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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Wet Lace

Her shiny shins gleamed in the lascivious flicker of the candle. Pam had waxed all traces of hair from every bit of her yearning feminine body in preparation for Jim’s visit. Including, whilst absent-mindedly agonising over when exactly blue cheese is unfit for consumption, her eyebrows.

“I like a naked flame” cooed Jim, but not like a dove, like a man paving the way for genital coupling.

c42841c0-378b-41d0-9d0e-d2af760b503c-280-0000004b6a3f1855_tmp“I adore candle light” Pam trilled, but not like a budgie, like a woman inviting a man to persist in paving the way for genital coupling. “There’s just something so…” she searched for the right word, performing an inadvertant little royal wave with her hand as she did so. “…thrilling about striking a match. Grasping the shaft and making it’s little pink head explode with a quick flick of my fingers”.

“Matches” Jim returned, confusingly, too distracted by an overwhelming surge through his groin. A sex storm which shorted his mental processes, like a sort of erotic stroke. A dribbling dog with biscuit balanced on his nose, Jim trembled with a beautiful agony awaiting the command. And Pam ALWAYS issued a command.

“That smell” Jim said through knitted brow, as he tried to place the exotic scent that hung, like like an invisible odour, or an atmospheric flavour, or a mysterious nasal language, in the air.

“You like it? That’s the candle, bought it today. Prosecco and oysters. David Hasselhoff’s new Hoffrodesiac range at Matalan”.

dcf56f88-e240-4f22-86f4-021a6811b632-280-0000004857517143_tmp“Yes, I was wondering why I’d been thinking about the harbour at Whitstable. I like it. They do some fantastic ranges there. Tom Kerridge’s Stinking Bishop Bath Moose is divine. Extremely relaxing and goes great with a glass of red, if you’re an ablution boozer that is!”.

Pam poured Jim a disaronno and Sprite, and sashayed over to the bed to hand it to him. Without warning, she felt an urgent pressure in her colon. With only a split second to settle on a gambit to mask the loud fart that this substantial bubble of feculent tummy gas would inevitably produce, Pam slammed Jim’s drink at the wall, inches from his head. On the plus side the impact and the smashing glass more than covered her bassy bum beefbelch.

“PAM! You’re god damn crazy, woman. Come here you unhinged mare”. Jim pulled Pam onto the bed, and kissed her fulsomely, like a starving man trying to eat an orange through a letterbox. Pam swung her leg over Jim and, in one smooth movement, subsumed his cock into her knicker-mouth.

27101955-2b80-4945-963b-06ec91d1b4cd-280-00000049a7136a35_tmp“Ride me like a rodeo bull, you sexy little cowgirl”.

“Sink your pink in my pocket, you filthy little snookerboy”.

Pam and Jim committed coitus for 7 hours and twenty three minutes, pausing only three times; for the pizza delivery, severe cramp and because Jim thought he could hear a ghost.

Blues and terrible twos

Two constables were working like Dutch whores in stag weekend high season to keep the growing crowd of rubber neckers and busy bodies at bay. As the investigating officer glided through the increasingly unruly throng of curious locals and into the relative calm of the crime scene, one of the officers instinctively went to lift the police tape to allow her to proceed unchecked. To his transitory astonishment, this wasn’t necesssary.

BRITAIN-LATVIA-CRIME-MURDER“This your first suspicious death?” enquired Detective Sergeant Nigel Muck. He was stood at the foot of the stiff: a well dressed, portly middle aged man with an expensive salon cut and bruising to his throat and face. The corpse, that is. Muck was a slovenly shit of a slaphead beanpole.

Without warning she stopped still in her tracks and fixed him with an incredulous, faintly amused look. Clearly feeling uneasy under her searching gaze, he muttered “don’t, er, I mean, well, take as long as you need, this is a real tit-twister. A bloody arsing great shitemare of a head-scratcher”. With that, Muck fished a Crunchie from his Parka pocket, and exited the room masticating horribly.

