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Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman

 

Was how he recurrently pictured her - childhood B-movie poster - gargantuan brunette stalking model city, magnificent thighs exposed, puny police-vehicle crushed in her right hand, whilst reaching for a tow-truck with the left. Needless to admit, he considered himself as either the concertina-ing police-car, or an ant sized man, one of many littering freeways below her feet. And, if he hadn’t seen the write-up on her comic-book, he’d be neither ant man or police car.

Vaguely, there existed stored images of their first meeting. Couple of years before the whole comic-book thing, at a reception for an art project his firm’d sponsored. He’d had one too many that night, after a stressful day with clients a cliff-edge away from going bust. She’d introduced herself as one of the artists, and they’d chatted, but about what he found it hard to remember. Still recalled her look, though, Jane Russell in The Outlaw, hair set in a mode that mirrored his Aunts’ when he was a child, but sexy in ways they’d never been in Croydon. Afterwards, he’d glimpsed her in the street, or, sometimes, through bar windows. Capri pants, tight sweater, and mutant Ted boyfriend who looked as if he sharpened his teeth.

‘Kenny’s still not forgiven me, and he pissing hates you.’ She’d remarked a few days ago, ‘said he’d rather’ve left me to a serial killer than an accountant.’
‘That’s comforting.’
‘I said he judged too many books …’

But between today, Mutant T’s bile, and that first meeting with her, lay the whole comic-book thing.

**************************************

A fine spring day to saunter to work on. Nothing too outrageous worn, even though, within the firm’s mushroom-suited confines, he was looked on as a bit of a dandy due to his love of brightly hued jacket-linings, two-tone brogues, and trademark artificial rose buttonhole. Today it was the violet-lined grey pinstripe, lilac rose, and black-and-white shoes, that’d made Ray Connell ask if he wasn’t concerned someone would think him gay. Unreconstructed Ray, senior partner, added it didn’t matter to him, if it brought in the pink pound.

Suddenly, a boy - Wide-legged trousers chained, sun blinking on facial piercings. ‘Hoi.’ The boy’d called, stringy goatee moving in motion with a smile: ‘Art Deco Detective.’

He’d turned, looking to see who was addressed - No one on the street but themselves, and Max Miller’s statue.
‘Art Deco Detective. Sound.’
Then, sun flash on trouser chains and gone.

Drugs, the initial conclusion: Attention then focussing around waiting figures on an immaculately turned-out desk. Soon, lunchtime, and Carmel (Ray’s yet to be judged temp) poked her head around his door. ‘Mr Jermyn, have you seen this month’s Town Talk?’
‘No.’ He sometimes scanned the trendy listings magazine in a bar whilst awaiting clients. Not this month, though. Perhaps Ray put an ad in it.
‘Well, it’s just, nothing …’
‘Carmel, did they misprint our ad again? I’m gathering from your embarrassment you took it in. Don’t worry, my dear, they do it to us all the time, no one’s going to hold it against you.’
‘It’s not that, it’s just … I thought you ought to see this, I’ve not told anyone.’

Glossy pages thrust desk-wards, powdered face growing even paler as Carmel regarded him with concern. Firstly, he thought she was showing him a fuchsia-tinted photo of Miss Gay Marina, and thought Ray might’ve been making mischief.

Then, he saw it.

Well executed comic-book drawing of himself, black and white save for the pinstripe suit’s cerise lining, but his two-tone brogues, feathered hair, lined oval face, and trademark buttonhole were perfectly caught. Below, the legend read:
DECO DETECTIVE ROCKS GRAPHIC NOVEL WORLD.

Slightly nauseous, he scanned print underneath:

Graphic novel novice – artist Judy B. seems set to join
luminaries such as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in
having created a comic-book classic. Unlike her
contemporaries, Kemp Town based Judy both illustrates
and writes. Her anti-hero, Patrick Dane, the Deco Detective
of the book’s title, is, she said, based on a man often
observed on Brighton’s streets. Dane’s a 1920s society
detective who falls foul of a time-rift, finding himself in a futuristic
police state, where his detection skills are much in demand.
Cosmic!

As swimming vision took-in closing lines, he felt his stomach lurch:

Of course, dear readers, we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t set
you a challenge. Our eagle-eyed spies reckon they’ve seen
the elegant Mr Dane mooching our very own turf. Are they
right? Judy isn’t saying! Well, if you can spot him, and snap
him for us on the qt, we’ll give five punters making the best
match copies of Judy’s groovy tome.
Of course, we take no responsibility for your actions, so don’t
go getting into trouble and saying a big boy made you do it –
We’re always in denial. Above all, don’t say we sent you,
you might get us zapped by his trademark death-flower.

