Camillus John

Watching a DVD with an Estate Agent

Camillus John

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She said I was a dirty old woman. Probably the worse pervert she’d encountered in her entire life. I feel she was slightly overreacting here, for all I did was make her watch a film with me, Reservoir Dogs, for the violence.

       Since my husband died last year I’d noticed certain things not happening in films I watched alone. And my theory proved correct when I watched Reservoir Dogs with her, an estate agent, for I could finally see all the blood and guts. It was a great relief. It probably saved my life. Unfortunately, not hers.

        I had a series of estate agents lined up that week. I needed to pick one to sell my house. Sally Bells was estate agent numero uno in the running, Monday morning 11.30 a.m. sharp.

        Of course Sally that’s fine, after I showed her around my house, the grand tour, every bleached nook and polished cranny. Of course Sally, you sound knowledgeable and highly competent, I promise I’ll give you the business of selling my house on the open market in return for one small favour. Watch the film Reservoir Dogs with me - right now. The job is yours if you do, Sally.

        I saw the abnormality of this request trying to land in her bouffant head on some sort of a ledge, floor seven, psychiatric ward. But commission is commission is commission and she didn’t look ruffled for more than five seconds all told. Very professional I must say. On prima facie evidence I’d probably give her the business, despite the violence.

        She took a cup of tea and a few biscuits as we settled into adjacent armchairs and I pressed play on the DVD.

        ‘But why Mrs Doodle? Why do you require me to watch it with you?’

        I paused everything.

        ‘I need to see the violence. All the action. The plot. I need someone to help me – you please. I only get bland black and white politeness, when I watch it on my own.’

        ‘Your husband has taken all your entertainment to the grave with him, is that it?’

        ‘He always said he would, and he has, the bastard. Yes, that’s right. I’m going to snatch it right back though, Sally. Please help me – with another pair of eyes. Yours, to be more apropos.’

        It was then she glimpsed I’d no underwear on, so I clapped my knees together to try and reverse time. As if. The pervert thoughts now coursing through her brain. All about me. I could almost taste her acetic words. And then she spoke them out loud, the worse pervert she' d ever seen. I sucked on them. Swallowed. Apologised. Didn’t let them do damage. Calmed her down. Thank God for commission. The possible pound notes focused her resolve into a fine nub and she came back at me, I understand Mrs Doodle. I understand completely. Let’s watch Quentin, big long pause, "together."    

        But I knew she didn’t understand. I knew she reckoned it was psychosomatic and that I just missed my husband. That’s all. It wasn’t that that bastard had robbed me of everything worthwhile in life, and then pissed off to his grave to laugh at me for the rest of my probably long, long, very long widowed life without him. He knew I adored that film. At the very least, he should have left me that bloody one. 

        We’d seen it on the big screen together when it first splattered out. He bought me the DVD as a Christmas present fifteen years ago but we never watched it together. The DVD. Not properly since seeing it in the cinema. I watched it on my own and he read his book or maybe he just caught a snippet or two on the telly every now and then, accidentally, when it happened to be on, and I was watching it. Never at the same time. A month after his death all the colours had drained completely from the film when I put it on. It was frustrating to not see. No colour at all. No story that could hold my attention either. Somebody must have switched discs. It must be damaged. But no. I bought another copy in a proper shop and it was just the same.

        Reservoir Dogs was now a black and white film about a bank robbery that plodded through the narrative and all the action like a 1940s British film with pish-poshy Eton accents playing all the lead roles. There was no blood. No guts. No decent conversation.

        Back in the shop the assistant thought I’d six heads. Thought I was stuck-up. Thought I was going to bite his head off – which was nearly bloody true the way he provoked.

        He lit the DVD up on the shop’s big-screen and both of us clapped our eyes onto it like glue. The very same copy I’d brought back to his shop and slapped violently down on his black, black counter only micro-moments earlier.  Right up there on the big-screen was the original film in all its gory glory. Vermillion.

        ‘There’s nothing wrong with that DVD Mrs Doodle, as we can both plainly see, so I’m afraid, I can’t give you your money back.’

