On the way home, on the number 50 bus in Manchester, I was trying to find a way of killing Yasmin a character in my forthcoming novel, Song Of Gulzarina.
I had thought of all sorts of scenarios, and texted Peter Kalukovich, my co-writer friend, with what I thought was a good way of getting rid of the character.
She’s the lover who got betrayed, right?Peter texted back.
Peter:You can’t kill Yasmin off with cancer. Cliché, boring!!!,
He was clearly sitting in front of a computer, otherwise he would have just sent a one word message back, something along the lines of, crap.
I was a bit tired and didn’t want to get into a texting duel, especially as I was on my mobile, and rang him.
Peter is partially deaf, and over the years I have worked out which sounds to avoid and how to speak to him, especially on the telephone. To clarify this point, let me transgress. There is a pub on Oxford Road, the Ford Madox Brown, named after the famous painter. One day Peter texted me, Where are we meeting?
It was raining so I phoned him back and said, ‘Ford Madox Brown.’
‘Lord Mayduck Groan!’ the poor man replied, clearly finding it difficult working out what I was saying.
Ever since, we have referred to the pub, by this name.
Now, back to my story.
‘You are supposed to be a writer, Mister Mehmood,’ Peter snapped at me as soon as he answered. ‘Can’t you think of something more imaginative, like throwing her out of an aircraft?’
‘Come on then, lets have it,’ Peter sniggered, ‘I have a deadline, don’t have all day.’
I knew he was procrastinating on the writing front, otherwise he would not have answered my call. I was about to tell him so, but instead, I raised my voice and said, ‘I thought of slitting her throat, but it would be too messy.’
‘She has a daughter, who is really bitchy at times, and as you well know, there are too many implications for me, if I do this.’
‘Innit,’ he replied.
This is a particularly loaded phrase we northern writers use, when listening to each others problems. In this instance it means, You’re stuck, and you ain’t getting naff all out of me.
I continued, ‘I thought of throwing her in front of a bus, but around where she lives, there’s too much traffic. She would almost certainly live. And can you imagine the story, I would have to invent and the issues I would have to deal?’
‘Innit,’ he laughed. This time it meant, I don’t got no problems like that.
‘I thought of poisoning her…’ I said.
‘Cheap,’ he interrupted. I couldn’t work out whether he really thought this was the case, or maybe he was thinking of using it in his own novel, and as we had the same publisher for a series of connected novels we are publishing, one of us would in that case, have to have another scenario.
‘I thought of getting a sword and having her head chopped off…’
‘Too gruesome,’ Peter sighed, and then continued in know-it-all type of a tone, ‘besides, where would the sword come from?’ He went into a rubbing-salt-into-your-wounds sort of a silence and then continued in a voice pregnant with a self-righteous, but refrained laugh, ‘Of course, you can get a ceremonial one from the pawn shop in Levi,’ and then quickly added, ‘ now, hurry up, I got to get back to work.’
He was lying. I heard his kettle click and then water being poured into a cup.
I was about to continue with my next idea, when I felt a little hot tingle on the tips of my ears, like someone close by was watching me. I was sitting on the lower deck of the bus. I turned around. Every one in the bus was staring at me. No one was talking. A woman clutched her baby. Her unblinking eyes fixed on me.
I told Peter to hold on and looked out of the window. The Birchfields Park was on my left. I pressed the stop button and stood up, still holding the phone next to my ear, with Peter repeating his question, ‘What was the last word of her dialogue?’
I thought for a moment, and remembered, ‘Allah,’ I replied loudly walking towards the front of the bus.
‘Bella!’ Pete exclaimed.’
‘No,’ I said.
I went to the front of the bus. The driver pulled over at the next bus stop, which was at the corner of Birch Fields Road and Dickinson Road. He checked the safety screen, which protects drivers from the public, to see if it was locked, but didn’t open the exit doors.
‘This is my stop,’ I said said to the driver.
He stared at me, whilst fidgeting with something with his right hand.
Then it dawned on me why he was not opening the door.
‘It’s not what you think, mate,’ I said apologetically, ‘I’m a writer. I was talking to a deaf writer.’
He was a big man, with a reddening face. He pursed his lips and nodded. His unblinking eyes fixed on me.
I thought quickly. I really didn’t want to spend a day, or maybe more in a police station.
Someone screamed at the back of the bus. I turned around. All the passengers were huddled together at the furthest end of the bus.
I pulled on the doors. They hissed open. I stepped off the bus. As it went past me, everyone in it was on their mobile phones, looking at me.