white teeth 2. teething trouble-2
yet strangely, and possibly because of jehovah's well documented penchant for moving in a
mysterious manner, it was in performing the business of the lord that clara met ryan
topps face to face. the youth group of the lambeth kingdom hall had been sent door stepping on
a sunday morning, separating the sheep from the goats (matthew 25:31-46), and clara, detesting
the young witness men with their bad ties and softly spoken voices, had set off alone with her own
to ring bells along creighton road. the first few doors she received the usual pained faces:
nice women shooing her away as as possible, making sure they didn't get too close, scared
they might catch religion like an . as she got into the poorer end of the street, the reaction
became more ; shouts came from windows or behind closed doors.
"if that's the bloody jehovah's witnesses, tell 'em to piss off!"
or, more imaginatively, "sorry, love, don't you know what day it is? it's sunday, in nit i'm
knackered. i've spent all week creating the land and oceans. it's me day of rest."
at no. 75 she spent an hour with a fourteen-year-old physics whizz called colin who wanted to
intellectually disprove the existence of god while looking up her skirt. then she rang no. 87. and
ryan topps answered.
he stood there in all his red-headed, black polo-necked glory, his lip curled in a snarl.
she tried to forget what she was wearing: a white shirt complete with throat-ruffle,
plaid knee-length skirt and sash that proudly stated nearer my god to thee.
"you want som mink said ryan, a fierce drag of a dying cigarette. "or som mink
clara tried her widest, buck-toothed smile and went on to auto-pilot. "marnin' to you, sir. i am
from de lambet kingdom hall, where we, de witnesses of jehovah, are waitin' for de lord to come
and grace us wid his holy presence once more; as he did briefly hot sadly, invisibly in de year of
our farder, 1914. we believe dat when he makes himself known he will be bringing wid 'im de
tree-fold fires of hell in armageddon, dat day when precious few will be saved. are you int' rested
clara, close to tears at the shame of it, tried again. "are you int' rested in de tea chins of
"in jehovah in de tea chins of d'lord. you see, it like a ." clara's last resort was always
her mother's metaphor of the holy steps. "i see dat you walkin' down and der's a missin' step comin'.
i'm just tellin' you: watch your step! me jus wan'
share heaven wid you. me nah wan' fe see you bruk-up your legs."
ryan topps leant against the door frame and looked at her for a long time through his red .
clara felt she was closing in on herself, like a . it was only moments, surely, before she
"i 'ave some materials of readin' for your perusal' she fumbled with the lock of the ,
flipped the catch with her thumb but neglected to hold the other side of the case. fifty copies of the
watchtawer spilled over the .
"bwoy, me ky ant do nuttin' right today '
she fell to the ground in a rush to pick them up and scraped the skin off her left knee. "owl"
"your name's clara," said ryan slowly. "you're from my school, ain't ya?"
"yes, man," said clara, so jubilant he remembered her name that she forgot the pain. "st.
"i know wot it's called."
clara went as red as black people get and looked at the floor.
"hopeless causes. saint of," said ryan, picking something surreptitiously from his nose and
nicking it into a flowerpot. "ira. the lot of'em."
ryan surveyed the long figure of clara once more, spending an inordinate amount of time on
two sizeable breasts, the outline of their raised nipples just discernible through white polyester.
"you best come in," he said finally, lowering his gaze to inspect the bleeding knee. "put
somefin' on that."
that very afternoon there were furtive rumblings on ryan's couch (which went a good deal
further than one might expect of a christian girl) and the devil won another easy hand in god's
poker game. things were tweaked, and pushed and pulled; and by the time the bell rang for end of
school monday ryan topps and clara bowden (much to their school's disgust) were
more or less an item; as the st. jude's phraseology went,
they were '' with each other. was it everything that clara, in all her sweaty adolescent
invention, had imagined?