73e0ff11-7c85-439c-988f-6e6659eeba60-237-00000021f2fac38c_tmp“What happened to the man?” she asked, pointing at the prone unfortunate.

“It’s a bit of a mystery I’m afraid, ma’am” replied a forensic scene of crime officer, who was busily taking photographs, making the tatty little room at the top of this cramped Docklands bedsit feel like the world’s saddest fashion shoot.

“There are clear signs of a struggle, and yet the room was locked from the inside with only that tiny” he gestured with his camera “velux window in the roof. Only about 10 by 12 inches. I mean, you could probably” he tailed off, thinking better of suggesting that his superior could feasibly have been the mysterious Spring-heeled Jack that perpetrated this fiendish act. “His injuries” he continued, “are consistent with strangulation, and we’ve pinned the time of death to between 24 and 27 hours ago”.

ef5fcf00-82a3-4aa8-955d-4f4f42ecce26-237-00000023eccb36ac_tmp“Stangly-ayshon. Twenty teighty four hour wowers” she mused, drawing out and lingering on her words as though they tasted lovely. Her grin disappeared when she saw that the SOC officer was staring at her with a half disbelieving, half disdainful expression.

“NO! Why is the man there for?” she barked. Her unsignalled annoyance made the officer start, and he sheepishly picked up from where he had left off.

“Odd thing is, at precisely that time this room was being used by the young man who rents it. He’s one of those internet vloggers“. The last two words he said with special emphasis, as though at pains to signal that he found them alien or objectionable to utter. He might just as easily have said ‘one of those piss fetishists‘.

He continued. “He was doing some sort of live stream. Four hours and thirty seven minutes of utter bollocks. But as alibis go, it’s water tight”.

She hopped back and forth between legs, all the while shaking her head. Clearly a brilliant maverick, he thought, some sort of Holmesian savant, must be why she’s on the force so young, obviously a brilliant mind. But she was awfully young. Too young. It was silly, really.

“Well ma’am, what happened to him?”.

1ca504ef-2a6c-49c4-a1a4-648662e10519-237-00000029eb554368_tmp“That man POOED himself ‘cos he was very naugh-ty. And then he didn’t, and he did because YOU stangly-ayshon him with you BUM”. On this staccato ‘bum’ she dropped to the floor and started rolling back and forth, asserting every now and then that she was a “floppety spider” and a “no-face”.

The Chief Superintendent walked in at the height of her asylum worthy floor-based antics. “Shame” he muttered. “Such promise but clearly the job is just too damn much for her”.

“Is 30 months too young, sir?” offered the female Inspector at his side. “I mean, if you consider that there are 216 months in 18 years, is 30 months enough time to develop all the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to be a police detective?”.

c7b429be-3340-4ccd-9c31-44ed3273bf3d-237-00000028fd21c83c_tmp“Five minutes ago, I would have replied a resounding ‘yes’. But now”, he paused to observe the diminutive sleuth edging round the room whilst wearing the dead man’s shoes and issuing high pitched squeaks, “I’m not so sure”.

The World of FMM

The other week I went to a big event, it was called #FMM16 – the Fat Masturbating Men conference 2016. The Birmingham NEC was packed with hundreds of fat men masturbating, I gave up counting at 756, although that was barely half. Not to mention the legions of officianados and collectors of fat masturbating men.

I spoke to a few of the fat masturbating men. Some of them had always wanted to be a fat masturbating man, others just kind of fell into it.

e3475a4a-ac2f-49ff-98b6-d453b296a005-217-00000005e859e7a9_tmpOne guy, called Gary, said he’d known all his life that he wanted to be an FMM, which is the term they use. “I was a skinny kid” he panted at me over coffee “but hard work and competitive eating saw me through”.

