Hogg and John the Spaniard washed glasses companionably together, Hogg in a daze though, though he responded to John's excited comments on the event still proceeding with his usual courtesy. John had been swigging from half-empty glasses and was more garrulous than usual.
"You see that bloody thing, hombre? All ice cream and done like big monumento." It appealed to John's baroque taste and prompted memories of the victorious group-effigies erected by the Caudillo: the Crewsy Fixers, with drums and guitar, in highly compressed frozen confectioner's custard-whether really to be eaten or not was not clear, though the sound of laughing chiselling was coming through at that moment.
"Oh?" said Hogg.
"See this bloody vaso? One p'arpado dropped in. Daft, hombre." It was not so much a false eyelid as a set of false eyelashes for one eye.
"Ah," said Hogg. Some of the glasses were very filthy.
"One thing," said John. "We not serve no co~nac from in here. Bottles on the mesa already. Vasos too. Not bar job, hombre"
John sang. It was a kind of flamenco without words. Soon he desisted. The rhythms, if not the sense, of an after-lunch speech were coming through. It was the Prime Minister. "He speak bloody good, man. But always same thing. I hear on telly." Hogg could tell exactly what the Prime Minister was saying: selling country short; legacy of misrule; determination to win through to solvency despite treacherous and frivolous opposition of opposition; teamwork of these four boys here, not unfortunately his constituents but he would be proud to have them, example to all; people's art; art of the people; the people in good art, heart; struggles to come; win through to solvency; legacy of misrule. After long clapping there was the sound of a kind of standing ovation. Suddenly the door of Piggy's Sty was burst open. It was Jed Foot lurching in, very white. He said:
"Give us something strong. Can't stand it, I tell you. The bastard's on his feet." Sympathetic, Hogg poured him a large brandy. Jed Foot downed it in one. "Taught him all he knows," he whined. "Bloody treachery. Give us another one of them." Hogg poured an even larger brandy. Jed Foot gave it, in one swig, to his gullet. John tut-tutted. He said:
"We finish now here, hombre. I go see."
"I'm getting out," said Hogg. "Out. Bloody fed-up, that's what I am."
"Bloody fed-up, mate?" said Jed Foot, his mouth quivering. "You don't know what bloody fed-upness is. I'll have another one of them."
"I'm off duty now," Hogg said. He had already discarded that shameful wig. Now he took off his barman's coat. His own mufti jacket was in the little storeroom at the back of the bar. He went to get it. John was just opening the door that led to the exit-corridor; the door of the Wessex Saddleback was opposite. When Hogg, decently jacketed, was making his way out, he found that that door had been thrown wide open so that hotel employees could listen and look. The whole of Europe was represented there among the chambermaids and small cooks who, with open mouths, worshipped this global myth. Jed Foot was at the back of them; John had pushed to the front. Hogg, shambling in wretchedness towards the staff lift, suddenly heard familiar noises:
"And so the car plunged in the singing green
Of sycamore and riot-running chestnut and oak
That squandered flame, cut a thousand arteries and bled
Flood after summer flood, spawned an obscene
Unquenched unstanchable green world sea, to choke
The fainting air, drown sun in its skywise tread."
It was being read wretchedly, as though the reader was decoding it from ill-learnt Cyrillic. Yod Crewsy now said:
"Me teeth is slipping a bit." Laughter. "I can write em but I can't say em. Anyway, here's how it finishes:
But the thin tuning-fork of one of the needs of men,
The squat village letter-box, approached, awoke,
Called all to order with its stump of red;
In a giant shudder, the monstrous organ then
Took shape and spoke."
There was applause. Yod Crewsy said: "Don't ask me what it means; I only wrote it." Laughter. "No, serious like, I feel very humble. But I put them poems together in this book just like to show. You know, show that we do like think a bit and the kvadrats, or squares which is what some of you squares here would like call yourselves, can't have it all their own way." Cheers.
Hogg stood frozen like an ice cream monumento. He had left, when he had run away from that bitch in there, several manuscript poems in her Gloucester Road flat. They had been written; later they had been written off. The holograph of The Pet Beast had been among them. Unable to reconstitute them from memory, he could not now be absolutely sure-But wait. A painter friend of that bitch, his name Gideon Dalgleish, had said something on some social occasion or other about driving with a friend through green summer England and being overwhelmed with its somehow, my dear, obscene greenness, a great proliferating green carcinoma, terrifying because shapeless and huge. And then the sudden patch of red from a letter-box concentrated and tamed the green and gave it a comprehensible form. Nature needs man, my dear. The words CURTAL SONNET had flashed before his, Hogg's, Enderby's, eyes, and the rhymes had lined up for inspection. And then-He stood gaping at nothing, unable to move. He heard Yod Crewsy's voice again, calling microphonically over loud cheers:
"Right. So much for the F.S.L.S. lot, or whatever it is. And I'd like to say a very 'artfelt ta to our mum here, who like encouraged me. Now we're going to do our new disc, and not mime neither. I see the lads is all ready up there. All they want is me." Ecstasy.
