Tag Archives: Wales

from LADDIE – A Novel

The house wasn’t as he remembered, and his mind, clouded now by the fogs of a Montepulciano and several drinks from a Macallan seventeen year old, tried to remember what it had been when he had it with her. He tried to remember the laughter. There was nothing left by which he could trace what they had been in happy times, when the house had first been bought.
He married her after his first book had been published, when there was money in the bank, not much, but there was money in the bank and he took most of it and bought her a ring, which he gave to her in an empty apartment on the Upper East Side as they drank wine and ate food bought from the bodega at the corner.
They were married in the chapel near Talley Abbey and later when the book kept selling, they bought a house in Tally which had been built from the stones which were used to build the Abbey after the fat king dissolved the Canon monastery there.
In the beginning, with success, came talk shows and invitations to literary parties at which he couldn’t take his eyes from her. When he used to look at her across the beautiful fabrics and the glasses of champagne held in manicured hands and feel the elation that comes with the shared rhythm of love. These were the days, when they used the house in Talley as a sort of escape from the crowds of New York and Chicago, where they cooked and danced and read and made love and shunned people sometimes for days on end.
And now he had returned to Talley – the return now more arduous than the leaving had ever been – to this desolation on the moors, to the Welsh country, where as a boy they called him Laddie. The colloquiums notwithstanding – Laddie was short for Ladbroke, not the Grove, but the name. Just Ladbroke, the family name. His name, Barris, was from his mother’s side of the family, from the good Welsh stock. Barris Ladbroke. They could have called him Barrie, or even just Barris, but the surname was the one, because of its Englishness, that set him apart from the others in the valley, and which they addressed him by. And on some cold Carmarthenshire moor, he managed at the beginning to have them call him Laddie. And those whom he loved, still called him Laddie. His daughter Bronwen called him Laddie.
“Give it all to her, Stefan. All of it. I worked for it and lost my marriage because of it. Those fucking words. The money made the words dry up. Made them just so much black ink on a page. There are none left anymore, but somehow I’ve got to find them again. I have to find them or the pistol will be far too much of a temptation, especially when the demons of the Lord God Macallan come calling. I just want to write again, Stefan, like I used to. But this time, I’ll write for me. Not as I did before, so that I could give it all to her. To them. Even to the faggot. I want nothing that came from it, so that I can feel the need to do it again. To write a first book again. I want just the house in Wales. It’s elemental, Stefan. I want nothing but the stone. Nothing but the stone. Take out the stoves and the heaters. I don’t want to return to her interiors. To her linen. To the traces of even her perfume. Have them disinfect it with naphthalene. I just want to go back to what it was when it was built. Stone. I want to return to my papers and my scotch. I’ll write again on pads with a pencil. I’ll write the way I want. I’ll go back to the way I was when I wrote The Dolphins Tears.”
Stefan had hired the lads from the pub to go to the house and strip it of everything that would remind Barris of America and of the woman he had after all the years of destruction, left behind there. Of her, and of his daughter who was in India and his son in Chicago. Stefan had even gone himself to Talley. Taken all of it upon himself because he remembered Barris Ladbroke, when Barris Ladbroke was still writing his books on pads with a pencil. When Barris Ladbroke had fallen in love with his American. Stefan had been a witness at the wedding and he had been a witness to all Barris’s destiny since that day. Had been at his side through the Pulitzer and the short list for the Nobel. The honorary doctorates. The Legion d’honneur. And Barris had made him a rich man. They had made each other rich men. So Stefan owed it to him to go to the house in Wales and reduce it to what Laddie wanted it to be. Reduce it to stone.
“Is this okay? There is nothing left of it, only the stone as you asked. It will be cold here. Where will you sleep?”
“I’ll sleep on the floor. I’ll put down a mattress and sleep on it. I’ll write my book sitting on the mattress or outside on the grass. My coat will keep me warm. This is a good coat. It will shield me from the world’s censure and scorn. I’ll need a supply of Macallan, Stefan, and cases of thin-rimmed crystal glasses. I hate thick rims on a glass about as much as I hate think ankles on a woman. And you know I like to break the crystal when the words won’t come. I’ll take my evening meal from the pub. Can you arrange for Mrs. Istans to have one of the lads bring it up to me every evening. I’ll pay them well. I like those lads. They don’t talk. They are not inane. I’ll drink Macallan with them every evening. I know I’m old and maybe there will be no more books and if the words won’t come then at least I’ll have the solitude and this little corner of the world which I can call my own. I don’t want to do fucking speaking engagements and silly political talk shows like those cunts who pretend that a published book confers professorship on a man, so don’t start with that again.”
“I wasn’t talking about a speaking engagement, Laddie. This man is rich, very rich. All he wants is for you to write a book about him. About his life. He’s offering you fifty million dollars if you will do it. Fifty million dollars for one book. Plus whatever it makes, you get to keep. He says that The Dolphin’s Tears was the best book he’s ever read. He called me himself to make this offer. Men like him don’t call literary agents themselves. But he did.”
“It’s probably the only book the cunt has read. And what does a man who owns half the world know about books? If The Dolphin’s Tears was a bucket load of treacle I wrote so I could get laid by the cunts who thought it meant something, he wouldn’t know the difference. Is this guy a faggot? Because if he is, I’ll gladly sell Dylan to him for the fifty million. My words will only ever be my own. What I want to say. You know that. And what would I make from his fifty million after the whore took it all? I would have sold my soul so that she can buy palaces in Cannes and indulge the faggot’s penchant for nigger arse!”
“You’re the one who wanted to give her everything when you divorced her, against the advice of everyone. Think about it, Laddie. He’s offering you an advance of close to twenty million if you’ll only think about it. Consider it. He’s throwing the money at you. All you have to do is call him and listen to what he has to say.”
“I’ve known you too long Stefan for me to believe that you’re not concerned about losing the money. I respect that, but don’t insult me by asking me to consider his offer. I’m Barris Ladbroke. You should know that. You made me. And I’ll write for no one but myself. I write about the lives I make up, the circumstances I have lived. Now fuck off, Stef. I just want to be alone.”
“You’re almost out of Macallan and there’s no electricity here. Let us go down to the pub and eat something. You can sleep there tonight.”
“I’m not out of Macallan. I have another bottle in my bag. Why don’t you stop off at the pub and get drunk and while you’re there, tell Mrs. Istans to have one of the lads bring me as many candles as she can spare. Now go, please. Fuck off you Yankee cunt, or the words will never come!”
Barris got up and taking Stefan by the elbow, walked him to the door of the old house and shouted after him as he made his way down the hill to the pub, “Fuck off, you Yankee cunt!”

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