        I was afraid too, in more ways than one. My sister came over for dinner one Sunday afternoon and I slipped the DVD on – the original once again – all the blood and guts – we could see it – it was there. But when she had gone, only the bland version. This applied to all of my DVDs, all of my books, all of my records, CDs, MP3s, tapes, the lot. I had to be with someone else to actually see and enjoy them properly. Maybe my dead bastard husband didn’t want me to overdo listening to Joy Division, The Smiths, Radiohead and Nina Simone on my own without him beside me and there was method to his malice after all. But I was never a miserabilist though. So he’s fucking wrong.

        Sally, fair dues to her, the very patient estate agent, sat through the entire film with me in all its bloodbaths of glory. More compelling after it had come back to life. Super-enhanced somehow due to its previous extended absence, from what I could ascertain from the bloom on her face writ large, that Sally Bells estate agent woman. The colours on her face, during, after, caused everything that happened to her later, I’m sure of it. A chain reaction. She was far too sensitive a poor soul I posit, but she didn’t know it on a constant diet of sell, sell, selling houses 24-7. Or trying to. Sure who would have the mental capacities of doing such a job-of-work on a sustained basis? Only a saint. Although, I’d heard nothing until estate agent numero due came bebopping through my front door the very next morning, Tuesday, as scheduled at 11.30 a.m. sharp. Very sharp indeed. Stabbingly so.

        It had apparently been lit up in all the newspapers I didn’t read, online and off. And newspapers - there was the rub indeed. For back in my day the occupational hazard of reading a newspaper was getting your hands and face covered in ink. Similarly, yesterday, Sally the estate agent was extracting all the colours from Reservoir Dogs, DVD screen, like ink from an old newspaper, and absorbing these colours into her body. Her face bobbed like a cork on a river and was smeared with the blood of the man shot in the stomach and bleeding all the way through the film, Tim Roth. Mister Pink. Her hands, squeezed tightly together, more tightly by the nanosecond, were sucking up the blood threads of all the gangsters’ well-made suits in this fine film. I even placed a basin of water on the table beside her chair for to wash her hands with during. But no matter the duration and frequency of Sally’s hand-scrubbing, eyes still clamped on the screen, her hands remained a steadfast blood-red.

        Our eyes couldn’t be dislodged from the film. I’ve never seen anything this real before in my entire life flickering in my living room on a television screen. The pungent smell of blood, petrol, gun smoke, was so alive, mephitic, all around me that the miasma could have sprouted legs and waltzed up my nostrils and lived there permanently to my complete acquiescence and joy.

        Sally laughed hard at apposite moments, like myself, in the film. Enhanced laughs. More “laugh” somehow than was normally generated from a flickering screen and even more “laugh” than could be generated from a real-life laugh from a real-life standing person in front of your real-life face.

        But how did I know the parameters of these deleted pleasures? And that’s the correct word alright, pleasures. Maybe I could have chosen a better film to watch because the blood-red from the screen infected Sally the most. All her skin seemed to have caught this virus, spreading up to her neck and down her spine and arms and into and onto her Italian trouser-suit from the back of her hands constantly kept in the basin of water to her side, submerged. I couldn’t change the water for her. I was too transfixed deep in my armchair back in the midst of pure life again. Reservoir Dogs. It seemed. I can’t be sure. The raw violence of living in everyday land, the corruption of the spirit, the constant worries and pressures like bricks thrown at your head to get ahead, stay ahead – even to catch up and stay still would be very nice every now and then.

        The quintessence of bad feelings in captivity made me feel lucky to have known whatever it was I had had with my late husband for the thirty years that we had been together. The blood leaked continually from the film’s protagonists to Sally’s hands and then up and down her skin. My husband got bigger and bigger in my head that I could almost touch his tongue in a kiss if I just stood up and sneezed him out my left, unblocked nostril - I tried with my eyes closed. If only. Maybe Sally was right, I'm a sick mother-fucker.

        But he was dead and so were all those romantic memories of yesteryear. If I didn’t ignore the starving old people down the road, I’d have no food for my own table. And then I’d be in their boat fighting over the same paddle. Fuck that. My dead husband told me to drop them a food parcel and I promise that I will, don’t worry, I will. I, now, dramatically, delineating my own dance with selfishness.

