This stuff has been a written a long time, but I’m too lazy to finish it. So I will publish ten or fifteen episodes from the book “Conversations with Jelly” and by the time more is needed maybe I’ll feel the desire to write more – but maybe not. In any case, I’ll put a new episode up each week and see if any sense of obligation to finish it arises.
Jack Meets Jelly
Jack slowly opened his eyes to be greeted by gray morning light and the sight of a small black dot moving across the ceiling. It was barely visible, and Jack’s somber mood caused him to reflect on the futility of the efforts this spider was making to get from one side of the room to the other. He glanced over at Helen, who was still asleep, and reflected that this little spider would have never made it to the other side had she been awake. He gently got out of the bed, pulled over a chair and reached up for this hapless creature. Within a few seconds, it was dropped out of the small window and drifted down to the earth below.
The alarm clock had not sounded yet, and at just a few minutes past seven, he was half an hour early in rising. Yesterday he’d attended his father’s funeral, with all its well-rehearsed ceremonial shallowness. Jack loved his father, a man who was honest to a fault, and who had been served with lung cancer at the age of 58. It would take years for Jack to get over his sense of loss, and he knew it.
The small two bedroom terraced house Jack and Helen lived in had just been fitted with an en-suite wet room – a bragging point for sure. This was Helen’s doing. Her friend at work had got one, and had repeated over and over again how wonderful it was, and how it was so much superior to a conventional shower. Jack couldn’t have cared less, but he agreed simply to keep Helen happy.
He stood under the streaming water like an Adonis. His relationship with Helen was purely physical, since they had almost nothing in common. It would not be an overstatement to say she was obsessed with her appearance. The gym subscription, extensive collection of cosmetics, heaving wardrobe, and endless visits to the hairstylist were ample evidence. And as Jack took pleasure in the water that was just a little too hot, he could not help but reflect that it was Helen’s boobs that had landed in him this situation. After two years of marriage, the sex was becoming dull. They both knew it, and since their relationship consisted of nothing else, so they increasingly lived like strangers in the same house, with an occasional rekindling of the sexual frenzy that had brought them together.
He stepped out the wet room, put on his working clothes, the light blue overalls supplied by the tire fitting business he worked for and headed downstairs. The breakfast routine was well rehearsed. Three rashers of bacon fried for four minutes before he added the two eggs and the complete breakfast would fry for another two minutes. It was vitally important that the eggs fried for exactly two minutes because Jack simply would not eat fried eggs unless the yolks were runny. He sat at the breakfast bar and enjoyed every mouthful. He would be spared Helen’s disapproving glances this morning. She would not rise for another twenty minutes, at eight. Being mindful of her figure meant that Helen would have half a grapefruit and a small pot of fat-free yogurt. And every morning she would say she could not understand how Jack could eat such unhealthy food.
Jack went into the lounge to watch the morning news on their new fifty inch TV. It was way too big for this small room, but again Helen had insisted on keeping up with her friend at work. The news was uneventful, and at fifteen minutes past eight, he heard Helen coming down the stairs which led straight into the lounge. Nothing was said as she walked through to the kitchen to prepare her healthy breakfast. Ten minutes later Helen entered the lounge and sat down opposite Jack.
“You look delicious.” Jack said as he glared at that low cut blouse and long tanned legs.
“Well you know I’m going to the leaving party tonight. I told you last week that Susan is leaving, and that I would be out tonight.”
Jack didn’t hear any of the words – he wanted sex.
“We’ve got fifteen minutes.” He said with a cheeky grin.
“Oh, I can’t do that it would make a mess of my makeup.”
Jack moved over to Helen and kissed her on the neck – that always worked.
“No I can’t Jack, there isn’t enough time, and besides I’m not in the mood.”
Jack knew when he was being rebuffed, so he strode out the room, put his jacket on, and mounted his bicycle for the ten minute ride to work. He felt better now he had the chilled April air rushing past his cheeks. The long faces of motorists stuck in traffic jams were a source of some delight for Jack as he glided past them.
His work place was fairly near the center of town. The same journey in a car might take two or three times as long as it took him on his bike. He swerved into the forecourt outside the workshops, and eventually chained his bicycle to a metal drainpipe at the side of the building. As he walked past the window of the small canteen, he could see Barry and the other two fitters. Every morning Barry and himself would compete with insults. As he strode into the canteen he nodded to the other two, and then turned his attention to Barry.
“Morning you fat bastard.” Jack blurted with unrestrained glee.
Barry just looked up and muttered “Sit down you impotent wanker.”
Jack was actually a little wary of Barry despite the exchange of insults. Barry had the tough man look – shaved head, tight muscular physique, and a total unwillingness to be ‘nice’. They all knew Barry was heavily into martial arts, so no one messed with him. It was also noted that he was not married – something of an oddity for a thirty year old in this modestly sized town. But no one, absolutely no one was going to suggest that Barry was gay. It might be the last thing they said.
The day was uneventful. Jack liked this job. It was easy, free of the need to talk with people, and moderately well paid. He also liked, rather he had become addicted to, the smell of new tires. At lunchtime he found Barry reading one of his ‘weird’ books. No one said anything, or even asked about these books with no titles, and with strange symbols on the cover. Barry didn’t try and hide the books, feeling totally secure in the knowledge that no one was going to poke fun or ask questions. But on this day, just a day after his father’s funeral, Jack wanted to ask him about these strange books he read.
