Excerpt: 'Gaudy Bauble' by Isabel Waidner
A formidable micro-horse sprang across a Formica tabletop. Ah, it’s Tulep. Tulep sprang across grassgreen Formica, grazing, apparently. Besides, a white plastic laptop stood on the tabletop. Someone was maltreating its keyboard, trailblazing, apparently. Trailblazer Belà Gotterbarm was wearing a chequered Beirendonck skirt, worse-for-wear trainers and tennis socks. She was wearing her soft-cotton Pegasus print sweater. The Pegasus on Belà’s sweater reared and raised her wings. Pink flashes and green graffiti on extra soft cotton manifested Pegasus energy. On the other hand, Tulep was posturing atop the Formica tabletop like a formidable female stallion. Quite like the Pegasus on Belà’s sweater was a winged horse, Tulep was a budgerigar with atypical hooves. Heh, Peggy! Tulep, heh. Raised pinions, Tulep was pawing Formica. Was this territorial posturing? A mutual ‘Piss Off’? Or a macho stand-off? Heh, Pegface! Tuleper, heh. But this was not a territorial stand-off. This was not Highlander (1986), the British fantasy action film. This was a get-together of disenfranchised things. This was a faggoty social. A working class knees-up. A cocky conspiracy? From Hoofed Winged Thing to Hoofed Winged Thing. From one Hoofed Winged Thing to another. From mythological chimera to genetic chimerism. Peggy <3 Tulep. And Tulep <3 Peggy. They were giving each other ideas. And this was just the beginning.
Belà Gotterbarm wrote awkwardgarde fiction, potentially trailblazing. In a 10th floor council flat on Harpur Street, London, Belà’s white plastic laptop stood atop the Formica tabletop. Unaware of the faggoty social taking place under her nose, Belà was working on the script for a new 8-part television series, working title Querbird. According to director/producer Tracey B. Lulip, filming was due to get underway asap, preferably yesterday. Belà had promised a tone-and-milieu-setting, intrigue-inciting pilot by tomorrow afternoon.
In terms of the writing process, Belà’s pet bird and the tabletop’s hound’s-tooth pattern proved influential, rather than Peggy the Pegasus, say. Confronting the bird/hound’s-tooth conundrum that faced her head-on, Belà invented a generic canary character. To Belà’s mind, the canary was the optimal birdhound, or birddog. (Etymologically, ‘canary’ derives from Latin canis, genitive: canarius; which in return relates to the English word ‘canine’.) Belà typed the word ‘Canary’. Good. Querbird began like this: ‘Canary’. Canaries as a species originate from the Canary Islands, or Insula Canaria, literally ‘Island of Dogs’, so called because large dogs lived there. On the other hand, Tulep originated not from the Island of Dogs, but the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London. This, however, did not make Tulep a natural birddog. There was an excess of filly in her. A filly is a female foal. Also etymologically, the ‘Dog’ in the Isle of Dogs appears to be a corruption of a precedent ‘Duck’, as in the Isle of Ducks, or ‘Dyke’, as in the Isle of Super-Dykes. Tulep had dyke written all over her. Above filly, Tulep had dyke written all over her.
Belà’s second draft replaced the Canary, the optimal birddog, with of all things a budgerigar. Deleting ‘Canary’, Belà typed ‘Hoofed Budgerigar’. What? Why?! Tulep was not the optimal birddog! But this was the Pegasus off Belà’s sweater putting her foot down. This was Peggy the Pegasus throwing her weight behind Tulep. From Hoofed Winged Thing to Hoofed Winged Thing. From one Hoofed Winged Thing to another. This was the recently formed H.W.T. (Hoofed Winged Things) alliance exerting its influence. This was the H.W.T. alliance winging its way into the Querbird script. Was this a camp coup? A butch putsch? An attack on generic things? Mobilising knees-up resources, Peggy was as if electrified. Pink flashes surrounded her head. Green graffiti. Peggy was so energetic. Peggy embodied H.W.T. solidarity, and a let’s-go mentality. An appetite to get going. The phrase ‘On y va!’ ran towards the hem of Belà’s sweater in metallic lettering. Peggy was the bye-bye-saying, never-to-be-seen-again type of migrant Pegasus. This was Peggy, the let’s-get-the-hell-out-of-here Pegasus. This was Aufnimmerwiedersehen Peggy. Peggy was raring to go and she was taking no prisoners. On her way out, Peggy walked all over the Querbird Canary. Peggy walked all over the generic Canary, paving the way for her Hoofed Winged Kin, Tulep.
This was bad news for the Querbird script. Bad news all round. After a promising start, Querbird was real-time derailing. Bye bye, generic Canary. Bye bye, optimal birddog. Belà Gotterbarm’s second draft read like this:
‘Querbird Pilot (Gotterbarm, 201x)
Hoofed Budgerigar Of The Isle Of Dogs.
Hoofed Budgerigar Off To Canary Wharf.
? Goes To The Dogs.’
When Belà looked up from her laptop, Tulep was gone. Tulep?! Tulep! The window stood slightly ajar. Bird corrupted by flighty Pegasus? ‘Hoofed Budgerigar Off To The Isle Of Dogs’? Off to the Isle of Super-Dykes, an imagined stronghold. An imagined Fire Island in the East End of London. An insular Old Compton Street, or Hebden-Bridge-by-the-Thames. Aborting Querbird, Belà dropped what she was doing and went after Tulep. This was not quite a camp coup, nor a butch putsch. But it was a beginning.
Excerpted from Gaudy Bauble, forthcoming in June 2017 from Dostoyevsky Wannabe. Republished here with permission of the author.