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Jimmy the Love-Virus.
By John T. S. Teller.
The alarm goes off and startles me. Have I got an appointment? Jumbled thoughts come together, and then I remember why I'd set it. Out of bed, shower, make coffee, and by twenty-five minutes past seven, I'm sitting by my computer, and I have an excellent view of the entrance to Willow Row. There's no newspaper on the floor, so I know I haven't missed him. At twenty-five minutes to eight, there's no sign of him. I'm pissed off. I've gone to all this trouble and the little sod can't even be punctual! 7.45, and still no sign of him! I'm beginning to worry. Is he ill? Has he had an accident? Oh come on, you stupid idiot, Spencer, he's just a bloody kid who's got under your skin, and you're pissing about like this! Pull yourself together man! And then all my pent up emotions blow away like a five-pound note on a windy day. Jimmy arrives.
Well, he doesn't arrive as in normal `arriving', he shoots round the corner on his bike like Valentino Rossi pulling a fast one on Jorge Lorenzo on the last corner at Sachsenring, and his dangling paper bag touches the road like Vali's knee telling him he's reached the angle of tolerance. Up the first drive, up the second drive, and then it's my turn. (He misses next door... they don't have a morning paper). Not even a glance towards me. I hear the paper drop through the door, and then watch him go down the drive, along the road in front of me, and up next door's drive. Etc. Etc. Etc. And then he goes down the other side, eventually, exiting the street as quickly as he came into it.
I'm angry. In fact, I'm thoroughly pissed off! Have I been stupid enough to set the alarm, get up, have a shower, and make myself more presentable than I normally would do first thing in the morning, and then sit at my desk for twenty bloody minutes for the little bastard to not even give me a second glance? I sit for about five minutes, weighing up the situation, and then I begin to laugh. You stupid sod, Spencer! What did you expect? He's sixteen, and you're twenty-six. Apart from the little spat with him on Monday, you're just another letterbox. Before then, you didn't give a hoot for the lad, and you'd seen him a number of times before. Did you care about him then?
I'm not angry with Jimmy now... I'm disgusted with myself for being so stupid. I'm thinking that I've certainly made a fool of myself as I walk to the porch, pick up the paper, wander into the kitchen/diner, and throw the damned thing onto the table, make another coffee, sit down, and open the paper. As usual, written at the top right hand corner, is my number -- 7 Willow Row. My heart misses a beat, because attached to the paper with a paper clip, is an envelope, and on that envelope is written two simple words: FOR ROBERT.
My mobile phone rings. It's my agent, Clive Borthwick.
"Morning Rob. Just ringing now to catch you early. M****** is out on Amazon, and it should be on the shelves for August 1st. Not bad eh... seven weeks from proofs to sales. How's the latest MS progressing?"
I ignore Clive's bragging about how quickly he can operate. "Slow. I was doing ok, but something has upset my routine. A virus, I think." I hold back a giggle when I realise what I've said. Jimmy has morphed into a virus. But I'm part right; he has upset my routine. I finger the unopened envelope as I chat, turning it over, and even sniffing it. I end the conversation with, "I'll call you Saturday when I get into town."
"Ok. At least you won't be shagging too much now you've got a virus."
I laugh, tell him to `fuck off', and flick the phone shut. Back to the envelope. I keep reading the two words: FOR ROBERT. After my initial disappointment, I'm enjoying this. What's in the envelope? It's time to open it.
Unlike most of my mail, I don't tear this one open. Instead, I go to the cutlery drawer and take out a pewter paper-knife that has a Celtic motif on the handle that my mother gave to me as a small Christmas present. Mum is into Celtic in a big way. I reckon she would have been a Druid had she not married my stolid, solicitor father. Mother and father: they're very much like Woolworth's Pick and Mix. Mum is a treacle caramel, and Dad, a Werther's Original. I smile at my thoughts. They're in the Peak District, exactly where I want them to be, well away from my wonderful, single life, where I can write or do as I will... but they're only as far away as my mobile. Mum is well into texting. She does it about ten times every day. Most I ignore. It doesn't stop her. She understands. I'm a busy boy. I understand. She loves her only child. When I do reply, I know it will be a bonus for her... so I do... about once a day. Dad will ring on the landline: Sundays; 11 am prompt. Dad understands. If I've been out on the town and shagging on the Saturday night, eleven am is a good time. Back to the envelope. Gently, I slip Celtic into the fold, slit it open, and pull out a single, folded piece of ruled notepaper.
Dear Robert. I'm sorry for walking over your lawn. I won't do it again. Luv Jimmy. XXX
PS. Can you find me any jobs to do? I'm trying to save up enough money for a new computer so I can keep up at 6th form college. I can mow lawns. LOL. XXX
I'm excited... I'm elated, but most of all, I'm extremely happy. From the moment I woke, this kid, who is about five-feet-six-inches tall, has not been out of my thoughts for more than thirty seconds, and now, here I am, holding a letter from him that even contains `Luv' and has XXX's! Very slowly, I raise it to my lips, and kiss it. I know exactly what I'm doing... the letter is Jimmy, for now.
