Excerpt: 'Girl at End' by Richard Brammer
The Conveyor Belt Baby’s Beat Show Episode
[Time allowed: 1 hour]
The first sentence puts forward ideas that the writer later shows to be:
4. illustrative of a general point
Pristine, highly-stylised male basketball players and a post-techno strangeness. Meaningless, artificial discussion and pristine documentary recordings. Cooking on television. Pristine fatty-acids listening to the Ramones. Goto is considered harmful. Laptop music and informational-technological tomato-juice.
It’s the ad-break, Birdman and Girl at End are watching The Conveyor Belt Baby’s Beat Show on Organic Intellectual television because it’s got it all and because…
The Conveyor Belt Baby’s Beat Show has some good people on but some songs you just have to fast-forward.
Later, Girl at End listens to Journey. She really listens. Her conduct is impeccable, her facial expression truly composed. She follows protocol. She is engaged with the movement of Journey’s mouth. Journey talks like she’s trying to chew, like she’s trying to move the words back into her throat and not out into the world.
“BENNIE! BENNIE!” squawks Birdman from the kitchen. He’s doing the dishes.
“Fast food, with its disturbing overtones of high technology and galloping dyspepsia…,” says Journey.
Girl at End nods thoughtfully, discerningly. When Journey says dyspepsia she says it with only the more superficial muscles in her face.
It’s gone quiet.
Journey takes a sip of wine and then nearly loses balance as she reaches across herself to put it down on the floor to the right of her where no one will kick it over. She’s neat like that. Neat Neat Neat. She isn’t finished.
“Think of it like this: the masseter is massive, and massive things are strong.”
Girl at End wants to put her hand on the side of Journey’s cheek so that if Journey started to grind her teeth Girl at End could feel her temporalis muscles.
Journey laughs at something she’d said that Girl at End had missed.
Why is laughing so easy? thinks Girl at End.
From the Cutting Room Floor
Around the time that Håkon Wium Lie and Bert Bos first plotted to introduce the first Cascading Style Sheets into a static HTML world, I remember watching the world load itself left to right through a train carriage window like a browser.
Of course this was era of the browser wars, so it struck me as funny how well the world loaded pretty fast right in front of me. I’d expected something to break. Some Internet Explorer bullshit, y’know. A few years earlier, in 1989, at the end of history, aged 21, I decided what I was going to be, what I wanted to do. I decided I wanted to make strange noises.
The word cascade brought to mind images of calm, flowing water bouncing off rocks onto other rocks, a 1970s shampoo advert idealism, and this dominated the thoughts of graphic designers who first read the word ‘cascade’ and made attempts to learn how to write CSS code as a means of diversifying their skills from print to the emerging internet. This didn’t last long, maybe only until the first four-bordered box refused to float right or failed to take on the designated background colour.
Designers weren’t coders. Not yet.
It was the beginning of what was to be a false dawn. Early Cascading Style Sheets were no friend to the designer. Cigarette Girl wasn’t fazed by this. Why would you assume she took an interest in visual design? What she’d chosen to do was to make noises. Besides she had other things on her mind.
Dinner at eight chic or countercultural casual? That wasn’t the only question for Cigarette Girl in this period. What would become of their lifestyle should they choose to move in together?
She thought, Let’s break it down into the pros and cons, this was no time for a SWOT analysis.
I mean didn’t half of her record collection already reside in my apartment? Couldn’t we just live there? Or would it need to be a clean break and a whole new apartment free of bias, neutral territory, a complete merging of tastes and psyche? Or would it be best to play safe and invite her to live in my apartment, to share my queen size bed? But what if she’s a company president and I’m an aspiring assistant lingerie buyer? Alternatively, what is she’s an unemployed countercultural casualty and I’m this year’s hottest designer? She’d asked Birdman.
Birdman had said: What about entertaining? Have you thought about how you will entertain?
He was right, of course. Who would they chose to entertain and how?
People fall into two categories — insiders and outsiders. Another confusing thing, everyone has a right to spend time alone with non-mutual friends, ex-friends or former-lovers but should they be allowed to sleep with them?
Birdman had a magazine (Birdman always had a magazine). The magazine said it was important to discuss sex. To say ‘Does this turn you on? No? Check. Does this? Does this…’
Will it be important for me to stay just as gorgeous as when we first moved in? Cigarette Girl patted down her hair as she thought about this. Would Girl at End expect this?
The magazine gave a strategy for just this scenario (she read this magazine because it was a woman’s magazine and she was a woman. Makes sense, right?). The strategy involved a carefree hairdo and eye makeup that lasts through shared baths and athletic sex. It listed a few little no-no’s?
Don’t press her to marry you.
Don’t criticize every single one of her friends and relatives.
Don’t become cold and silent and make mysterious long-distance phone calls at alternative times of night.
No more phoney mea culpa. NO MORE!
Cigarette Girl expressed all of this in her music, you could hear all of this in a single kick drum sound.
Excerpted from Girl at End, by Richard Brammer, published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe in 2018. Republished with permission of Dostoyevsky Wannabe.