Reheated Cabbage

In Reheated Cabbage you can enjoy Christmas dinner with Begbie and discover how aliens addicted to Embassy Regal have Midlothian under surveillance. You will meet a husband who values a televised Hibs v Hearts game more than his wife's life and see two guys fighting over a beautiful girl agree - after a few pills and pints of lager - that their friendship is actually more important. And you will be delighted to welcome back 'Juice' Terry Lawson, and to watch what happens when he meets his old nemesis under the strobe-lights of a Miami Beach nightclub.

Extract

VICTOR SPOILS

She should be enjoying herself.

The light blue wall, the back of the old, brown corduroy settee in front of her, her elbows on its cushions and him behind her, his large hands not that far from circling her entire waist. His prick inside her, moving in a strange insistent rhythm and his encouraging sounds.

Sarah’s thinking that she should be enjoying herself.

She should be enjoying herself but she most certainly isn’t. When she thinks why, Sarah reckons that it could be because it’s too cold to be naked. But that shouldn’t be an issue, and it wouldn’t be an issue, not if her tooth wasn’t hurting. Now she is feeling self-conscious, aware of herself on this couch, sprawled out in front of Gavin, like an extension of his prick, and the whole point of sex is not to feel self-conscious. It’s difficult though, when your tooth is hurting and you’re the recipient of Gavin’s Hollywood-style seduction techniques; so obviously gleaned from the sections in formulae videos when the music changes and the leading couple get it on. First; the foreplay, Second; the penetration, Third; the positions, forth; the orgasm (simultaneous of course). When Gavin mumbles ‘you’re gorgeous’ or ‘you’ve got a great body’ Sarah imagines that she should be flattered, but this is done with the concentrated detachment of a wooden actor trying to remember his lines.

Gavin hopes that the sheer force of ceremony and ritual, the expression of the appropriate word and gesture, is going to weave together a smart, nice-fitting suit, which will take pride of place in that wardrobe crammed with his life’s social fabric. While he is imaginative enough, Gavin knows that he possesses the exclusive imagination of the only child amusing himself quietly by setting up armies of soldiers for battles on the carpet and that this training had not given him the essential speed of thought to enable him to make contingency plans if anything went amiss in his psychologically storyboarded seduction routine.

In the club last night he had been full of ecstasy, which always helped. Gavin had made the point of kissing every girl in the company (which on this particular night meant every girl in the club) but with Sarah he’d slipped a bit of tongue into her mouth, soul into her eyes and let his hand linger in the small of her back where it seemed determined to set up residence.

To Sarah, such attentions were a welcome source of affirmation since her split from Victor. She’d recently grown half-aware that guys were mistaking her pissed-off look for the less ambiguous ‘keep-the-fuck-away-from-me’ variety. So as the clubbers danced under the flashing lights and the loudspeakers pumped the latest throbbing bass lines through their bodies, Gavin and Sarah found themselves in an embrace as welcoming as it was surprising.

Gavin was entranced by the fluid suggestiveness of Sarah’s eyes and the mesmerising movement of her red-glossed lips as she spoke. She, in turn, was surprised how much she fancied Gavin; his big soulful eyes, his easy, if slightly cheesy grin, simply because she had always disliked him when he was with Lynda. Perhaps, she reflected, it had been no real surprise at all, the way things panned out. This distaste had always been a bit too intense to justify Gavin’s generally benign presence and his inoffensive behaviour towards her. Perhaps it was merely a disguised energy waiting to be converted into something more positive, as and when the opportunity arose, she reflected.

Last night she had enjoyed his touch. Although often intimate, it had no sense of the sewer in it. She reciprocated by giving him a massage, starting off by gently stroking the tendons of his neck, then increasing with an imperceptible force to knead the MDMA through his body until it pulsed like a beautiful open wound.

They evacuated into the early morning chill and took a taxi to his place where they sat up hugging, kissing and talking, removing articles of clothing as they went, losing themselves in long, shared journey’s as they snogged. Gavin explained that penetrative sex would be out of the question for a while, which Sarah felt less than chuffed about, but accepted. Later, with the MDMA running down and the tiredness setting into their bodies, they fell into a comatose sleep on the couch in front of the gas fire.

Sarah awoke to Gavin’s caresses. Her body immediately responded but something was not right in her head. This is now post-MDMA, another set of circumstances, and Gavin, she feels, hasn’t acknowledged this. She doesn’t want to start all over again, but she does want Gavin to make some of affirmation that things are now different, terms have to be restated as much as renegotiated. And her toothache. She thought it had left her alone, this wisdom tooth problem. But those things never went away, you just got a bit of remission.

And now it was back.

Reviews

“It's good to be brought back to Welsh's original hellfire”

- Observer

“The stories combine sly humour with the tang of lived experience. It makes for a terrific collection, showcasing a writer who...has blossomed into one of the most distinctive, and distinguished, observers of British life”

- Sunday Telegraph

“A total hoot to read. The first thing that strikes you about much of the material here is the amazing energy of Welsh's writing”

- Independent on Sunday

Reheated Cabbage