justified.’

Keep poured a second round of drinks and Simon began to feel tipsy.

‘How do you guys drink so much? I already feel drunk. And how come you seem sober? You were smashed when you got to my house!’

‘Functioning alcoholic,’ said Keep, pointing at Charlie.

‘I’ll take that. Functioning alcoholic, makes me feel… “functional”. Like a useful drunk,’ said Charlie.

‘Oh god, I’m going to regret this night aren’t I?’ said Simon.

‘Good! Drink up, you’re going to need it,’ said Charlie.

‘For what?’

‘We, Simon, are going home in an hour and you are going to want to be drunk.’

‘In an hour? We’ve only just got here.’

‘We’re only going back to yours for a bit and then we’ll come straight back and really hit the drink!’

‘Why are you going back?’ asked Keep.

Charlie looked at Simon.

‘Why are we out tonight?’ he asked.

‘So we can have a few beers. And because Jane wanted a girlie night in.’

‘Even though she invited me round so we can all get together.’

‘Like I said, she’s been acting strange recently.’

‘You didn’t notice a kind of, serious sexual tension between Amelia and Jane?’

‘Well, I kind of did. A little bit. I guess.’

Keep picked up his glass.

‘Sounds like your wife is urging for some deep, and pure, tongue induced, thigh watering, chest pounding, toe-curling orgasms from the gleaming lesbian fire that is the taboo of same sex passion.’

‘Very poetic,’ said Simon.

‘When we get back we are probably going to find Jane and Amelia in the steamy throes of hardcore lesbianism.’

Simon stood up, ‘Right, we have to go back now and stop them!’

Simon headed for the exit but Charlie got up and grabbed him.

‘No, it’s all very well stopping anything from happening but then you’ll never be sure and it will play on your mind until you become a paranoid, wife beating, estate agent!’

‘Estate agent?’

‘Oh yes, estate agent, because you’ll get fired from being a literary agent because you were caught masturbating in the stationery cupboard!’

‘That doesn’t make sense!’

Charlie grabbed him by the collar! ‘None of this makes sense! That’s why we have to wait!’


‘Yes. You have to trust me. If we get back and they are watching a chic flick and doing each other’s hair then you can stop worrying about her acting strange. That is a good thing.’

‘Yes, I suppose it is. But what if they are doing something?’

‘I’ll have my camera phone ready,’ said Keep.

‘It’s up to you what happens. And that is why we are going for a drink afterwards. It will give you both some time to think.’

‘Yeah, I guess that makes sense.’

‘Excellent, let’s get shit faced!’ said Charlie.


One bottle of whisky later and Simon’s bladder was begging for mercy. It was time to gather his senses and set off in search for the men’s room.

‘If I’m not back in five minutes,’ said Simon getting up, ‘I’ve probably pissed myself.’

Simon waddled off and Charlie took his notepad and pen out of his pocket. He tore out a page and wrote down a number.

‘This is Jane’s mobile number,’ he said to Keep, ‘I need you to phone it without Simon knowing so you can give Jane the heads up.’

‘What? Why?’

‘If all goes well this could end up being good for both of them,’ said Charlie.

‘And how exactly is us helping her cheat be good in any way?’

‘We’re not helping her cheat. We want her to feel like she’s been caught out without actually being caught. Put the fear of god in her!’

‘Or the fear of Charlie.’

‘The reason being, she’ll know that we know but also that we don’t want Simon to know and hopefully it will snap her out of this little midlife crisis and feel guilty enough to focus on Simon again.’

‘That was hard to follow. I must be drunker than I thought. So, I tell her we know but don’t want Simon to know because it will crush him?’ said Keep, trying to concentrate.


‘And that will hopefully force her to reflect on what she’s doing with the kind of hindsight you might get from actually being caught.’

‘Yes! That’s amazing!’ said Charlie.

‘It was your idea.’

‘I know, but the way you said it makes it sound better than I thought. I guess I must be a genius!’

‘I guess you must be.’

