The DJs Who Turn into Swans
By Mark Burrow
The swan that Anne kept in the spare room was her ex-boyfriend, Marcus. When Darren had the flat to himself, he liked to sit in the room, which had a paddling pool, and chat to her ex.
“I’ll be the same as you one day,” he mused. “I’d settle for being a swan.”
Marcus made a hissing sound. His webbed feet slapped on the bare wooden floor as he walked back and forth.
“It must be odd for you, knowing that I’m sleeping in your bed, wearing your dressing gown, drinking tea of a morning in a mug with your name on it.”
The hissing got louder.
“Shagging your girlfriend and living off her for free.”
Marcus spread his wings. They were fucking massive.
Darren swigged from a can. He’d bought two four packs from the Londis when strolling home along the seafront after a tedious day of nothing in the hotel.
“I heard you were a wannabe DJ. I fucking hate DJs, with your tattoos and piercings and fake spirituality. I bet you were a big fan of The Celestine Prophecy. You new age wanker.”
He opened another can. “Did you start to doubt yourself as the years went by or did you keep thinking one day, one day I’ll make a fucking banger that everyone goes mad for? Then you’ll be in Ibiza, DJ Dog’s Bollocks, raising your hands to your adoring fans. But back in the real world you kept playing the sort of crap pubs where the teenagers and students would stop off on a night out before going somewhere decent. To top it all, you started to go bald and got yourself a beer belly and your girlfriend wanted to settle down, have a baby, and that meant you had to earn a wage and get yourself a proper job like a fucking grown-up. Am I right, Marcus? Do tell me if I’ve got you all wrong.”
He swallowed the lager, wondering where he’d be without alcohol and drugs. The idea of sobriety seemed like an impossibility to him. It was like being Catholic or going to the Conservative Party Conference. The boredom when cleaning rooms today was unfucking real. It was driving him potty. My brain is dying. Felt like it’s being inflated with air. This sense of airiness came over him, combined with the pain of each minute fucking crawling by in cranium-splitting tedium. Sitting in a stinking hot basement for lunch, eating with the French chambermaids and hearing them talk the same shit over and over. Boys they fancied. The types of cocks they liked. Asking about his size and wiggling their little fingers. He had come that close to saying fuck it, I quit. Fantasizing about walking out. Enough. I don’t need this bollocks. Room cleaning in a run down, shit-tip of a hotel. Stick it up your arse.
“Did you know?” Darren said to the swan, “that a home economics teacher, Mrs Elliott, told me I never had what it takes to be a soldier? She went round the class and asked each of us what we wanted to be. All the white kids didn’t have a fucking clue what they wanted to do, apart from Stewart, who was going to be a scaffolder with his petty thief dad. The Asian kids in my class came out with answers, alright. They said things I didn’t properly understand – accountant. What the fuck does an accountant do? Computer programmer. Translator. When it was my turn, I said, ‘I want to join the army.’”
Marcus had given up threatening Darren. Typical DJ turned swan behaviour. Cunt. He waddled back to his paddling pool and settled in, splashing water everywhere.
“’You’ll never be a soldier,’ she goes. Fucking twat. The whole class starts laughing. She’s made me look this big. Absolutely no need for it. So I say, ‘What do you know, you’re a fucking cookery teacher?’”
Darren swigged a mouthful of lager. “Oi, swan boy, are you fucking listening to me?”
The swan glided around the pool, which was more like an indoor jacuzzi. The Government stated it was against the rules to keep a person who had transformed as a pet, but it was hard to police unless someone acted as a whistle-blower.
In one corner of the room, there was a stand with a speaker playing sounds of the riverside. It played on a loop the chirps, coos and tweets of robins, wood pigeons, blackbirds and chaffinches. Anne said that it soothed Marcus’ mind and helped him to relax, reminding him of walks taken over the South Downs.
The army would probably accept Darren at his age. Signing up was an option. He kept mulling it over. Had given it some serious thought when using a toilet brush to clean skid marks off white porcelain for fuck-all an hour. The main problem he had with the army was fighting wars he didn’t believe in, as well as being ordered about by northern fuckers with moustaches.
Wherever I go, people try telling me what to do.
The first three cans stopped the sense of drudgery and meaninglessness of the day. It was the fourth and fifth that brought back the narkiness in him.
Still, better to be angry than bored.