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Joz Norris


Tape 140: Well THIS Is Just To Say…

  • Tape 140: Well THIS Is Just To Say…

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold


I stared at the post-it note, dumbfounded. This was the last straw. Richard had been giving me a hard time about William for weeks now, and it had been all I could do to keep him from putting his foot down, which he would’ve been sure to do with maximum fanfare and minimum grace.

“He barely pays his way,” Richard had gabbled, jowls all aquiver. Richard is terrible at confrontation, and rarely walks away from one without having been reduced to floods of tears, but he’s always been tremendously excited about the idea of confrontation. He gets a glint in his eye when he thinks about meting out justice to someone who has wronged him that I rarely see in him any more. Once I drove past him in the Fiat Multipla on the way into town and saw him walking back the other way along the side of the road, carrying the groceries home, eyes wild with delight, his head jerking back and forth and his mouth working frantically, silently, as he chattered away to himself. I never mentioned it to him, but I knew what he was doing – rehearsing for a confrontation with some imagined enemy that he would never be brave enough to actually initiate. When we’re boarding a busy train, Richard will clutch his ticket in his hand and positively vibrate with excitement at the thought of there being someone already sitting in his booked seat, so that he can bask in the righteous indignation of throwing them out and maintaining some moral superiority. He always visibly deflates when he finds his seat empty.

“Go easy on him,” I had cooed when Richard had complained about William, gently stroking his arm, which made him purr involuntarily, taking the wind out of his fury. “He’s a famous American poet, writer and physician closely associated with modernism and imagism.” Richard rolled onto his back as I tickled his tummy, finding it hard to maintain his puffed-up, performative resentment.

“That’s what you always say whenever I bring this up,” he grumbled, arching his back like a cat so that his beer gut strained towards the ceiling like a big proud pudding. I shoved my finger in his belly button and he gently closed his massive hands around it. “But he’s been living with us for seven months and he doesn’t pay us any rent.”

“He pays us twenty pounds a week,” I corrected, gently applying pressure through my finger into his navel until he squeaked.

“Yes, yes,” he pleaded, “but he’s not a respectful house guest. He never buys groceries. He came home the other day and asked if he could put some stuff in the fridge and he’d bought one Fruit Corner. One. He just put it in there. On my shelf.”


“They come in multipacks! Aren’t we being generous enough with his rent that he could afford to treat us to a multipack?”

“You did say he put it on your shelf. Perhaps it was a gift.”

“It wasn’t a gift!” he crowed, seizing upon this point of advantage. “He ate it the very same day! He said he didn’t even know I had a shelf!”

“And what did you say?”

“I said of course I have a shelf, this is my house,” he ploughed on. But his heart had gone out of the argument, and his voice was drifting into a lower register even as he spoke, until eventually it wound down to a dead halt and he began to snore.

But that had been three days ago. And now, William Carlos Williams had eaten the plums that were in the icebox. I had been finding his little post-it notes to be a source of some irritation, even as I tried to defend poor William against the worst excesses of Richard’s irritation. Too often they seemed to take a perverse sort of delight in having inconvenienced us.

“I have broken the needle

on the record player

which you probably use

to play Fleetwood Mac LPs

I was listening to Iron Maiden

and fell onto the machine

because I was moshing too hard

Forgive me

Those guys absolutely rock.”

That had been a simple enough fix – the needle just needed realigning – but his glibness had irked me. But this time his tendency to assume what I did with my own things was dead wrong – I was not saving the plums for breakfast. I was saving them for the big work event tomorrow, which William knew about. I’d been working on it for weeks, and the plums were to be the pièce de resistance. The big boss was really looking forward to them, and had been on my back about them all year.

“Don’t forget the plums!” he’d yelled at me as I got into my car at the end of Friday. I’d laughed delightfully at him.

“Don’t be silly, Michael!” I said. “You don’t need to remind me that the big event will be fatally compromised if I don’t bring the plums!” He laughed back at me and leant through the driver’s side window and got me in a headlock and gave me a noogie while bellowing “Ahh, we have fun!” into my ear. I love my job.

And now it was all going to go up the proverbial wazoo, and it was all William Carlos fucking Williams’ fault! I crumpled the post-it note into my fist, seething with rage, and stormed to the guest bedroom and pounded upon it.

“Uuuurrrrgggghh!” came the feeble cry from within. William, lethargic from gorging on plums, no doubt.

“Open up, William!” I demanded, before rattling the doorknob. Locked! Rats! “I want to talk to you about these plums!”

“So delicious!” trilled a reedy voice, then I heard the sound of bolts being drawn back and the door opened a peek. I recoiled as the reek of plums hit me full in the face. William Carlos Williams’ horrifying rictus grin greeted me in the crack of the doorframe, purple and sticky with juice, tongue roaming the expanse of his top lip as he tried to slurp up the last of it.

“I’m sorry I ruined your breakfast!” he giggled. I barrelled my way into the room with my shoulder, shoving him backwards onto the bed. The room looked like there’d been a massacre in there – plum juice on the bedspread, plum viscera all over the skirting board, plum stones heaped up in one corner like a pile of bones.

