This squealing of the braking buses is unbearable today. It's going
right through her. Into her organs and poking them about.
It never used to bother her at all. In fact not that long ago she found
these high pitched snatches of sound comforting.
She would come and sit here and close her eyes and imagine that these
noises were coming from whales who were swimming around town, sending
out their sound signals, scanning the area, waiting for the echoes to
rebound to them so they could tell whether they were at Tesco's or WH
She had always been fascinated by the sounds around her. Been aware of
them and allowed her imagination to feed from them because she had been
brought up in a world where the auditory was attended to. When she was
a child her father worked on radio dramas, vibrating metal sheets and
trudging up and down trays of gravel for hours on end. He could create
sounds from next to nothing.
Every night after dinner she and her brother would spend an hour with
him and he would make them a sound that had never existed before using
whatever came to hand. And then after they had listened to it he would
open the window and let it loose, telling them that one day they may
find it again but they should have to listen very hard because the
other noises didn't like being upstaged by these new whippersnapper
sounds and would do anything they could to block them from the human
One night he brought home a tall man whose voice was used in a
children's show featuring two pig puppets called Pinky and Perky. And
he played her a record of himself and his colleague - who was Perky -
singing the theme tune from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. She couldn't
stop laughing at the high squeaky little voice that seemed totally at
odds with the well dressed, handsome man in front of her.
At that moment she decided that she wanted to do that too, to work in
the films or television and make voices move around and turn into other
things and come out of the mouths of animals and strange
But it never happened. She ended up in publishing. Children's books.
Especially ones that make sounds. To start with it was just pushing a
bit of rubber down to make a squeak but she encouraged the company to
invest and to move into more complicated areas, embracing new
technology. Cuckoo clocks, and scurrying trolls.
But she maintained her love of squeaky little voices and played her
Pinky and Perky record whenever things were getting her down.
She bought a helium pump, the kind that was used to inflate balloons
which children had bought for them at funfairs, and would inhale from
it and ring her friends so that she could talk to them in this silly
high pitched voice. It always made them laugh. Every time.
One day her father rang up and as soon as he said hello she told him to
wait a second and took a lung full of gas. She picked up the phone
again and he told her that her mother had died.
He'll never forget the sound of that sobbing.
She smashed up her Pinky and Perky record. Smashed it into tiny little
bits with a hammer.
For weeks she was submerged in waves of guilt which would cause her to
sob constantly, mascara pouring down her face. She couldn't bring
herself to go to work, to be surrounded by those silly little beeping
horns and apple crunching pixies.
And then somebody gave her a cassette of whale noises, songs of the
humpback whale, full of high pitched calls that were pure and resonant.
For days on end she let their music flow all over her, the house
sounding as though it was sitting on the bottom of the ocean.
Her sadness lifted and over the following weeks it was replaced by a
gentle thrill of expectation as she began a tentative love affair with
a cartoonist. She wasn't keen on most of his drawings, there was a
violence there that troubled her, dark eyes and savage gestures. But
she had asked him to do a cartoon of her cat and it was beautiful. She
stared at it every night and it began inexorably to draw her towards
him. Miaow, it said, come and meet my maker and put your arms around
his soft and fluffy heart.
She offered him a room to work in and then to live in and then they
became lovers. She worked hard so that he could concentrate on his
drawing and managed to persuade him that they should make an animated
film together. It would be about a whale, a whale called Wendy whose
mother is killed by a whaling fleet and whose father loses his voice
through grief. And Wendy would help her father to find his voice.
It was great. She read books and watched videos and spoke to experts
about echo-location and ultrasonic clicks and listened to those whale
sounds over and over again. And she hectored her cartoonist. She wanted
Wendy to look just right. She never asked how his other work was going.
She just wanted to see Wendy taking shape. Getting her flippers right.
Going on her adventures to help her Dad.
And she was happy then. She would ring and arrange to meet her man in
town so that she could tell him of her new idea for the ending that
would surprise everybody. And she would say to him: listen to the
noises of the buses as they brake, listen to the squealing. And she
would hold him and tell him that each of these sounds may be unique,
never replicated. And that maybe one of the sounds that her father made
for her and her brother as a child might be floating around at that
very moment waiting to visit her.
But he had been unfaithful. The cartoonist. It turned out that he had
developed a bad crack habit and began to drink and sweat and slaver and
use prostitutes habitually. She came home one day and found him going
down on a tight ripped fifteen year old.
She told him to leave in a voice that she had never heard come out of
her body before. And he did.
She received a video in the post today. A copy of an animated
There's a dish in China known as Three Squeals. It's a live rat embryo.
The first squeal is when you pick it up with your chop sticks, the
second squeal is when you dip it into the chilli sauce, and the third
squeal is when you put it in your mouth.
Why would her father be involved in making something like that?