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Tome On The Range

Short Fiction By: Alan McCormick
Karl Smith , December 21st, 2014 18:05

New writing this week comes to you as short fiction from Alan McCormick, in which the spectre of the one and only Noel Edmonds appears in the form of a fox. Obviously


Amidst the noisy throng of a south London high street, he mouthed ‘Noel Edmonds’ at a white sports car blasting ELO into the blue sky. His mouthing was cartoonly graphic and didn’t pass unnoticed. Soon there was the sound of screeching brakes and the slamming of a tiny door.
            ‘Did you mouth Noel Edmonds at me!’
           The voice was familiar, the jumper zigzag and colourful, the beard well kempt and gnomish. He decided to pretend the Noel man wasn’t there by seeking the ‘off’ switch.
            When Noel man's first punch landed he was transported back to the safety of Diddy David Hamilton – the near forgotten radio voice of middle England – saying ‘that’s all folks’ at the end of a programme he loved as a child.
            Alan Freeman interrupted to record the next punch in a loud rock and roll baritone as if the fight’s commentary was being scrambled from an old seventies wireless. Soon he was being dragged onto the road for an old school DJ kicking. Noel man wore blue suede shoes and their soft upper cushion probably saved his life.
            To rescue his sensibilities from DLT, the Jeremy Clarkson of his day, the worrisome Hairy Cornflake, he allowed Status Quo to shake him down. In faded jeans and jacket, plummeting out of a small town discotheque, rock and rolling all over the world, he fell into a hazardous state of four-chord slumber.
            Later he heard the treacle salivation of every household’s favourite son, Simon Master Bates on ambulance radio, telling some sop’s sob story to Leo Sayer’s ‘I won’t let the show go on.’ Of the violence he remembered nothing; the bruises on his face and arms rationalised as marks of a romantic musical accident in the street, 10 CC’s ‘I’m not in love’ scampering around his mind and across his lips.

From the trendy nurse’s station tuned to Radio Six, he later heard the twittering of Manchester DJ’s Radcliffe and Maconie:
            ‘Mister Morrissey lived at number 22, their first single got to 22, and he first met guitarist, Marr, in a pub in Salford, also 22.’
            ‘Funny pub that; didn’t the barman keep a stuffed dog behind the bar?'
            'Jack Russell?’
            ‘Not the wicketkeeper, surely?’
            ‘No, but the landlord may have been a wippet keeper.’
            Weeks seemed to pass as they warbled on. And then came salvation: ‘Hello, Lovely!’ It was an uncommonly nice voice, a kittenish Kate Bush voice. ‘Are you the man with a child in your eyes?’ No hint of chiding; it was as if she really wanted him to man up and join her. His pinkies twitched under the blanket in response; the best he could muster.
            She bent over in her crisp physio’s uniform and craned close, a hint of forbidden apple soap, and whispered ‘Lover please, please come back’ into his ear and his little ear hairs collected themselves and waved back. She touched his arm before she left – her long delicate fingers – how he wanted them to brush all over his skin – reaching over to retune the radio.
            Radio Three: the therapeutic station of choice, a theme: the sea, Gambo’s twee twerpy Americanisms introducing Mahler’s Fifth; dangerous melancholic music to lose yourself in and drift away. Christ, he could have cried when the boat horn cut through the fog of strings and he imagined, perhaps through a memory of the Adagietto Movement’s in the film of Death in Venice, St Marks’ grand faded buildings emerging into view as he approached Venice from the grey expanse of sea. He was alone in a topsy-turvy gondola, the enfeebled Gustav von Aschenbach feverishly fantasising about his Tadzio, the aquiline Polish boy satisfyingly and momentarily replaced in his mind by his nymph physio. The blanket draped across his lap dampened in the rough, the sea chucking up, his heart beating in time with the waves punching against the boat. This time he was able to press the buzzer in time to call for help.

Later, recuperating in the garden at home, Radio 4 voices muttered from the kitchen, a middle class morphine, dulling the pain of his body and mind.
            A large dog fox appearing as a disheveled Noel Edmonds fox approached him across the lawn, slinky and raddled at the same time, his bearded jaw bruised and collapsing at its edges to show two yellow canine teeth, sharp and dagger like. The Noel Edmonds dog fox spoke first:
            ‘You should never have said my name.’
            ‘Never used it, I mouthed it.’
            ‘Semantics, you deserved your kicking.’
            ‘You’re not a fox at all are you?’
            ‘I am and I can bite.’
            The Noel Edmonds dog fox jumped at him with a scream. He fell back in his chair so it jumped over him and into the kitchen. He managed to crawl over to close the kitchen door. The Noel Edmonds dog fox was furious and slavered and snarled at the window making mucky sticky kisses against the pane.
            The Archers started up on the radio, its prosaic rural theme tune having the effect of making him feel tired and dead at the same time. He was glad to be outside with the wild ex DJ beast and the banal drama left to compete inside.
            ‘Turn it over!’ he shouted at the Noel Edmonds dog fox, who did as he was told, and suddenly he was out in the night and on the street again.
            He saw a white sports car speeding towards him, music throbbing from its sides and pounding from its floor.
            A tall beardless man with impressive Lego hair climbed out of the driver’s side:
‘Hi, fella, I’m Mike Read.’
            ‘The music, it’s familiar. What is it?’
            ‘Bow Wow Wow!’
            ‘Where snakes in the grass are absolutely free?’
            ‘You got it.’
            ‘Travelling Wilbury’s?’
            ‘Roy Orbison.’
            ‘Roy Orbison, thank you.’
            ‘Rock and roll, that’s your prescription from now on.’
            ‘You’re a musical doctor?’
            ‘I’m Doctor Feelgood.’
            ‘I’m glad all over, yes I am.’
            'Yes, you are!’

Dogsbodies and Scumsters’, Alan McCormick’s story collection with illustrations by Jonny Voss was long-listed for the 2012 Edge Hill Prize. See more of their collaboration and a selection of Alan’s short fiction at Dogsbodiesandscumsters and Scumsters.