The Tablet of Bliss

Malini started to feel different pretty quickly.

It started with a pain in her abdomen that had her screaming for most of the night. An ultrasound revealed a 10cm cyst on her right ovary, which was removed in emergency surgery. Two months later the pain was back, and the doctors removed an even larger cyst, but this time they took the ovary too. A month later they told her she had ovarian cancer.
In my paintings, I began to draw people without their skin or flesh. A critic called me ‘sick.

We were told the cancer was in its early stages and hadn’t obviously spread, but it was aggressive, so she would need chemotherapy: a cycle of six Carboplatin treatments after a course of IVF treatment in case the chemo made infertile.
All in all, Malini spent twelve hours under anaesthetic, thirty hours in chemotherapy, and missed almost one year of work.

But back to Beckham.

‘It was the speech; you know, at the party. Everyone was staring at me, but I couldn’t stop talking. They thought it was a wind-up, even the papers did.’

I smile.
All that happened was that at the press launch when all the portraits were unveiled, David Beckham stood up and with cameras flashing like mini-Hiroshimas, he started talking about Iraq.
‘When we voted for Blair we thought the swords would turn into ploughshares, but he set fire to Baghdad and it just wasn’t right. I don’t understand how he could kill so many people. I just can’t understand it−’
When he started crying, his minders intervened and led him away.

It made the papers, but mainly as a joke. ‘Beckham’s trying to be political. Isn’t it sweet?’ Or, ‘Beckham’s trying to be political. What a dick!’ Or, ‘Wearing a sarong wasn’t enough?’ A couple of left wing journalists applauded him (‘he’s growing up’) but most people dismissed it as attention-seeking, including me. I assumed his publicist had written it, directions included [Sobs profoundly].

But then he turned up at a Galaxy game with a full beard, and after a game in which he scored for the third time from inside his own half, he told the world he was refusing to shave out of ‘solidarity with his Muslim brothers.’ There was talk of Islamo-chic, and ‘the compassionate footballer…’

‘I got some hate mail, but I’ve always had hate mail. I don’t usually read what they write about me, but I felt stuff, K−, stuff I’d never felt before. And yeah, you can say compassion, but there was also anger. I’ve never been angry like that …’

To put it mildly, David Beckham went wild. He grew his hair long, very long, and his beard seemed to go on for miles. Galaxy let him go, but not before he’d told them, and the country he lived in, to go to hell.

So he came back to Britain, told the press he wanted to be ambassador to Iran, and then he met the Prime Minister. But he was too far gone by then. The establishment couldn’t see any advantage in him. They were just embarrassed.

To her credit, Mrs Beckham defended him at every opportunity. ‘David’s just standing up for what he believes in, can’t you see that? Cunts.’ She would spit that word with malicious love. I know this love: I’ve seen it in myself, every time I took Malini for chemo.

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5 Responses to “The Tablet of Bliss”

  1. October 13, 2008 at 11:43 pm, smith3000 said:

    I might have to read this again a couple of times before I really get my head round it ..

    But even if I don’t know exactly what you’re saying, I like the way y0u say it:

    “Like wool against my skin, the air is damp and smells of beer.”

    And it’s certainly a new perspective on the divine David.

  2. October 16, 2008 at 12:42 am, Martin Cooper said:

    What a great story, very muscular and witty, each progression inventive and surprising. A real pleasure to read, it made me laugh out loud a couple of times, and it’s good to read something that feels subversive, but not obvious.

    The minature in the eye is a beautiful image, and a suitable encouragement for art to affect the wider world. Perfectly judged.

  3. October 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm, Judy Kendall said:

    Best thing you’ve written yet?

  4. October 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm, Rachel said:

    Very gritty and crazy. Story moved quickly.

  5. November 28, 2008 at 1:41 pm, Yvonne said:

    Story draws you in like a magician, humourous, innovative, full of smoke mystery and crazy mirrors. loved it


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