Here’s the first chapter of my novel Cheats and Liars:
O N E
“Are you ready?”
I’m in the kitchen snaffling a crumpet dripping with raspberry jam. Of course I’m not ready. I’m never ready. I am a work in progress.
“Come on. You don’t want to be late for your own exhibition.”
I gulp. A crumb of crumpet sticks in my throat. I cough and the crumb dislodges. Jam stained spittle dribbles over my lip.
“Look at you.”
She tuts and picks up a damp dishcloth.
After she rubs the goo from my mouth and from the lapel of the blue linen jacket I grab the car keys.
“I’m driving,” she says, taking the keys from my hand. “You can drink. You always do. Just try not to offend too many people.”
“What’s it matter? They stick like dry shit whatever I say.”
“Brian! You may be known as the Greatest Living Artist in Wales but nobody likes an arsehole.”
“Like? What’s like got to do with it? They don’t care and I don’t give a toss. It’s not real Lizi; it’s a performance.”
“Then perform, pretend.”
She’s right, and I’ll need to drink so that I can stomach the unspeakable pricks. Every year I bare my arse and they come like slime to a stagnant pond, for I have no talent and they have no taste. This isn’t my life. This is some jerk spewing on cotton canvas and picking the overfull pockets of the privileged and the gullible. The gentle boy in me is lost; he’d feel sad to look through these eyes now, to see my betrayal with its parade of pseudosmilers and its fake humility. I am a hollow husk, devoid of depth. I am dead.
I strut into the exhibition hall, late, of course. Lizi’s at my side, as always.
“Fuck,” I say.
“Ssh! You don’t have to do this,” she whispers.
“Huh! What would these maggots feed on then?”
“Shut up Brian. Behave.”
But I’m right, it’s always the same. The blood-sucking creatures are here like tics on a donkey, creepily reverent expressions turned towards me.