Excerpt from The Writing Shed

Excerpt from <em>The Writing Shed</em>
(c) Alexandre Dulaunoy
(c) Alexandre Dulaunoy/Flickr

Katja’s room was right at the top of the house; in fact it was set into the roof. The ceiling in the small room was comfortably low and the single, bare sash window began just above the floor. The walls were plain, save for a poster of Janis Joplin bedecked in bangles and beads and sat astride a Harley Davidson. Padam knew the photograph from an L.P. cover and had always been impressed by the singer’s look of debauched innocence. There was a Dansette record player on the floor and beside it a cardboard box containing a meagre collection of albums. Clothes were strewn around areas of the whole room. He made out dresses, jeans and slight, delightful panties. The garments even cascaded over an old walnut chest of drawers. Padam realised there was no wardrobe but then he couldn’t imagine where you could put one in here. The bed was simply a double mattress on the floor with what he took to be an Eiderdown on top of it and a couple of bolster pillows.

[private]On a recessed shelf above the bed were three framed photographs, all with people with their arms around each other and, to his mind, obviously American. Whether it was the clothes, the hairstyles, the expressions that made him think that he couldn’t decide. He considered asking but didn’t want to bring the homely into this room just now. Such a decision made him quiet. He feared disturbing what was seemingly ordained.

And now, as if a sign, he noticed on the end of the shelf, the open packet of contraceptive pills; the empty, ragged foil circles. That meant he could avoid the always ill-timed question. She, meanwhile, was making her way to turn off the main light, after lighting an assortment of candles around the room. After considering this exchange of light, she decided to bring another candle to life on the small window sill …

“A signal?” he asked her.


He saw his reflection move against the night in the window. “Reminded me of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.”

“What’s that, a poem?” she replied, now from somewhere behind him. There was a preoccupied tone to her voice to it so he didn’t answer. She didn’t press him for a reply and he felt he’d got away with trying to sound clever; he’d not interrupted the consecration.

He thought they must have been in what were intended as the servant quarters of the house when it was originally built. The rooms had not quite reverted to original use but it was close. Padam had learned downstairs that Katja was more a friend of the family, in fact their babysitter back in Seattle. When Hal had come over here for a year as a visiting professor, they’d invited her along. She knew the children and it would be ‘an education for her’, was how it was described to him. At seventeen, she was nearly two years younger. Already during the evening it’d sometimes seemed more and sometimes the other way around. Her confidence in a foreign country, the easy way she dealt with him, made her seem more experienced than he was. But she couldn’t completely disguise her age. Some moments he felt almost parental in front of her. Maybe it was because she was American or maybe it was because he’d done a couple of years’ worth more of drugs. What did he always say to Phillips?

Nothing like drugs for making you grow up.

And this particular deal, the one he’d brought with him in his shoe, had proved a perfect accompaniment to the evening. He couldn’t vouch for anyone else but he now felt his thoughts clear yet profound, his body deeply relaxed but capable. He didn’t know exactly what would happen now but he just hoped her senses were in the same order as his.

While he stood there, idly looking around the room, she’d been choosing a record to play.

“Joni Mitchell?”

“I love Joni Mitchell.” Padam answered; suddenly aware it could have been the first time he has said the word ‘Love’ in her presence.

The sound of the dulcimer trickled out the single speaker.

And it was simple, wonderful, there was no pretence. She just undressed and climbed into the bed. You Americans, Padam thought blithely to himself, you don’t mess around.

He knew she wasn’t a virgin but this would have confirmed it anyway. She didn’t try to hide her breasts under the bedclothes but stretched up her arms to him. Even in the candlelight there was no way of disguising the extent of his erection as he undressed, even if he’d wanted to. But he wasn’t bothered, not at all, not by anything. Already to him this was as natural as it could possibly be and yet he was acutely aware at the same time just how exceptional it was. He knew his whole life would not contain many hours as good as these. There was a line from Kerouac trying to break into his mind… about that moment when you think everything’s about to arrive – when you suddenly know that and it’s all decided forever. He wished the thought could have been his own but there was no room in him tonight to fret for anything.

The candlelight caught the dew on his tip and as he descended gently into her arms so he felt it skate along the warm, smooth skin of her stomach. He kissed her as carefully and as tenderly as he could manage. There was no reason to rush for there was no reasoning in him. She seemed to respond precisely, their lips brushing up against one another’s as if they were the true boundaries of their bodies. For now, only their tongues could go beyond.

They fitted together. Her fingers sought out where he hadn’t realised he most wanted her to touch him. His mouth discovered places it seemed as if she hadn’t known were lonely in that fashion until his tongue greeted them. His fingertips lived every nuance of her skin, from the hard terrain of barely cushioned bone to the very edge of her hot, underground flesh. But this last domain, he told himself, was really for later, much later, when there were no other answers left. When he opened his eyes again it was to a kaleidoscope of tiny wonders; so many things, that as soon as he saw them, had to be blessed immediately.

Her hair begged his mouth to send a message down its every strand.

Her brow wanted smoothing with innumerable grazes from his lips.

Her eyebrows required worrying by the tip of his tongue.

Her glistening eyelids needed drying with a slight touch of his breath.

