THE MERCY SEAT

This was not a meal to die for.

Here he was, in the land of haute cuisine, and all Mo could afford was a plat du fucking jour. Always the same wherever you went. An undercooked hunk of chicken in a pasty tomato sauce with veg the texture of chewed up gum. A ragged cup of coffee, tasting of wood and wire. Strawberry ice cream with a crumb of chocolate like a blackened tooth in a scarlet fog. Who’d miss these sinister dinner deals?

Café owner must’ve felt pity on him or something, because he laid down a complimentary bowl of soup. There’s a swirl in it, looks like Jesus or Allahu, depending on your mood.

He was never going to work them out, the French. Done trying to interpret their signs. Did you know the first thing that happens to a French baby after it’s born is to have a finger shoved up its anus? The first shit they ever take is black. Bottom kind. The sick breath at its hind.

How twisted do you have to be feeling to stick around for dessert? Mo knew the ever after, and there was no brûlée after Quran.

Mo paid up, waited for change. There’s no tip worth leaving that’d be of any use to these lost causes. His chariot awaits. It was far from gold but this would not be the last seat he ever sat on, of that Mo was nearly wholly sure. His filthy five clenched on the wheel, neither challenging nor resisting, the tan line round his wedding finger starved of what was once good.

Funny, thought Mo, out here when they say ‘mercy’, they mean thanks.

By God, they’d thank him for this.

An eye that can’t see or a tooth that chews on the lie? A foolish life without burdens or one of truths and consequences? Hated on earth or hailed in heaven? He was done with all this measuring of truth.

It’s a beautiful night on the Promenade des Anglais. The key turns, the engine roars, the wicked wheels spin. Deliver us thy blood of atonement.

Let history unfold.

By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff: Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Johnny Cash

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I’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE

 You want to know where I’m from.

Can I first tell you where I’ve been? Not everywhere. I’m yet to crunch on fries at the Ganymed in Berlin like Bowie or wash down a No 209 Gin at the Riot House in Sunset Boulevard like all the rest, but I’ve been somewhere. I’ve toted my pack, travelled many roads, man.

I’ve seen the sun rise like a Monet in Paris and set with the madness of Zeus in Athens. I’ve beheld the moon like a ghee-kissed roti in Jaisalmer and a disco ball in Koh Samui. Looked down on the world from where no one can ever look on again in New York, looked up with the awe of an ant beneath a human at the foot of Kanchenjunga. I’ve drunk in a bar carved into the side of a cliff in Croatia, slid down sugar walls in Switzerland. I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.

I followed Allah in Dhaka, got drunk with God in Florence, and then killed them both in a fit of ecstasy in a field in Bury St Edmonds. I’ve had my fill of stars in the sky and hotels to match in Marrakech, Sharm-el Sheikh and Langkawi. I’ve compared the cathedrals of Germany and Spain to the mosques in Turkey and Spain. I’ve been in more Jewish Quarters than there are Jewish countries and partied in them all.

I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulders of Orion. I haven’t really, but you’re not listening. You don’t care where I’ve been, just where I come from. And not just now, but originally, you want to know where my mum and dad lived when they were little. And all this before you even know my name.

Let me assure you I don’t mean to be facetious in my response, I realise you only ask so that you can place me, relate to me better, maybe take this opportunity to share the tale about the time you rode an elephant in Hyderabad, man. But before I answer, let me, if I may be so bold, first ask you where your mum and dad are from.

Pontefract, you say? My, how fascinating. I must add that to my list.

By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff:
Geoff Mack/Johnny Cash