Another chap, Terry from Hartlepool, had a very different story. “I never saw myself as a fat masturbating man” he told me in the queue for the keynote speech. His voice was shaky, breathy, because we struck up conversation just before he hit the vinegar strokes. “I’m an architect by trade. This is just something I’m doing for a while. For the money mainly. I hope to go back to architecure in a year or so”.

The Fat Masturbating Men expo started at around 10am. By midday the Birmingham NEC was almost unnavigable. The exhibition space was becoming unhygienic and beginning to turn stomachs. Hardly anyone touched the buffet. Except the fat masturbating men. They all grabbed handfuls of it. Whilst masturbating.

The auction was a great success though. One fat masturbating man from Rochdale went for £17,500. I was outbid on a giant, red haired Welsh wanker. To be honest I only really bid on him because I liked his hat.

After the conference had ended I shared a taxi back to the station
with one of the fat masturbating men. He wasn’t masturbating anymore. We chatted awkwardly about the expo, although he seemed reluctant to discuss the fat masturbating man world. “I’m not as into it as some of the other blokes” he said. “Perhaps that’s why you didn’t sell at the auction!” I tried to joke, but it fell flat. He glowered at me like I’d just farted into his biscuit jar.

I don’t reckon I’ll go next year. I mean, it looked really interesting on the advert, but if anything I found it all a bit disgusting.

Do Unto Others

He felt his fists balling in anger as he watched the Alsatian deposit its feculent pay load, the third of the week, on the pavement between his gate and the road. It’s owner, a bald, badly dressed mouth breather with faded green prison tattoos and a violent criminal stare, sucked vacantly on a vape contraption. He looked like an ape orally exploring a piece of alien technology. The fucking unthinking cunt.

3ea83fe5-bd13-448b-83ab-d2204a2d2999-215-0000003e2e870d93_tmpThe dog finished its crap and lurched off. The man followed, although not before sending a lump of spit hurtling into the hedge. No thought to bag up his dog’s business. A gift to the neighbourhood, a freshly squeezed little tower of shit to surprise unsuspecting shoes and pramwheels. Well, not quite this one. This one was bagged up. With the man and dog still in sight, he followed behind at a discrete distance, the little orange bag of warm crap swinging from his fingers.

He followed his quarry a couple of streets away, where they went into number 25 Staunton Terrace. Biding his time, it wasn’t long before he saw a light go on upstairs. Swiftly he made his move down the driveway. At the door he tore open the bag, lifted the letterbox open with his index fingers and gently jiggled the turds through. With a satisfying ‘phut’ they hit the carpet inside the hallway. Nervously, excitedly, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out several flat but heavy stones, which he also dropped through the letterbox. As they hit the dog shit they squashed it deep into the carpet fibres, ensuring maximum disgust and difficulty to clean out.

Walking home he felt buoyed by a warm surge of righteousness. Natural justice had been dispensed, a wrong had been righted. Biblical, perhaps, but no less just for that.

a375b65e-df9e-4c0c-a642-b68a2697cbb2-215-0000003dcfad6a16_tmpRounding the corner of Parson Drive, he slowed his pace to watch a young woman size up the gap between a badly parked car and a hedge. Adjudging it too narrow, she had no choice but to push her pram around the car on the road, her mouth drawn tight with frustration. As he crossed over he reached into his coat pocket and clutched his door key tightly. Manipulating it between his middle and index fingers, like some covert prison shank, he slipped his hand back out of his pocket and pressed the key hard into the pristine paintwork of the selfish areshole’s Audi, holding it on to leave a good foot long scratch, in one smooth movement as he walked by. Untraceable. Expensive. A just dessert.

At around 8 o’clock it started again. Mr Mayhew next door always seemed to come to life every evening about this time. The cavity-less 1930s wall that divided their dwellings might well have muffled much of the sound of that analogue age, but it was no match for the decibels kicked out by Mr Mayhew’s Bose bins. Classic rock filled his living room, almost as clearly as it did Mr Mayhew’s. It was a maddening intrusion, an unforgivable encroachment into his private sanctuary. Mr Mayhew couldn’t have affronted him more if he’d let himself in the kitchen door, popped the kettle on and fixed himself a sandwich.