‘And Simon going back to find her watching TV with Amelia, instead of fucking her, will hopefully stop Simon from being such a paranoid retard! It’s win-win!’

‘I didn’t know you had it in you to help another person,’ said Keep with a slur.

‘I am an enigma!’ said Charlie.

Tripping the Night Fantastic – Chapter 4

‘Hi Simon!’

Simon admired the view before him with very little surprise. Charlie was steadying himself against the door frame while a very drunk girl was throwing up on the pavement outside.

‘Simon… I err…’

‘Brought a date with you?’ Simon offered.

‘Yes! A date!’ said Charlie, and then leaned in in an attempt to seem sober, ‘I hope that’s ok.’

‘She looks like she’s going to die.’

‘She’ll be alright.’

Simon smiled, a small part of him enjoying the mayhem that Charlie brings into his life, ‘At least you’re on time.’

Charlie grinned and entered the house. On passing Simon he leaned in to whisper in Simon’s ear, ‘I think I love her.’

Simon walked down the steps and helped the young girl into the house.

Charlie wandered into the lounge where he was greeted by a very happy Jane.

‘Charlie! So lovely to see you again.’

‘And you!’

They gave each other a peck on the cheek.

Simon entered the room with the massively inebriated girl and sat her on the couch. Jane continued to smile but with that contorted smile you only ever see on aristocratic women veining delight at seeing a photo of one of her slave’s children.

‘Oh. And who’s this lovely young lady?’

Charlie tried to remember her name. The girl put her arm up in a drunken proclamation and stated with confidence.


‘Yes!’ Charlie grinned, ‘Amelia! Amelia Heart! Her and I,’ pointing vaguely where she sat, ‘would like to thank you for the invitation to dine with you.’

‘My pleasure,’ Jane replied, ‘Simon, could I see you in the kitchen.’

‘No,’ said Simon, with an air of “I told you so”, ‘I think we should have a drink.’


It wasn’t long before Jane was lubricated enough to begin enjoying herself. The vomiting had sobered Amelia up enough for her to continue drinking and she was currently in the kitchen helping Jane prepare dinner. Jane poured the last few drops of Zinfandel Rosé into her glass and clumsily set the bottle down on the side.

‘So, Amelia, how do you know Charlie?’

Amelia looked at her glass. It was nearly empty.

‘More wine!’ She declared.

Jane opened the fridge and took out a fresh bottle and Amelia struggled to remember the last few hours of her life.

‘Err… he was sat on his own at the pub and I was like “heeey! I’m your biggest fan!”, oh god, I’m so embarrassing, I think he told me to piss off.’

Jane laughed and filled Amelia’s glass.

‘And now I’m at your house getting drunk with strangers!’ Amelia added.

‘Well,’ said Jane, ‘I’m glad you’re here, I haven’t had a good drink in a long time, and you seem like a nice girl.’

‘Thanks,’ Amelia beamed, ‘I like you too.’

They clinked glasses.

‘When you came in I thought, Oh god, Charlie’s picked up some bar skank to ruin the evening.’

‘Oh thanks,’ Amelia said.

‘No, I do like you.’

Jane looked at the pink wine in her glass and felt the warm feeling of alcohol swim around her body, I am drunk, she thought to herself.

A pan on the hob started bubbling over and Amelia went over to turn off the heat. Jane watched her with drunken eyes and felt mesmerized.


Outside, Charlie and Simon sat on the patio furniture. A small crate of stubby French beers sat ripped open on the table. Charlie was smoking a cigarette. Simon opened a small tin of Café Crème cigars. He took one out, studied it for a moment, and lit it with a match. They both sat there for a while just staring into the garden. Not because they had nothing to say, just because serene moments like these come too occasionally to ignore. Finally Simon spoke.

‘Apparently Ben Shepherd went on twitter after the interview yesterday and called you a massive cunt.’

This bought a smile to Charlie’s face.

‘And now he’s facing disciplinary action from ITV.’