Then there was a small picture of Jane Russell as remembered from that distant party.
‘I’ll get you a coffee.’ Said Carmel, ‘and it’s OK, Mr Jermyn, I won’t shop you. I think you’re cool. You can keep the mag, but I’m pretty sure Mr Connell’s seen it.’ Going for the door, she turned: ‘ Hope the ‘cool’ thing didn’t offend you’.
‘No, it’s fine, really.’

Gazing into space, he’d almost called Carmel’s slightly gothic figure back, asking her be sure and not tell anyone else about the piece. Then, places he’d seen the magazine flooded – Office lobbies (theirs included), hotels, bars, clubs, shops, Tourist Information …

**************************************

The next few days and he thought he may’ve over reacted. In fact, apart from Ray coming in and shouting: ‘Don’t death flower the cleaning woman’, (following-up by telling him it’d be publicity for the firm, if anything came of it at all) things’d been disconcertingly usual.

Then, it began.

Tourist lenses turning towards him as he walked, followed by sheepishly smiling faces as families hurried off, a woman in his favourite boozer kneeling on a chair to snap him on her mobile, cat-calls as he left places, and faces peering through the office’s slatted-blinds.

Eventually, he sent sympathetic Carmel to buy the wretched book. More literate than he’d thought it’d be, with reader references to Sapper, P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh, he had to admit, if it hadn’t featured a central character who was him to the life, he’d’ve rather enjoyed it. But that was the thing, in look, even in speech it was him - To the life. His shoes, suit, haircut, slightly rakish features, even cigarette resting between long fingers as he walked the streets, her clinical eye must have observed him often. Then there was the worrying, Bond inspired tag-line:

PATRICK DANE WILL RETURN IN GLASS DARKLY DECO.

Eventually, Ray held forth on how they should ask Judy to do a logo featuring Dane’s image, as the ‘pr’ would be priceless and times were increasingly pressed. ‘You remember that art thing we hosted, couple of years back, oh … wait … weren’t you somewhat past your best that night? So maybe not… Anyway, Judy wotsit was one of the artists, still have her address. Not that it’s needed to find a place like that. Near The Hanbury Ballroom. Gothic building with a tower on top, her flat’s in the tower, under a gryphon’s statue. Mad place. We should ask her, though.’ Despite counter-protestations, Ray seemed set on a logo, concept inspiring many sleepless nights.

Thinking back, it was after that things started to go a bit haywire, and he began to drink alone on those late-afternoons when finished for the day. He’d had one gin-and-tonic before going home often, but suddenly, as he felt recognition of him was on the increase again (even though no picture appeared in Town Talk’s next issue), found himself staying for two or three. On one afternoon, he’d lost count and had four, fuelled by some boorish calls on the way in, a snapper on the stairs from the loo, and a bloke who sang after him: ‘A comic-book hero is something to be.’

**************************************

He’d twice walked past her building since Ray’s description, almost going in to persuade her to ignore requests for a logo, but chickened out. Now, he’d decided to blurrily storm the tower and tell her what a bloody farce she’d made of his life.

A girl on the way out’d let him into the flats without question. Judy’s opening door met with his slurring accusations, while her patient expression made him feel ridiculous. Stumbling off, he’d tripped down the first three landing stairs, catching his hand on the broken-iron rail. She’d taken him in, cleaned his bleeding hand, and made sobering coffee. Curled by him on her leopard-skin divan she’d said: ‘I can’t apologise, Dane’s my creation. I used your appearance ‘cos you looked so elegant and hardly anyone does, these days. It never occurred to me Town Talk’d do what they did, gave them a right royal rollicking for that, that’s why no pics appeared.’
‘Oh.’
‘Sorry they’re tossers, but it’ll die down, you’ll see.’ He told her about Ray, and she promised not to do the logo. ‘Think I may’ve over-done things today,’ he sighed, ‘but, honestly, it’s been tourists, kids with mobiles, in the pub …’
‘Poor you,’ she smiled, putting an arm round his shoulder, ‘I should make amends, I’m good at that.’

**************************************

It escalated from there, and now, after months of on/off, maybe/yes, she was his girlfriend, having betrayed Mutant Ted. On the whole, she’d been right about things quietening, as only occasional snappers or shouters appeared. Mr. Jermyn’s liaison stunned his office, apart from Carmel who’d whispered: ‘Told you you were cool.’
Yet, still, even though feeling strangely optimistic most of the time, images of Judy as car-crunching giantess recurred. Sketching his aquiline profile, she made him wonder if his being tame muse was the attraction for her.

Some rocky nights, he dreamed Mutant Ted’s sharpened teeth, sans owner, chased him down Ship Street, catching up, and mouthing the strap-line: DANE WILL RETURN.

Disembodied canine grin implying how he’d never, ever, be himself again.

 

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