There was none of the instant karma he was used to with this one. No, this was a slow burn, a long game. The first symptom was a ringing in the ears. He knew Mr Mayhew was suffering from tinnitus because he heard him speaking to his family on the phone, when he would complain, rather loudly – no doubt as a consequence – of his aural disturbance. Some months after the onset of the tinnitus he had been delighted to see Mr Mayhew fall over in the street. It wasn’t icy out and it was barely 10 in the morning, so booze wasn’t a likely candidate. No, he was sure that it must be the next symptom. Loss of balance.

730b683e-6b21-4d94-9527-e8d46eb8c4d1-215-0000003f62db286d_tmpMr Mayhew’s inner ear was under attack. The cells that regulated his hearing and balance were losing a protracted and covert war being waged by a cocktail of ototoxic medicines that were being syringed into his gold top every morning. The aspirin was easy enough to come by. Six of those over-the-counter little bad boys every day. The neomycin he liked, an antibiotic with particular toxicity for the cochlear. That, along with the ethacrynic acid, the viomycin and the chemotherapy drugs were hard to come by, but not impossible. Very soon, if it were not already the case, the nerve damage would be permanent. Irreversible. And then there will be no merit in playing your music, will there Mr Mayhew. And our living rooms will fall silent. Yours, dispiritingly so. Mine, blissfully.

He felt a dull twinge of conscience. Once or twice. After all, this wasn’t anything a good scrub with bleach or visit to a car body shop could fix. But it was really the only fitting punishment. This was, beyond doubt, the most heinous of all selfish behaviours. That which invades, pollutes, makes intolerable another’s private space.

And why not?

It started quite innocently, just a mundane mistake. As the minute hand on the boardroom clock jolted to three past nine, the Chair of the Change Management Project Steering Group meeting got proceedings underway.

The last to arrive, Terence sat down next to Gordon Mayhew. His right ankle resting on his left knee, Terence glanced down to witness an anxiety dream made flesh. He could see flesh. Terence wasn’t wearing socks.

img_0188Between the black leather of his brogues and the grey pinstripe of trouser leg, there was a strip of pink ankle on show. All hair, bone and cracked desiccated skin. With great effort to appear casual and unflustered, he swung his leg back under the table and tried his damndest to focus on the overlong, dry-as-dust discussion that followed. But as jaws flapped and pens scribbled, Terence was dimly aware of a distant, almost imperceptible siren. It was not a sound, rather a feeling. A crescendo of something faintly pleasing from a hitherto anechoic part of his brain. The muffled, yet welling klaxon of liberation.

The next day Terence passed over his usual choice of charcoal grey tie in favour of a gold bow tie he remembered was squirrelled away in a box under his bed. It shared it’s forgotten Clarks time capsule with a host of desultory odds and sods from his early twenties, his life as an undergrad. As he clipped it round his chuckling gullet, he grinned at the memory of sharing a late night kebab with Sarah Gough somewhere in Manchester. He, resplendent in a crimson shirt, bootcut orange corduroys and a gold bow tie, she, at the intersection between laughter and aneurism as he baffonishly, drunkenly knocked back a table top condiment bottle of arse-melting chilli sauce. The kind that makes you wonder whether you’ve been kicked up the fundament by a horse while you were sleeping.

img_0186Terence was delighted to note the looks, some odd, some approving, most bespeaking of a dim judgement. He was replaced by Neil McCulloch for an important presentation to the Senior Management Team. On the grounds that “Neil has been working with the data very closely and just has a greater familiarity with it, really, that’s all”. But Terence knew it was the bow tie.

