Excerpt of The Society of Others by William Nicholson
(Page 3 of 4)
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So here I am in the process of not applying for jobs because the only jobs that
would take me are the jobs I do not wish to take. It's exactly like sex. The
women you really want are the ones who don't really want you. This is not a
coincidence. Things that are out of reach are desirable precisely because
there's no chance you'll get what you want. Getting what you want is to be
avoided at all costs. Ask for the moon.
You may be wondering how I propose to live, given that I have no means of
earning my living. I propose to be a parasite. To be precise, I propose to live
in symbiotic parasitism. My host and provider is of course my father. My father
makes a lot of money, he can afford it. I'm not expensive to run. And if you're
thinking, Why should he keep you? I reply, Because he asked.
Think about it. I wouldn't be at this party if he and my mother hadn't invited
me. Between them they hauled me off some cloud where I was peacefully bothering
nobody, and fixed me up with a helpless needy baby body, and made me dependent
on them. They never said, Here's the deal, we look after you till you're not
cute any more, then you're on your own. If they had I would have said thanks but
no thanks. I'll stay incorporeal on my cloud. It was all their idea. So now
they've got me.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't about what happened between the two of them.
That's their business. My mother's totally cool about it apart from calling my
father "the late" which is relatively modest in the retaliation
stakes. You won't hear me sadding on about broken homes either because
absolutely nothing is broken and everyone's good friends with everyone and my
mother and Gemma are like sisters, particularly now that Gemma is pregnant,
though with a considerable age gap. So I come from an expanded home. I like
Gemma too, despite not knowing what relation she is to me, maybe step-partner?
Also I admit it kind of throws me that she's so attractive, especially when I
catch myself looking longer than is strictly polite at her mouth.
My father of course is guilty which is not my problem, and if it makes him more
inclined to go on supporting me, why should I complain? It's not such a bad deal
for him. A small financial outlay buys him the comforting sense that he's doing
his duty. So don't give me a hard time about not getting a job.
This morning, on the day before it begins, I have a premonition. This is not as
significant as it sounds. I'm always having premonitions. Like when I see a
nice-looking girl coming up an escalator towards me, say, I'll have this
premonition that she'll smile at me and I'll get off at the bottom and go up her
side and she'll be waiting. Or I get a message to ring home and I have this
premonition that a jumbo jet has crashed on our house and all my family are dead
and I'm alone in the world and a homeless wanderer. None of these things ever
happen but the premonition happens, so maybe the wonders and disasters are still
to come, stacked up somewhere in my future. Maybe some time soon they'll all
happen at once, in a sequence of rapid-fire explosions like a firework.
This particular premonition is that someone is calling me. I listen, and hear
nothing. So then it seems to me not that someone is calling me, but that someone
is wanting me. I think about it some more, and realise there isn't a someone,
only the wanting. So this is my premonition: I am wanted. This is a new one on
me. There's nothing to get excited about in it, so I forget about it. But it
doesn't forget about me. It comes back, from time to time, like something I'm
supposed to do but have forgotten. It annoys me.
My mother's upset because I don't come down for meals any more. It's not the
food I mind, it's her face watching me as if it hurts her just to see me eat. Or
not eat. I'm not much of an eater. I prefer to sort it out for myself, without
all the fuss and conversation. So long as there's bread and cheese or a bowl of
cereal I'm okay. It turns out to be easier to eat at night, when they're all
asleep. I don't even switch on the kitchen lights. I just leave the fridge door
open and eat by the light that comes out from behind the eggs.
Excerpted from The
Society of Others by William Nicholson, pages 1-8. Copyright © 2005 by William
Nicholson. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.