Authors: Rhys Hughes
Link Arms with Toads!
Link Arms with Toads!
Whether you are a ghost, a robot or just an apeman, you can always link arms with toads!
Link Arms with Toads!
by Rhys Hughes
Published by Chômu Press, MMXI
Link Arms with Toads!
copyright © Rhys Hughes 2010
The right of Rhys Hughes to be identified as Author of this
Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Published in May 2011 by Chômu Press.
by arrangement with the author.
All rights reserved by the author.
First Kindle Edition
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Design and layout by: Bigeyebrow and Chômu Press
Character illustration by: Torso Vertical
A showcase of
The beautiful, wonderful, marvellous,
superlative, incredible, delectable
Rhys Hughes seems almost the sum of our planet’s literature... As well as being drunk on language and wild imagery, he is also sober on the essentials of thought. He has something of Mervyn Peake’s glorious invention, something of John Cowper Powys’s contemplative, almost disdainful existentialism, a sensuality, a relish, an addiction to the delicious. He’s as tricky as his own characters... He toys with convention. He makes the metaphysical political, the personal incredible and the comic hints at subtle pain. Few living fictioneers approach this chef’s sardonic confections, certainly not in English.”
Hughes’ world is a magical one, and his language is the most magical thing of all.”
It’s a crime that Rhys Hughes is not as widely known as Italo Calvino and other writers of that stature. Brilliantly written and conceived, Hughes’ fiction has few parallels anywhere in the world. In some alternate universe with a better sense of justice, his work triumphantly parades across all bestseller lists.”
The Troubadours of Perception
Rosa is harsh and meaty, like an old glass of red wine. She wants to play duets in the dusky twilight. Alice is slow and cool, like a watermelon that takes several days to consume. She still has trouble tuning her instrument. Clara and Gabrielle wander the fretboard in the search for a fuller sound. I want to make love to Gabrielle but I am unsure of the fingering.
In the lounge of a pleasant suburban house in Solihull, I dally with Christine. The lamps are turned low, there is a real fire in the hearth. I bless the mirror above the mantelpiece that reflects my profile back at me. The shadow of an emerging beard, the long shiny hair that curls around my shoulders, the glittering of an earring. I have the accent down to perfection, the rascally shrug.
Christine is not really interested in the guitar. She wants to talk. She does not care that my own is strung with silver strings to give a sweeter sound. Her husband is away on a business trip. She suspects that he is losing enthusiasm for the relationship, that he has been bitten by the fleas of new desire. She has a similar itch, a need to be scratched. I tease, I croon, I softly sing. The fleas that tease in the high Pyrenees. O Christine!
Afterwards we sip coffee and I listen to an account of their early life together. It had all been fun then. Or had it? Her doubts are growing, they are beginning to encompass the past. I ask her how she sees her role within the shifting mores of a modern society. In all this time, a single note has she played. But my fees will be the same. I can humour the dabblers, the dilettantes, but I cannot afford to indulge them. It is my way of life.
The bedsheets are chill around Christine’s lithe body. Her musky scent reminds me of incense, honeysuckle, the taste of caramel. Candles float in little vases full of water. Her room is tastefully furnished, almost sparse. I trace delicate pathways along her stomach with my tongue. I used to teach the piano. I used to dream of possessing such women as Christine on the stool while our fingers explored their own crescendo. But I have learned from experience. Ivory and ebony keys do not turn locks of hearts; what is required are the chords that bind.
I leave Christine and catch the bus back into town. Dust and leaves swirl before me. I feel self-consciously romantic in my waistcoat, the white shirt whose huge flapping cuffs I must leave unbuttoned, face and hands never too clean. We trundle through streets dim and featureless to those who do not know. I have finally solved the enigma of these suburban boulevards, treeless avenues and bowbacked crescents. The language of the pavements is in my blood, my greasy veins. Behind each pair of William Morris curtains there are shattered fragments of secret lusts, shards of which have lodged in my heart.
Jessica presents a quite different prospect. There is a more subtle understanding between us. Her husband is possibly a little too devoted. It would be difficult for her to betray him without feeling guilt. Her frustration manifests itself in the sly look, the parted lips. She has become an expert in the ways of the flirt. Sometimes I think that I am imagining her responses, so skilfully does she proceed.
She also happens to be a very good player. With the possible exception of Catherine, she is my most talented pupil. It seems that soon there will be little more I can teach her. I will have to depart forever then, with only the taste of a lost chance to remember her by. She sings as she plays, and her voice is surprisingly homespun among the exotic artifacts of her living room, the indigo batiks, the wooden carvings and ethnic throws. Homespun from gold, her hair.
I correct her fingering in one place only and I do this by taking her hand. She wants to know what it is like out there, life on the pavement. Thrilling, dirty, absurd, I tell her. She is not quite enchanted but she is tempted to smile. I have seen her smile, I know that it is radiant, trembling, all that my own smile is not. My own smile is wicked and charming. Wickedly charming.
Jessica is on my mind a great deal of the time. So too Amelia, a direct descendant of the last man to fight a legal duel in England. The victor, I assume; I have never questioned her on this point. So Amelia needs no work, no flash of chipped incisor. She is already mine, became mine right from the beginning, though in one way only. Her bosom heaves. It is very gratifying to learn that she shares my passion for the poet, the only poet.
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir
. We watch the clouds part for long afternoon hours. Over the crumbling brick walls of her semi-detached garden, the clematis hugging tight to its lattice, the morning glory, the sun drowns in its vermilion.
Out again into the dusk. Amelia does not dance. Amelia prefers to languish in a curiously undramatic way. It is Isabella who likes to dance. I play her a valse and a saraband and she is stately, graceful, a little sad among the frosty adjuncts of the kitchen, where she always affects to have her lessons. I guess that only here the neighbours may spy on her. She is cultivating her reputation.
Isabella’s husband is a salesman, a surly fellow I once met and liked. But Isabella tells me that his manner is pure guile. He is contented with life, his cynicism is mere sophistication. He is also a devoted Adventist. His chosen method is to knock on doors, following much the same routes as myself, and to ask the occupants whether they would like to talk about God. Usually they say no. He then asks if he can sell them some double-glazing instead.
I watch Isabella stretch upwards, her eyes fixed on some remote point beyond the shelf of spice jars, her bare calves as smooth as a legato. I watch her weave between the oven and the washing machine. Later, when the mood takes her, she will sit on the latter during spin cycle while I watch with hooded eyes. The neighbours will make notes. Her paramour is a parvenu, they will say. A roguish fellow.
With Isabella I play old Spanish airs. With Lydia I tour the oeuvre of Guiraut Riquier, still a neglected composer. Lydia is an exception to one rule of my calling. She does not share the general acceptance of the grime any true romantic must carry on his boots. She insists I remove my footwear on her threshold. Toes wriggle in chilly anticipation. Will I ever bear her over another threshold? Will I ever hear her loosen her restraints with a shriek as piercing as a split harmonic? I am working on Lydia, practice is what it takes.