“You know damn well you haven’t ruined my breakfast!” I screamed in his stupid face. “You’ve ruined my big event! You’ve ruined my job! You’ve ruined my life!” Finally, I seemed to be getting through to him. His smile faltered, then returned, more nervous and hesitant than before.

“William do bad?” he stammered. I slapped him hard.

“William do very bad!” I yelled. “You know the big boss is expecting those plums!” William covered his face with his hands and began to moan softly, curling up into the shape of a treble clef on the bed. “Put some clothes on, William, for God’s sake. You’re an absolute state.”

“So…so sweet! S-s-s-so cold!” he stuttered between sobs. I sat next to him and rubbed his spine.

“I know,” I said, “I know. You said as much.”

“What’s wrong with me?” he shrieked, raising his hands aloft to the skies and then running them over the smooth skin of his scalp. “Why does this keep happening to me?”

I turned to the door and saw Richard standing there. Richard, who had always trilled with excitement as he imagined every disaster that could befall him, now standing still, silent, composed as he took in the sorry sight. I remembered when my sister fell out of our treehouse as a kid and broke her arm. She didn’t cry. She didn’t shout. She just came into the house, face white, eyes wide, holding her arm out to her side and staring at mum and dad, waiting for one of them to scoop her up and explain the pain to her. That’s what I thought of when I saw Richard now. We make ourselves hysterical worrying about what might happen to us, and then when the worst does happen, all we can do is stand and watch it unfold.

Richard’s nightmare had come true. William Carlos Williams had eaten our plums. I was going to lose my job. We wouldn’t be able to afford the rent on the large shoe where we lived. We’d be thrown out. We’d wander the streets with a sports holdall containing all our mugs. We’d be taken in by the town cryer and put to work in Woolworths. We’d all die of dysentery.

But not yet. Not today. Not now. For now, we were together. We had each other. We loved each other.

“He ate the plums?” he asked. I nodded. William howled at the moon. Richard came to join us, almost slipping on a slick patch of plum juice. That made us laugh. He helped us to our feet and encouraged us to stand in a circle with joined hands. We raised our voices in song and belted out the chorus to “Central Reservation” by Beth Orton. And for a few precious moments, it didn’t matter what had happened to us. It didn’t matter what was going to happen. We just existed in the moment. And the moment was delicious. So sweet. And so cold.

I wrote this short story on a train back home from Brighton at around midnight on Sunday night. I don’t know what it’s doing, really. I was listening to Beth Orton at the time, and I think that comes across subtly through the writing.

Before I delve into the bitesize bits, a reminder that I’m doing a WIP performance of my new show You Wait. Time Passes. at the Bill Murray on Thursday the 30th at 6:30 – I’d love you to come along if you’re free! Really enjoying this new show and feeling very proud of it.

A Cool New Thing In Comedy – Miranda and I just got back from the BBC Comedy Festival in Glasgow, which was awash with various announcements about new BBC comedy projects. The one I was most excited about was that Funboysone of my favourites from last year’s batch of new BBC comedy shorts, has been given a series. It was a weird little pilot about some oddballs trying to make their own fun in a small Northern Irish village, and I’m excited to see what the filmmakers will do with a full series. Give it a watch if you’ve not seen it!

What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – During one panel at the festival, they played a highlights reel of clips from iconic family sitcoms, including this moment from Friday Night Dinnerwhich I’ve never really watched properly. From the one or two episodes I’d seen, it had never really grabbed me, but if it has moments as funny as this in it, then I might give it more of a try one of these days.

Book Of The Week – I just finished Theft by Luke Brown, which is a really interesting portrait of the UK in the wake of Brexit. A cynical guy who cares about very little moves away from a small northern town and ends up working as a journalist in London, resenting the people from towns like the one he grew up in who make Brexit happen while simultaneously hating the middle-class Londoners who surround him claiming everyone who voted for Brexit was racist or stupid. It’s a great study of how the class divisions in this country are far from being as simple as people on either side of them would like them to be.

Album Of The Week – Behaviour by Pet Shop Boys. I’ve never got into Pet Shop Boys much, but recently Neil Tennant queried why Taylor Swift was so successful when none of her songs are very memorable, and I agreed so hard I decided to delve into their back catalogue more. I reckon Behaviour might be my favourite album of theirs – it changes up the sound palette a bit with some guitar from Johnny Marr, and the sad warmth of this album kind of reminded me of the Blue Nile, who are one of my absolute faves.

Film Of The Week – Not seen any films, been charging around on trains to Glasgow that got delayed by 10 hours, and similar. Might go watch IF next week though.

That’s all for this week! As ever, let me know what you thought, and if you enjoy the newsletter enough to send it to a friend or encourage others to subscribe, I’d really appreciate it. Take care of yourselves until next time,

Joz xx

PS I have no plans to actually charge for this newsletter or put it behind a paywall, but I do write it for free and the comedy and media industries are in a perilous state right now, especially for freelancers. If you value the Therapy Tapes and enjoy what they give to you, and want to support my work and enable me to keep writing and creating, you can make a one-off donation to my Ko-Fi account, and it’s very gratefully appreciated.

PPS Went to see an organ recital at the Kelvingrove Museum yesterday on one of the world’s most famous organs:

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