SMELLS LIKE

SMELLS LIKE

By Martin Worster

 

Graham spluttered as he increased the speed on the Stairmaster. He’d also increased the gradient. It was now an uphill struggle. His new fitness regime had been as much inspired by spare tyres as it had by a nagging wife. He used to drink in wine bars and pubs with colleagues after work. He still did this but now interspersed it with gym activity as a further wife avoidance strategy.

 

“It’s David’s parents evening on Thursday, DON’T FORGET” his wife Julia had reminded him over breakfast that Friday morning.

“Why are you telling me now, it’s not till next week?” he replied.

“You’ll forget. I KNOW what you’re like,” she continued.

Graham was thrilled at the prospect of being humiliated by recent graduate teachers who presided over his distant and moody fourteen year old son Harry.

 

“Have you booked the summer holiday yet?” Julia interrupted Graham who was reading The Times.

“Michael and Bridget have already booked theirs? YOU KNOW HOW BUSY THE MELIA GETS, ESPECIALLY IF WE WANT A COTTAGE?” Julia yapped.

 

“Yes…yes…YES!” Graham had answered, aware that their relationship had deteriorated into the antithesis of what it had been when he had first met Julia. As spring stepped early twenty somethings they flirted with bohemianism. They smoked dope at the weekends and listened to Pink Floyd on magic mushrooms. They did the summer festival circuit. Graham had even written poetry, but a recent re-reading had revealed this to be nothing better than teenage angst drivel. He’d been in his mid-twenties when he wrote it. Graham tried to trace exactly at which point two months backpacking in Nepal had turned into ten days of Mediterranean monotony at the Hotel Melia in Porto Banus. And with Michael and Bridget. David suddenly felt queasy.

 

He looked at the red LED on the Starmaster as a he felt sweat sting his eyes. 7 minutes 22 seconds. He wanted to break the ten minute barrier. He focused on the long pair of leotarded legs supporting pert buttocks in front of him as inspiration. This is why I am here, he thought. There’s life in the old dog yet, he repeated a few times as a mantra. 8.49 the clock counted slowly.  He reflected on how he had ended up an overweight 43 year MD of a marketing services company in Hammersmith. What had happened there? 9.23. He almost fell over as his Addidas knocked at the back of his other ankle. He coughed and halted suddenly at 10.05, glad he had broken one personal barrier for the day. “Remember, Graham, achievable personal goals. Achievable,” the words of his Personal Trainer Brett echoed around his mind.

 

In front of the wall to ceiling mirrors the official Gym Bore flexed his muscles. Graham came to the conclusion that he must live in the gym as there’d never been a time when he wasn’t there grinning like a steroid pumped idiot in front of His mirror. Big biceps, small dick, Graham thought. The veins bulged grossly on his tanned neck as he sidled up to a girl on the rowing machine. The girl laughed and fluttered her eyelids. On the Stairmaster two down Graham saw the anorexic girl with pink hair who also lived in the gym. She was busy running herself to an early grave. She should be in the cafeteria upstairs exercising her jaw muscles, Graham thought. It was nine thirty on a Friday night, don’t these people have a life?

 

 

——————

 

The next morning at ten, Graham walked down the hall of his leafy Chiswick home across the sand coloured matt floor. As it did across all spotty teenagers doors, the sign to his right read ‘Do Not Enter’. It was David’s door. Graham entered. David had apparently stayed at his friends last night. This had probably actually really meant he’d been out of his skull all night on mind bending hallucinogenics at some party. Julia was also out as she had a two hour Pilates class on Saturday mornings. It was a perfect time to snoop.

 

David scanned the teen detritus in the room. Skateboards, baggy jeans, CDs and T-shirts trailed the floor. A pair of tangled boxers by the side of the bed suggested something extra-curricular. On the desk was David’s laptop, which Graham booted up. Bugger, he’s password protected it David realised. No snooping on his emails or seeing which porn sites he’d been visiting.

 

Graham checked the shelves lined with books and CDs. Half the bands Graham had never heard of. Melonseeds, Teddy Boy, Crack Ho, Cramp, Han The DJ. This was probably the post punk low core nu thrash scene Graham had read about in the Sunday Times Culture section. He scanned more CDs and one caught his eye. ‘The Nineties’. Hmmm, Graham thought taking the CD cover down to read the track listing. It was a weird mix of pop, hip hop, rock and R&B. Destiny’s Child, Take That, Happy Mondays. How can they condense such a diverse musical decade into one CD like this, he thought? Then he saw it. A band he’d forgotten about. Nirvana.

 

He stuck the CD in the player and cranked it. The opening riff touched a nerve and Graham started to shake his head. ‘Fuck yes’, he thought reaching for a squash racket which he began to use as a guitar. The opening chords panned out into the refrain. Graham imagined himself in Seattle at some grunge club, he could smell the beers, smoke, hash, sweat, dry ice, piss, anger. Then Kurt’s gruff vocals kicked in. Graham knew this song well and howled out angrily as much as you could to the indecipherable lyrics.

 

“HERE WE ARE NOW, ENTERTAIN US’ Graham screamed. “LIFE IS STOOOPID AND CONTAGIOUS’ he got louder, feeling the bile rise and started to head bang. He looked for an imaginary speaker stack he could body slam into. If only there was a crowd I could jump into and surf on, he thought. It came to the part where Kurt lets out a tormented wail to the sound of a tortured guitar. “WAHHHHAAHHHHHHHHH!” Graham shouted, as he simultaneously did a scissor kick and plucked at the cat gutted head of the squash racket. He opened his eyes to see two big eyes staring at him from the Kylie retro poster.

 

Kurt Cobaine would be turning in his grave if he could see the scene unfolding above him. An overweight and balding middle aged executive was not quite his target audience. Graham continued to move to the music. Jerking backwards and forwards and then on the less hectic sections he’d hold the guitar low to his knees, back bent over and head hung low how he’d remembered them doing it from the video. Graham felt the music viscerally as he truly entered the spirit of Kurt.

 

The song was winding down to the bit where the screams turn into primordial wailings. ‘ANNNNAHHHANNNAN, ANNNNAHHANNNA.’ Graham was on his knees rolling his head round still plucking on the squash racket when David, having just returned from his friends, walked into the room curious as to why ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was bellowing down the hallway.

 

David looked in wonder at his dad. Teen spirit had turned into middle aged dad angst.

 

“YO DAD” he shouted to no reply.

“HI DAD IT’S ME,!” he shouted again, this time moving forward and tapping his back. Graham turned round, a little surprised but feeling exorcised and strangely content. If anything David was the more embarrassed.   

“Son…how’s it going? We’re going raving tonight right.” he implored as their eyes met.

 

 

1270 words

Martin Worster copyright

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