My thoughts and actions are interrupted as I hear the front door open. It's Debbie. She's early this morning. I put the letter back into the envelope, and stuff it in my jeans pocket. Jimmy is in my trousers. Whoa, Robert Spencer, you're being really stupid now!
"Has Jimmy been across the lawn today?"
I laugh. "No. He was late. He came on his bike, and was riding like a lunatic."
Debbie laughs. "I told him off when he came home with Sam after school. He said he'd write a note to say sorry."
"Yes, I got it. The little sod also asked if he could do any odd jobs for me, because he needs money for a computer."
"Did you say yes?"
"No. The question is in the note. The sod has even signed it with love and kisses." I don't keep many secrets from Debbie, and because she doesn't know my thoughts about Jimmy, I take the envelope out of my pocket, slip out the note, and give it to her. "Here, read that."
Debbie reads it, and giggles. "The cheeky young bugger! Mind you, nothing surprises me about that lad."
"What's he like at school? Is he clever?"
"Yes, top of the class in almost everything, and he's in the school football and cricket teams with our Sam. He's a good influence on my Sam. He sleeps at my place half the time. They saved up for an Xbox together, and keep it in Sam's bedroom, and they're up there most nights. It's better than being out with some of the dross off our estate that hangs out by the Late-Shop, all night, getting into trouble. He's like one of my own. Our Pauline has a crush on him, but he's having none of it."
I laugh. "I can imagine. He seems to know exactly what he wants in life."
"Yes he does. Well, will you?"
"Will I what?"
"Find him some odd jobs to do?"
I tell a lie. I've already decided he can, because I want to see more of him. "I hadn't thought about it. I suppose he can clean my car. Gotta be worth a fiver. I go to London on Saturday, so it will have to be the weekend after this one."
"What is it this time?"
"Clive is driving a hard bargain with the publishers, and he needs me for backup. I've also got a few radio interviews, and a TV one on the arts program to promote the latest book."
"Our Pauline will be watching that, then. She's got a crush on you, as well as having one on Jimmy."
"It's the older man thing. Can't say I blame her. I'm irresistible to the girls."
"And the boys."
I'm shocked at her comment, because while I've been living here, I've never entertained another man, and I've certainly never mentioned anything about my past. "And the boys?"
"Dead right. Sam and Jimmy think you're ace with your flash car and fancy clothes, and I'm a celebrity big style working for a proper writer fella. They're always talking about you. What day are you on TV?"
I laugh; a relieved laugh. "Saturday night. I've got an eight minute slot at 10.45 on BBC3. I'll try to mention you when I'm on."
That's it. Debbie's off doing her chores, so I go to the PC, flick the mouse, which brings it alive, enter my password, open up `Word' and the latest draft, and begin to type. I'm in a super mood, and the words begin to flow like honey from a jar, and page after page evolves without effort. At one point, Debbie enters the room and says that I seem to be enjoying myself. I don't tell her that it's because I've caught a `virus'. As she's leaving, she places two pieces of toast and a mug of coffee on my desk, and tells me there's some corned beef sandwiches in the fridge for lunch. I wave a hand at her, and she's gone with two envelopes containing silly requests for quotes on photography that will cover my plotting of the previous evening.
Not for a long time have I written as I do today. I love writing. When I can that is. Sometimes, it's impossible. Other times, like now, I become so engrossed in the beauty and form of words and plot, that nothing else exists. I eat the two rounds of corned beef at lunchtime, and for dinner, I warm up a Tesco Chicken Arrabiata ready-meal that `fell off the back of a lorry and I'm to ask no questions'. The mobile beeps twice to tell me I have a text, (which I don't answer -- it's Mum) and then I switch it off. Nothing is going to spoil this magical spell of creative writing, and it doesn't until I almost collapse with exhaustion at fifteen minutes past midnight. I check the word count, and I'm amazed. I've written 104,000 words since I began to type after chatting to Debbie. That was about fifteen hours ago. 104 divided by 15 = aprox 7,000 words per hour. I know without doubt that there'll be hundreds of typos, but I don't care. Today, tonight, is all about flow. I'm now three-quarters of the way through this book, because I'd already written about 80,000 words before I began this morning. My publishers like to keep word count to about 200,000 maximum, and subsequent editing will discard 30,000 words from the first draft. I don't do War and Peace mammoth books. My output is aimed at the lower end of the market. Since I left Uni, I haven't written a book that sold less than 50,000 copies, and my last book has already sold well over 450,000 worldwide. The time spent at Uni wasn't all a waste: part of the course had been speed typing. I failed miserably, because of the number of typos, but what the hell... I'm a writer, not a bloody stenographer. If it takes me a month or two or three to write a book, I have another three to four months to edit. Horses for courses.