“What is that book you are reading Barry?” Jack asked with a totally unconvincing attempt at indifference.
Barry looked up with a surprised expression. Jack had never seen this before, and wondered if maybe he should leave the room. And then Barry smiled. Oddly enough Jack had never seen Barry smile before. It was a kind, generous smile.
“Why do you want to know Jack?”
“I’m just curious – that’s all”
“Oh well if it’s just curiosity, I’ll go back to my book.”
Jack didn’t feel inclined to ask any more questions despite Barry’s accommodating mood. He read the newspaper, and even if the news had foretold of the destruction of Earth by an asteroid, he would not have disturbed Barry to relate the news.
At the end of the working day Jack suddenly remembered with a certain amount of glee that Helen would be out all evening. What would he do? Just as he was about to mount his bicycle for the journey home he heard Barry calling him. This was not like Barry at all – the man who never said anything unless he absolutely had to.
“I’m going to see a friend of mine this evening. Would you like to come?” Barry said, as if this was just business as usual – which it wasn’t.
“Well as it happens Helen is out this evening and so I could come. But who is this friend of yours?”
“You asked about the books. If you want to know about the books then my friend is the man to speak with.”
They agreed to meet at an address just ten minutes walk from where Jack lived. A more upmarket part of the town, with tree lined avenues and old Victorian terraced houses. Jack was excited, and was shocked at Barry’s invitation. Barry never socialized with people at work.
The walk from Jacks’s house to the address given by Barry was very pleasant. And Jack liked these old tree-lined streets. As he approached the address he had been give so he saw a run down, ramshackle Victorian terrace that was quite easily the most neglected house on the street. Paint was peeling away from the doors and window frames, the garden at the front was a small jungle of weeds, and a section of the rain gutters was hanging down from the roof.
Jack approached the door of the house with some trepidation. It was now dark and a single light bulb could be seen illuminating the hallway as he looked through the stained glass in the door. He was just about to press the door bell when he saw a figure approaching the door. This was a diminished figure, moving quite slowly. Eventually the door opened and an old man, possibly late seventies, looked briefly at Jack and beckoned him to enter. Jack was taken into a room at the front of the house, where Barry and a plainly dressed young woman were already seated.
Barry didn’t even acknowledge Jack, and the young woman made no attempt to introduce herself. The old man however came over to Jack.
“Hello Jack, my name is Jeremy, but everyone calls me Jelly.”
At this the old man smiled and laughed to himself. Jack was studying this strange figure. The old man wore an old tweed jacket, a cravat, red leather slippers, and fawn colored slacks. He would not have been out-of-place in a 1950s movie, and had the air of an aristocrat about him.
Jelly disappeared from the room, and Jack cast a quick glance at Barry and the unknown woman. They both sat silently and did not acknowledge his glances.
A few minutes later Jelly reappeared with a tray. On the tray were four cups and saucers, and a teapot.
“How do you take your tea Jack?” Jelly asked with a smile.
“Oh, with milk and one sugar please.”
Jelly took an inordinate amount of time to pour the tea, his hand shaking a little as he held the teapot. Eventually they were all seated and Jelly turned his attention to Jack.
“Barry tells me you showed some interest in the books he reads.”
“Well, yes, I was curious.”
“You never know where curiosity might lead Jack. It’s a very dangerous thing.”
Jack felt a little uneasy – as though he was being threatened, if ever so slightly.
“The books you enquire about deal with the nature of life and death.” Jelly said in a matter of fact manner. This made Jack very uneasy. He had never contemplated that people might study such things.
“The only reason I agreed to see you is that your father has died recently, and you may be open to knowledge that you would normally reject. But of course you might reject it anyway. Such would be your loss.”
Jack was totally out of his depth. What kind of creepy set-up was this? And Barry, the hard man who seemed so grounded, was part of this?
“I would be happy to see you this time most weeks if you wish. Barry and Susan will not be here, it will just be you and me. Let Barry know if you would like to accept the invitation. I don’t expect you to make a decision now. Clearly, you think we are a group of freaks, but we are not offended. Nothing you could do could offend us. Anyway please let Barry know.”
With that Jelly, Barry and Susan got up from their chairs and started to leave the room. Jack quickly followed. As they left the house Barry turned to Jack.
“He likes you. I would have put my money on him not even letting you enter the house.”
With that Jack walked back home with a mixture of emotions swirling inside him. There was anger at the way he was ignored, and particularly by Susan, a woman who was not his type at all, but was strangely attractive. He was also a little frightened – who the hell studies the nature of life and death? But he was also excited.
The house was empty when he got home. Helen was still at the leaving party and would not be back before midnight. After his strange encounter with Jelly, Jack took some comfort in the reassuring familiarity of his life with Helen. And anyway she would come back drunk, and sex was a sure thing. Helen only really enjoyed sex when she was drunk.
The following week was pretty much like every week – work, home life, sex life, and Barry conducted himself in his usual off-hand manner, behaving as though the meeting with Jelly had never taken place. When confirming that he would like to see Jelly again, Jack had tried to ask Barry about Susan, but Barry had simply replied that Jack would probably never see her again. For reasons he did not understand, this made Jack sad.
Next episode here.