Hogg painfully turned himself about. Then, as against a G science-fictionally intensified twentyfold, he forced his legs to slide forward towards the open door of the Wessex Saddleback. Jed Foot was trembling. Across the smoky luncheon-room, now darkened by drawn curtains, he saw, glorious in floodlighting, the Crewsy Fixers ranged grinning on a little dais. Yod Crewsy held a flat guitar with flex sprouting from it. In front of each of the others was a high-mounted sidedrum. They poised white sticks, grinning. Then they jumped into a hell of noise belched out fourfold by speakers set at the ceiling's corners.
"You can do that, ja, and do this. Ja.
You can say that you won't go beyond a kiss. Ja.
But where's it goin to get ya, where's
It goin to get
Ya (ja), babaaah?"
Where was she, that was the point? Where was she, so that he could go in there and expose her, the whole blasphemous crew of them, before high heaven, which did not exist? Hogg squinted through the dark and thought he saw that cruel feathered halo hat. Then, in that little group by the open door, there seemed to be violent action, noise, the smell of a sudden pungent fried breakfast. A couple of chambermaids screamed and clutched each other. The sidedrums on the dais rimshotted like mad. Yod Crewsy did a crazy drunken dance, feet uplifted as if walking through a shitten byre. His autonomous mouth did a high scream, while his eyes crossed in low comedy. The crowd clapped.
"Here yare," panted Jed Foot, and he handed something to Hogg. Hogg automatically took it, a barman used to taking things. Too heavy for a brandy glass. Jed Foot hared off down the corridor.
"Lights! Lights!" called somebody, the king in Hamlet. "He's shot, he's hurt!" Yod Crewsy was down, kicking. The dullest of the Crewsy Fixers still leered, singing inaudibly. But drums started to go over. Hogg was being started back from, John incredulous, the chambermaids pointing and screaming, a minor cook, like a harvest-caught rabbit, wondering whither to run, whimpering. Hogg looked down at his hand and saw a smoking gun in it. Shem Macnamara was yelling: "Him! Stop him! I knew that voice! Sworn enemy of pop! Murderer!" John the Spaniard was quick, perhaps no stranger to such southern public violence. He yapped like a dog, most unspanishly, at Hogg: "Out out out out out out!" It was like a Mr Holdenish nightmare of umpires. Hogg, with an instinct learnt from the few films he had seen, pointed the gun at Shem Macnamara, marvelling. Some of the guests still thought this part of the show. Others called for a doctor. Hogg, gun in hand, ran. He ran down the corridor to the service lift. The indicator said it was on another floor, resting. He called it and it lazily said it was coming. He kept the gun pointing. John was in everybody's way, but some were thinking of coming for him. Vesta now would be weeping over her favourite client, the impersonal and opportunist camera-lights cracking. The lift arrived and Hogg entered, still marvelling. Armed. Dangerous. The lift-door snapped off the sound of running and falling feet. Drunk, that was the trouble with them: all drunk. Hogg stood dazed in a fancied suspension of all movement, while the lighted floor-pointer counted down. He had pressed, for some reason, the button marked B for basement. As low as you could get. He landed on a stone corridor, full of men trundling garbage bins. Useless to hope to hold off. It was a matter of running, if he could, up a short dirty flight to a ground-level back entrance. He remembered, near-dead with breathlessness, to drop the gun at the top of the stairs. It clanked down and, the safety-catch still off, somehow managed to fire itself at nothing. El acaso inevitable. With that frail barricade. Would the frozen monument be melting now up there, Yod Crewsy dissolving first? Men were coming to the noise of firing. He was out. It was a staff car-park, very unglamorous. For time himself will bring. You in that high-powered car. A taxi. London lay in autumn after-lunch gloom, car-horns bellowing and yapping. Rushing on to it. Air, air. Hogg gasped for it. "Taxi," he breathed, waving like mad, though feebly. Amazingly, one stopped. "Air," he said. "Air."
"Airport?" the driver wore sinister dark glasses. "Air terminal? Cromwell Road?" Hogg's head sank to his chest; the driver took it for a nod. "Right, gav. Hop in." Hogg hopped in. Fell in, rather.