Charlie laughed.

‘You know,’ Simon continued, ‘I don’t know why you don’t like him, I think he’s alright.’

Charlie ignored him. He sat there in his chair, trying to navigate his way through the complicated maze that is the drunken mind, hoping to find reason to confide in Simon about his daughter. It’s not really something he ever intended to keep from anyone he’s just never been able to talk about it.

‘Dinners ready!’ came an enthusiastic shout from inside, bringing Charlie, quite suddenly, away from his thoughts.

‘Come and get it!’

Simon and Charlie managed themselves out of the patio chairs and stumbled into the house with the exaggerated concentration of alcoholics and sat/fell into their designated seats around the dining room table.

Jane and Amelia had put on quite an exquisite dinner.  The lights had been dimmed and candles lit. A large roasted bird of some description, probably turkey, steamed tantalizingly in the centre of the table. Various delicate bowls held potatoes and vegetables. There were even two types of gravy. Put simply; all the stops had been pulled out.

‘Dig in,’ said Jane.

After a few moments of drunken slicing, dishing and spooning, plates were full and the cooked bird was now just bones. Jane poured the crisp white wine she had chosen specifically to complement the meal and a warm and friendly evening was about to begin. – That is how Jane’s mind perceived the whole thing anyway.

Charlie and Simon’s thoughts on the matter were slightly different. For instance the first thing both of them thought, thus proving they’re not so different after all, was “wow, that’s a big chicken”. Charlie’s second thought was “I want to undress and fuck Amelia right now on this table”. Simon’s second thought was “Is it me or is there some serious sexual chemistry between Amelia and my wife? Amelia is damn sexy though”.

Amelia did appreciate the food and the wine but her thoughts had been distracted. When Jane stood to fill everyone’s wine glasses Amelia noticed Jane’s legs, her perfect legs and her tight dress moving with her body so perfectly that every small movement became a luring dance of pure erotica. Since then she’s been finding it difficult to keep her eyes, or mind for that matter, on anything else.

‘I saw you on GMTV the other day, how exciting that your book is being made into a film!’ said Jane.

‘I’m only doing it because the director’s daughter invited me to her next slumber party,’ said Charlie.

‘Charlie, there are limits to what is acceptable, even for you. Specifically age limits!’ said Simon.

‘Calm down, she’s 23. And anyway I’m not going ahead with the film.’

Simon put his fork down.

‘What? You have to we’ve already signed the contracts. Even if you say you don’t want to they’ll still make it anyway. They already own the TV and Film rights to the book.’

‘They want Owen Wilson to play the main character!’ said Charlie.

‘I love Owen Wilson, he was so good in Marley and Me,’ said Jane.

‘Which is exactly why he’s wrong for the part, it’s not a book about a coy, soft spoken floppy haired bum! The guy in the book kills one of the Queen’s Corgis with a harp! Can you see Owen Wilson doing that?!’ said Charlie.

Amelia rested her hand on Jane’s leg.

‘I loved Marley and Me,’ she smiled, moving her hand gently.

Jane rested her hand on Amelia’s and looked up at her seductive smile. Images of new and forbidden pleasures filled her thoughts. She looked over at her middle aged husband. Anything sexually risqué with Simon seemed pretty unlikely. Ever again. She had been looking for something exciting to fill the daily boredom of life for some time and today the two and a half bottles of wine she had consumed were pleasantly nudging her in Amelia’s direction.

‘It won’t be Owen Wilson, or, it might not be, the filmmakers have agreed for you to be present at the casting auditions,’ said Simon.

‘Really? How did you swing that? You can’t even swing, a, err, a swing! HA!’ said Charlie.

‘And you call yourself a writer,’ muttered Simon.

‘Can I be in the film?’ asked Amelia.

‘Yes,’ said Charlie, without a thought.

‘Really?!’ she squealed.

