Keep Your Friends Closer

That thing about keeping your enemies closer. I never understood that. I never really had enemies, I guess. I don’t really know what I’d do with an enemy, what they’re for.

Steve was talking about “the man” like he always did. I was drinking espresso with half my mind remembering not to let on to Steve what I was thinking, and the other half doing the thinking I needed not to let on about.

“The man” was Steve’s enemy. Steve wanted to “stick it to the man.” Apparently throughout history “the man” had clung onto power for the sole purpose of using his power to piss on the likes of me and Steve.

“I don’t smell piss,” I said because it seemed like the right thing to do to keep Steve happily chuntering so the two parts of my head could get on with their job of thinking but not letting Steve see what I was thinking.

Sure enough he started up again with the kind of wind-up spring energy that wasn’t going to run down for a few minutes yet.

Steve was my best friend. I guess he’d been my best friend since I can remember. At school we sat together at the back of the class and talked about whatever it is kids talk about instead of listening to the teacher. The girls in class and what we’d do to their tits if they’d sell us a pen knife at the local store. Bombs, guns, blood spatter patterns. That kind of regular kid shit.

Even then it was about “the man” for Steve. The guns were always pointed at teachers, the bombs were always planted under the school. I didn’t really know the teachers. We never listened to them, after all. And the school was a thing, not a person, and I always got that things can’t hurt you.

Now “the man” was some bank or some government department or something where Steve had got a job. It was part of the plan, he’d explained. The plan to get “the man.”

My mind was zoning back in, and Steve was talking about Kate and Jack. I knew the names. I thought about them lots. Some of the thoughts Steve shouldn’t see. They were going to do something about “the man” at last. His eyes were bright. I hadn’t seen him that alive before. He was telling me how “fucking cool” Kate and Jack were and how “fucking cool” it was when they all hung out and talked about sticking it to “the man.”

He was talking louder and it was becoming increasingly hard to zone him out he was getting so excited. In the end the whole half of my head that was meant to be keeping the other half quiet was kept busy cancelling out the endless Kate this Jack that “the man” the other fucking blah blah cool fucking blah and the other half of my head found its way to my mouth.

“You’re my friend,” it said. “You’re my only friend and I spent my whole life watching your back and you go on and on about this fucking man, this fucking idea you care about more than you care about me and you’re so busy planning to stick it to him you didn’t notice the fucking open sore split down my middle, and along come fucking Kate and fucking Jack blah blahing about the fucking man and you worship the ground they fucking walk on and you’ve tuned me down so I’m not even a hum in your life and you think it’s OK because I don’t care about the fucking man and that makes me less than the man and the whole thing is the man isn’t real, he’s a fucking idea and ideas can’t do shit to you, it’s people that fuck you up, it’s people that stick the knife in and twist it, so no I don’t want to stick it to the man.”

And then my mouth wasn’t moving but my hands were and they had his head between them, and they kept moving. I must have been zoning out again because I didn’t hear the noise on the table and the papers said his skull was smashed in more than thirty places but I didn’t hear a single crack. I felt it though. I felt the ripples through the muscles in my arm, and I felt the endorphins surfing them, and I felt the warmth rise from my feet, the thumping orgasmic warmth that came with every single fucking movement of my hands, with every shudder of the limp leaden weight in my hands, and the smile crawl over my lips and the sense of sheer joy that I didn’t have any enemies but kept my friends so close.

“What’s that?”

“Your friends close,” says a female voice.

“Was I speaking?”

“You were talking about your friends.”

I look up. My mind comes back into focus and I see Kate. She’s smiling. “I’m glad we became friends after Steve died,” she says.

“So am I.”

Dan Holloway


6 responses to this post.

  1. I loved this Dan.
    Something in it spoke to me. Not the outcome, but a frustration with those people who always wanted to stick it to ‘The Man’. It reminded me of Elephant the film by Van Sant about Columbine. I imagined it set in a pub. Did you mention a pub?


  2. A coffee shop is how I felt it more than a pub. I quiet, unobtrusive setting where manners prevents people noticing the violence. Just like I’ve never understood generic feelings of hatred aimed at institutions or classes or groups, I’ve never understood the regular depersonalisation process we hear people talk about in relation to violence. For me, the object of hatred is always a face – it’s a particular person and what they’ve done, and it’s the fact of their personality, their realness, their humanity that makes the violence possible. Apologies that this is about deviation with relation to violence rather than sex, but hatred is a more interesting and complex and human emotion than desire – for me, anyway. I guess that’s a paraphilia in itself


  3. Oh I didn’t notice the lack of sex.

    When I was publishing this I was reminded of your piece in the notebook where you said something like

    ‘It’s not the sex I miss, it’s the violence’.


  4. Posted by Jane on September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Hmmmm….this piece tries hard to be subversive, but it’s conventionality is inherent in its use of language, which is at best ploddingly conventional and at worst cliched. ‘Wind-up spring energy’?. ‘The smile crawl(s) over my lips and the sense of sheer joy.’ It’s not exactly Pynchon, is it, or even Dennis Cooper.

    Of course, it’s a voice piece, the writer is presenting the narrative in the manner in which the protagonist would phrase it blah blah blah. That’s fine as a justification, but what good does it do the reader when the resulting prose is so bland? The medium is the message, remember. We require fiction far more exciting than this.


    • Hi Jane!
      well there must have been something about this piece that moved you to comment. If you spend your time going round the internet looking for mediocre writing to criticise you must be very busy. That you picked out Dan’s story suggests to me there is something unique about it.


  5. Posted by Jane on October 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    No, there really isn’t.


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