Friday, 3 September 2010
This London morning, I waited outside the Menier Chocolate Factory in excellent disguise.
I wore a lime green tracksuit that I’d half-inched from a drama school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set on a council estate. On my head I wore a baseball cap. The cap was as orange as a fresh Satsuma. I had toyed with wearing a fake moustache and had unearthed an appropriate hairpiece from under the bed. I had no make-up glue, however, and Pritt-Stick wouldn’t hold the fucker.
And so I crouched, a red postbox in front of face, the dull Thames behind bum. The early English afternoon was as murky as a strong cup of tea. There was suggestion of rain in the breeze. But I cared not if the heavens broke. I had my revenge to seize. And no amount of bastard water could stop me.
After four hours, I abandoned my crouch and sat on one of the stiff riverside benches. I read the Guardian a full three times. I even studied the sports pages. A picture of David Beckham dominated these. I wondered how I’d style my hair if I were him. It would be cut short. And it wouldn’t be married to Posh Spice. No. She looked the moaning type.
Desire for retribution began to dribble from my soul. I was on the decision-edge of going to the pub. Five more minutes, I thought.
Fate: and it was within those exact five minutes that Julian Macbeth’s smug figure left the protection of the rehearsal space. He was inevitably talking with Rosalind, my Lady Macbeth, and, with greater inevitability, he was wearing ridiculous clothes: a flat cap and cravat. Jesus F Christ. They stood in the Menier’s tree-circled car park that backed onto the river (Thames).
Rosalind’s mobile rang and she sweetly excused herself from Julian’s loathsome company. Julian waited, but moved away when Rosalind turned her back. He shrugged and approached the river walkway. Even though I, Kay Richardson, sat not five metres from the man, he looked straight through me. That’s how effective my disguise was.
Here’s the moment I reveal the plan. Know first, however, that Julian had often proudly declared that he could not swim. He had stated that athletes were genetic throwbacks. I stole this memory-nugget, as I guessed it might prove useful in the future. I had, of course, been correct.
This was the plan:
I push Julian into the Thames (dressed as a low-income type, so he didn’t recognise me). He will begin to die from water – splashing around like an angry Octopus.
As Julian struggles, not waving but drowning, I will hide in a hedge or something and rip off my tracksuit to reveal my cool street civilian clothing. I shall also take off the orange baseball cap. At this moment, recognisably Kay-like, I will jump from hedge and pick up the long branch of tree (which I had chopped down earlier and placed on path) and offer it from wall to Julian’s flapping grip. This will save him from splashy death until a boat/strong swimmer appears.
Revenge will be mine in two ways:
1) I will have almost killed the man;
2) I will be responsible for saving his life.
As a Londony twat, Julian’s ego could never withstand the knowledge barrage that it was me, Kay Richardson the ‘laddish sham’, who saved his life. He would either shrivel and decay, or forget himself and offer my job back. Either way, I would be the victor.
Following his tweedy back along the river, the realisation of how difficult it would be to launch the man over the four and a half foot wall that separated the river (10 foot below) from the path crept over my mind. I would have to lift Julian’s struggling body fully feet in the air to achieve enough purchase to get him over the stone barrier. Not for the first time in my life, I cursed my lack of preparation. I should have ‘cased’ my route the night previous, instead of going to The Railway and drinking cider and black until my urine turned purple.
But with a firm jaw, and a firmer grip, lift Julian I did. As a pretentious mediatype, he was far lighter than one might think.
“Think of my iPhone,” he called as I got him to the top of the wall. We struggled for a few seconds, but with a final shove, he tottered, and disappeared. A satisfying splash followed.
The immediate path was empty, and those walkers further down (front and back) were Londoners and so intervention appeared unlikely. I dived into the shit-green bush that stood the other side of the path and ripped the luminescent tracksuit from my cool threads. Seconds were wasted on a dodgy zipper. But, with cap a-tossed, I soon stumbled back through bramble to riverside path.
There I faced Rosalind, that gorgeous Lady Macbeth.
“Kay!” she said, removing white earphones.
Three thoughts occurred:
1) The air lacked the noise of man drowning (although there was a little splashing and the growl of petrol engine);
2) Rosalind had an A1 body and a face to match;
3) It would be bad if Julian died.