Charlie took a silent moment to examine Amelia’s various talents; her mousy features and dark hair, her slightly tan skin, her perfectly crafted more-than-a-good-couple-of-handfuls-size breasts; her slim waist. His trousers began to tighten and he looked back up to her eyes; her big inviting eyes. He hadn’t realized until then how perfect she was.

‘She would have to audition,’ said Simon, knowing Charlie was probably serious.

‘When are the auditions?’ asked Charlie.

‘Tomorrow, didn’t you look at that schedule I gave you? It only had two things on it.’

‘Cool, come to the auditions tomorrow then, I know the perfect part for you!’

‘Eep!’ she squealed.

Jane clasped her hands in excitement for Amelia. Charlie increased the pressure to his stiffening penis; the power to choose the cast for his own film made parts of his brain ping with a new type of sexual ecstasy.

There really was a perfect part for Amelia.

‘Camille Tearheart,’ said Charlie, ‘she’s the Queen’s personal secretary. She’s also a double agent, a closet serial killer, and a sexual blackmailer.’

It’s a combination that doesn’t arise too often in fictional writing but the character, Camille Tearheart, has often been described as the most alluring character in the history of literature.

Simon’s mind wandered back to those most vivid and controversial passages of Charlie’s last novel. Most men keep that book close to a box of tissues and a self help book. It’s truly thrilling stuff.

Simon forced his mind back to the dinner table. The conversation had moved on now and it seemed like more time had passed than he’d realized. That’s the problem with Charlie’s writing; it really takes you somewhere your mind shouldn’t be allowed to go. It traps you, new taboos are formed and exploited, layout and plot beckon to the will of the characters darkest fantasies, his books take over you and force you to enjoy the most horrific of things with a feeling of joy and unnerving sexual pleasure. It is a confusing and wonderful experience. So when you remember a particular scene, like Simon just did, time slips away and doors to parts of the mind (that would disgrace even the darkest mind of any animated Disney teapot) open up and suck you in.

Simon finished off a glass of wine and ate a piece of potato soaked in gravy.

‘Why don’t you two ever go out together? It would do Simon the world of good to get out of the house occasionally,’ Jane was saying.

Amelia’s body had become a magnet to Jane’s body and mind and forces beyond her control were trying to get Charlie and Simon out of the house.

Simon frowned, ‘I like it here. I don’t need to go out and get drunk all the time.’

‘Why don’t you boys go and have a good lad’s night out this evening,’ said Jane, ‘You both deserve it.’

Simon took this with a pinch of salt.

‘You want me to go out with Charlie?’ he said.

He narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously.

‘Yes. Don’t worry, I trust you,’ said Jane.

‘You see what I said about her acting strange,’ he whispered to Charlie.

‘Strange is good. Come on, the Black Keys are playing a small gig at the Basement tonight. I can get us in.’

‘What about you two?’ asked Simon.

‘I think I’m in the mood for a more girly night tonight. It’s been nice having a girl around the house. I don’t think I’ve met a girl I can let my hair down with since my college days.’

‘I don’t know. Charlie what do you think?’

Charlie was already putting his jacket on, ‘About what?’

‘Going out.’

‘Yes. Let’s go.’

Charlie downed his wine and stood up. Simon noted Charlie’s eagerness and wondered why Jane seemed so suddenly happy about him going out with Charlie; the worst influence on the planet.

‘Ok. I guess. Where are we going? The cellar?’

‘The Basement.’

Charlie smiled at the girls and left the house.

‘Ok. I guess we’ll see you later,’ said Simon.

Simon gave Jane a quick peck on the cheek and then went out after Charlie.

‘Have fun!’ shouted Jane from the house.

Tripping the Night Fantastic – Chapter 3

The rustle of a newspaper; the sound of two happy people sipping tea and spreading pâté on toast, the sun beaming down on the clean patio garden, the sleeping dog by their side. Simon and his wife couldn’t look like a happier couple if they tried. Actually they didn’t have a dog, I made that bit up, but they probably would have a dog if they had it their way. If they did have a dog it would probably be called Ruffles or something, which is why I’m not letting them have one.

