Suggested Audio Gum Shield:
Survivor Burning Heart
I have arrived at a most disconcerting place Grueheads and, in the words of legendary crooner Bryan Ferry, “never thought it would come to this.” I stand before my beloved kindred today having endured mortal wounds which I’m not entirely convinced I will walk away from. My heart is bleeding profusely, rivulets of deep red flow from all manner of open abrasions and, eternal optimist that I am, I actually consider that a positive thing right now. You see, by my bleeding out, maybe I can assist somebody else who is going through the same heartbreak as I. My “normal” existence has been vanquished and is metamorphosing into something particularly ugly and barren before my very eyes. Bleeding from the Crimson Quill is enabling me to really lay it out there; stand naked before each and every last one of you and strip away my bitter flesh. There is sufficient supply, a banquet of grue for all to tear and share.
Read, Bare, Bleed, Share – my personal darling jingle is never more relevant than it is right now. I feel something inside of me which I have no control over and it’s my artistry. Right now that’s the only thing keeping me topside. I sit here in an unfamiliar place, scribing on auto-pilot, and lose myself completely for the duration as I attempt to make sense of why my life has just been turned upside down. The thing is; I’m totally responsive. I know of my actions, just not always of their origins. Life can dish out a relentless flurry of damaging kidney blows and that is precisely what is happening presently. At this juncture I’m on the final round. My knees are weakened and, my fatigue, all but depleted. I have nothing left to halt the onslaught but I do have one thing in my possession. Faith.
Through my blurred peepers I can see my perpetrator’s silhouette. He is gargantuan, taller than a giraffe on a New York bus tour, and just as likely to lose his head any moment. My primary thought is this: “Fuck a duck in the asshole, how am I expected to defeat this juggernaut?” Knees now buckling, I have inherited the frame of Gollum, and there’s nothing precious about that. My aggressor is advancing towards me with a vile look of intent in his bloodshot eyes. No mortal being could be this intimidating surely? His clenched fist is beginning it’s ascension towards my chin and my mouth guard won’t protect me from his haymaker as my busted lips can no longer accommodate it. There’s no sight in my right eye; it shut up faster than Mel Gibson at a bar mitzvah. In fact, it resembles an unsuccessfully prised open oyster shell.
All of a sudden the weight shifts from my buckled knees back to my clenched fists; while rousing audio commences and fills the entire auditorium. If I’m going to do this then it has to be accompanied by inspirational music and my memories of Rocky IV have provided me with just the right fight music to make my last stand to. For the first time since this bout began, my chin is aloft, while my chest is puffed out like a narky blowfish and my one remaining good eye can see with 20-20 clarity. The vision I witness is my final encouraging shoulder rub, schools of Grueheads cheering “Keeper!” in unison. I swivel on the spot and glance across at my personal trainer, who is draped across the ropes scowling in derision. Old guy looks suspiciously like Mickey you know. If anyone can get my engine revving then who better than this crotchety fossil? He will not accept failure and throwing in the towel is not an option right now so I climb the final flight of stairs, puffing, wheezing, battered, but not quite broken. Once I reach the summit my arms go up in rapture.
Right then demon; I have had quite enough of your skullduggery for one day. You wanna fight me? Then do your worst you cretin as you’ll never break me down. I refuse to come quietly for your satisfaction and, instead, I stand here in defiance. Balboa wouldn’t give up if he were in my shoes right now. He would take eleven rounds of gruelling poundings in montage form before clenching his fist for that all important sucker punch. If it’s good enough for the Italian Stallion then it’s sure as shit flakes good enough for me also. What’s this? A weapon has been thrust forth by one of the spectating Grueheads, and is currently airborne, hurtling towards my receptive palm like a mean-spirited majorette’s baton. Far more than a simple twirling stick, it is actually a scythe, Keeper’s personal weapon of choice no less. Ug, Ug, Ug, I’ve gots me Spinachsk…Glug.
I catch it mid-flight although, being something of a klutz, I do lose my three middle fingers in the process. That should make masturbation challenging should I get out of this mess in one piece. Disregarding my fallen pinkies, I clutch the scythe and lunge back into the arena. Now we’ve got a fight on our bloody hands. Take that you charlatan! I swing and make decisive contact with my demon’s retracted left arm just before he can launch his next attack. And that! Off goes the other and his harpsichord playing days are now a thing of the past. Sensing victory, I then take my third strike, taking both his left and right foot off at the ankle. No more floating like a butterfly for him; my antagonist is rolling around the canvas like a tampon on a li-lo and is every bit as bloody and spent. This simply has to be the moment for my conclusive strike. I must finish him now before he catches second wind as he invariably will. Not sure I can stomach another montage you know.
