Dave Rudman hardly ever used to go into the dozen or so cabbies shelters that were still scattered about Central London. However, nowadays he was so skint he needed the cheap and greasy fuel the old biddies who ran them pumped out. They were weird little structures, the shelters, like antediluvian cricket pavilions of green wood, which the city had grown up around. Inside, the cabbies sat jawing and noshing at a table covered with a plastic cloth. So many cabbies, their faces dissipated by the life like those of prematurely aged peasants, worn out by their bigoted credo. Dave didnt want to talk about the lost boy, but last week, in the shelter in Grosvenor Gardens, when some pillock of a cabbie, seeing Daves face, horsey with depression, stupidly asked what was eating him, Dave spilled. Then the other cabbie quipped: A woman is like a hurricane: when they pitch up theyre wet and wild, and when they bugger off they take your house and your car.
Michelle hadnt only taken Daves house; shed got a bigger, flasher one. Shed even got a new daddy for Daves boy and how fucking sick is that? As for this Cohen cow who was milking Dave, she must ave a fucking meter in her desk drawer and every time I bell her she pops it on and it goes up and up, fifty quid at a time, a wunner for a letter. Then theres the brief she gets to stand up on his hind legs in the judges chambers for a grand a pop but I bet she gets a kick-back, though. Cow. Lawyers theyre all scum.
As the cab crawled up the Edgware Road, the fare looked bemused by the shiny pavements thronged by Arabs. Arabs sitting behind the plate-glass windows of Maroush supping fruit juices and smoking shishas, Arabs stopping at kiosks to buy their newspapers full of squashed-fly print. Their women flapped along behind them, tagged and bagged, but under their chadors theyre tricked out like fucking tarts in silk undies, they are. It gives em a big turn-on . . . And my ex, with her little job up in Hampstead, wrapping up thongs in fucking tissue paper . . . Shes just the same . . . Theyre all the same . . . Where to in Mill Hill exactly, guv?
Oh . . . sure . . . OK . . . The fare did some uncrumpling. Its right next to somewhere called Wills Grove, but it doesnt have a name of its own, its like a lane.
I know it.
You know it?
I know it its by the school.
Thats right. Im going to see a man who works at the National Research Institute its business thats why Im here. I work for CalBioTech you may have heard of us. Were one of the organizations developing human genome patents . . . When Dave didnt respond, the fare continued on another tack: I must say, Im very impressed by how well you know London. Very impressed. In Denver, where I live, you cant get a driver who knows downtown let alone the burbs.
Dave Rudman had been to New York once, dragged there resisting by his ex-wife, a drogue behind her jet. The human ant heap was bad enough but worse was the disorientation. Even with the grid system, I didnt know the runs, I didnt know the points . . . I was fucking ignorant . . . Ill happily let America alone, mate, coz my Knowledge is all here. There are plenty of fucking thickos right here I dont need to go across the pond and learn your lot. Not that Im even bothering with these ones, Ive done it now, Ive said my piece, an Ill tell you what the real knowledge is fer nuffing! Women and their fucking wiles, kids and how the loss of them can drive a man fucking mad, money and how the getting of it breaks your bloody back! The obsolete Apricot computer sat in the garage of his parents house on Heath View. It squatted there on an old steamer trunk, beside two of his fathers defunct one-armed bandits, their innards exposed, once glossy oranges and lemons waxed by the twilight. In a rare moment of clarity an oblique glance through the quarterlight of his mind Dave Rudman remembered the long shifts in his Gospel Oak flat. The tapping and the transcribing, the laying down of His Law. Then his eyes tracked back to the misty windscreen, and the figure hunched over the keyboard hadnt been him at all only some other monk or monkey.
Excerpted from The Book of Dave by Will Self Copyright © 2006 by Will Self. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Press (USA). All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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