The Global Odd Sock Enigma

The bony man edged forward purposefully in his seat. During the train’s snaking journey from Rugby to Coventry, she had caught his eye several times more than she felt comfortable with. True, there wasn’t much to gawp at in the drech gloaming outside the rattling carriages, sluiced by unrelenting sheets of January rain. But he seemed inordinately interested in her. Why couldn’t he just avert his gaze, hang suspended in the tedious stasis of solo train travel, like everyone else?

Leaning on elbows that could slice bread, he smiled greasily and nodded as if to say “you’ll like this”.

“You’ll like this” he squeeked in a fay, faintly lascivious cockney whine.

She looked up and smiled unconvincingly, as if to say “no, thank you, I’m too ensconced in my book”. Her eyes returned to the page, but as she tried to read on, she felt his rheumy little peepers crawling over her face.

Spiv

The bony man took a battered tin from his waistcoat pocket. There was something jarring about him. Something awry. Like a rotund, big-breasted women running down the street. Something unlikely, incongruous, precarious about him.

This inkling of oddness bothered her. He should seem more reputable, she mused, clad as he was in a three piece suit and topped with a trilby. Yet despite his obvious sartorial pride, he looked scruffy and crumpled as severely thin men always do. Like a child doing dress-up in father’s clothes. The red tin said Licorice Wafers – for COUGHS due to COLDS. Spindly, simian fingers popped it open to reveal tobacco and cigarette papers.

As he rolled, he spoke.

“You might not think so to look at me, but I’m something of a genius”. She froze. He was apparently addressing the air, but he knew she – as the only soul within touching distance – would feel obliged to respond.

“Pardon?”

tin

As he sealed his oily rag in one fluid movement across his tongue, he settled back – ominously, she thought –  as though he were settling in for a long chat with a good, familiar friend.

“I have made a series of groundbreaking discoveries. Solved age-old and hitherto perplexing mysteries that have furrowed millions of brows and confounded millions of minds. I think you’d like to hear, wouldn’t you”. An assertion playing dress-up as a question. There was something jarring about it.

“I’ll give you an example. Just one. I have solved the Global Odd Sock Enigma”. He spoke these words as if they were capitalised and of tremendous import. “I – and I alone – know what happens to socks that disappear during the laundry cycle”.

“Oh” was all she could muster. As much as she resented him and his presumption, there was something sadly ridiculous about the man. Which was almost endearing. Almost.

He continued. “I mean, we all know the problem. It’s a familiar one. We submit pairs of socks to the laundry cycle. Into the washing machine they go, then out into the garden on the washing line, or clothes’ horse if the weather’s inclement, or tumble dryer if we have the luxury of owning one of those shining white knights of labour-saving amelioration”.

It is a problem, she thought to herself. I mean, this man is an unbearable arse, but it is a problem. Her body began to untense as her interest was piqued and the initial wave of rattled indignation dissipated.

Sock“But when we come to sort, fold and put away our clothes, what do we find? We find hitherto partnered socks in a sudden state of sorry solitude. Their twin vanished without trace. The Global Odd Sock Enigma. And over time, we put these bereaved single socks to one side, perhaps on top of the chest of drawers, or back in the sock drawer, in the eternally-springing hope that they will be returned to a state of duality come the next laundry cycle”.

She wrestled to contain a smile as he repeated the words ‘laundry cycle’, as though he were an expert speaking the argot of some rarefied and recondite academic discipline. His pompous air and self-important speech were inherently ridiculous, and they served to soften his alarming oddness into something approaching an endearing eccentricity. She began to feel a cosying warmth build in the pit of her stomach. Her nods and smiles were now encouraging, inviting and bidding him to continue.

