Johnny listens to this as if through a fog. The tv set played complicated games. The evenings were escalations. He watched Reegan in the tv set Monday nights between 9 and 10 on ITV. Reegan was Jack Regan, the fictional police inspector of the London based cop noir The Sweeney, with its low-key bravura, stylish 70s gurn-and-pump narratives, street-shot qualia and revved-up sensory states of a certain intense euphoric downer. Ian Kennedy Martin scripted Johnny's dad’s spiritual life like a fugitive hallucination. Each week the leading characters, Regan and sidekick Carter, suffered between sensations and affects like phantom limbs of some higher calling. These were apocalyptic occurrent characters, engaged and engorged and awake. And even when sleeping they still seemed capable of raw feels and desire, like wide boys enjoying their wide assent to more specifically encephalic or brain-related items. Theirs were hoary laws of nature and elsewhere. One less ‘e’ in Regan he noticed, as if tv had rubbed a little bit of Reegan’s identity away to make him seem more real.
'Everything's real son, it's just we don't count. You've got a choice George. Bring sweets or a stick. Life's that simple,' explained Regan.
'Of course, some idiots get confused. They're holding sherbert swizzles when what they really needed was a cosh. Tragic.'
Regan, best qualified to rule in Lear. Ray Gun. Ronald Reagan. And Rusty Regan, the sap husband who disapears before the story even begins in The Big Sleep. They all came to mind, but only like disinherited things do . Even strong coincidences are feeble. Nevertheless, the strongest correlation is identity.
Some of Regan’s days are full of pains. Other times he’s firing off histamine-selective C-fibers. Which is which? Who cares? This is a drama about collisions. To predict what will happen is to take account of the bodies involved. It's to count them as they fall. A sort of emotional kinematics is being played out each week. Just like chemistry, none of this can be reduced to physics. At times it mysteriously hinted at the transcendence of the mental. It showed the ordinary limitations of inherited intuitions of the physical. Every character ended up a Spartan parapsychologist. As if…! Perhaps the scripts were from the Engineering Anomalies Research Lab.
'Listen George. Conversations are when you think you have time. That's a cherished illusion. To be frank son, when people start chatting I wonder what made them think it was even a possibility. Face it George, the resurrection was last Tuesday, and we were in Camden following up on Barabbas.'
Johnny wondered if the writers knew the correct spelling of any of their names? Or even if they’d got their names right in the first place. Johnny felt most people had misplaced theirs. Voices were being heard at certain points. And then fell silent. Some bicameral throwback to mechanisms of auditory hallucination that chimed with street names, run-down high-rise estates, knocking shops and sleazy yachting clubs out West was being worked through. Let’s be honest, only a dualist can pick and choose what counts as mental. Materialists are already locked up. Between 9pm and the News at 10 hard men transmitted something from one brain to another without any physical signaling on a weekly basis. Each episode, strong feelings altered the probabilities of random quantum events somewhere near Southall station. The drama seemed to be an expansion of sacrifice going as far as morality itself. An entirely distorted account wormed in. It stole his death away.
If Reegan was a glazed fiction then the grave is a kind of libation. Johnny wondered about Reegan’s death and realized he couldn’t remember any details. It was as if he only had a slender knowledge. The Sweeney was a cop show that came back to haunt Johnny and set the tone for a kind of relapse. It returned him, time and again, to a source. Each sorry episode is suspended in drizzle. His nature stood, as it were, on the very wet verge. For Reegan, meanwhile, his voice collapsed into a continuous stream. There was no need to identify a substance behind it all. His was a scripted invective that served to identify him in any line-up, with or without his floating 'e':
‘I hate this bastard place, it's a bloody holiday camp for thieves and weirdoes, all the rubbish. You nail a villain and some ponced up pin stripe Hampstead barrister screws it all up like an old fag packet and pops off for a game of squash and a glass of Madeira. He's taking home 30 grand a year and we can just about afford 10 days in Eastbourne and a second hand car. Nah, it's all bloody wrong, my son. The hairs on my wooden leg tell me that something is up. I am utterly and abjectly pissed-off with this little lot. I've given the best years of my life to the job. I've got eighteen bloody commendations, if you include the one I didn't get yesterday. And how does this 'wonderful' police force show its gratitude for all my years of unstinting effort? It bangs me up in a crummy little cell like some cheap little villain - all because a toerag's got a few bottles twitching on the Fifth Floor. Now, because that poor little bastard had the guts to get off his arse, I'm going to have to be reinstated. And what do you bunch of bleeding double-dyed hypocrites want now? You want me to crawl back to work and be terribly grateful that I didn't get nicked for something I didn't do. Well you can stuff it! I'm gonna come down on you so hard your going to have to reach up to tie your shoe laces. You were always a disappointment to me son. You couldn’t find an Irishman in a Harp’s club. Get your trouser’s on, you’re going to do it again. You should be arrested for what you're thinking. Have you any idea what you’ve done to your mother? I should take you somewhere and make sure you never walk again. You’re as kosher as butter on a ham sandwich. Guilty or innocent I always get my man. All you are is tall for your height. You couldn't find sin in a Catholic choirboy. You're a toe rag I wouldn't let my worst pig's trotter near. Everyday gets a little bit darker, a little bit more terrifying, a little bit more lonely and in that darkness and terror and loneliness you know what comforrts me George? It's that I'll be there, waiting for the scum to arrive. They'll be there in the dark, in terror and loneliness and I'll be sitting in the corner with a scotch and fag and when they see me, dimly out of the corner of their revolting scum eyes, when they catch a glimpse they'll not know whether it's fear that's setting their hearts buzzing like a fly on steroids or the joy at discovering that even here, at the very end of days, when its final curtain and all seems lost, someone cares, someone's there, that they're not alone. It'll be impossible to know. But whatever they think, they'll finally realise that I've not gone away. I haven't forgotten. I haven't abandoned them. And that they're owing. That they're going to have to pay no matter how bloody late it is. That's the point George. It's the only point. No one gets off scott free. And no one gets to die alone. Not on my watch George. Not on my watch. Not now. Not never. You pay up and shut it. Let's be honest here: there have been good days my son, but frankly, none of them were mine. Living's for suckers George. It's dying that defines you.’
