The cockerel crowed, even though the sun lay in its lazy afternoon position.
“Bloody cock!” came the sombre snarl wrapped up in its feather duvet and woollen blankets. The lump within sneezed dramatically, as only this particular lump could do.
The cockerel crowed again, and the lump burst forth towards the window, opened the old brass latch, and threw a vase containing a selection of limp daffodils towards the feathered enemy. “Basta! Shut up your whining you stupid bird!” The bits of vase and its sorrowful contents lay beside the bemused looking cockerel, who promptly resumed its important strut around the dusty back yard.
“Oh, joy! You are up, my love,” said Mrs Pulcinella as her ample frame surged through the flimsy door of the tiny double bedroom, suspiciously on cue.
“Up! Up! Up I am, my wife, la mia Joanina, my life’s blood!” squeaked Mr Pulcinella. “Thanks to that bloody cock cawing and balling out there! Stupido bird! We must arrange it into a Sunday meal as soon as possible!”
“Now, now, dear,” his wife mollified, shutting the window as she did so, “I know you’re not feeling well, but there’s no need to stir up your violent wills so close to waking, is there? Essere calmo, eh?” Mr Pulcinella stared at his apathetic wife, who he would have done for had he not felt so damn awful. A dewdrop dripped from his beaklike nose, which was blushed with rawness.
“Do you not see that I am dying, wife? I hurt everywhere. My poor head the most.”
“Yes, dear. Of course you do,” was the unsympathetic reply, as the duvet was rigorously plumped into submission.
“My eyes are broken! It is terrifying to see three of you, my love!”
“Ah, flattery. Flattery,” cooed Mrs Pulcinella. “Why don’t you come down for some lunch, amore mio? You must eat before the show tonight. I’m making your favourite!” With the forceful suggestion cheerfully imparted, the well-built woman bustled out of the room, leaving the fuming face of her husband behind her.
The door to the kitchen was closed as Mr Pulcinella approached, hampered somewhat by Toby nipping at his feet. “Get away, stupid animal!” He wavered with dizziness as his foot missed the ragged mongrel, then stood for a moment in the swirling red and white hallway, his yellowing flannelette union suit wilting around him with its back flap idly floundering where it lacked a button, giving an unfortunate draft from below, and an even less fortunate view of a languid bottom cheek from behind. Toby eyed this teasing morsel hungrily. While he attempted to gather himself his head throbbed in time with the Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated blaring from the other side of the door. He sighed, as if it would help with motivation, and stumbled into the kitchen where the unforgiving sound hit him along with the smell of frying sausages.
“Ah, my love!” exclaimed his wife over the three chord din. “Look, I bought you sausages fresh from the market this morning, your favourite blend!” Mrs Pulcinella noted her husband’s sagging form which seemed all together unmoved at this surprise, and carried on regardless. “Here, sit down, tesoro mio,” she said, pulling out a small wooden chair from the round gingham encrusted table, “I’ll serve you up presently.”
“You may do so, my Joan, my matronly moglie, but I will not care for them due to my diseased existence and this riotous racket your son makes!” Mr Pulcinella sat heavily opposite the nearly naked baby squashed into a solid wooden highchair, his nappy bulging over the edges. It smirked at him.
“Aw, don’t be like that, Padre,” said Mrs Pulcinella, hurrying round the table to the well-fed baby. “Your son is expressing himself, like a proud Pulcinella, aren’t you my lovely?”
“Fuck off,” said the baby. “You don’t like my music, then get outta my play pen.”
Ignoring her son’s blasphemy, Mrs Pulcinella returned to the smoking sausages on the stove top which was slowly turning the white stripes on the walls to a fat stained yellow.
“You’re a baby. Act like one,” advised Mr Pulcinella, “or I’ll dock your pocket money henceforth. Marmocchio!”
“Huh!” exclaimed the child peevishly. “You think that’s a threat? You have paid me the same wage for the last three hundred years! Idiota!” His podgy fingers reached for the nearly empty packet of cigarettes on his highchair table. “Were it not for you and your snivelling dark arts deals I would not be enduring this endless hardship of life! You are a dismal father and a tight-fisted employer.” The baby’s face contorted into a sorrowful ponder, as if ready to deliver a Shakespearian line of great magnitude. “My music is the only thing makes this miserable life worth living. Il mio santuario.” He lit the cigarette and puffed out a perfect smoke ring which hung teasingly in front of his father’s nose.
The draft from the back door extinguished the ring of smoke along with the child’s attention from the steaming face of Mr Pulcinella. The breeze carried her scent across the room. “My darling Polly!” exclaimed the delighted baby. “You’re here at last. I have longed for you since you left hencely.”
“That’s not even a bloody word,” snarled Mr Pulcinella. Not a day passed when he didn’t loath his wretched family. Appreciation of the security he’d brought them was never forthcoming, and although his wife’s substantial figure afforded some rageful outlet, that of his son’s was frustratingly difficult to pin down. But lately even the once pleasurable outbursts of meaningless violence didn’t satisfy the rumbling anger at the terrifying trap he had made for himself.
“I have longed for you and your scent of paradise, your opulent body, your kisses from the heavens. La mia bella ragazza!” continued the baby.
Mrs Pulcinella directed a wistful smile at her sausages. Mr Pulcinella rolled his bloodshot eyes, sinking his hand into his sagging cheek and resting there, extinguished of care.
“Hey gorgeous,” said Polly, kissing the baby on his rosy lips, at which the baby grabbed the back of her head and held her tightly while his mouth probed hers.
