Ginny. Part 3. Man Ray.
Charles opened the door holding an ActionMan.
“I don’t like to leave him alone,” he said. “I suspect he’s been trying to poison my food.”
Ginny followed Charles up the narrow staircase to his room. ActionMan’s legs were now sticking upright out of Charles’ back pocket. Ginny dreaded to think where his face was.
Sometimes Charles and the ActionMan were friends and sometimes they were not.
Once when Charles was four years old his father had taken him to The Moors, handed him a map and a compass and said he would meet him at the rendezvous marked with an X in 36 hours time.
It was on hour 6 that Charles had found ActionMan wedged into a tree stump, completely naked and half freezing to death. They had been inseparable ever since.
But it was a complicated relationship.
Ginny sat upon the bed and gave Charles a peculiar look.
If he turned out to be just a girl, he thought, would he like Charles’s penis inside of him? Or would he like it in him anyway?
He found he was having these kind of thoughts more and more often. They appeared like stars on a clear night, bright but impossibly out of reach.
Charles pulled a rolled up copy of The Town Flier from under his bed and unrolled it.
the Stranglers’ story had made the back page:
Pantless in Poulton
The Flier’s top investigative journalist had been assigned to the case but so far no fingers had been pointed at Ginny.
“They all had to go home without pants,” read Charles, “which was a first for the Stranglers although not the first time they had been whupped. Who can forget last season’s run of 26 games without a win? Or the time the bus had become stuck out on the mudflats? It seems bad luck follows the team…
Any information about the missing pants will be gratefully received and if, Calvin Klein, you are reading this and would like to make a donation you know what to do!”
Charles was pleased with the underpants and Ginny watched as he placed them one by one in the stoppered glass jars he had prepared earlier.
Ginny had the idea that they should throw them out to sea where they would be found, like messages in a bottle.
“Do you remember?”
When he and Charles were younger they’d had a small industry making messages in bottles and selling them to day-trippers to toss from the pier.
Inside they put pithy phrases.
You think you’re stuck, well let me tell you about me. I’ve been in this gorilla suit for three months!
Donuts make you fat, running makes you thin. That is the true yin and yang of life.
A bottle washed up on the shore and all I got inside it was this lousy message.
One time they had managed to squeeze a complete copy of The Pickwick Papers into an extremely fat bottle.
It was a miracle it had even floated.
“Just imagine,” Charles had said. “That one will probably be found by a man on a desert island. Think how happy he’ll be that a whole book has turned up.”
Charles made Ginny wait until he turned into a girl before he kept up his end of the bargain.
“To solve the mystery of yourself you need to go on a long journey,” he said mysteriously.
Then he pulled out a book of paintings by an artist called Man Ray whose real name had been Emmanuel Radnitzky and who was an American but who now lived in Paris.
Charles and Ginny stayed up all night looking at the pictures until tears started to flow down Ginny’s cheeks.
“You see,” said Charles, “people as strange as you exist in the world. Man Ray paints them. Or photographs them. It’s difficult to tell. He’s an enigma.”
Determined to have enough money to go to Paris Ginny bought himself an old slot machine and each evening after college he wheeled it down to the front.
In return for some potato peeling and a spin on the fryers he was allowed to run his power cable into Chip’s Chips.
There was a whole range of patter he used to drum up custom.
Being the son of a cup diver showmanship came easily to him.
It was in his blood.
During the gaps between punters, a huge dictionary on his lap, he devoured French books; L’étranger by Albert Camus, Quinze Contes by Guy de Maupassant, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, La Porte Étroite by André Gide, Candide by Voltaire, L’avare by Molière, le rouge et le noir by Stendhal, Madam Bovary by Gustav Flaubert and Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo.
“What are you reading?” people would often ask.
“It’s in ze French,” he would reply in a terrible put-on French accent.
He had learnt at an early age that comedy is the best way to deflect your true desires.
Ginny learnt to love the sound of the 1ps and 2ps as they fell through the slots, the viscous buzz of frying chips, the slap of waves on the shore.
Sometimes he would attempt to flirt outrageously with the out-of-town girls as they changed their 10ps into smaller denominations but in his bright green galoshes, his father’s grave-digging trousers with enforced knees and pink cagoule in case of a heavy downpour he was like a 3-legged greyhound shut in its trap.
A confluence of hormones he had more luck post-change with the fisherman down at The Fisherman’s Arms.
Upon arrival at this seaside town Tubby, the new landlord, an eager alumni of CompleteMarketingTM, had pledged to make the pub a theme one.
Lobster pots had been attached to the walls, nets strung from the ceilings. When a new customer entered he would ring the ship’s bell above the bar and cry out What ho’ me hearties.
But instead of his intended tourists the fishermen only had arrived in awe of the verisimilitude of it all.
