The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Fiction: Joe Pemberton

 Mr Stuff – Rocking Chair

 I Wonder as I Wander

 Work by Joe Pemberton (UK). Published in Issue 25.

 ....  A good tune covered a multitude of sins whether it was Fred Astaire, Donald O'Conner or even Ethel Merman for that matter. Or even the Brian Wilson CD Smile, having been recently released to suitably rave reviews which was only to be expected for someone who was up there with Mozart in Georges's humble opinion. He much preferred the original version of Surf's Up than the one on the CD version but then you can't have everything even with masterpieces and anyway, hearing the complete version of Heroes and Villains in its right and proper place was more than compensation for another disappointment. So whether it was a high-rised flat in Hulme, which was Moss Side in all but name, or a des-res in Wilmslow - another place for millionaire footballers and trophy Wags - the beauty of this job was that he was not being paid enough to think. Which might not have seemed much on paper but having been a college lecturer at further education college for ten years with all the responsibility without any of the authority, even now, he doesn't miss being a lecturer, not in the slightest. Even now after four years of walking the streets cold-calling from door-to-door, never knowing what kind of reception you'd meet. From time to time he has to pinch himself to check he wasn't dreaming.

Saying that, there was the tricky issue of returning to collect the books a week later on Monday only to be met with all kinds of excuses for the book being lost, ranging being eaten by the dog, the baby, or both. George hadn't yet come up with the excuse for a book not being there because it was abducted by aliens but then that was only a matter of time. Or they'd meet you at that door reassuring him that if he came back tomorrow at the same time, the books will definitely be done, I promise. And when he did return the next evening at the same time, well, it didn't take genius to work out the rest. But before all that there was still the issue of placing a book in the first place. So whether it was des-res, or a high-rised flat in Rossendale, or a farmhouse in Daisy Nook, the first bit was always the same. Smile and have a chat to anyone who was passing, close the gate or door after leaving, never walk on the lawns. Creating an ambience was how he would best describe it because at the end of the day it was his job to place fifteen adults' books or else he wouldn't get paid. And when you don't get paid then there was no money in the bank and when there was no money in the bank, it didn't take genius to work out the rest. And anyway, most people when they realise he wasn't a mass murderer and  not about to kidnap their daughters to sell them off to the white slave trader, nor a double glazing or selling time-shares or, heaven forbid, a Jehovah's Witness.

.... Balloon rides, Jehovah witnesses, high-rised flats in Rossendale, or even the legitimacy of comparing Brian Wilson to Mozart - although in George's opinion there was no question about that one whatsoever - and all this alongside his own internalised heated debate on whether that damn tune in his head was sung by Donald O'Connor, Fred Astaire or Olivia Newton-John in spandex pants. Not to mention the on-going Groundhog Day scenario.  It could be said that he had his hands full at the moment. But then as the actress said to the bishop, there's was always room for one more. And for anyone who didn't know the expression ‘as the actress said to the bishop, a phrase which when spoken was intended to render the preceding sentence sexually suggestive. Well, according to a text book he just happened to be looking up at the time. The very same text book then went on to cite the following examples to prove the case,

i.e. "Why don't you come inside?" "... as the actress said to the bishop."

"Is it up yet?" "... as the actress said to the bishop."

And finally, "Dammit, I'm so wet!", and so on and so forth.

Which only went further to prove to the following really, which was to never let being fair and honourable get in the way of having a good laugh at someone else's expense; especially the clergy's.

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BIO: Joe Pemberton was born in Moss Side, Manchester in 1960. His parents emigrated from the West Indies to England in the late fifties, before moving to Ashton-under-Lyne in 1970. He has worked as an electrical engineer and a college lecturer. He is a graduate of the University of Manchester Creative Writing Course. He has had two novels published, Forever and Ever Amen and A Long Time Dead and has written stage adaptations for both novels and has had Forever and Ever Amen workshopped at the Library Theatre, Manchester. He was also one of the judges for the 2004 Crocus Novel Competition. He has given many readings, e.g. Waterstones; several North-West libraries including Manchester Central library, Oldham, Powerhouse, Hulme, etc., as well as interviews on national and local radio.