The third story in the collection is PRAY TO THE VOID by TONY O NEILL – I considered it a great coup to get a Tony O Neill story and it all came about through a mutual contact and friend who writes under the name Cosmo Clinton.
Tony has so far been famous in two creative areas. In his teens and twenties he was a musician and played with bands such as Kenickie, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and with singers Kelli Ali and Marc Almond.
His first foray into writing was with DIGGING THE VEIN which was published in 2006. This debut novel and many of his subsequent works used his years in the music industry and addiction to heroin and crack as inspiration – he was also on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008 for ‘HERO OF THE UNDERGROUND,’ a book he co wrote about the memoirs of NFL player Jason Peters. Several of his works have been sought after and optioned for potential movies in Hollywood.
As far as I know PRAY TO THE VOID, the comic misadventures of an addict fresh out of rehab, has not been published elsewhere but you can read it in the ONE MILLION PROJECT, placed in the third position due to the prominence of its author – its also a damn good story!
Here is an extract from the opening :
‘I had left drug rehab half an hour ago and I was in a liquor store trying to cash a check for four hundred and fifty dollars. For the past three weeks I had been looking at the giant neon sign for this liquor store from out of my window. The sign was an enormous grinning neon clown who promised ICE COLD BEERS – CERVESA. Now I was here. Before, the place had seemed as mysterious and inaccessible as some long forgotten continent. Now that I was out of rehab it was just another liquor store, containing no magic whatsoever, just bottles: row upon row of bottles.
The old Indian behind the counter took my check, took his cut, before counting the remainder back to me. I put the money in my wallet and went to leave. Then I stopped, and turned around. I walked to the back of the store. Banks of refrigerators lined the back wall. I opened up a door. The cool air hit me immediately. I examined the rows of glistening cans and glass bottles. They had Mexican beers, European beers, and 40oz bottles of American beer. The bottom two shelves had the heavier stuff. Bum juice: shit like Olde English 800, Crazy Horse, Steel Reserve, and Colt 45. I grabbed a 40oz bottle of Crazy Horse and walked back to the counter. Handed over the bills, twisted off the cap and took a long, thirsty slug from the bottle. I breathed for the first time in weeks, and looked at the old man again. He had been staring at me. He dropped his gaze and I took another two or three long belts, killing the bottle. I dropped the empty in the trashcan on my way out.
I was free.
Susan picked me up half an hour later. As I sat baking on the street under the fierce sun, the last few weeks of prayers and advice ran through my head. If you use again, you will die. That seemed to be the general idea. After a month of nothing stronger than coffee the booze had given me a pleasant high. When Susan pulled up she was driving some piece of shit Volvo station wagon with rust patches. She had put on weight and shaved her head. She had a look in her eyes that scared me. Susan seemed to get crazier when she was sober. The insanity that the drugs were masking was closer to the surface now.
I got in the car. We just sat there in silence for a while, not making eye contact.
“How you feeling?” she asked.
“Fuckin’ good to be out.”
“What d’you wanna do?”
I shrugged. “I have four hundred and thirty seven dollars. Do we have a place to stay?”
“Yup. Found an apartment in Hollywood, belongs to a guy I met in rehab. Says we can stay there as long as we want so long as we don’t use drugs there. He’s clean now. Working the program.”
“You wanna get high?” I asked.’
Story Number Four is the second entry of mine out of eleven, but its not the second one I wrote. Having started with a more serious one (SLICE OF LIFE) and seeing as the first three stories, while not without humour, were reasonably heavy, I wanted something very light and full on comedic to follow.
THE DIARY OF AN INCONSEQUENTIAL MAN is sort of a mix of Adrian Mole (if he were in his fifties) and some inspiration taken from my experiences as a teacher working in PUPIL REFERRAL UNITS where I met some very arrogant and egotistical people as well as many lovely ones. Diary looks at the kind of pompous tinpot dictator who finds himself the big fish in a very small pond.
If this story ever became popular enough for a small screen adaption, I would definitely want Peter Capaldi to play the main part!
Here is an extract from near the start – December 26th is in fact the first entry.
‘December 26th 20**
Thank goodness that Bob and Julie have finally gone, having consumed the better part of my wine rack and all the comestibles they can get their porky little hands on.
Honestly, I know Margaret loves her brother but do we really have to have them round on Boxing Day. Well I suppose it’s my fault as I did tell Margaret 27 years ago on the eve of our wedding that she could pick two holidays in the calendar year and I didn’t want to deal with them out of a larger group and not at our home if it could be avoided, apart from those two days. Boxing Day and Easter Sunday are my crosses to bear.
It is now 3 minutes to nine and at last I can measure my penis!