‘Poor Charlie,’ said Jane looking up from her paper, ‘Why do the papers make him out to be such a bad guy.’

Simon stared at her, ‘We are talking about Charlie Deavon aren’t we?’

‘I know he swore on TV, and I’m not saying I agree with that, but I’m sure he’s really a nice guy at heart.’

Simon’s stare was unmoved.

‘Charlie Deavon; hates people, drinks too much, smokes too much, swears too much, sleeps too much, arrogant, offensive, demanding… are we talking about the same man?’

She ignored him, as most people seem to, and carried on regardless.

‘In the paper it says he’s a disgrace to mankind. It says that young people should stop looking up to him like some kind of idol and that his books are only successful because they’re controversial.’

Simon considered this for a moment, ‘They’re right on most of those points but you have to give him credit, the quality of his writing is always a pleasant shock.’

Jane folded her paper and put it down.

‘We should invite him round for dinner.’


‘Oh why not, it will be fun.’

‘It really won’t, he can’t behave himself.’

‘He’s not a child Simon, I think he acts the way he does because he’s lonely.’

‘No, he acts the way he does for attention.’

Jane folded her arms.

‘Invite him round for dinner tonight, I’ll go out and get something nice.’

‘Are you really going to make me do this?’


‘I’ll ask but he won’t want to come.’

‘Thank you, it will be fun.’


Charlie was sitting on his couch staring at the courgette he had just pinned to the wall with a hunting knife. The phone rang. He looked at the phone for a moment and then picked it up without saying anything.

‘Charlie? Are you there?’


‘Jane and I were wondering if you would like to come over for dinner tonight?’

‘I stabbed a courgette today.’

‘You did?’

‘Do you think that’s normal?’

‘Not really.’

‘Do you think I was wrong to swear on TV?’

‘Since when do you care about that kind of thing?’

‘I wonder if my parents still care. Do you know you’re the only person I talk to? I don’t know a single person other than you.’

‘I don’t know what to say.’

‘And I haven’t had a drink for nearly two days. I don’t like being sober.’

‘You get used to it. Are you coming over for dinner tonight?’

Charlie stared at the courgette, which for him, at this moment in time, made him question his life, ‘Ok, I think that might be good for me.’

‘Ok. Come over for about 7:30.’

Charlie hung up the phone and looked at the mess in his apartment.

‘I need a drink.’


Simon put the phone back in its receiver.

‘What did he say?’ asked Jane.

‘He said yes.’

‘I told you he would come.’

‘Something’s wrong with him.’

‘Why what did he say?’

Simon sat down.

‘I think he said he’s lonely.’

‘See, I told you he was lonely,’ said Jane, a bit too smugly.

‘Well, he didn’t actually say it, but… I don’t know, something’s wrong.’

‘We can talk to him about it tonight. Does he have any allergies? He’s not vegetarian is he?’

‘No and no. Don’t go over the top with it tonight, just keep it simple.’

‘Don’t worry, Simon.’


Charlie rummaged through his drawers trying to find something to drink. He found a bottle of vodka with less than a gulp left in it. He drank it anyway. He opened a box; one of many that he is yet to unpack, and a picture fell out and landed on the floor beside him. He picked it up and looked at it. ‘Claire’ he said to himself. He sat against the sofa and stared at the picture. It was a photo of a young blonde haired girl wearing a summer dress. Ten years, he thought.

Charlie almost screwed up the photo out of a mixture of anger and love. He dropped the photo and let his head fall into his hands. He ran his hands through his hair and picked the picture back up. He put the photo in his pocket and left his apartment slamming the door behind him.


Charlie got to the bar and ordered before the barman had a chance to acknowledge him.


‘Single or double?’


‘I don’t think I can.’

Charlie took two fifty pound notes out of his wallet and threw them at the barman. The barman looked over to his manager for advice, his manager shrugged. The barman took the bottle out of the optic and gave it to Charlie. Charlie grabbed it and filled up his glass. He downed half of it and took out a cigarette.

