The clock-cleaning fiction of British writer David Gaffney is definitely best read with protective mouth-guard intact. Equal parts wallop and whimsy, these curt little tales from the other side of the pond will double you with laughter before they sock you in the jaw. GUTFIRE!’s introduction to Mr. Gaffney’s writing came by way of Sawn-Off Tales in 2006, and we’ve been enamored with his style and humor ever since. He was kind enough to share a few new pieces with us, and we’d be committing a crime by not passing them on to you. Enjoy. – GUTFIRE!
Don’t Be Rough | by David Gaffney
Rough people live in rough places and have rough hands whereas nice people live in pleasant streets with trees and say hello how are you to people in the street and don’t get their cocks out or shout cunt at everyone all the time. Nor do they all have those little motorbikes.Nice people have clean easy jobs like in offices and for the council and they are doctors and solicitors. They don’t have to pick up sacks of shit and nappies like rough people who are things like bin men and security guards who are paid fuck all and have to take it up the arse from poncy jumped up twats right out of college.Nice people go to nice schools and get qualifications whereas rough people go to concrete comprehensives that are falling to bits and stick knives in each others eyes and call each other bastards and they have sarcastic teachers who are not much cleverer than they are and they get shit certificates in things like how to get on a bus and they’d rather finger Sandra Hetherington round the bus stop and let their mates smell it afterwards than get their homework done.Rough people do the lottery and are sick in wastepaper bins, all phlegmy and stringy green stuff, and they nick mobiles and watch Sky TV and shout loudly in shops if their kids are lost like come here you stupid little cunt, whereas nice people have violin lessons and sing hymns.Nice people have jobs where the boss is respectful, whereas rough people’s bosses say where have you been you stupid cunt I’m gonna dock your pay for this, and they sometimes twat you in the face and they’re still wearing that big ring and so it’s a cut as well as a bruise, and there was no need for that, they could have taken that ring off, rough people’s bosses always keep their rings on when they punch you.Nice people on the other hand wear suits and play squeaky biscuit in hotel rooms at conferences whereas rough people get sacked and sometimes haven’t got jobs at all and sometimes when you are rough you get so ill you can’t go to work ever and your boss, if you do have a job, says don’t look at me like that cuntface get on with your work.
The Forcing of Air | by David Gaffney
Cleckheaton accordion shop was the centre of the world when it came to accordion based master class DVDs and Russell, a young virtuoso who had toured with Sharon Shannon, was the perfect choice to make a version for melodeon players.But the owner of Cleckheaton accordion shop had been watching the rushes, and wasn’t happy with one of the sections.‘Was it the bit where I dangled the box on its side and played an A run on the pull with the bellows opening with the force of gravity?’ Russell said.‘I liked that bit,’ the owner said. ‘That was fine.’‘Was it the bit where I tap triplets on a single button using three different fingers?’‘That worked fine as well,’ the owner said.‘The bit where I showed them how to play in B on a D/G box?’‘No, no. It was,’ the owner passed his hand through the air as if catching something intangible, ‘all the other stuff. At the end.’Ever since he was young Russell had been fascinated by accordions, squeeze boxes and melodeons. He couldn’t believe where the raucous sound came from. His mother told him little elves were trapped inside, mad for the taste of light and air, and every time you opened the bellows, you allowed everyone to hear the elves crying out.Russell took to the melodeon like a natural, and each time he played he thought about the elves. He began to think about the elves even when he wasn’t playing. He worried about them, stuck inside the dark bellows, huddled in corners weeping quietly, or laughing manically, in a silent world where no one could hear them until Russell began to play.As a teenager he wanted to make the elves scream, make their little voices leap up in pain. He wanted to make them work faster and harder than they ever had before. Sometimes he felt violent. His mates had their thrash-metal and would writhe on the floor shaking their hair to grinding riffs while Russell took his adolescent frustration out on the melodeon. The box was a throat he was squeezing, its bellows folds of skin that hinged the joints of some cruel monster.So at the end of the film Russell looked straight into the camera and told the viewers about the elves crying out from their dark prison in the folds and how it was the player’s job to make these elves sing; to coax them, to thrill them, to seduce them, torture them even.The owner of Cleckheaton accordion shop wasn’t so impressed with this last part.‘How about,’ he suggested, ‘if you just said thanks for watching and good luck with your playing?’
