‘Contracts for the Design of Certain Vulgar Necessities’ by Richard Craven

soft cartel may 2018

Dusk. By motorway’s margin, Jissom seethes. Bilious eyes glare at pitiful shreds of tyre, then down at, cradled in his own soft milquetoast palm, apparatus. On this, screen signifies signal’s absence. Jissom, cursing in decibels drowned by road’s roar, now over crash barrier’s lip surveys elevation’s panoply, bounty of artifice: warehouses, caravans, nissan and quonset huts, prefabricated dwellings indifferently lit, beyond all of which in middle distance silhouettes of low hills make of vista a valley.

“This is Hell,” mutters Jissom, and then, as the rest of the line returns unbidden: “nor am I out of it.”


A seeming eternity of gale. Rain begins. Lorries pass. Jissom in his thin coat hunches.


From this, deliverance is a box on wheels which, otherwise nondescript, stops. Jissom, by now drenched, hence quite beyond the reach of scruple, seizes the passenger door, jumps in, is immediately assailed by tobacco’s stench, and that of unwashed body. The driver, dry grey hair dry yellow hands dry lined face dirty shirt, speaks first.

“Coming off next junction. That do you?”

“Anywhere,” says Jissom, “I can get a signal.”

A sardonic chuckle.

“You’ll be lucky.”

“I doubt it,” says Jissom.

“Going far?” says the driver.

“Conference,” says Jissom, “In the Vale. Design. The conference, I mean.”


The driver introduces himself. His name, mumbled, seems to be ‘Wankingstain’. His desiccated hands, gripping tight the wheel, otherwise shake.

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