Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low life | 14 January 2012

I was woken by my phone ringing. My boy. ‘What time is it?’ I said. ‘Ten past one,’ he said. ‘How are you feeling?’ This was said with a very obvious and unkind touch of schadenfreude. ‘Terrible,’ I said. I felt as though I might be dying, and the sooner the better. ‘Where are you?’ he said. That I did know. ‘I’m in the bar manager of the Merry Fiddler’s bed,’ I said. ‘Oh, yes?’ he said, pretending heightened interest. Feebly, I checked under the duvet. ‘But she’s not here,’ I said. ‘And I’m still wearing my suit and overcoat.’

He rang off and I sank back into oblivion. When I woke next the house was still quiet.  I found to my surprise that I could stand on my own two feet. I tottered downstairs, retched unproductively over the lavatory bowl, then tottered into the sitting room. In here were two sofas, a telly and a glass corner unit, lit from within, containing a large tropical snake — a python, I guessed. It was coiled on the single shelf, its head raised and immobile, as if it was working over a conundrum, or going over past mistakes. On one of the sofas, stretched out on her back under a duvet, breathing gently and evenly, was the bar manager. Another wave of nausea broke over me. I lay down on the other sofa, facing the snake, and tried piecing together the events of the night before.

I’d been to a few pubs and a New Year’s Eve party. I’d smoked skunk, I remembered. And I remembered Tom’s partner’s brother telling me about the book he’d read that had changed his life. I remembered, too, his telling me the book’s main message was that we must try to ignore the negative commentary going on in our heads.

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