“Until I made my discovery, this remained one of the last great mysteries of our age. Up there with ‘where do we go when we die?’, ‘are we alone in the universe?’ and ‘why is belly button fluff always grey?’. But as to these poor missing socks, where do they go? Are they lost somehow in the washing machine, the only garment diminutive enough to slip through some tiny aperture when wet? Do birds pluck them from the washing line to build their nests with? Well, no. In short. The answer is quite simply this. They are subsumed by larger items. Most usually duvet covers. They find their way into the corners. And we never think to look for them there. So there they remain. The truth is, no sock ever truly gets lost. They are hiding in plain sight. In our drawers, languishing like Jonah in the belly of a textile whale”.

With this he noticed the train pulling into Coventry station – his cue to alight. He picked up his tobacco tin and returned it to his breast pocket. He gripped the brim of his hat between his forefinger and thumb, mimed a little doff, before scurrying down the carriage, through the doors, and off into the soggy winter evening.

She made a mental note to check all her duvet covers and pillow cases when she got home. There were three odd socks that had been sitting on top of her dresser for months now. Rendered redundant and gathering dust.

As the train lurched into life and began to pull away from the platform, she noticed a small moleskin notebook on the table in front of her. Realising it must belong to the bony man, she grabbed it and scoured the platform for any sign of him, but he was long gone. And, besides, there was little she could do now the train was in motion. Except open it and have a read. The contents page was an eyebrow-raiser:

  • The Physics of a Viable Perpetual Motion Machine…p1
  • The Solution to the Global Odd Sock Enigma…p24
  • A Mathematical Proof of the Existence of the Soul…p32
  • Why Belly Button Fluff is always Grey…p33
  • A Quantum Mechanical Explanation of Time Travel as an Existing Phenomena…p49
  • The Solution to the Global Missing Tupperware Lids Enigma…p57

The essays were dense, florid tracts crammed with mathematical ‘proofs’ (she barley scrapped a pass at school so couldn’t discern Nobel physics-prize-brilliance from innumerate nonsense) and a verbose and baroque writing style, falling over itself in a dense thicket of multi-clause sentences and rambling digressions.

Still, if it helped her track down her odd socks and missing Tupperware lids, it was probably worth keeping hold of.

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Haikus 7

Nice try
“I guess this is good-

bye then”. She nodded and gave
him his sheath receipt.

51EA66ED-73CC-4FB0-BCC7-8D505C041061Too literal, mate
“What do you see when

you look in my eyes?” she wept.
Easy. “A small me”.

First Date
Pointing at the rough

sleeper “that’s awful”. Thinking
about her nice bum.

dd0c2773-21a5-49ee-964a-6e728c873e8c-245-00000004c8a746afNeeds must
To get through each day,

Nigel laced his big walrus
moustache with cocaine.

Peter, what is this?
Shit! Mum’s keys in the

door, and the ejaculate
unaccounted for.

Moon
Earth child, scent of
gunpowder. Each year ebbs
four centimetres.

Tightarse
Her face fell. “We don’t

have a sieve” he beamed. Yeah, he
won’t make birthday two.

2CAC0D50-3D9E-4831-9334-2C2A18925E97False alarm
“Was that John?”. He looked

over the side of the bridge.
Yawned. “No, John can swim”.

Three fucking hours of work
The house was still a

tip. Disconsolate, it dawned
that he’d dreamt the clean.

It’s ok
At the last, before

oblivion claimed her, the
terror just…vanished.

Kulturgeschichte / Religionsgeschichte / Juden / 19. Jh.Whoops
The pen that signed the

Pogrom order was made by
a pacifist. Ha?

Stupid punt

I’ve started up a lazy gentleman’s outfitters. It’s called Suit Yourself.

The heating’s on the blink at my masturbation stronghold. On the plus side it’s cheap. That’s cold cum fort.

I once worked as a grave digger for a milliner who really hated me. During a funeral for a stetson I stopped digging and said “look I really think we should clear the air, let bygones be bygones….”. She shouted “just bury the hat, shit”. I said “Exactly!”