Now all the places where pleasure might be hiding;

Behind the minuscule shell of her nostril,

Beneath the brink of her ear,

Inside the precise curves of her philtrum, as he imitated the angel’s touch,

Along every single millimetre at the brim of her lips,

The soft summit of her chin,

The sweep of her creamy neck,

The scoop behind her collar bone,

The sinuous mound of her shoulder,

The dark clefts of her arm,

Beneath the globe of her breast, which had to be breathed upon and a

new word written there by his tongue,

Into the hinterland of a nipple, still to be tantalised,

A bead of sweat, forcing itself between her breasts, to be swept up

into his mouth,

He must be wherever a sensation could possibly be missed, no hurry, none at all, the inevitable remaining inevitable, a lover’s work is never done. He was trying out every one of his favourite impulses upon her; trying, trying, trying to discover just the right moment.

And so it was he knew, for certain, when the time arrived. As he pushed her onto her back he felt the gentle resistance she provided simply to remind them both of the magnitude of what they were undertaking.

He positioned his body carefully and gently pushed himself into her. They both shivered over the glide of their connection. Their bodies were completely prepared. They’d reached the point on the summit where they were perched above the sweeping drop and they stared at one another from the distance of his supporting arms. He teetered deliberately just so he could see her eyes widen and then close. She reached up and dragged her fingers down his boy-smooth chest and around his hips, all to make him sway a little more.

He smiled gently down upon her and then closed his eyes, raising his head up and taking a long breath through his nose before letting his gaze fall back on her. He slowly began to ease the both of them over the pinnacle, no hurry, none at all, the inevitable remaining inevitable.

In part, he needed for it to be done this way to make sure they arrived at the vale together. The natural gravity of his desire was the last thing he required here and she seemed to sense that, as he lowered them gently down the slope, accruing pace only as she responded to it.

He could barely hold himself back when she forgot to embrace him any more and was lost in the pleasure of it all. Her head turned from side to side, eyes slammed shut now, her chin drawing some strange shape in the air, her lips parting, harassed by her own tongue and her hands starting to gather up the sheet into their palms.

When he saw her mouth opening to cry out he thought he must join her but it was so much a sight for him he could only watch and listen in awe, almost doubting he had any part in this delight that drew such wildness from her.

Then he felt her hands on him, reaching out to drag him down deeper into her. All around them was the still eye of the room and their embrace was the storm; the infinite urgency, the desperateness you only get from need, the flawless confusion of the senses by pleasure.

“You’re still trying. Now I just want to feel you shoot inside me!”

These were the first real words either of them had formed since he joined her in her bed. At the exact moment of this decree he sensed the rush, felt the electrocution through his whole body and mind. He was aware of his being suddenly, fiercely and blissfully dissolved.

For a while he was nothing. Complete. Then, very gradually, did he start to reform. Soon it became obvious to him… he was now an altogether simpler being.

It was all so free.

He thought how this moment was the perfect accumulation of so many different things… their youth, their naivety, the beauty of their flesh, the sequence and degree of their climaxes, of course. But to that he could add the quality of the hash, the hour, the lamplight, even the architecture of the house; why, he could make a list to never end. It was being alive. There was nowhere else, no other time in existence, no-one else he would rather be.

He contemplated adding the music in the background to the list but the single side of the L.P. had finished long before their bodies and the player had put itself to rest. But the music was of the times and the times themselves were a special concoction. It was altogether a unique set of conditions – just as the lovers themselves were each in their way. The two of them were a configuration of circumstances. What a beautiful thing they made.

Laying gently in each other’s arms, at first it seemed to him they dare not speak. There was no need to say anything and to do so might disturb the enchantment. It was enough to muse and somehow know beyond question that the abstraction was shared, although it often had to be reinforced by lips or fingers or just a slowed stare. Each such caress was merely the prelude to another. They seemed to drift against each other’s skin until a single touch or kiss, apparently no different from a hundred others before, for some reason began something more crucial. Half the night they drifted like this until the dark outside was weakening. It was as if they barely trusted themselves to sleep in case the other needed them again.

And what he came to know, without any obvious recourse to thought, was that this had become the most perfect night of his young life so far. It might be a terrible cliché but then its inevitable truth made it so – that if his living ceased here – if he died right now, at this minute – it wouldn’t matter to him quite so much as a few hours before.[/private]

Simon Tonkin

About Simon Tonkin

Simon Tonkin lives in Bristol. His poetry has appeared in a number of publications and anthologies from the 1970’s to the present day. He was the recipient of a South West Arts Writer’s Award for an excerpt of his first novel – The Writing Shed. He won the Dylan Down the Ups short story competition in 2009. Since then he’s become a full time writer and artist. He specialises in drawing the houses and landscapes of his favourite writers. He is working on another novel – Other Tongues – a modern day reworking of ‘Death in Venice’.

Simon Tonkin lives in Bristol. His poetry has appeared in a number of publications and anthologies from the 1970’s to the present day. He was the recipient of a South West Arts Writer’s Award for an excerpt of his first novel – The Writing Shed. He won the Dylan Down the Ups short story competition in 2009. Since then he’s become a full time writer and artist. He specialises in drawing the houses and landscapes of his favourite writers. He is working on another novel – Other Tongues – a modern day reworking of ‘Death in Venice’.

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