well, '' with ryan turned out to consist of three major pastimes (in order of importance):
admiring ryan's scooter, admiring ryan's records, admiring ryan. but though other girls might
have balked at dates that took place in ryan's and consisted entirely of watching him pore
over the engine of a scooter, eulogizing its intricacies and complexities, to clara there was nothing
more thrilling. she learnt quickly that ryan was a man of few words and that the rare
conversations they had would only ever concern ryan: his hopes, his fears (all scooter-related) and
his peculiar belief that he and his scooter would not live long. for some reason, ryan was
convinced of the ageing fifties motto "live fast, die young', and, though his scooter didn't do more
than 22 mph. downhill, he liked to warn clara in grim tones not to get 'too involved', for he
wouldn't be here long; he was 'going out' early and with a 'bang'. she imagined herself the
bleeding ryan in her arms, him finally declare his undying love; she saw herself as mod
widow, wearing black polo-necks for a year and demanding "waterloo sunset' be played at his
funeral. clara's dedication to ryan topps knew no bounds. it transcended his bad
looks, personality and unsightly personal habits. essentially, it transcended ryan, for
whatever hortense claimed, clara was a teenage girl like any other; the object of her passion was
only an ory" title="n.附件；帮凶 a.附属的">ory
to the passion itself, a passion that through its long suppression was now
asserting itself with necessity. over the ensuing months clara's mind changed, clara's
clothes changed, clara's walk changed, clara's soul changed. all over the world girls were
this change donny osmond or michael jackson or the bay city rollers. clara chose to call it ryan
there were no dates, in the normal sense. no flowers or restaurants, movies or parties.
occasionally, when more weed
was required, ryan would take her to visit a large squat in north london where an eighth came
cheap and people too stoned to make out the features on your face acted like your best friends. here,
ryan would ensconce himself in a , and, after a few joints, progress from his usual
monosyllabic to the entirely catatonic. clara, who didn't smoke, sat at his feet, admired him, and
tried to keep up with the general conversation around her. she had no tales to tell like the others,
not like merlin, like clive, like leo, petronia, wan-si and the others. no anecdotes of lsd trips, of
police brutality or marching on trafalgar square. but clara made friends. a resourceful girl, she
used what she had to amuse and an assorted company of hippies, flakes, freaks and funky
folk: a different kind of ; tales of hellfire and damnation, of the devil's love of faeces, his
passion for stripping skin, for red-hot-poke ring eyeballs and the flaying of genitals all the elaborate
plans of lucifer, that most of fallen angels, that were set for i january 1975.
naturally, the thing called ryan topps began to push the end of the world further and further
into the back-rooms of clara's . so many other things were presenting themselves to
her, so much new in life! if it were possible, she felt like one of the anointed right now, right here
in lambeth. the more she felt on earth, the more rarely she turned her thoughts towards
heaven. in the end, it was the epic feat of long division that clara simply couldn't figure. so many
unsaved. out of eight million jehovah's witnesses, only 144,000 men could join christ in heaven.
the good women and good-enough men would gain paradise on earth not a bad booby prize all
things considered but that still left a few million who failed to make the grade. add that to the
heathens; to the jews, catholics, muslims; to the poor men in the amazon whom clara had
wept for as a child; so many unsaved. the witnesses prided themselves on the absence of hell in
their the punishment was torture, unimaginable torture on the final day, and then the grave
was the grave. but to clara, this seemed worse the thought of the great crowd, enjoying
themselves in paradise, while the tortured, mutilated skeletons of the lost lay just under the
on the one side stood all the quantities of people on the globe, unacquainted with the
teachings of the watchtower (some with no to a postbox), unable to contact the lambeth
kingdom hall and receive helpful reading material about the road to redemption. on the other side,
hortense, her hair all wrapped up in iron rollers, tossing and turning in her sheets, gleefully
awaiting the rains of sulphur to pour down upon the sinners, particularly the woman at no. 53.
hortense tried to explain: "dem dat died wid out de knowing de lord, will be resurrected and dem
will have an udder chance." but to clara, it was still an inequitable . unbalanceable books.
faith is hard to achieve, easy to lose. she became more and more to leave the impress of
her knees in the red cushions in the kingdom hall. she would not wear sashes, carry banners or
give out leaflets. she would not tell anyone about missing steps. she discovered dope, forgot the
and began the lift.
october 1974. a detention. held back forty-five minutes after school (for claiming, in a music
lesson, that roger daltrey was a greater than joharm sebastian bach) and as a result,
clara missed her four o'clock meeting with ryan on the corner of leenan street. it was freezing
cold and getting dark by the time she got out; she ran through piles of putrefying autumn leaves,
searched the length and of leenan, but there was no sign. it was with dread that she
approached her own front door, up to god a multitude of silent contracts (i'll never have
sex, iii never smoke another joint, i'll never wear another skin above the knee) if only he could
assure her that ryan topps had not rung her mother's doorbell looking for shelter from the wind.