Tonight’s measurement inconclusive. Penis remains flaccid and unresponsive to stimuli. I firmly attribute this to Bob over staying his welcome. Margaret should have ejected him and his dreary wife earlier so I had more time to compose myself before my 9pm measurement. She knows my anxieties flare up if I fear I will not be able to keep to a schedule!
December 27th 20**
A relaxing day without disturbances. I am gratified to record that I was able to get on with some work on my non work projects and tabled a sufficient time for relaxation.
I rose at 7:30am precisely (I have always been an early riser. Father used to say Early to bed, early to rise and a full day of accomplishment awaits the organised man) which is my holiday waking time. If it were a school day I would already have been forty minutes in my office.
My routine is simple but as you dear reader of the future … perhaps you are little Michael all grown up or my son Clive may well have had other offspring in the future. Never-the-less, you can learn from your old grandfather or great grandfather as the case may be, just as I have benefitted from the last several generations of Hooper men. I hope one day also to include Great Great Grandfather Charles invaluable journal among my effects. His description of Victorian life and the rigid schedules and standards he held himself to, are inspiring reading as I hope you will find my own.
I rise at 7:30, proceed at once to urinate and then my bathroom routine, in order – clean teeth, a nice hot shave (A man should always shave. I do so every day religiously at either 5:47am or 7:47am depending on work day or not and again at 6:45pm. Occasionally I will add a third shave in the afternoon if I have time. My office has a small en-suite reserved for my exclusive use) then a shower. Breakfast at 6:10 or 8:10am and out of the house at precisely 25 past the hour for work if working or to walk Basil (dog) if not.
Penis situation – the relaxation has done me some good. I managed to achieve a not insubstantial erection. Just a tad under 6 inches so not my best one lengthwise. Tomorrow Margaret is expecting our monthly act of love. I don’t know if I feel up to it; physically I am fine. Perfect even. I just don’t really like doing it anymore. It’s a lot of effort and I’m very concerned I’ll put my back out again.
Have discussed these concerns with Doctor Filmore (Recording of penis stats was his suggestion. 9pm time my own choice.) and he agrees with my conclusions that I am not somehow incapable and that the problem is less a physical thing but more a lack of motivation. He suggested trying role play with Margaret. I shall consider it but in the meantime there is tomorrow to get through. I am loathe to postpone the coitus because Margaret and I discussed the issue of scheduling three years ago and I pride myself on my timekeeping and it is contrary to my very being to not keep a previously agreed upon appointment.
December 28th 20**
I have purchased the tie from M & S. I now have 51 ties so I decided to give the purple one with the jagged blue line to Clive. It was always on my danger list but there was a slight chance I would go with getting shot of the cream silk. In the end though cream silk survives another round of tie elimination. Maybe I will wear it with my blue blazer for the New Term open evening.
Off to walk Basil. In fact I might take him to that new grooming place. Next door have had something done to spiff up their Alsatian (ugly thing. Basil is much more of a handsome hound) and I feel Moncrieff is on the offensive again, smug bastard with his new coy carp pool and garden ‘centre-piece.’
That reminds me. Jetways are coming in on the 30th to fit the Jacuzzi I ordered. Noticed Moncrieff peeking over the fence checking out the new decking. Wait till he sees the finished product!
What a great evening. I don’t know if it was the look on the neighbours face when he saw the newly groomed Basil (Kapow. Double whammy fishpool!), the news that Bob the slob was deservedly taken in to hospital (hardened arteries – poetic justice) or Margaret’s new nightie but tonight I was like a much younger man in the boudoir. Everything working, no loss of excitement and the wife is purring like a kitten. The only downside is I have now set the bar very high for next month!
December 29th 20**
Unable to journal until now. 9:07pm. Back still killing me. I’ve been on pain meds since shortly after waking up. Hardly able to move so Margaret has been waiting on me hand and foot as she bloody should. Did this to myself trying to pleasure her. It’s the least she can do!
Set up an app on my phone to buzz Margaret’s phone when I need her and the best thing is when I press the app upstairs her phone makes a sound like a bell ringing,
Penis completely non reactive but to be fair my efforts to enliven the beast were only half hearted.
December 30th 20**
Can hear Jetways men outside putting the deck together and installing my Jacuzzi. Just in bloody time too – back still aching. Could do with a soothing soak. Plan is for tonight at 7:30pm at the start of Corrie – Moncrieff can’t fail to notice as his window faces directly into our garden. The heaters I paid an arm and a leg for will keep us nice and toasty.
Successful evening. Enacted plan and persuaded Margaret to go into hot tub with me. Saw Moncrieff trying not to look at us. I could almost feel the waves of jealousy coming off the balding cretin.
