Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Tao of Meh

Whenever I express my concern to JP over the hour-long car journey he makes here from Glasgow each week, he reminds me that despite terrible winter weather and the countless dodgy drivers on the roads, there is never a need to worry, because he is lucky.

While many people’s reactions during threatening situations would be to panic and cling desperately to something to calm themselves, JP’s reaction falls somewhere between detached curiosity and a shoulder-shrugging disinterest that can only be described as “meh.” This natural ability to let go of situations over which he has no control would inspire jealousy in even the most ardent of Zen followers. Perhaps JP should start a new movement - The Tao of Meh.

If JP was a character in a Western, he would be the guy who gets shot and falls in the dust, only to come to and reach into his vest to retrieve the deeply dented whisky flask that has saved his life.

Anyway, today’s ramble has been powered by Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, and inspired, in part, by the mad and lucky manboy known as JP.
Just as you begin to fall you think - maybe I’ll get lucky. Sure enough, despite descending like an epileptic muppet, all flailing limbs, you land among the giant sausage casings of black garbage bags, heaped and due to be collected the next morning. You don’t even break a bone, although it does take you a minute to get your breath back. Spread-eagle among the greasy spoon shrapnel of coffee grounds and toast crusts, you watch the clouds drift past the buildings above, trying now and again to spot the place where your foot had slipped.

Of course he had gotten away. Nineteen and more monkey than man, he had bounded up fire escapes and around the rooftops like a video game character. Even during the chase you expected to see him snatch up some half-hidden, incredulous package, like a sack of bananas or a poise of four-leaf clovers, after which a resounding chime would ring and a sign would appear from nowhere advertising that he was up another 300 points.

Bah, you think, sitting up and flicking a bit of fried egg in the shape of a pac man from your knee. Catching a movement from the corner of your eye you look up. An old woman, dressed head-to-toe in a menagerie of beige, is staring at you, both hands gripping a giant purse.

You smile broadly. “Good morning,” you beam, raising a hand that sends a bit of tomato catapulting towards its unintended pale target.

She jumps as the red pulp lands on her shoe. She looks down at it a moment, then up at you, her eyes narrowing into a glare. Your hand is frozen in the air and you are still smiling, so that you look like a creepy host from a childrens’ television programme.

Using the handle of her purse as if it were a railing, the old woman takes a deep breath and leans in.

“Asshole!” she bellows, then lurches slowly around and hobbles out of the alley. You unlock your arm and wave to her diminishing frame until she rounds the corner, after which you collapse backwards into the garbage. A waft of rot surrounds you like a second skin and you gag dramatically before struggling amidst the bags and finally propelling yourself to your feet.

You clamour for your phone, which you finally locate in your inside coat pocket, only to find that the face is smashed. Resisting the urge to throw a fit, you simply make a fist with the phone at the centre, thereby driving a small shard of glass into your palm.

Long strides take you out of the alley and down the street to where Arnie is waiting in the car, stuffing his face with a fish supper. As you open the door the smell of cod and vinegar collides with your eau de old burger.

“Ow id oh?” Arnie asks with a mouthful, offering you a small trough of chips.

Snatching the chips you slam yourself back into the seat and shake your head. “Just shut up and drive, you wanker.”

Like a dog that doesn’t know why it’s being scolded, Arnie is wide-eyed and silent a moment, before shrugging as if the subject is not worth pressing.

But as he pulls the car into traffic, his nostrils suddenly flare and his face pushes into a grimace.

“You smell like shit, he says.


Anonymous said...

A different style of writing from you there Sophia. Like a pulpy graphic novel or old Starsky and Hutch episode. I liked it, and just like last weeks story, you leave me wanting more.

C.S. Perry said...

Nice. It's good to flex those muscles. Maybe you should hammer out a crime drama in your inimitable style.
You might just stumble into a best seller. could wire me some cash.

casaubon said...


Dick said...

I like the concept very much. I tend to pursue the Tao of Meh when behind the wheel. I'll drive according to the external circumstances so as to not draw fire from the gods, but sometimes, in difficult conditions, a mighty fatalism overcomes me. Now I have a name for it. Thank you.