"clara! come out of de cold."
it was the voice hortense put on when she had company an over-compensation of all the
consonants the voice she used for pastors and white women.
clara closed the front door behind her, and walked in a kind of terror through the living room,
past the framed hologram of jesus who wept (and then didn't), and into the kitchen.
"dear lord, she look like so meting de cat dragged in, hmm?"
"mmm," said ryan, who was happily shovelling a plate of ackee and salt fish into his mouth on
the other side of the tiny kitchen table.
clara stuttered, her buck teeth cutting shapes into her bottom lip. "what are you doing here?"
"ha!" cried hortense, almost . "you tink you can hide your friends from me for ever?
de bwoy was cold, i letim in, we been havin' a nice chat, haven't we young man?"
"mmm, yes, mrs. bowden."
"well, don' look so shock. you'd tink i was gwan eatim up or so meting eh ryan?" said
hortense, glowing in a manner clara had never seen before.
"yeah, right," smirked ryan. and together, ryan topps and clara's mother began to laugh.
is there anything more likely to take the shine off an affair than when the lover strikes up a
convivial with the lo vee mother? as the nights got darker and shorter and it became
harder to pick ryan out of the crowd who milled outside the school gates each day at three thirty, a
clara would make the long walk home only to find her lover once more in the kitchen,
chatting happily with hortense, devouring the bowden household's cornucopia of goodies: ackee
and salt fish beef jerky, chicken-rice-and-peas, cake and ices.
these conversations, lively as they sounded when clara turned the key in the door, always fell
silent as she approached the kitchen. like children caught out, they would become , then
, then ryan would make his excuses and leave. there was also a look, she noticed, that
they had begun to give her, a look of sympathy, of condescension; and not only that they began to
comment on her clothing, which had become steadily more youthful, more ; and ryan
what was to ryan? shed his polo-neck, avoided her in school, bought a tie.
of course, like the mother of a drug addict or the neighbour of a serial killer, clara was the last
to know. she had once known everything about ryan before ryan himself knew it she had been a
ryan expert. now she was reduced to over the irish girls assert that clara bowden and ryan
topps were not with each other definitively, definitely not with each other oh no,
not any more.
if clara realized what was , she wouldn't allow herself to believe it. on the occasion
she spotted ryan at the kitchen table, surrounded by leaflets and hortense them
up and shoving them into her apron pocket clara willed herself to forget it. later that month, when
clara persuaded a ryan to go through the motions with her in the disabled , she
squinted so she couldn't see what she didn't want to see. but it was there, underneath his ,
there as he leant back on the sink was the glint of silver, its gleam hardly visible in the light
it couldn't be, but it was the silver glint of a tiny silver cross.
it couldn't be, but it was. that is how people describe a miracle. somehow the opposites of
hortense and ryan had met at their extremes, their predilection for the pain and
death of others meeting like points on some morbid horizon. suddenly the saved and
the unsaved had come a full circle. hortense and ryan were now to save her.
"get on the bike."
clara had just stepped out of school into the dusk and it was ryan, his scooter coming to a
sharp halt at her feet.
"claz, get on the bike."
"go ask my mudder if she wan' get on de bike!"
"please," said ryan, pr the spare scooter helmet. "simportant. need to talk to you. ain't
much time left."
"why?" snapped clara, rocking petulantly on her platform heels. "you goin' someplace?"
"you and me both," murmured ryan. the right place, ope fully
"please. "simportant. life or death."
"man.. all right. but me nah wearin' dat ting' she passed back the helmet and got astride the
scooter 'not mussin' up me hair."
ryan drove her across london and up to hampstead heath, the very top of parliament hill,
where, looking down from that peak on to the orange fluorescence of the city, carefully,
tortuously, and in language that was not his own, he put forward his case. the bottom line of which
was this: there was only a month until the end of the world.
