He scanned the job ads. He was seriously thinking about retraining. Administration. There were always jobs in administration. Israel knew he would make a great administrator. He just needed the right thing to administrate. How difficult could it be, being an administrator? Israel Armstrong is The Admini- strator. He could see it, in his minds eye. When the going gets tough there are men who know how to take charge. Men who know how to make things happen. Men who know how to administrate. He had many times cast the film adaptation of the book of his lifehe imagined John Cusack playing him, or someone younger, maybe Owen Wilson, he would be fine, he had an intelligent face, and Harvey Keitel as Ted, maybe, and a nice little cameo for Steve Buscemi, although obviously hed have to beef up a bit, and Salma Hayek would be perfect as Gloria . . .
The trouble was, though, he wasnt in the film of the book of his life. He was in his life, in which he had split with his longtime girlfriend, Gloria, was living in a converted chicken coop, and was paid exactly fifteen thousand pounds a year as a mobile librarian on the northernmost coast of the north of the north of Northern Ireland. And he was nearly thirty. He had somehow become a shadow of himself, as though he were somewhere else and this thingthis bodywas having experiences on his behalf. It was like his own life had become a series of ancient lantern slides, or an old video, or a shaky cine-show, or a snippet on YouTube, or a cinema trailer for a blockbusting main feature called Failure. He had no idea what he was doing here or what was the point or how he was feeling. All he knew was that sometimes, in the chicken coop, hed wake in the night sobbing and sobbing, his chest heaving, and there were these black beetles all over the floor, and when he switched on the light the beetles froze, like they were holding their breath, waiting for something, their own destruction, or salvation, possibly, or the dark again, and thats exactly what he felt like . . .
Time up! said Ted, bashing back through the door. Not ready?
Look, Ted, Im really not feeling the best this morning. Can we maybe reschedule?
Yeah. Just, if you could give me a couple of days maybe and Ill get back to you.
Yell get back to me?
Yeah. I just need a little time to take stock and
Ach, Jesus. Fine.
At which Ted walked over to the bed, bent down, locked his knees, and grabbed hold of the bed frame.
Ill tell ye what, he huffed. Take stock. Huff. Of.
And he stood up, flinging the metal frame up as he stood.
Israel fell onto the floor, only the quilt protecting him from serious injury and a thousand cuts from the smashed wine bottles.
What the hell are you doing, you madman! screamed Israel, leaping up, flannelette pajamaclad, from the floor. I could have broken my back!
Your back! said Ted, straightening up. Your back! I could have broken my blinkin
back, ye eejit!
Ahh! said Ted painfully.
Are you all right?
Of course Im not blinkin all right, ye eejit! Aahh!
Shall I get George, or
No, ye shall not, said Ted, drawing himself up stiffly to his not inconsiderable shaven-headed height. What yell do is get dressed in the van is what yell do, or Ill
Excerpted from The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom. Copyright © 2010 by Ian Sansom. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. 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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