By week seven Terence had drawn the focus of his line manager’s line manager. The golden bow tie sparkled against the obsidian night of a jet black cowboy shirt, all embroidery and rhinestones. Pinstripes had been superseded by salmon pink shorts, which allowed for the full display of white knee socks complete with Morris Man bells. On his head a granny style plastic rain bonnet, bulging at the sides with shaggy ginger mutton chops. Today was the maiden outing for his homemade makrami cape, made up of Celtic knots and vaguely phallic shapes.

He had been warned. In writing. By Human Resources. But it seemed that there was ultimately nothing the company could do. Terence had muttered some mischievous nonesense about his right to express his “gender dysphoria and atypical transvestism” which seemed to inject just enough doubt into the situation to effect inertia on his employer’s part.

img_0187Seventeen years later, as Terence arrived home from his retirement bash, he ‘birthed’ from his erotically decorated Zorbing ball, opened the front door and slumped on the sofa.

Casting off his silver matador jacket, unwinding the neon green electrical tape from his arms, kicking off his spherical shoes and removing the preserved whale foreskin hat from his head, he sat naked for a good hour.

Eventually he pushed himself up from the sofa and plodded upstairs. In his room, he opened the wardrobe and took out a white shirt, charcoal grey trousers and a slate grey tie. He admired himself in the full length mirror. A picture of unremarkable corporate officialdom. A well-pressed, bland yet respectable company man. The very outfit he was buried in six years and seven months later. The outfit he had worn, through a rotation of near identical variations, since the moment he retired.

And why not.

Silk sheath

‘Fix me a bourbon’ Pam barked. She ran her hands down her hips, like she was miming climbing out of a chimney.

Jim went over to the antique oak drinks globe and poured her a measure. He felt his hand trembling with the anticipation of the evening. With growing member squashed in his trousers and balls writhing like a nest of newborn mice, he handed her the glass.

‘Give me four fingers, goddamit man’. Jim quickly poured her more bourbon. He liked her stern tone. It was powerful, dominating, chiding. He felt excited and frightened, like a naughty boy at a nude firework display. He glanced back to see Pam slip out of her custard yellow dress to reveal strawberry jelly neglige. Pink and diaphanous, like a see-through twat.

img_0183‘Ever done it in a hotel, Jim?’.

‘Never’.

‘I have. I’ve been entered in every Ibis in London. Come to think of it, I lost my prison purse virginity in a Benfleet Travel Lodge’.

Pam necked her drink like a stressed cop in an American movie, in the bar scene following the bit about his domestic chaos, just as the narrative arc is taking him to his nadir.

‘She’s hungry, Jim’ she growled, looking down at her midrif. ‘What’s on the menu?’.

Jim almost reached for the room service leaflet next to the phone, but checked himself and grinned broadly.

‘A big pork banger for main’.

‘And for pudding?’ Pam whispered.

‘Bollock yoghurt’.

img_0185Jim dropped his cream cords and kicked them across the room. One flailing leg knocked a cup of tea onto his Exchange and Mart. Jim made a mental note to request a hairdryer from reception later. Advancing towards Pam, he whipped off her bra to reveal enormous nipples, two mighty rivets holding together steel-hard breasts. They were amazing, two beautifully engineeed pleasure domes straight out of a Kingdom Brunel wet dream.

Kissing every square inch of her body, Jim struggled to control his obsessive compulsive disorder. ‘I want your chod rod to prod and sod my love pod’ sang Pam, to the tune of the Dad’s Army theme.

Feeling impish, Jim waggled his bloated phallus.

‘You filthy fuck metronome’ gushed Pam, licking her lips, her facial lips.

‘I only go one speed, Pam’ said Jim. ‘Allegro’.

‘I like it low and dirty, Mr composer, lots going on down the bottom end’.

img_0184‘Get ready for the bassoon solo. I call this next piece, Flight of the Bumhole Bee’.

Jim and Pam locked soft parts for about an hour. Afterwards Pam watched a fascinating edition of How It’s Made all about the manufacture of moulded pulp containers. Jim dried his car magazine with a small hairdryer and did a couple of sodokus.