“Hullo Rosalind,” said I.
“What are you doing stumbling from bushes?” she asked.
“I got lost,” I replied. “I saw a ghost.”
Her faced turned sympathetic – almond eyes and angled head.
“I was just going home,” she said. Beat. “We’ve missed you.”
“Oh,” I replied.
Her tone changed.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
She thought I’d returned to the Menier Chocolate Factory because my life was empty and I didn’t know what else to do. But I’m no Greyfriar Bobby.
“I’m not like that dog,” I said and she frowned.
A lycra-jogger pushed past us. The scent of his sweat lingered in the London air.
“I tried to call the other day,” said Rosalind. “To see if you were OK. I’m not sure I’ve got the right number. I’ve texted …” She tailed off. “Why do you keep looking at the river?”
An alien compulsion to ‘do the right thing’ overcame me. I didn’t check Rosalind had the correct telephone number, as every heterosexual fibre in my body (all of them) screamed for me to do. Instead, I clambered upon the river wall.
“Kay?” called Rosalind, urgently.
Below, the river flowed still. There were no drowning men. Only a few barges and pleasure cruises further out. My stomach churned with solemn worry. Julian could be lying dead on the floor of the Thames, fish nibbling at his nose.
“There’s something I must do,” I said.
Eyes locked to Rosalind, I dived into the river.
Whappo! Shock of water the colour of sewage, breaking my body. A hammer of cold struck, as I was devoured by the Thames. But soon my air-filled head broke the surface, and I was able to take stock, look around, and gasp for wet breath. Control my panic.
There was nothing. No bodies. No birds. Not even a shopping trolley. I dived under. My blind eyes saw only brown. My hands turned frantically across the river bed, disturbing only dust. I rose once more, doggy-paddled, and plunged under further downstream.
Now I touched metal, I touched rock, I even touched fish. But nothing like human. As sightless as a worm, I realised that my search for the body was futile. Breaking the surface for air, I trod water.
There was no Julian on surface neither.
With a splash of white wave, Rosalind appeared beside me. She pulled an arm around my neck and tugged my body through the grey waves to the landing platform for the river cruise party boat.
Water surged over my head and I caught an image of Rosalind’s face – twisted in effort and determination. She thought that she was saving me.
There was a blur of effort and a pain of biceps and I was soaking on a platform made of wooden sleepers, a dripping Rosalind standing over me. Breathless. The shock of cold, of water and of the plan gone hellishly wrong had emptied my mind of language. The roll of the landing platform ached beneath my soggy back.
“Kay. Oh Kay,” gasped Rosalind.
My brain formed words. They were of death and murder and drowning.
Ignoring the growing panic in my stomach, I made no mention of Julian.
In time, I was taken to Southwark Police Station. The Police had (correctly) made a connection between the strange depositing of Julian in the Thames and my own jump at similar time and location. They’d come to arrest me after Rosalind had phoned to report my attempted suicide (I pleaded with her not to , but she was convinced I’d get free counselling).
Julian was not dead, the pigs told me.
Julian, it seems, had lucked out. I hadn’t bothered to look where I’d chucked him. If I had, I would have seen him land fortuitously splash next to a rubbish barge. He had been pulled upon the boat by the rubbish men within seconds, his greatest injury being a soggy iPod. He was back on terra firma in one minute. He’d contacted the Police immediately.
Rosalind submitted a witness statement to the Cops. She surmised that I had attempted suicide because of the pain I suffered in being sacked from Macbeth. When asked of the assault upon Julian, she told the investigating sergeant that I was of good character and she doubted that I would have tried to kill Julian. She also stressed how doubly unlikely it would have been for me to wear a green tracksuit, as Julian reported his attacker had done. It was just a whopping coincidence, she said.
As there were no witnesses to Julian’s fall and Julian himself stated that he couldn’t reliably identify me as the assailant, I was released from the station without charge. My clothes remained soaking wet, though, and so I was forced to return to Outer Blackheath in a police uniform – the only dry clothes that the bastards could find to fit. Sitting dully upon the 1455 to Dartford (via Lewisham) train, I was the victim of much verbal abuse.
“Oink! Oink!” the children would oink.
All in, it was not a successful day.
Posted by Kay Richardson at 17:11