I rest my boot on his bloody mass akin to Duke Nukem and raise the scythe one last time to deliver the TKO. Should I come out with a one-liner? Perhaps a catchy slogan to denote my victory? Maybe I should frame my demon’s head above my log burner as a constant reminder of my last-gasp win? I’m sure He-Man would have it all figured out by this point and remind his opposite number that he has the power. Fuck Greyskull; I need no such retort. In silence I lower my weapon of crass destruction, displace my heel from my antagonist’s temple and turn around, returning to my corner and Mickey’s open arms. I know what you’re thinking: why does he not finish the task at hand? After all, it’s not as though I have been offered any respite by my opponent so why should I extend him the satisfaction of walking away from this particular skirmish?
The answer really couldn’t be any more elementary to me. I recall a line of verse from Sting’s Englishman In New York – “It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile”, then another delivered by the great Ted Danson in the glorious Bored To Death – “Breakdown in your thirties, success in your forties”, and suddenly it all becomes clear. I’m approaching forty as we speak and that means an upside could be on the horizon should I make the correct choice here. There can be nothing more to prove by hitting a man when he’s down, even if said alpha has designs on fashioning a messy pulp from my giblets. I need to smile knowingly at my aggressor and simply walk away. I would also advise you all do the very same.
Life is not for climactic melee; it is for forging strong human connections. Whatever your battle; it is possible to walk away and be the bigger person. My demon stated a strong case for why I should be cast aside but, by not sinking to his level, I have exhibited far greater valor. Besides, he may have attempted a low shot from his lowly position and I didn’t fancy taking a hit to my domes. By leaving him be and heading for the hills, my lungs will no doubt thank me as I was beginning to sound a little like Chief Wiggam on a treadmill and another punishing round may well have been asking too much of me right now. I shall let others do battle and focus on my own game, that being spreading light and hope. Granted I use a gnarly medium to distribute these gifts but horror hides from no man and I have met some of the most glorious souls since selecting it for my arena.
I’m not special you know. We all have pain and can use that to relocate some pleasure. It’s not to be dwelled upon, instead acted upon, but with a clear conscience and calm state of mind. Fuck those demons Grueheads; they can only restrain us if we allow them and I, for one, ain’t going out like that. A few days ago I had a happy home with a doting wife and beautiful young boy to wake to each morning. For reasons out of my control that has all changed now and it’s not male pride that stops me from returning to the fold, but my need for survival. I was dying there, not because I don’t love my wife, but because of a third party’s constant meddling and attempts to crush my spirit. In the history of demons, this may well be the most hideous arch-fiend ever to disgrace the planet and the most disparaging thing is that she’s my fucking mother-in-law. The ultimate cock block.
I am hurting bad as I scribe this but the critical fact is that I am feeling. It may take some time to nurse these wounds and I shall do so in good time. However I’m just grateful to be alive right now. I’m starting to decipher to code within my breakdown and all this pent-up hurt and vitriol has no place inside me. By letting that out and, moreover, doing so in a manner which can empower others to walk away from their own demons, I’m allowing the light a route back inside. It’s a mess in there currently and could do with a good spring clean but I have time on my side and will learn each lesson life dishes out as I find my eventual redemption.
I owe all of this to Rocky IV you know. Balboa had his chance while Drago lay sprawled across the canvas incapacitated. When you consider what this bastard did to Apollo Creed, you’d be forgiven for egging him on to drag his sorry ass to the ropes and throttle him on principal alone. Ultimately, Rocky just wanted to go home and bone Adrienne uncomfortably thus affording him seven minutes respite from her incessant whining. With that I bid you adieu but I think right now I’ll settle for a wank. One in the bum? No harm done. I may even break out the coconut oil just to mark the occasion. Sometimes you just have to grease the monkey. I’m out of fight and have no desire to engage any further. Consolidating offers my only out presently; taking stock and preparing myself for the rocky road ahead. “Breakdown in your thirties, success in your forties”. I may just get that shit printed on a T-shirt you know.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill