We're delighted to be hosting an snippet from Tom Pollock's debut release, The City's Son (out today from Jo Fletcher Books). Praised by Mike Carey and Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The City's Son is also getting rave reviews from advance readers and bloggers and other such whatnot.
Tom's a friend of ours, and a Pandemonium contributor and a frequent guest-poster on Pornokitsch. So what we're trying to say is,
we saw him first he's an amazing writer, and we're incredibly proud to show off a bit of his work.
I remember the first stories Gutterglass ever told me about my mother. Glas was a woman at the time, and she had her rats stretch her lap out for me, and we lay back on the side of a mountain of tin cans, condoms and mulch. Glas always found the grandeur of the landfill comforting; it was easier to talk about the good old days there, without the sour milk spilling from her shells.
That smell of decay still makes me think of home.
Glas rocked me to and fro, and although I pretended scandalised pride, I secretly loved every second.
‘Your mother,’ she began, ‘is an incredible thing...’
I’d never been able to remember my mother; I’d barely even been aware I was missing one. But I knew this was important. I stopped feeding congealed special fried rice to her rats and listened, and I discovered that my mother was that most incredible thing: a Goddess. I also learned that out of all the things she was, being my mother was by far the least important.
But even with that momentous revelation I got bored and I wriggled out of Glas’ lap and set to work building a castle out of old paint tins. I really didn’t understand.
Our memories are like a city: we tear some structures down, and we use rubble of the old to raise up new ones. Some memories are bright glass, blindingly beautiful when they catch the sun, but then there are the darker days, when they reflect only the crumbling walls of their derelict neighbours. Some memories are buried under years of patient construction; their echoing halls may never again be seen or walked down, but still they are the foundations for everything that stands above them.
Glas told me once that that’s what people are, mostly: memories, the memories in their own heads, and the memories of them in other people’s. And if memories are like a city, and we are our memories, then we are like cities too. I’ve always taken comfort from that.
A decade ago, a six-year-old boy raced a glowing-glass girl through the warm brick warrens of the Lots Road Power Station, and if you’d asked him then, he’d’ve said, ‘'course I’ve met my mother.’ If you could get him to stop showing off for the horrified lightbulb girl by swimming in the station’s water tanks, if you could get him to tear his eyes away from the spectacle of her plugging herself into the mains and glowing as bright as a tiny sun, and if you could get the inarticulate little squit to shape the words, he’d tell you all about his mother.
‘Are you blind?’ he’d say; ‘are you daft? She’s there. Right there—’
—with him and Electra as they dared each other to do ever more suicidally stupid things for the honour of their genders (never mind their species). He’d tell you how he and his mother had fought side by side against the cranes; how they’d lassoed the moon and dragged it into the sky, leaving it hanging there like an old tyre on a rope. He’d remind you how when she sang it made the river still, and that once she’d baked him a tarmac cake this big (he’d extend his short-arse six-year-old arms to maximum stretch) and he’d eaten all of it – of course he had, were you calling him a girl?
He’d tell you all of this, and it would be true, for him, because he remembered it.
He’d built the glass buildings in his mind. And it was a long time before he could tell the difference between these fantasies and the older, deeper truths they reflected.
Once, when I was a lot older and I’d all but forgotten all those almost-memories I’d imagined, I thought I was finally about to meet Mater Viae for real.
I was in an alley in the Old Kent Road, and a dustbin fell over and a stray cat darted out and for no reason I can now fathom I thought, It’s Fleet. I was certain that any minute now cats would spill from the shadows in a purring, hissing, flea-bitten flood. And then I’ll see her, and then I’ll finally know...
But the letters on the street sign stayed the same, no matter how hard I stared at them, and although I waited until long after the lone furball found some tiny, scrabbling morsel to chase, no other cats followed it. A fox did, and a drug dealer who didn’t see me, and a couple of his customers who were too high to care who watched while they screwed against the wall, but no more cats.
And you know what? More than anything else, I felt relieved – because all my fantasies, all those almost-memories, they were safe.
That’s worth something.
© Tom Pollock 2012