Blog Tour: Distortion

Hi and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Distortion by Gautam Malkani!

Today I would like to share with you an excerpt...

Chapter One
Mum is dying again. We’re talking actual end-of-story dying. When she texts to tell me, she sounds like I owe her a fiver to settle a bet. She always texts when I don’t answer her calls. Thinks I’m in geeking it up in the library. Or sitting in some late-night lecture. If I answered then, dead cert, she’d start crying.
In the taxi, I delete Mum’s text then stash my fone in the backseat. Ramona next to me, not noticing – ain’t even looking. Streetlit silhouette. Strobe effect. Pulsing with each passing lamppost. Every red traffic light a chance for me to stop all the shit that’ll happen later. Turn around. Turn around. Don’t wait for the next signal, just ask the taxi to turn the fuck around. Go geek it up in the library. Go study by your mother’s latest deathbed.
She’s rocking blue velvet shoes tonight – four inch heels, plunging top-lines, straps like padlocks across her insteps and her ankles. Curls her toes before opening her mouth: “Dillon, I don’t know what’s worse – you completely ignoring me to check your phones or just fading me out while you check out my feet.”
Could’ve called off this evening – even though fuck knows what “rain-check” actually means. Could’ve just told her about Mum, I guess. That she was rushed into hospital earlier. That her cocktail of chemo’s too strong for her. After collapsing again on the crapper. And the shit ain’t even working.
Ramona now fixing her eyeliner without aid of make-up mirror or front-lens smartphone. Taxi driver flips on a light for her. Not to leer at her in the rear-view. Tonight our driver is a woman.
Apparently it happened in our downstairs, disabled-access toilet. Various assorted bodily fluids. Broken hand-towel holder.
Tonight, I’d remembered to hold open the door for Ramona. Held a brolley over her head, made sure her backless dress only flashed her back. That slit in her dress that giggled like a girl as she stepped out of student halls. My fingers on her pencil heels as she climbed inside the cab – trying to hold shit steady. First time I ever took Ramona out, my budget was so tight I pretended I was fasting.
They’re keeping Mum in a separate room cos her white blood count is in the red. Charing Cross Hospital this time, not Ealing, West Middlesex or Hammersmith. – i.e. visiting hours end at 8. Should’ve told Ramona I could meet her after, I just couldn’t join her for the gig.
Single-lane standstill means our driver breaks left, sharp left. Kerb-crawling the homeless hanging round Holborn. One of the homeless men makes eye contact with me and starts shouting. Ramona opens handbag then window then gives him cigarettes and vitamins.
It’d be good to go hold Mum’s hand. One last grasp before the final croak. Maybe even hug and smell her scalp. No – just to hold her hand. Ain’t necessary to describe a dying woman’s hand.
Ramona’s feet now crossed just above her ankle straps, her sinews stretched, the four-inch heels probably puncturing the upholstery beneath.
I mean a dying woman’s hand trying its hand and texting or typing or fingering a touchscreen.
Her heels the reason for this taxi; me the reason for her heels. The gig we’re headed to is a secret album launch in some posh-ass West End theatre. Sit-down only, no latecomers and strictly limited capacity to enhance the experience of the live web-stream. I can’t just tell her I gotta go see my mum – ain’t even told her Mum’s got the C-bomb. I tell other people, though – other girls, other women. No one holds it against you if you don’t make them come when they’re fucking you out of sympathy.
First time I ever went to a gig, I went with Mum. She even tried to impress me by schooling herself up about N.E.R.D. Title of their first album: In Search Of. Full form of their name: Nobody Ever Really Dies.
A short first gear, a long second. Tarmac and puddles become a mash-up of brake-lights, rear lights, red traffic lights. Glow from blood-red backlit billboards. I pull out my fone, my other fone – my other fones, plural. The different login and password combos permanently stored in my fingers.
“Heading to N.E.R.D’s new album launch tonight – gig being streamed live if you wanna join”
“Mum sick again. Gonna spend evening and night by her hospital bedside”
“Tuesday night is student start-up night. And we’ve got a private-equity guest speaker”

Distortion is out now [here]
If like me you love anything that could be described as Black Mirror-esque you need to pick this up! Look out for my review coming very soon...

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