I must be some kind of super stud. Alright, back was not up to the act of love but at least I know everything is working as I sustained a massive erection while in the hot tub with Margaret. It would not die away so I got Margaret to give me relief with her hand. I think Moncrieff must have known what was going on. The pervert was trying not to look.
December 31st 20**
As I look in the mirror and tie my new M & S tie, I can’t help but reflect that life can sometimes be good and I am a fortunate man. Here I am 52 years old but still slim and trim (unlike Fat Bob. Why do people let themselves go in such a disgusting way?) and I have all my hair (Thinking of you Moncrieff) albeit grey (Margaret called me a silver fox). I am a successful family man with a successful adult son and small grandchild. I am at the top of my field (for now … until they wise up and make me Head of the entire centre not just Head of the Old Treelake site) on fantastic money and my reputation is second to none as is my keen intelligence and insightful mind. I am loved and respected by most, feared by some (gotta keep those T.A’s and newly qualified teachers on their toes!).
Life is indeed good and best of all, Bob and Julie won’t be at tonight’s get together. In fact I’ve managed to swing it that my (chuckle) ‘cronies’ will outnumber the plebs. Yessir there will be plenty of Treelake top brass there.
That reminds me, must ask my Deputy Head of Centre, Helene if the council got back to her about my proposals for the new intensive surveillance policy.
Between you and I dear diary, I sold it as a bold new initiative to keep the evil little sprogs in their place but that’s just an additional side benefit of me having complete and utter control and cognizance of what goes on at my centre. Bloody T.A’s won’t be able to take a shit in their dingy little bathroom without me knowing colour or texture!
January 2nd 20**
A day of diary time missed because some people don’t have a bloody sense of humour! Well admittedly I was too hungover all of yesterday to gather up the enthusiasm but if I had done so I would have had some strong words to say about certain proles and ingrates.
First of all who does Miss ‘Tightarse’ Proctor think she is!? A silly little girl with the brains of most of her gender (with a few exceptions such as Helene and occasionally my wife) and a bloody cheek. Why if I had argued against my bosses opinion when I was 25 and just starting my career, I would have got a right bollocking and the sack and quite rightly so!
I don’t even know what the wench was doing there. Some bright spark in the Science Dept invited her I shouldn’t wonder. Alright she’s been on staff for two years now but as far as I’m concerned that little bubblehead was still on probation and she marked her cards good n proper. Just need to be clever about it. Hmmm, could be I’ll reassign her as class tutor for 10F and simply wait for the meltdown and resignation letter. If that doesn’t work I’ll think up something to get the tart kicked out on her tight little arse.
Fascist and Draconian am I? I have never been talked to like that in all my days in Education and certainly not by a subordinate.
Calm Duncan. Calm.
I should put this in perspective for you dear reader of the future. Helene Morrison, my number two had just toasted me and was positively gushing about my strong, firm leadership and brilliant initiative and how we have turned Old Treelake from a failing PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) into an outstanding (Ofsted’s words, not mine) new school for SEN (Special Educational Needs) children.
Alright, fair enough I have instituted a policy of reclassification – it’s still the same old problem brats in the same building but my genius was to rebrand as ‘not quite an exclusion centre.’ Sure our kids had all been chucked out of schools for extreme bad behaviour or they were ‘vulnerable’ (malingering mental cases some of em) but we considered Old Treelake and the other sites to be a sort of half way school … we put em in uniform and put the fear of god into em and those few totally untameable incorrigibles were quietly removed to some shit hole where they would be stood guard over till they hit 16 and were someone else’s (police probably) problem.
One of my most inspired and genius (Helene’s words not mine) initiatives – the very same one that had made my rep in teaching circles – an initiative that got Duncan Hooper face and name recognition with the likes of Michael Gove – was the very same one which Miss Alison ‘Loony lefty liberal hippy rabble-rouser’ Proctor, felt the need to call ‘disgusting and morally dubious.’
By now you all really want to hear about my brilliance and I will not disappoint you. It was simple. The worst of the brats were coming into the centre and falling asleep on their desks. It soon became apparent that they were staying up all night playing computer games and watching age inappropriate DVDs. What’s more their bunch of spineless waste of space parents (my god, don’t get me started on those cretins!) couldn’t do a damned thing about it.
So leave it to the Duncster. Enter one Duncan Hooper, head teacher extraordinaire – I took one look at the problem and said ‘I AM NOT HAVING THIS!’ and I let it percolate in the old grey matter and before you could say Bob is your fat and despised brother in law, I had in my wisdom, solved the issue with simple elegance.