‘You’ll have to smoke outside.’

Charlie stared at the barman to see if he was joking and then remembered the recent smoking ban, of several years ago.

‘Fucking smoking ban,’ he said, picking up his bottle.

He went outside to the smoking area. He sat as far out of the way as he could and lit his cigarette. He began to relax and poured a second glass.

A girl’s voice interrupted his solitude.

‘Charlie Deavon?’

Charlie looked up, ‘Oh, God, help me.’

‘It’s you isn’t it? Charlie Deavon!’


‘Yes it is! I am your biggest fan!’

She sat next to him.

‘What you doin’ here?’


‘I’m Amelia,’ she said.

‘I don’t care.’

‘Can I drink with you?’

This time he took a good look at her. She’s about twenty years of age, nice figure, fairly classy, brunette, definitely attractive… slightly drunk.

‘What are you doing tonight?’ He asked.

‘I’m free, are you asking me back to yours?’ She replied flirtatiously.

‘How do you feel about dinner?’


‘Good we’ll leave in an hour, go and get yourself a glass.’

Tripping the Night Fantastic – Chapter 2

Knock, Knock, Knock. Simon waited for a few seconds.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Inside Charlie’s apartment something stirred under a bed sheet.

Bang! Bang! Bang! ‘Charlie!’

Charlie opened his eyes, a little confused and world weary thanks to a large bottle of Jack Daniels the night before.

Bang! Bang! Bang! ‘Charlie! Open the door!’

Charlie sat up and climbed out of his bed.


‘Shut up! I’m coming.’

Charlie un-chained the door and opened it. Simon Squeezed past him and went straight to the kitchen.

‘What?’ Charlie demanded wearily.

‘It’s Tuesday, we have to be at the studio in an hour.’

Charlie’s face tried to respond and failed, so far only his legs, eyes, part of his brain and at least one of his arms was completely awake. He tried speech ‘nmph?’

‘GMTV. I’ve got you three cups of coffee, drink this.’

Charlie took the coffee.

‘And a bacon and egg sandwich,’ continued Simon.


‘Eat your sandwich and get in the shower, I’ve got you a new shirt and some razors.’

‘You’re ever so nice.’

‘I know, now get in the shower.’

Simon edged him toward the shower and gave him his second coffee as he entered and closed the door behind him.

‘Make sure you shave!’

‘Alright, stop shouting.’


Fifteen minutes later the shower door opened and out came Charlie. To Simon’s astonishment he actually looked close to presentable.

‘Right, you look good, let’s go.’

‘Wait, wait… wait.’


Charlie looked around his room and grabbed his keys, a small cantina and half a cigarette out of the ash tray.



In the underground car park Simon unlocked his car. Charlie looked at him with an expression like pity.

‘What are you doing?’ said Charlie.

‘Getting in the car.’

‘We’re not taking your car we’re taking mine.’

‘Really?’ Simon ran a disapproving eye over the trashed vehicle, ‘why don’t you buy a proper car?’

Charlie composed himself and prepared his fragile mind for coherent conversation.

‘It’s not about how new and shiny a car is that makes a car great. I’m not getting in your car; it has no handbrake and no keyhole, so in my book it’s not even a car. Having no keyhole is like a woman having no vagina.’

‘Charlie it’s a modern car, this button is the hand brake, and it doesn’t have a keyhole because you start it with a button.’

‘Your sexless freak of a car is the automobile equivalent of a blonde-tipped, spiky haired prick with no penis, whereas my fucked up little Jaguar is the car equivalent of dishevelled rough sex.’

Simon closed his car door and got obediently into Charlie’s.


Concise and in control is how Charlie would describe his driving. Most others would describe it as erratic, dangerous, fast, and suicidal. Neither is right, he actually drives in a way that is both oblivious to other road users and apparently, as he has never crashed, safer than flying. In-fact, his record is so clean that being driven by Charlie is statistically safer than driving. It is frightening nonetheless.