Because of shit I've gone through in the past when I've lost work, I back up the work to my hard drive for about the 100th time that day, another external hard drive, a flash stick, and finally, to a web-based file storage area, (which will ensure that even if I lose everything here through fire; flood; or an Act of God, I can still access my files unless I've been burned to death; drowned, or been hit by a bolt of lightning) and then go into the kitchen. My mobile is on the table. I switch it on. There are eight messages and two missed calls. Six of the texts are from mum, and one is from Kathleen - my latest girlfriend - and one from an unknown number. That one intrigues me, so I open it.
Hi rob. Jimmy here. Can I cleen your car on sat. LOL. Luv. XXX
I giggle at his childish texting, and his precocious use of the word, `Luv'. Blast! I've missed my little virus. I look at the clock: thirty-four minutes past midnight. It's too late to reply now. Debbie has probably been chatting to him, and given him my number. It gives me a warm glow to think that he's been talking about me, and that I've been in his thoughts. He'll probably have his phone switched off now, or it will be on charge, so I decide to send him an answer, and he can read it first thing in the morning. But first, I save his number under `VIRUS', and then text him, copying his own silly style. When he wakes in the morning, I hope he's thinking as I am.
Hi Jimmy. Yes. I'm off to London on saturday 4 a week. Keep off my lawn while I'm away and be careful on that bike! LOL. Rob. XXX
Horlicks. That's what I need right now. Milk from the fridge, fill a mug, and pop it into the microwave. Beep. Beep. Diddly dah do dah. It's a message on my mobile: from `VIRUS'!
Where r u?
The microwave rings to tell me the milk is hot, so I take it out and stir in four heaped spoonfuls of Horlicks, and while I stir, I'm wondering what to say when I reply to the text. I sip at the hot drink, and then answer.
Me: Just finished work. Tired. Where r u?
VIRUS: Bed. Home. Been waiting 4 your reply.
Me: Silly! Cant work with phone on. 2 many interruptions. Im a writer.
VIRUS: Sorry. I no u r. Must be gud 2 b a riter.
Me: Its ok. Debs tells me u good at skool.
VIRUS: Im ok. B glad when I leave.
Me: Y is that.
VIRUS: Need money.
Me: Education is important. U should go to uni.
VIRUS: Is that wot u did?
Me: Yes. Think about it.
VIRUS: Will do. Wot time you goin london?
Me: 1.30. Train. Got a pc here you can have if you want to work for it.
VIRUS: Is it any gud?
Me: Yes. I don't have rubbish. *winkey face*
VIRUS: *smiley face* Gr8. Ill mow your lawn when u away. *smiley face -- smiley face*.
ME: NO! *smiley face* Ill tell debs 2 give u key 2 garage and u can clean car while im away. I'll put pc in there. Can u get it home?
VIRUS: Dunno. Is it heavy?
ME: Not really, but cops might stop you if they c u taking it home. I'll leave card on pc with tel no. Ring it and taxi will take it 4 u. U ok with asians?
VIRUS: Yes. Some mates asians. Why?
Me: Taxi driver is friend of mine. Akhtar. B nice 2 him. U wont have 2 pay. I'll sort it.
VIRUS: Rob y u doing this 4 me?
(I've got be careful how I answer this.)
Me: Cus u got a lovely smile? I bet the girls swoon over it. *winkey face*
VIRUS: Girls pain in butt. *smiley face*
Me: Boys then. *smiley face*
VIRUS: *smiley face*. How u no? *smiley face*.
ME: Im a writer. We no everything. *winkey face*.
VIRUS: *smiley face* Better watch u. *smiley face*
Me: You had. *smiley face*
VIRUS: Sounds gud. *smiley face -- smiley face*
Me: Get 2 sleep now cheeky monkey. *smiley face -- winkey face*
VIRUS. Ok. Will leave u love letter in morning. *winkey face -- smiley face* Luv. XXX
Me: Look forward 2 it. Luv. XXX *winkey face*
That's it. I have to stop this conversation somewhere. It's taken on a turn I hadn't expected... we're talking, albeit jokingly, about homosexuality, and I'm unsure whether he's on my wavelength. He's a precocious boy when he's texting, but who might... be gay? It's not beyond the reams of possibility, because one of the books I wrote (which sold like hot cakes) had dealt with this very topic: very young man and older man fall in love. I'd done a lot of research on the subject, and I'm pretty au fait with how it goes, but that doesn't mean this situation is like that. Only time will tell.
I leave my empty mug in the sink for Debbie, polish my tusks and practically fall into bed. Will I wake up in time to see my little virus' devilish smile in the morning?
To be continued...
Other stories on Nifty by J.T.S.Teller: Boys can be lovers, too.