"and the ring is, herself and myself, we're just '
"your mum your mum and myself mumbled ryan, 'we're worried. "bout you. there ain't that
many wot will survive the last days. you been wiv a bad crowd, claz '
"man," said clara, shaking her head and sucking her teeth, "i don' believe dis biznezz. dem
were your friends."
"no, no, they ain't. not no more. the weed the weed is evil. and all that lot wan-si, petronia."
"dey my friends!"
"they ain't nice girls, clara. they should be with their families, not dressing like they do and
doing things with them men in that house. you yourself shouldn't be doin' that, neither. and
dressing like, like, like '
"like a whore!" said ryan, the word exploding from him like it was a relief to be rid of it.
"like a loose woman!"
"oh bwoy, i heard every ting now .. . take me home, man."
"they're going to get theirs," said ryan, nodding to himself, his arm stretched and gesturing
over london from chiswick to archway. "there's still time for you. who do you want to be with,
claz? who d'ya want to be with? with the 144,000, in heaven, ruling with christ? or do you want
to be one of the great crowd, living in paradise, which is all right but.. . or are you going to
be one of them who get it in the neck, torture and death. eh? i'm just separating the sheep from the
goats, claz, the sheep from the goats. that's matthew. and i think you yourself are a sheep, in nit
"lemme tell you so meting said clara, walking back over to the scooter and the back
seat, "i'm a goat. i like being' a goat. i wanna be a goat. an' i'd rather be sizzling in de rains of
sulphur wid my friends than sittin' in heaven, bored to tears, wid darcus, my mudder and you!"
"shouldn'ta said that, claz," said ryan , putting his helmet on. "i really wish you 'adn't
said that. for your sake. he can hear us."
"an' i'm tired of hearin' you. take me home."
"it's the truth! he can hear us!" he shouted, turning , yelling above the exhaust-pipe
noise as they revved up and scooted downhill. "he can see it all! he watches over us!"
"watch over where you goin'," clara yelled back, as they sent a cluster of hasidic jews running
in all directions. "watch de path!"
"only the few that's wot it says only the few. they'll all get it that's what it says in
dyoot-er-ronomee they'll all get what's comin' and only the few '
somewhere in the middle of ryan topps's enlightening biblical exegesis, his former false idol,
the vespa g s, right into
a 400-year-old oak tree. nature triumphed over the presumptions of . the tree
survived; the bike died; ryan was hurled one way; clara the other.
the principles of christianity and sod's law (also known as murphy's law) are the same:
everything happens to me, for me. so if a man drops a piece of toast and it lands butter-side down,
this event is interpreted as being proof of an essential truth about bad luck: that the toast
fell as it did just to prove to you, mr. unlucky, that there is a defining force in the and it is
bad luck. it's not . it could never have fallen on the right side, so the argument goes, because
that's sod's law. in short, sod's law happens to you to prove to you that there is sod's law. yet,
unlike , it is a law that does not exist whatever happens: when the toast lands on the right
side, sod's law mysteriously disappears. likewise, when clara fell, knocking the teeth out of the
top of her mouth, while ryan stood up without a scratch, ryan knew it was because god had
chosen ryan as one of the saved and clara as one of the unsaved. not because one was wearing a
helmet and the other wasn't. and had it happened the other way round, had reclaimed
ryan's teeth and sent them rolling down primrose hill like tiny snowballs, well .. . you can
bet your life that god, in ryan's mind, would have done a vanishing act.
as it was, this was the final sign ryan needed. when new year's eve rolled around, he was
there in the living room, sitting in the middle of a circle of candles with hortense, ardently praying
for clara's soul while darcus pissed into his tube and watched the generation game on bbc one.
clara, meanwhile, had put on a pair of yellow flares and a red neck top and gone to a party.
she suggested its theme, helped to paint the banner and hang it from the window; she danced and
smoked with the rest of them and felt herself, without undue , to be quite the belle of the
squat. but as midnight came and went without the horsemen of the apocalypse making
an appearance, clara surprised herself by falling into a . for ridding oneself of faith
is like boiling sea-water to retrieve the salt something is gained but something is lost. though her
friends merlin, wan-si, et al. clapped her on the back and congratulated her for exorcizing those
fervid dreams of perdition and redemption, clara quietly mourned the warmer touch she had waited
for these nineteen years, the all-enveloping bear hug of the saviour, the one who was alpha and
omega, both the beginning and the end; the man who was meant to take her away from all this,
from the listless reality of life in a ground-floor flat in lambeth. what now for clara? ryan would
find another fad; darcus need only turn to the other channel; for hortense another date would of
course materialize, along with more leaflets, ever more faith. but clara was not like hortense. yet a
residue, left over from the of clara's faith, remained. she still wished for a . she
still wished for a man to whisk her away, to choose her above others so that she might walk in
white with him: for [she] was worthy. revelation 3:4.