The Three Daves | by David Gaffney
Fat Dave thought Budapest was shabby-chic. Little Dave thought Paris was shoe-shop-manager-on-a-midlife crisis. Big Dave didn’t want a repeat of Krakow where they had to put on padded clothing and get chased through the woods by attack dogs. So for a laugh Big Dave suggested they have the stag in Pontefract, where they’d visited the liquorish museum as part of a confectionary campaign. Little Dave said yes right away, and Fat Dave loved the idea. It would be uber-post-post-ironic-out-the-other-side-and-back-into-being-just-ironic. Shoreditch media spods in sarcastically tilted flat caps sipping mini-Bollingers in the street. There was even a Wimpy so they could eat burgers off a plate with a knife and fork. It was Little Dave’s idea to use the stone troughs in the market place, and the president of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was so impressed that Pontrefract’s troughs would be returned to something like their original use he gave his blessing right away.The night before the stag the three Daves donned overalls and went into the town to prepare their troughs. Each Dave had a clearly defined role, set out on Fat Dave’s spreadsheet. Little Dave was to dig out the soil and flowers and fit the plastic liner, Fat Dave was to operate the wheelbarrow, while Big Dave had to deal with passer’s by. But Big Dave didn’t need to deal with passers by because no-one in Pontefract paid any attention to the three Daves at all.Come the night of the stag each Dave sat on a stool next to his trough and began to drink through a long bendy straw. There were no other guests to cater for because the rest of the Shoreditch crowd had decided it would be more ironic not to come.After an hour the Daves began to feel cold sitting by their beer-filled troughs. It was quiet too. A few hardy smokers stood outside the nearby pubs looking into the middle distance, but apart from polite nods, they didn’t call across to any of the Daves. No Dave rang or texted any of the other Daves because there was a strict no mobile rule on stags and the three Daves followed this to the letter because stags were about bonding and getting away from the world.
Delivered by Sharks | by David Gaffney
Mrs Harrison made the sign herself: ALL TROUSERS ONE POUND. But she didn’t expect Mrs Pugh to follow it to the letter. Leather trousers were a high value item. She knew who Mrs Pugh had sold them to as well: Bill Smethwick. She saw him wearing them at the Town Hall hairdressers. They were too tight and when he moved about with that over-chiropracted slink he had, they made a whistling sound. Bill Smethwick was Mrs Pugh’s latest crush. He ran the online war memorial and Mrs Pugh loved the idea of him sitting up late, pressing the little levers that operate the internet.It didn’t surprise Mrs Harrison that Bill Smethwick bought the leather trousers. He was totally down with youth culture. The last time he was in the shop he’d talked about the kind of ceremony he’d have if he got married again. The mix CD for the limo would be totally 2 step garage. 2 step garage was a new art form, he explained, guitar music hadn’t moved on. He would have a giant water tank in the church so that the ring could be delivered by a baby shark. He liked saying those words: mix CD, 2 step garage, baby shark, and would look at you like he was challenging you to ask him what’s a mix CD? How can a baby shark deliver a ring? But Mrs Harrison never gave him the pleasure.She was due at the shop for her shift soon and would overlap with Mrs Pugh by half an hour. Overlap time was important the area manager said. Mrs Pugh would be watching the window, hoping for Bill Smethwick to pop in on his way to the Town Hall hairdressers, where he also liked to tell the ladies about the mix CD and the baby shark and no doubt boast about the leather trousers he got for a pound from the ladies who were too old and stupid to know the value of anything.
The Clever People Who Can’t Do Anything Useful | by David Gaffney
Some people are born with an innate artistic talent for an art form not yet invented. They are immensely talented yet unable to demonstrate their skills. These people can’t draw, sing, act, design, take photographs, or write. They have a go at all these things, of course, but display no aptitude and are laughed at by students and teachers. They can’t even do a spot of simple DJing, even if you offer them a weeknight when things are slack. And what is DJing? Just putting on records really, it’s not even creative. And if it’s a reggae night and some customers ask politely for 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday, instead of just playing it these people make a big deal, saying the night’s about original dancehall 45s and shit like that and then the customers who wanted 10cc chuck beer on the floor and shove bananas into the condom machine and run out without paying for a large amount of food, and I’m sure several bottles of wine.These people, these types who can’t even do simple DJing on a weekday night where no one of any note comes in, they know that they have this enormous skill, this huge contribution to make. They just don’t understand it. It frustrates them. There is no outlet for their creative expression. It is blocked at every turn.What do these people do?They drink. They lean against walls. They hang out in bars, bars like this, and keep you talking, their faces closely pressed into yours for hours, their hands touching and squeezing your arm. They are urgent. They never have money. They never have jobs or many friends.They have portfolio careers.Sometimes they find each other, and that is an improvement for a short period. Often when they find each other they destroy each other because they hate what is locked within themselves and come to hate it in their new friend too.Where do they go to in the end?Some go to live in Amsterdam. Some wash up in rural towns in the north like Hebden Bridge and Lancaster. You know some of them. They live among us.They do drugs usually, and never dance, even at weddings or leaving dos with Latin music themes. Eventually they die, usually early.This is what happens to these poor people and there is no known cure.
David Gaffney is the author of Sawn Off Tales (2006), Aromabingo (2007), and Never Never (2008). He lives in Manchester, UK and his next collection of short stories, The Half Life of Songs, is out in October 2010. See www.davidgaffney.co.uk