        The credits rolled and it was all too much for poor old Sally Bells, the young dynamic estate agent. With skin gone all vermillion, the shade of red of my husband’s favourite football team, so maybe his hand was in this somewhere somehow. She held her vermillion hands up to her vermillion face and I had to slap them away with a handy baseball bat previously dead-husband owned and previously well-used. She was trying to rip her skin right off her face - a few pustules were already sprouting – I did my best, I swear. The baseball bat to the gut re-focused all her attention – from her pustules to her stomach pain.

        The next five minutes were the moments of a lifetime. The violence of the film’s magic was too fresh and raw on and in and around the two of us. He said. We did. We were.  For those five minutes. His fault. When they were all used up, she ran out the door in a frenzied state totally at odds with what we had communally gone through. How could she? Without even shaking my hand. Or a kiss goodbye.

        I went back to the film after she’d left and being on my own once again it was all back to the blandness of a 1940s black and white British pish-poshy film once more. All fully expected this time on my part, and I watched my face on my camera-phone watching the film when Sally was here earlier.

        My face returned quickly to its pale status quo and all the red spilt onto the floor to which I’d some plastic sheeting over by now, so the wooden floors held their sheen afterwards, when everything was in a bin.

        Next morning at 11.30 a.m. Polly Pecker arrived right on cue. Another estate agent. When I asked her to watch Woody Allen’s Annie Hall with me – I said she could definitely have my house to sell if she did - Sally’s suicide was out of her mouth and practically bleeding onto my wooden coffee-table before I could even think of putting any plastic-sheeting down.

        ‘A friend of mine from property school killed herself late last night Mrs. Doodle. Sally. It was Sally. Her name was Sally. And apparently, she was driven over the edge because she said that life thrilled her so much now that she couldn’t handle going back to work and selling houses when the world’s magnificent multi-coloured spectrum was right there in front of her face 24/7 ready to be licked, swallowed, digested and expelled at any time. How can I work now? Those were her last words before she jumped in to her new dimension. Sally’s last words. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, Mrs. Doodle, but something compels me.’

        Of course, the pound-notes commission led her to my Annie Hall DVD, despite Sally, and for the first time since my husband died Annie Hall was all the jokes again, together with Polly watching happily beside me. I watched the bittersweet romance of the inevitable breakup of the relationship at the end of this film. And I could enjoy it to the max once more - holding hands with Polly. Like it was before. I’d forced all of my previous boyfriends to watch Annie Hall with me right up to my dead husband who laughed as much as me and cried as much as me even on the fifth or sixth time through. He’d obviously passed some kind of test that I had concocted subconsciously as if liking the same stuff really matters in something as vital as long term compatibility and happiness. As if. He’s dead now and always will be.

        The shed door started to bang furiously at the back of the house and when I came back in, after bolting it firmly shut, Polly had gone. I didn’t follow her outside to find out where she’d gone or anything like that. I was worried about her alright, don’t get me wrong, she’d become too real during the film just like Sally had done, but when I pressed play on the DVD player again, just to experiment, for I had a hunch, it turned out that I could see everything the way it was supposed to be seen on my own now, the proper ending once again – with all the jokes. And Reservoir Dogs too - with all the blood.

        I hoped she wouldn’t do anything foolish like Sally Bells but this was the sign to whisper me she wouldn’t. For wasn’t Annie Hall a comedy? My culture and entertainment had been restored and I felt the cold breeze from outside instantly. I bolted the front and back doors of the house to make doubly sure.

        The fridge was fully stocked and Polly was a very strong woman I reckoned. I now had me and my dead husband’s whole book, DVD, CD, and MP3  collections to get through and I couldn’t leave a single page, special DVD extra feature or hidden CD track unexamined any more. Fuck Polly.

Camillus John

Camillus John was bored and braised in Dublin, Ireland. He has had work published in The Stinging Fly, RTE Ten,, The Lonely Crowd, Thoughtful Dog, Honest Ulsterman, The Cantabrigian, The Bogman’s Cannon, The Queen’s Head, Litro, Fictive Dream, Silver Streams and other such organs of literature. Recently he killed the Prime Minister of Ireland in fiction in the Welsh literary magazine, The Lonely Crowd, with a piece entitled, The Assassination of Enda Kenny (After Hilary Mantel). He would also like to mention that Pat’s won the FAI cup in 2014 for the first time in 53 miserable years of not winning it.  Website: Janey Macken Street.

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