If a sprog is on their phone in class you confiscate it. Obvious.
So if the problems with electronic gear at home … well, the parents were easy to talk round and as soon as permission was granted, I was round the worst dozen or so offenders’ houses like a whippet. Surprise attack – turn up on a Saturday with the other head teachers, parents let us in and we go up to the stinking cesspools these kids call rooms, brace ourselves against the noxious fart gas therein and liberate the brats of the offending computers, DVDs and electronic gear.
I was rightly called a genius for this and it bloody worked so how dare Miss ‘Your time is numbered’ Proctor criticise me at the new years party.
Can’t toe the line Missy? Well there’s a simple solution for that too.
January 3rd 20**
Technically we’re not back until Monday the 6th but I run a tight ship and I had made it known at the end of last term that while teachers attendance for an unofficial ‘Inserts’ day was not mandatory, I would be noting who did or did not turn up. In fact everybody did with the obvious exception of Mr Von Deckhardt, Head of Math and a very good friend of mine.
I had advised Dietrich to stay away until these ridiculous allegations about inappropriate touching had been cleared up. I’d pushed through paid leave for him and promised to look into the matter, which reminded me I had to look at that report I was compiling on the Rathe boy – the one that was causing the trouble for my old friend and college room-mate ‘Creepy’ Deity.
First order of business was my recommendation that the boy was a compulsive liar and fantasist whose behaviour was too extreme for Old Treelake and should be sent to a permanent exclusion unit for incorrigibles. If pressed on the matter I would say that Mr Von Deckhardt was in a committed relationship with his partner Klaus and was a gentle soul, incapable of doing what he had been accused of.
Of course it was to be hoped it didn’t come to light that Klaus had left in tears 5 months ago after Dietrich’s affair with the paper boy (legal age mind! 17 I think) and there was the matter of the time Dietrich had spent in the violent sexual offenders institution in Dusseldorf many years ago (mistaken identity). Hopefully it would all work itself out and I can tell you, old VD was going to owe me more than a few pints at the Badgers!
Helene, my number two seemed to be in a strange mood. She had appeared at my door earlier hugging the sanctions file to her chest and smiling strangely.
I had asked her what was a matter and she’d replied ‘Oh nothing Duncan. Did you have a nice break? I like your tie.’
I told her I had and that the tie was £6.99 from M & S and then bizarrely she had felt the need to tell me she’d had her roots done and added highlights. Looking at it her red hair did seem brighter than before but what on earth did she want me to know that fact for. I shall honestly never understand women!’
Ended the day on a high note. Called Miss Proctor in and told her I felt her behaviour at the party was both inappropriate and disrespectful. She attempted to speak but I told her to keep her mouth closed if she knew what was good for her. She left my office in tears.
January 4th 20**
Forgot to add last night’s penis statistics. I have topped six inches – a fine strong manly growth that lasted a good fifteen minutes. There’s nothing wrong with Duncan Hooper and that is a fact my friend!
Today my son Clive came round with his wife Susie and my grandchild. I did that old trick with the pennies appearing from out of little Michael’s ears. He was enthralled and called me Gwanpa Dunky. I wish the evil little changelings at the centre were like my little Mikey but then again he is only three and he has the benefit of superior Hooper genes.
Semi stiff tonight.
January 5th 20**
A very enjoyable Sunday afternoon in the pub. No not the Badgers which is work pub for occasional ploughman’s and a good session on a Friday after the school day. My Sunday pub is my local – the Horse Chariot.
The enjoyable part was talking cars and trains with old Charlie. Charlie is a fellow engine enthusiast and I could and have sat talking for hours with him. Today he brought in the much promised Hornby – a 1962 piece from the tail end of the Dublo era. We discussed signals and the romance of the old time rails until I noticed it was dark and had to excuse myself as Margaret had made Lasagne.
My penis was back on form tonight. Very prominent. Had to show Margaret and she got frisky so I had to remind her about our agreement re monthly coitus and no exceptions except birthdays. She got a bit upset and removed herself to the bathroom.
Heard that strange faint buzzing sound from in there again. Must ask Margaret if there’s something wrong with the overhead fan.’
More from Duncan to be found in the ONE MILLION PROJECT. The above entries were written during his holiday and the very next day he would be back to work and at his pedantic best dealing with important issues such as …
‘Top three items on the agenda – briefly mention that I haven’t forgotten the last day of Christmas Term ‘Duncan Hooper is a Twat,’ spray paint incident and remind staff a full and thorough investigation will be conducted. When I find the little shit who did it, I’ll show them just how much of a bloody twat I can be!!!’
Thank you for reading and please check out the collection – proceeds to Cancer Research UK and EMMAUS.