Reegan/Regan banged on. Life’s where performance just reacts to performance. One side will mock the other. The world he patrolled was as clear as the anatomical structure of an insect. He didn’t compile catalogues. He patrolled a serious future of eyewitness accounts with a dislike of quotations. His talk was neither lecture nor prayer. His geniality was an exceptional frankness unfolded in words that resembled neither a sonata nor symphony but rather the suite. Or a prayer knuckle. It was a matter of small independent chapters of accumulation and release, inhalation and exhalation, ebb and flow. He seethed with a serial unfolding of signs. What gets turned upside down happens only when absolutely necessary. Everything real is absolutely necessary. He cited Darwin on instinct:
‘ I will cite only three cases of instinct: the cuckoo laying her eggs in other birds’ nests, the slave instinct among ants, and the bees’ instinctive construction of beehives.’
The elevated mood is conjoined with the metabolism of the planet itself. He is a missile behaving like future trends. His speech is a convex lens turned to stare at a failure of others to recognize their own judgments and desires. His up and down moralism was a descendent of the waltz. The foundation of the waltz is a purely European passion for undulation of any kind. Everything sets him going except fabrication. Perhaps he’d have preferred a hypnotic trance to invention. He was that kind of cop who would have been equally good being a monk. His lines were calligraphies in response to dictation by the most terrifying and impatient dictators. He looked for literacy as well as beauty in heavenly things.
'To be honest George, I'm often disappointed.'
Johnny tried to sleep through it but heard the shouting below. He heard his mother screaming and then speaking anxiously in a low-level putter, rapidly outside in the hall. He heard doors slamming and voices fall away and then rise up again as if fully dressed. There was the coldness of shock alongside the obscurity of it all. The sound of the car engine turning and then it fading fast as it pulled away was followed by the gentle click of the house door closing, timidly now. Johnny had sat on the top stair and looked down, holding his knees. His mother stood with her back to him leaning as if incredibly tired against the front door. The space between them widened and blackened and curved. The walls relinquished the dark colour and grew transparent and stood white and ghastly against the naked light bulb. The glass was colourless, the carpets wide and black against the black ceiling. There was nothing else. Johnny felt himself swaying. Fear almost doubled him. His eyes hurt with tears. The shuddering whiteness of the walls and the screaming blackness of everything else seemed to go into the tears. Now I am afraid was the thought but it seemed unattached, as if maybe Johnny’s, maybe his mother’s, maybe the thickening evil’s.
It’s at this time he began to hear flying things in the dark, sinister beyond belief except he did believe. London on the tv set was fixed by dint of The Sweeney’s definition but was fading rapidly away. Metaphors that opened up posthumously assembled at best collections of memories. He felt violently sick and became almost an effigy of himself. He saw that many things were unapproachable. He felt no romantic pull of crossing borders. He carried supermarket plastic bags with his books and a few garage items. What he sensed was how far he had vanished from the charts. There was a kind of existential delirium running through the realization that Reegan wasn’t his father in any brittle weird reimagining. Reegan wasn’t even Reegan. He was at his own lowest estimate. Something clearly flagged.
He needed to fire up on whisky.
‘I want Mars bars, Wine Gums and Jelly Babies, and ham sandwiches, the sort that come in cellophane packets and sausage rolls – but no potato crisps, they interfere with transmission,’ he explained to some tired-looking but kind cashier.
He spent diligently and with the intensity of a detective inspector. It was a kind of bent homage. There were some profoundly long winters that smoothed over a whole lot of back territory. In the snowlines he felt an uncanny relationship with the inside of snow. Unexpectedly there were long periods of opening his heart to the door. He came to think of his writing as late because he was never looking for the simple deadlines. He knew most people came from the wrong way round. They’d perish trying that. He liked to say he was a poet whilst drinking in hard bars just to see what worth poetry had. TV kept coming back with ghosts. It mixed him up with all its territories and banal masculine one-apemanship.
‘Sheila has got some lunch on her.’ His favorite line.
His food tasted like it was forged. Any theology he might have held was the discontinued sort. He was looking forward to being a former editor. The fading becomes his best hope and ambitious dream. His face locked. He stared out over lost streams of lineage and mistrust. He lodged inside places his hands went straight through. He noticed early on how many times a cop killing was a suicide. But he stubbornly took the wrong turns necessary to keep going.