“This is bleedin’ ridiculous.” Miki says.
It’s just after midnight. We’re standing out in Edgbaston Road scanning the deserted street. Hunt tugs open the battered transit’s back doors.
“Yeah, well you lot are on the dole.” Hunt says. “Can’t be too careful. Now get this lot inside, sharpish.”
Miki trots back and we start lugging boxes out of the van and up the front steps into the flat. Fifteen minutes later we stand in our downstairs back room, sweat-spangled, and surveyed our haul, about twenty five large, cardboard boxes. The room is divided neatly up the middle by a long trestle table. On one end is clamped a small industrial stapling machine, alongside a flat board with a couple of lengths of 2 x 1 nailed onto it to form a right angle, and a large wooden spoon.
“I suppose we might as well get started.” Miki says, thrumming his knuckles against the side of his nose.
“What now?” I ask.
“What else you got to do? We’re both skint.”
“Some sleep would be nice.”
“You can sleep tomorrow.” he says.
“Well you can sleep when you’re dead then. Besides, it costs money to be in a band.”
“Tell me about it.” I say.
We crack a couple of cartons and started laying sequential stacks along the table of pages of B’ham Arts Lab underground comic books. We will spend the night trudging around the table collating the pages into complete comics, that we then folde on the right angle with the wooden spoon, and finally stapled. For this we will be paid on a per comic basis. Working flat out for two days and nights we can make a month’s dole. But don’t tell the government, eh?
“Come on then you subversive git.” Miki says. “Let’s get a move on.”
“Down with the State.” I mutter.
“Yeah. Power to the people, innit Jon.” he says and grins.
Two days later, I feel as if I’d been born in that room, hands ink-stained, racked with back ache, circling the table like a clockwork toy with a defective leg. Miki is hunched over the stapler, a blur of finished comics fly from his hands to land in ever-growing stacks in the corner.
Earlier that afternoon Gavin has joined me in orbit round the table. He’s almost as tall as me so we’ve jacked the table up on bricks to appease the gods of backache.
“Got this new reggae song.” I say.
“Oh yeah?” Gavin says with less than enthusiasm.
“Goes a bit like this – ah ah ah aah, ah ah ah aah, ah ah ah aah aah oh oop a ah ah aah aah.”
“Very nice, I’m sure.” Gavin says dully.
“Needs words really.” I say.
“I was thinking of calling it Killing Time. Y’know, after Mulligan’s disco at the Golden Eagle. Be about a night there sort of thing.”
“You know,” Gavin says, “There’s a bloke there, goes around just walking up to birds and asking them if they shag.”
“Disgusting.” I say.
“Dunno. Doesn’t go home alone much so I’ve heard.”
“Yeah. Well. Shag anything some people.” I say.
I ah-ah-aahed Killing Time a bit.
“A clockwork dance.” I sing.
“No circumstance.” Gavin adds.
“No great distance.” My mock-Jamaican accent thickens the last word to “distonce”.
“Er … between this day and any other.” Gavin supplies. “Doesn’t rhyme at the end though.”
“Sod it then. Sounds good to me.” I say.
“I shall expect a royalty you know. When it’s on Top of the Pops.”
“Will you take a check?” I ask.
“Very fuckin’ funny.”
Clunk! Gavin has reached the end of the table and just kept going until he’s walked into the window.
“What the --? Oh. I see.” I say. I join him at the window and tug the curtain closed. Out in the backyard Symiane is sunbathing topless again.
“Do you mind?” I say.
“Ought to be a law.” Gavin grumbles.
“Oy,” Miki says, looking up, “would you two ladies care to get a move on. I’m running out over here.”
“Nineteen year-old French girls sunning their tits in your backyard.” Gavin grouches.
“Yeah well just as long as it’s my backyard and my French girl.” I say. “And besides, she’s eighteen.”
Causes Luke James Supports
Doctors Without Borders