Our lawn is really long and an obese Satan got stuck in our cat flap. “What do you want to do?” my partner asked. I hate gardening and like to deal with unusual mishaps, so I just shrugged and said “butter the devil. You mow”.

My best mate’s a shell. He refused to fight in the second world war but also came up with a lot of really good ideas for stopping wars altogether. That’s what I like about Conch, he ain’t just ‘objector’.

Bloke asked me if I wanted to join a group who drink tepid Darjeeling in a room full of calculators. I said “Is that ok?”, he said “yeah, safe tea in numbers”.

A Welsh General threatened me this morning. I said, “oh yeah, Euan Hughes’ army”.

Someone asked me the other day, “what did you use to transport the money to pay off that toupe debt to Dame Mirran?”. I said “Wig owing to Helen? A hand cart.”

I was queuing behind a sausage in Costa the other day. He went for a grande cappucino. When it comes to coffee I guess the weiner takes it tall.

Omnishambles

I wrote this back in May then left it in draft limbo on the grounds that it went nowhere and weren’t bleedin’ good enough guv’nor. It’s all political about the Brexit that happened then. Were you one of the ballot-happy Leave nobs? Comment me up with a rejoinder if so. 

* * * *

Oi. You bastard of a Brit. In the 52 per cent you say? Speaking with that hate-pursed maw that mouths ‘help’ each night as you nocturnally pollute to a dream in which a bare and buttered Dolph Lundgren kicks an Afro-Caribbean fish to death in a nudist school.

You moral bender.

Five years from now, the EU Referendum and your project fear vote will donkey-punch you in the head. And it will be like when you drop a little bit of what you’re eating between the sofa cushions, unthinkingly retrieve it and pop it in your mouth. Except it’s not what you’ve been eating. It’s harder, and bitter and tastes of decay. Then the surge of horror, commingled with a feeling of betrayal and a stabbing sense of your own gormless, animal stupidity. You’d eat your own genitals if it were dark enough, they were covered in gravy and you could reach. You moronically stupid witless idiot.

And as the pound and trade plummet, division and intolerance sky rocket and agriculture and key public services go to the wall, you’ll be absolutely fine, because you don’t really think about things too hard, do you. Which was precisely the problem.

Haikus 6

Vending invisible choc
Skipped lunch. 4pm.
Poked 4-4, Mars Bars 4-5.
Empty spring turns. Fuck.

5BA7A234-71D4-4FCE-B9B3-80F45CAD24E9-242-000000467AF03ADCComing to the crunch
Our love, a snail
under boot in the gloaming.
Crushed by want of care.

Sad bastard
‘I’m shit at my job’
he thought, every day until
he just…really was.

Yahoo
When Claire put ketchup
on Steve’s risotto, he upped
and moved to Denmark.

Everything’s relative
‘Oh yeah’ he snarled back.
‘Well maybe you’ve just got a
massive twat!’ Fair point.

0A0769FF-E328-49B6-A6AB-EACDD8857B4F-242-000000495529412EOnce upon a moment
We’ve all got a book
in us. If just a short shit
one about writer’s block.

Death of a glamour model
Obituary
short and sweet. Simply read “Thanks
for the mammaries”.

Science Fiction story

“I can’t believe it’s the year 2087” said Cheng Shakespeare, in a state of disbelief. Behind him a man with a cybernetic eye fed some bitcoins into a levitating vending drone.

Cheng watched a Skybus glide vertically upwards and zoom off above the towering skyscrapers of this moribund synthetic metropolis, making a noise like a synthesiser with an ‘insect’ setting. It was night time, and also really smoggy and raining hard and generally quite depressing in a brutalist post-industrial kind of way but with hover cars.

No-one seemed to have gardens any more. The rampant clamour for dwellings had gobbled up green space as human populations exploded like a protracted number bomb. Since the early twentieth century humanity had been breeding at an unsustainably exponential rate, without so much as a telepathically transferred thought for where it was going to bloody well put itself. A telepathically transferred thought humanity could have had, thanks to Amstrad’s patent Brain-to-Brain Interface of 2019.