On that first night, heart beating like a tin drum, to go out like a girl, a woman!, Ginny was dressed in her mother’s old clothes, a pink tutu that stuck out 90o from the tops of her thighs, a yellow jumper with short arms, a neck too tight for her neck.
She had put hairspray on her hair but realised too late that it was necessary to style it first.
After less than seven minutes she was approached by Sven Igorsson, the town’s only Norwegian.
Sven’s father had been the leader of the resistance to the Nazis in Norway and later gone on to be Deputy Prime Minister. His mother had won a Nobel Prize and wrote a series of books about how to create beautiful gardens against the odds.
Sven wanted only a simple life.
Ginny, 18 now, and still technically a virgin, wanted anyone.
“I’m 99% estrogen, progesterone, testosterone in equal measure and it’s playing havoc with my sex organs.”
She had handwritten this on a calling card as a kind of reminder and a reassurance.
Ginny was nervous on their first date but found it easy to sit and cross her legs without a penis.
Sven said he would take care of her, like a haul of precious cod, and at the end of the night invited Ginny back to his home.
They walked under the moonlight along Saltburn-by-the-Sea’s designated Romantic Mile Seaside Walk.
Coin-operated machines lined this walk, selling ersatz roses, pages containing romantic verse, commemorative love beads encased in a kind of Perspex.
Other lovers formed orderly queues in front of these machines dreaming of their life ahead.
An eventual descent towards death and disappointment.
Sven’s home was a former fishing vessel that he had hoisted out of the sea and mounted on firm wooden struts. Affixed to its walls were pictures of his mother in her many beautiful garden, his father appearing in court during the Nazi war crimes trials.
Legs in the air, Sven eagerly penetrating her, Ginny felt their disapproving stare.
Our son ended up with this freak?
Ginny would only go to the boat at night, after he had changed into a woman.
Sven fished six days a week, rising early in the mornings well before Ginny ‘turned back’ and on the seventh day, Sunday, he went to the morning service at the Saltburn-by-the-Sea reform church and refused any bodily contact beforehand.
Those were Ginny’s favourite mornings.
He liked lying in Sven’s bed as a man, imagining him riding on the end of his penis, accepting him for who he truly was.
In the early hours of the morning, after their lovemaking, Sven talked of his plans and dreams.
One day, he said, they would run a garage on an A Road together. They would be like the couple in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
This, apart from his father’s old battered Bible and a compendium of scatological jokes from Ancient Times to the Present Day, was his favourite book.
In this fantasy Ginny would work in the garage shop, Sven’s Parts, providing light snacks to waiting customers while Sven himself would man the pumps, polish car windscreens, do repairs; change the oil, tyres, fix minor engine problems.
They would both keep their eyes open for any drifters intent on murder.
But then one morning there was a storm and Sven said he would not be fishing that day, not for anybody’s life, not even my own.
He ran a finger along Ginny’s taut belly, up between her breasts.
“For once you’ll have your little Sven in the morning.”
The hour passed when Ginny returned back to being a boy. Or a man, as he was now.
This is it, thought Ginny, the heart of the matter.
He imagined a rocket, that moment when it pierces the Earth’s atmosphere. He thought of a steamroller rolling over a plastic ketchup bottle, the ketchup escaping at high speed. Like blood.
It was the hand that found it first. You didn’t need to be a Braille expert.
Ripping the duvet from the bed Sven was first surprised, then horrified, to find his findings confirmed, a penis filling the fishnet lingerie he had bought himself for Ginny from Mavis’s Erotic Goods.
“Buy one, get one free,” said Ginny.
“Something for the weekend,” said Ginny.
“It’ll be gone again on the stroke of midnight,” said Ginny.
“Please,” said Ginny.
But it was to no avail.
Sven paced their tiny bedroom, clenching and unclenching his fists like he was in a Brazilian soap opera.
“How could you ruin all this?”
There was the ticket stub from the first movie they had seen together, Star Wars. There was the chair they had adapted into a rimming stool. There was the book of baby names Sven had found in the charity shop, the names Urquhart and Frenella underlined three times.
“I can’t see you any more.” said Sven sadly. “My brother used to get to perform fellatio on him every Christmas and birthday. And that was enough. Please, just leave.”
Ginny was heartbroken but not surprised. He had read enough books about monsters to understand that before acceptance, or death, there was a period which involved being cast out, or dying.
Standing outside, looking up at the boat, his clothes packed hurriedly into a paper suitcase, he decided it was time he went to Paris.
Man Ray was waiting, along with all the peculiar people like himself.
Image is from Pixabay
Read Part 1 - The Great Cup Diver
Read Part 2 - the Strangers' Underpants
Read Part 4 -