perhaps it is not so then, that when clara bowden met archie jones at the bottom
of some stairs the next morning she saw more in him than simply a rather short, rather chubby
white man in a badly tailored suit. clara saw archie through the grey-green eyes of
loss; her world had just disappeared, the faith she lived by had receded like a low tide, and archie,
quite by accident, had become the bloke in the joke: the last man on earth.
- [i´ventʃuəli] ad.最后，终于 四级词汇
- [´su:tkeis, ´sju:t] n.手提箱 六级词汇
- [ə´gresiv] a.进攻的；侵略的 四级词汇
- [´teikiŋ] a.迷人的 n.捕获物 六级词汇
- [´dɔ:step] n.门阶 六级词汇
- [kə´lektiv] a.集体的 n.集体 六级词汇
- [´peinfuli] ad.痛苦地；费力地 四级词汇
- [´həuldiŋ] n.保持，固定，存储 六级词汇
- [,inik´splikəbəl] a.难以理解的 六级词汇
- [´ti:diəs] a.冗长的；乏味的 四级词汇
- [i´senʃəli] ad.本质上，基本上 四级词汇
- [ək´sesəri] n.附件；帮凶 a.附属的 四级词汇
- [vɔl´kænik] a.(象)火山的；爆发的 四级词汇
- [´kɔ:liŋ] n.点名；职业；欲望 六级词汇
- [´hæmək] n.吊床；圆丘 四级词汇
- [´blesid] a.享福的；神圣的 四级词汇
- [´æməzən] n.女战士 四级词汇
- [θi´ɔlədʒi] n.神学 四级词汇
- [´mæməθ] a.庞大的 六级词汇
- [i´kweiʃən] n.等式，方程式 六级词汇
- [ri´lʌktənt] a.勉强的；难得到的 四级词汇
- [´steəkeis] n.楼梯 =stairway 四级词汇
- [trai´ʌmfənt] a.胜利的；洋洋得意的 四级词汇
- [di´dʒektid] a.垂头丧气的 六级词汇
- [´kəukənʌt] n.椰子(果)；头 四级词汇
- [´kʌləful] a.艳丽的；吸引人的 四级词汇
- [´hæpəniŋ] n.事件，偶然发生的事 四级词汇
- [´hʌridli] ad.仓促地，忙乱地 四级词汇
- [´gæðəriŋ] n.集会，聚集 四级词汇
- [´dəulful] a.悲哀的；忧郁的 六级词汇
- [´dʒʌmpə] n.跳跃者，跳高运动员 六级词汇
- [´lɔdʒikəl] a.逻辑(上)的 四级词汇
- [pə´spektiv] n.望远镜 a.透视的 六级词汇
- [mi´rækjuləs] a.非凡的；奇迹般的 六级词汇
- [´traiiŋ] a.难堪的；费劲的 四级词汇
- [´sikli] a.多病的；病态的 四级词汇
- [´bækwədz] ad.向后 a.向后的 六级词汇
- [krækt] a.有裂缝的；碎的；粗哑 六级词汇
- [ʌn´lʌki] a.倒霉的，不幸的 四级词汇
- [´primrəuz] n.樱草(花) a.樱草的 四级词汇
- [i´næm(ə)l] n.搪瓷；珐琅 四级词汇
- [´hɔ:ltə] n.缰绳，绞索 六级词汇
- [´mɔdisti] n.谨慎；端庄；羞怯 四级词汇
- [in´evitəbli] ad.不可避免地；必然地 四级词汇
- [´seiviə] n.救星；救助者 四级词汇
- [i,væpə´reiʃ(ə)n] n.蒸发，脱水 六级词汇
- [´midl´eidʒid] a.中年的 六级词汇