Excerpt from Speaking With The Angel by Nick Hornby, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Speaking With The Angel

by Nick Hornby

Speaking With The Angel
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    Feb 2001, 256 pages

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But like I said, it wasn’t the hours at the club. There were a couple of nasty moments recently, and I told her about them because they frightened me, so of course she did her nut, and I promised her I’d pack it in. See, the trouble is no, it doesn’t matter how handy you are. I mean, half those kids who went down in Casablanca’s, I literally could pick them up by the neck with one had, and when you can do that…Put it this way, I didn’t need to change my underpants too often. (I do anyway, though, everyday, in case you were thinking I’m an unhygienic bastard.) But now everyone’s tooled up. No-one says, I’m going to have you. They all say, I’m going to cut you, or I’m going to stab you, and I’m going yeah, yeah, and then they show you what they’ve got, and you think, fucking hell, this isn’t funny anymore. Because how can you look after yourself if someone’s got a knife? You can’t. Anyway, about a month ago I threw this nasty little piece of work out of the club because he’d pushed it too far with a girl who was in there with her mates. And to be honest I probably slapped him once more than was strictly necessary, because he really got on my fucking nerves. And the next thing I know, he’s got this…this thing, this…I’ve never seen anything like it before, but it was a sort of spike, about six inches long, sharp as fuck and rusty, and he starts jabbing it at me and telling me that I was dead. I was lucky, because he was scared, and he was holding this thing all wrong so it was pointing down at the ground instead of towards me, so I kicked his hand as hard as I fucking could and he dropped it, and I jumped on him. We called the police and they nicked him, but when they’d gone I knocked off. I’d had enough. I know people think: they think that if that’s the sort of job you choose, you’re asking for whatever you get, and you probably want it, too, because you’re a big ape who likes hurting people. Well, bollocks. I don’ like hurting people. For me, a good night at Casablanca’s is one where nothing’s happened at all. I mean, OK, I’ll probably have to stop a couple of people coming in because they’re underage, or bombed out of their brains, but I see my job as allowing people to have a good time without fear of arseholes. Really, I do. I mean, OK, I’m not Mother Theresa or anything, I’m not doing good works or saving the world, but it’s such a shitty job if you look at it like that. But I’m a family man. I can’t have people waving rusty spikes at me at two in the morning. I don’t want to die outside some poxy club. So I told Lisa about it, and we talked, and I packed it in. I was lucky because I was only out of work for a fortnight. They wouldn’t let me draw the dole because I’d left my previous employment voluntarily. "But this geezer had a rusty spike," I said. "Well you should have taken it up with your employers," she said. Like they would have offered me a desk job. Or given the kid with a spike a written warning. It didn’t matter much, though, ‘cos I found this one pretty much straight way, at an employment bureau. The money’s a lot less, but the hours are better. I was well chuffed. How hard can it be, I thought, standing in front of a painting?

So. We had the induction hour, and then we were led through the gallery to our positions. On the way I was trying to work out whether I’d ever been in an art gallery before or not. You’d think I’d remember, but the trouble is, art galleries look exactly like you think they’re going to look—a load of corridors with pictures hanging on them and people wandering around. So how would I know if I’d been to one before? It feels like I have, but maybe I’ve just seen one on the telly, or in the films—there’s that bit in "Dressed to Kill", isn’t there, where that bloke’s trying to pick her up, and they keep seeing each other in different rooms. I can say this for sure, though: I’ve never had a good time in one. If I have ever been, it was on a school trip, and I was bored out of my skull, like on just about every school trip I was taken. The only one I remember now is when we went to some Roman ruins somewhere, and I nicked a few stones out of this mosaic thing. I stood on the edge and loosened a few with my foot, and while the teacher was talking, I crouched down as if to do up my shoelace and slipped a few in my pocket. And when we got back on the coach, I showed all the other lads what I’d done, and it turned out they’d all done exactly the same, and we were holding half the fucking floor in our hands. And the next thing we knew the bloke in charge of the place was chasing the coach down the street, and we all had to go to the front and put what we’d nicked into a carrier bag. We got in a lot of trouble for that. Anyway, what I reckon is we did go to an art gallery somewhere, and I don’t remember it because nobody walked off with a painting …

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