Charlie spoke loudly over the sound of the engine.

‘Now your wife has a good taste in cars.’

Simon looked at him suspiciously.

‘How do you know what my wife drives?’

Charlie took no notice.

‘A 1971 British Leyland pick-up 4×4. Cool car.’

‘I’ve never introduced you.’

‘It even has a damn snorkel and a roll cage!’


Charlie looked at the slightly panic stricken face of his agent.

‘Not getting paranoid are we Simon? She dropped a box of books to my last book signing. You weren’t in so she offered.’

‘She’s been acting strange recently, that’s all.’

‘Of course she’s acting strange, she’s a woman. It’s when she starts acting normal you have to worry. It is a cool car though.’

‘It’s not hers her dad left it to her.’

‘Simon, fucking relax.’

‘You’re right. I’ll start acting like you shall I? Get drunk for days on end, eat shit, swear at everyone?’

Charlie pulled the car up outside the studio and stopped the engine.

‘Sure, if you want to.’

‘I wasn’t agreeing with you.’


Charlie gave him a friendly pat on the back.

‘You know, it’s a pretty easy life, just doing what you want.’

‘Yes, I’m sure.’


A man in a suit was waiting by the entrance of the studio. He noticed Charlie and Simon and waved them over.

‘Ok, that’s the producer. He’ll brief you before you go on. You must do what he tells you. Marcus, how are you!’ Simon called from a distance.

Marcus ushered them to hurry up.

‘Simon, I didn’t think you were going to make it,’ said Marcus.

‘It’s nice to see you again,’ said Simon.

‘And Charlie,’ said Marcus turning to Charlie, ‘I’m a big fan of your work, very funny stuff, glad to have you on the show.’

Charlie considered this interesting critique of his work and replied dryly, ‘My next book is about a blind alcoholic orphan. She gets raped by a ghost and spends most of the story sitting in a dark room swearing at the walls until she finally dies of aids.’

The good thing about people like Marcus, or anyone who has a job that involves holding a clip board and having a wire leading to your ear with people telling you to tell someone else to hurry up, is that they never really hear anything anyone says to them. This is why his response to Charlie’s reply was, ‘Looking forward to it. The green room is on the right. The makeup girl will be with you in a few moments.’

Charlie looked at him like a wizard looks at a clown.

‘I fucked your dad,’ he said.



Charlie sat in the green room staring at the mirror.



‘Do you really think people who watch GMTV actually want to read my books?’


‘The only people who want to read my books are either drunk students or bored serial killers.’

The makeup girl came in wearing a short mini skirt and a low cut top. I would describe her in more detail but I’m not sure it’s necessary.


To Simon’s initial relief Charlie seemed to be behaving himself on set. He answered the questions well with a light sense of humour and gave witty anecdotes about how the book was written. He even offered to sign a copy for the interviewer, Ben Shepherd. (It later transpired that Charlie had just drawn a picture of a penis with a smiley face on the tip and the word BEN in big letters along the shaft). The segment came to a close with a final question.

‘Thank you for coming on the show. We’re all big fans. What do you have planned for the rest of the day?’

Charlie smiled and said, ‘I think I’m going to fuck your makeup girl.’

Ben went red.

‘Err… sorry about that ladies and gentleman. We’ll see you after this short break.’


Charlie and Simon hurried back to the green room to get their things and get out before the producer had a chance to come down on them.

‘What the hell is wrong with you?!’ said Simon.

‘What? He was asking for it.’

‘How does Ben Shepherd “ask for it”? He’s the most unthreatening man on TV!’

‘He said he was a fan of my book.’

‘How is that a bad thing?’

‘He’s never read the book.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘It’s Ben Shepherd! He’s never read any book! He would struggle with The Very Hungry Caterpillar!’


‘Exactly!’ Said Charlie.

‘You won’t be allowed on ITV again and the BBC probably won’t have you.’

‘I don’t really care.’