Last night the beautiful nun mums of Old Trunk hosted another of their brilliant Tales & Ales events at The Alex in Southend. They kindly asked if I would like to do a reading. The subject matter for this session was Tinkers, Scoundrels, Dunderheads & Pricks. Fortunately I had just the right piece, a section from my new novel The Stamp Collective.
The Stamp Collective is a tale of camaraderie, brotherhood, sex, death, Tom Jones and the Oedipus complex. In the following scene the Stamp brothers are at the wake of their mother who they lost to cancer.
Benny was stood at the buffet table. Despite his invested interest in the event, he had taken to the task of ‘putting on a good spread’ with professional aplomb and the delicate aperitifs had all been prepared by his hand. He had spent two days and nights up shaping, carving, scooping and seasoning in order to provide the kind of food his mother loved him for. Despite her constant claim she was on a diet, prior to the cancer of course, Mrs. Stamp had always been a fan of ‘picky bits’. This was in fact the exact phrase used in her will to describe her funeral arrangements.
Benny was also drunk. Nowhere near as far gone as either of his brothers but his constitution was legendary. He could drink an entire bottle of vodka before leaving the house for a night out. He did however have a tendency to get either a bit feely or a bit violent when the occasion and the drink took him.
‘This grub is a bit wanky’ said the gentleman to Benny’s left, throwing a stuffed plum tomato back onto the silver tray. ‘Where’s the fucking vol-au-vents?’
‘I’ll give you the fucking vol-au-vents!’ screamed Benny and grabbed the man’s head between his hands, twisting it until it was close to coming off before slamming it onto and through the table. Despite their pretty appearance, decorated with white lace table clothes, candles and flowers, the tables were essentially cheap chipboard affairs dressed up. The man hollered as he went through, the contents on either side of the split sliding in on him. Trays of profiteroles and filo pastry prawns collided as they met under gravity’s sweet gaze on and around him. The high pile of china plates intercut with red paper napkins flipped out across the floor.
Hearing the sound of smashing crockery acted like a summons for Frank and Rees. They knew straight away that there was only one person invited to the wake who had the capacity for such chaos if it were neither of them.
They ran to the scene of the crime, suddenly sobered by the materialisation of a family emergency. By this point the fallen man, Tony, had made it to his feet and was swinging a drumstick in their brother’s face. His cheek was already beginning to bruise from the impact with the falling trays, his shirt was soaked with fruit punch and chocolate fondant and the crotch of his trousers was splattered with a test batch of Benny’s homemade sauce.
‘Oi’ shouted Rees, ‘stop aiming that chicken leg at my brother!’
‘You!’ shouted Tony just as loudly, ‘you’re the one who has been hitting on my bird.’
Rees automatically shot a look over to the table of women. One of them waved a monogrammed handkerchief at him in an act of confession.
‘She told me she was getting divorced.’
‘Yeah! And I’m her boyfriend.’
‘You’re not a boy though’ said Rees. ‘You’re a cunt!’
Before Tony could make any kind of move he let out a scream as Frank smashed a ramekin of Thousand Island sauce into the bridge of his nose. Frank watched as Tony fell to the floor, confused as to how his simple action could have had this equal and opposite reaction.
‘What did you do that for?’ asked Benny.
‘What?’ dribbled Frank, ‘I thought we were having a fight.’
‘Leg it!’ said Rees as they heard the approach of sirens.
The three brothers headed for the door but were caught by a sudden influx of policemen.
‘What the hell is going on in here!’ asked one of the uniformed constables. Nobody answered. The room was still. At the back of the long hall Tony let out a soft moan and blindly walked into the smashed half of a table before falling down once more.
‘Sorry, we were having a wake’ said Frank, sweeping his fringe which was soaked in gin back from his eyes. ‘Things got a little out of hand and we are sorry but we will be quieter. We buried Mother today you see.’
‘You’re just lucky we were passing. What happened to him?’
Frank, Benny and Rees turned to where the policeman was pointing. Tony was attempting to wipe his eyes clean of pink dressing and blood with the sleeve of his white shirt. He looked dizzy, even in his seated position and may well have been suffering from a concussion.
‘Oh don’t worry about him officer, he’s just had a little too much of the sauce.’
The Stamp Collective will be independently published in Spring 2014.
Edit: I wanted to thank the guy who bought a copy of my short stories. Very cool of you. Hope you enjoy it.