“Bleah, disgustoso!” said his father, taking his hand from its supporting role and allowing his head to find rest on the chequered cloth.
Afresh with oxygen, Polly fished through her leather jacket and dumped a packet of Marlborough and a quart bottle of Jack Daniels on the highchair table. “Brought you these, like you asked.”
“You are attentive, my pretty Pol.”
“And saw Slugger down the offie, says he can get you an ounce before tonight. Sixty quid.”
“Did he now? Mammina!” The baby proffered a chubby arm towards his mother. “I need my mobile. Fetch it here.” Mrs Pulcinella did as she was asked, placing a plate of blackened sausages in front of her husband at the same time, slapping him across the head as she did so.
Mr Pulcinella rose sharply from his position, letting out a screeching groan sent directly from his throbbing head. “Come here and let me wallop you, wife! You urchin of existence! You traitor of compassion! You…!”
“Now, now, marito. Plenty of opportunity for that later. Get them pork guts into yours, and quickly, for we must start dressing for the show.”
“The show! The show! There will be no show, for I am dead!” shouted Mr Pulcinella in a statement of wishful fact, banging his fist on the table. He sighed at the lack of response. “At least pass me the pepper grinder so that I may throw it at your repugnant face.”
“Shurrup will ya!” yelled the baby, “I’m on the phone here! Dolce, Slugger, dolce.”
Mrs Pulcinella, eager to see her cooking digested, passed the substantial pepper grinder to her husband, giving a wink to her little cherub currently cutting a good deal with his mate. Mr Pulcinella grasped for the receptacle, but his internal weakness prevented him from throwing it more than a couple of checks of the tablecloth, and his arm collapsed beside it in assent.
A knock at the door threw Mrs Pulcinella’s legs into efficient overdrive. The door sucked at itself as she opened it, forcing Joey Ramone’s Beat on the Brat into the street, and Mr Savant from next door stood before her, his face replete with dogged annoyance on the brink of worry.
“Mrs Pulcinella,” he started, then lost his nerve, and smiled his best neighbourly smile. “How are you?” he submitted with weak expectance.
“Why, I am fine and dandy, thank you, Signor Savant. But we are in haste to ready ourselves for tonight’s show. Did you want something?”
“Why don’t you just shut your mouth you old, cantankerous failure of a man?!” came the voice of the baby from within the bowels of the house.
“I’ll beat your nappy off you, you bouncing ball of demonio puss!” came the reply from his father, followed by the scraping of chair legs on clay tiles.
Ignoring the scuffle, Mr Savant reset himself hastily to the matter in hand. “Er, well, it’s Elsie, y’see. She’s just wondering if you… Well, she was just saying… The thing is…”
“Signor Savant,” interrupted Mrs Pulcinella, “I would be most pleasured if you would, on account of our need for haste this afternoon, get to the point.” She smiled spuriously.
“Yes, well, it’s just the music. It’s a bit loud. Our grandchildren are falling off the wall, what with the vibration.” Mr Savant held his numb hands together, guarding himself, as he burbled his complaint. “The photos, that is, of the grandchildren,” he let out a nervous laugh into the silence. “And it’s disturbing Elsie.”
“Ah, poor Elsie. Poor, poor Elsie, dear,” said Mrs Pulcinella, with a disingenuous look about her. “And did you see our new door knocker, Signor Savant?”
“Oh, well, no, I don’t suppose I did actually.” Mr Savant stared at the once golden door knocker on the white plastic door, now blackened by the detritus of the streets in a not-at-all-new way.
“Ah, ci, ci,” said Mrs Pulcinella. “It is even better up close.” The door slammed leaving an eighth of a centimetre between it and Mr Savant’s pinched nose.
Mrs Pulcinella returned to the kitchen, within which was a fight of disproportional unfairness. However, although his father was at least six times his in height, the child was wider in heft, and was happily punching the bulbous red nose before him, even with his father’s fingers wrapped tightly around his chubby neck. Mrs Pulcinella climbed over the snot and spittle strewn mass, squeezed herself past a bored looking Polly pulling at her bubble-gum, and purposely took up the frying pan, still laden with sausage juice. The snarling bodies rolled about the kitchen floor, grasping for bones to break, flesh to rip, and eyes to spit in, giving the red stripes on the walls a deeper hue. She found her purchase in between her husband’s left leg and the dog attached to his buttonless flannelette flap and brought the frying pan down upon his temple, catching the child’s fat chin on the way back up. The thonking to and fro of the frying pan lasted a good few minutes until the two fighters lay on the cold tiles, one dribbling and one grappling for a cigarette.
“Now then,” said Mrs Pulcinella, “I’ll just clear away these sausages and we’ll get ready for the show.”
Mr Pulcinella snarled as he drew his heavy body from the slightly sticky cold tiles. “Stupid show,” he whispered. “Stupid show!” he bellowed. “I will not! I am telling you, I will not! No longer, my wife. No longer will I toil for a family who wishes me dead anyway.”
“But we must do the show, dear.”
“Must we? Must we? Oh, must we, dear? Shut up you stupid old carpa!” Mr Pulcinella dived into his wife’s indifferent face. “I will not do anything!”
Deftly, Mrs Pulcinella brought the bottom of the frying pan upon her husband’s skull with a deafening thud.
[Ah, poor Mr Pulcinella. Will the servitude in which he finds himself ever abate? Will Slugger make good on his deal with The Baby? Will Mrs Pulcinella ever get them all to the show on time? Find out in next week’s #52Stories!]