NME 3 - 1982
Gothic Story - Pieter Stubb
(page 17/19)
New Man's Elegy

Gothic Story

by Pieter Stubb

"What's the most boring thing that ever happened to you?" Afterwards no-one could remember who had said it, but it was a question that the Chowder Society of Requiem, Mass. took very seriously. Roebuck answered first, carefully setting down his port on an antique secretary which stood by his chair.
"Very few people ever experience true boredom," he began, "and I cannot say that the fact that I have is something I would boast about, but nevertheless, I think it really did happen, just as I will now relate." The three other men in the room shifted attentively in their chairs.

"It was in Clapham, a borough of London, in 1935," Roebuck continued. "You knew, I suppose, that I spent several years there in my youth?" The others nodded in assent. "One day it happened that I had to go to St. John's Wood in response to a request from my then employer, Halifax the Solicitors. " He shivered, "The local tube station was closed that day, and so I had to ride upon the Clapham Omnibus." Lewis rose slowly to his feet and moved slowly to the fireplace. He picked up the poker and began to poke the glowing embers back into life. Steirs wished that something could do that to the four of them. Trapped in this coffin of a town, they were all slowly drying out. Benedict had already blown away, and every night Steirs dreamt that he came into his room, pale and shadowy, and begged him to stop snoring. Roebuck still spoke. "When I stepped onto the platform of the 'bus the conductor placed a hand on my shoulder." Steirs frowned. How like Roebuck to include the apostrophe when stooping to a colloquialism. "I looked up and thought I recognised him from years before, but I could have been mistaken I suppose. With a grave expression he said 'room for one more on top'." For a moment Roebuck was silent, but then he always was. "Afterwards I reflected on what he had said, and I cannot be sure that I had not misheard." Eliot groaned audibly, and they all looked at him. Roebuck pressed on regardless. "Perhaps he said 'tomb for one more on top', but sometimes, when the days draw in, I think that he may have said 'room for one maw on top', and a cold hand clutches at my..."

At that moment Lewis fell into the fireplace and for the moment Roebuck's story was forgotten. Later, when the flames turning Lewis' dinner jacket a different kind of black had been beaten out, they decided to call the evening's meeting to a close, and each made his own way home, leaving Eliot to explain the ash on the carpet to his wife, who had joined them at first, but had quickly found their company tiring.

When Steirs arrived back at his house a little further down the street he found his wife, who had been drinking slightly too much than was good for her, weeping in the front room. Steirs deduced that another of her young men had walked out on her, and was not particularly sympathetic. As he slowly prepared for sleep, taking his tie off last as usual, the words of James Roebuck came back to him, and unutterable lassitude came over him. Wordlessly he sat on the bed, unable to move, until his wife came in.
"That society of yours," she said, "it's doing you more harm than good, you know that don't you?" Steirs nodded absently. They had once been five, and now they were four. They needed young blood, and all they had was sherry.

"We should go away somewhere," he said, "get away from this town for a month or so, before we both go crazy." But where, that was the question. Neither of them knew.

In his sports car, speeding out of town, Eliot grinned humourlessly.

Negative Macabre Embodiment

she will not rest until her fanzine is published.