0e3b422f-a3de-487e-8e9b-86000aa51c71-274-00000033f975bc7f“You what?!” returned Quasar O’Doherty, somewhat incredulously. Behind him a holographic prostitute was doing her darndest to solicit the custom of a silver-skinned man with self-tailoring clothes.

“What do you mean ‘what?!’?!” Cheng fired back. But before the two men could resolve their frankly aimless exchange, a thunderous bang shook the Lower Twelfth Precinct, which quickly filled with billowing clouds of debris and smoke. The unmistakable sight of two AI Militia materialised from the swirling grey haze, their machine-like gait and USBs-for-bollocks the only subtle signs betraying the inorganic identities of these cybernetic simulcras.

“Shit! Download the Police!” Quasar bellowed, reaching for his iPenis. After just a few seconds of frenzied tapping on his wi-fi enabled nob module, a bank of lasers shot out from the Police headquarters several miles away and 3D-printed a Lawbot on the street in front of the insurgents.

Shakespeare and Quasar flagged down a hovercab which whisked them up through the neon-lit troposphere to a cruising altitude of 4 clicks, and away from danger. From up here civilisation was little more than an ugly inorganic sprawl, neon-lit, rain-soaked and with lots of steam rising from it (at night).

Safely back at Residential Quarter #7569, the two companions took the stairs to the anti-gravity roof restaurant. Quasar ordered the pulled-thylacine sandwich, whilst Chang opted for the banoffee pie via neural upload. Both men had electromagnetic coffee delivered through foot plates underneath the table.

img_0510-1“Well, can you believe it’s the year 2087 now, Cheng Shakespeare?’ Quasar enquired sardonically.

“Yes. Yes I can, Quasar O’Doherty. What with everything that’s just happened, I damn fucking well can”. Both men laughed heartily, before retiring to sit in a dark room for several hours, since the imperative for sleep had been neuro-engineered away, yet people still liked to observe the now antiquated tradition of doing fuck all over night from about 11 until about seven or eightish in the morning.

Getting to know…

…Richard Littlejohn

wp-image-838090468Richard Robin Marion Littlejohn was born several times throughout the 1950s in Harlem. After a disturbed childhood which saw him go in and out of several mothers, he was eventually declared permanently medically born at the age of 7. Littlejohn took up armed struggle at the age of 17, although he himself admits it remains unclear as to what the cause was. He lives in Surrey with his wife Alhambra Gerrymatticock and his two spaniels, Left Testicle and Right Testicle.

When were you happiest?
Yesterday. Mum had just called me in from playing Kerbie with Nick Ferarri. I had my favourite A Team t shirt on and we had sausage and ice cream for tea.

What keeps you up at night?
Mildly racist aural hallucinations. I have one recurring voice who I call Tony Abattoir – he keeps banging on about how black families don’t recycle enough and how manspreading indians take up more than 50% of bus seats.

What’s your most treasured possession?
A jar of fat I found in a derelect windmill. Another of my aural hallucinations – Sir Teddy History – tells me it’s from Cher’s eighth liposuction. My counsellor nodded and said ‘interesting’ when I told her which I took to signal agreement.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My smell. I’m told it’s like a mixture of burnng tyres and toddler poo. I’d quite like to smell like a Happy Meal. Or a box of Smyth & Quiggley offal chocolates. My grandad’s favourite (which I never was).

What’s your favourite word?
Floggnocificulism. It means to simultaneously fart and burp with such force as to bring about instantaneous spiritual awakening. I strive for it every day of my life. I often joke about my £10 a day Coke habit!

How would you like to be remembered?
As a fifth-rate, bigotted hate-pedaling hack, whose lack of journalistic talent was almost as offensive as the dog ordure he smeared across his columns.