Before the sky was the roof. And in the roof, above the ceiling, amongst the pigeons, lived The Doc.

That was all I knew.

For a long time The Doc was something of a mysterious presence in the Black House. There was no description of him, no details, and no stories; just passing mention of his existence and a general concern for his well-being. The sole material evidence to support the talk that he was even up there in the attic was a drop down ladder hanging out the hallway ceiling, leading up into a square of dark. Apart from that The Doc was just a name, someone the new arrivals asked after, and those staggering out, with leaking sexual organs, would holler a drunken farewell to. It was a strange, revered status  The Doc held, something akin to a shaman, like he was a higher wisdom in contact with higher beings after having exiled himself due to some higher knowledge only he was privy to. From gleaming scraps of information from the daily references to him  I was able to fathom that he was: old, male, feeble, that he drank, and was not a doctor but a Murdoch: a one Murdoch Charles to be exact.

At that point in time, when we arrived in the Black House, The Doc had been up in the roof for eight years. In all that time it was said that not once had he ventured out and, apparently, only came down for a brief moment every few days. But he wasn't completely isolated. Each morning The Doc would send word down from his secret abode  nominating one of the female residents to shop and deliver his beer order for the day, and in the evening to run him up a helping of stew or whatever had been boiling away on the fire. It sounds a chore no one much would want, but to the contrary, The Doc's desired woman always appeared thrilled at being designated, some even squealing in delight when word arrived that she was The Chosen One. Indeed, there were even sentiments of jealousy and resentment if one woman was preferred too much over the others. And it was like that, how to me, as he'd become to everyone else, the elusive Doc felt like a very real and integral part of the Black House.

It was a bleak winter morning. Phantom winds howled and whistled about outside. In the Black House the fire was dead, just a pile of grey and white ash with burnt beer cans poking out. Although the windows were covered with newspapers and blankets, a cold, steely light got in and bleached the room in a harsh reality. The place felt open, broken. It was as if the windows were missing or the door had been left open or something. The thing which usually sealed the room, closed everyone in and made things intimate and final, was missing. The few drunks who were present seemed miserable, a slow creeping sobriety making them appear almost thoughtful. Lloyd sat on the bed and kept upending an already empty can of beer down his throat, and Bridget, behind him, was straightening out cigarette ends and lighting and smoking the tiny stubs. My mother sat across from me. She had a kind of weathered, commonplace love and care in her face, a kindness that sobriety afforded her and for moments at a time returned her back to me. She was with Vangine and it seemed the Doc wanted my mother to take his beer order for the day. Mum screwed her face up like she'd taken a spoon of something she didn't like. Vangine, a huge bustling West-Indian woman famous for laughing her huge boobs out her top, was whispering into Mum's ear, urging her to take The Doc's order. Finally my mother relented. As she left for the roof she looked at me and said: No Following!
I didn't. I sat where I was listening. I heard Mum climb the shaky steel ladder and curse as she clambered into the roof. Then I heard no more.

It was no more than ten minutes before Mum was back. She had the very first evil manifestations of alcohol consumption in her face. She gave a swing of her shoulders as she entered, a deliberate strut of self-satisfaction, her backbone straightened in pride or just a little more hardened to life.

> Come on, she said, waggling a finger. Up, you're coming with me.

I left with mum, me in baggy chewed clothes and her in a short skirt, bare legs to the elements, bruises on her thighs and shins, smoothing her hair down as we hurried off up the road. In the off-licence Mum told me to grab what I wanted. It was strange as we had no money and was the reason why the house had been so miserable that morning. I watched mum as she broke various beer cans free from their plastic rings, pointed out half bottles of spirits and ordered cigarettes and tobacco. I asked her where she had gotten money from. She looked at the Indian shop keeper, then at me, and then she said:

> Fuck, if I strained a shit out you'd wanna know what fucking colour it is!

I didn't ask again, but my eyes were on Mum, trying to figure out what the hell she was up to this time.

From that day on it was my mother exclusively who shopped The Doc's beer order, took him his food, and every two weeks went and cashed his sick money for him. Of course, it wasn't her choice. She just agreed. Ultimately it was The Doc who decided, and he decided upon her. As little as that seems to say about someone's desirability it was none the less flattering, being wanted over all others, and by virtue of being the 'chosen one' my mother leap-frogged the other women in the house and became something of a VIP.

Still, even now with my mother being a regular visitor to The Doc, talking of him as the others did, there were still no descriptions of him, nothing to give a sense of who this reclusive being was or why he kept himself up in the attic like that.

It was late one night, into the early hours, the fire just a deathly ember in the dark, that I caught my first fleeting glimpse of The Doc. I heard the metal ladder moving and then someone step lightly down into the hallway. I lay there on the floor, hush still, my eyes fixed open. In the dark of the room I could make out a few drunks strewn about unconscious, and far away, somewhere near the bed, a sole cigarette seared and burnt down in the night. All was quiet and low and dark. And then I saw it: a shape. It was so vague I first thought it was maybe just my eyes playing tricks. I squinted but could see nothing. Then I heard a rustling sound, a beer can being trod on, someone searching about, a sniffing nose, a foot pat down, more rustling... a scamper. Right past my face swept a pair of stick thin bony legs, and above my head a pair of long dangling bollocks passed by, followed by the acrid smell of stale shit. I lay there excited but burning up with fear. Once past me I could see more. The naked, lower half of an old black man, walking about in a loose night gown. I couldn't quite discern his features but could make out his silhouette, long dreadlocks hanging way down his back. Feeble but kinda sprightly this thing was rustling through the garbage and clothes which littered the floor. Occasionally one of the sleeping bums would stir or groan and the figure would freeze, wait, then scamper off to search some more. Then, for no clear reason, it let out a series of excited breaths before rushing off out the room and back down the hall.  I heard the ladder rattling and squeaking once more as The Doc returned to his dweling place in the roof. My eyes now accustomed to the dark I looked over to where Mum was, unconscious on her back, her face like a someone who'd died a painful death. The fire flared one last time and then died itself. Shadows fell into themselves. I was just a heartbeat in the dark.  I closed my eyes and went to sleep myself.

The next day I told mum what I had seen. She looked at me like I'd asked her permission for a glimpse into hell. I stared her out. Calmly, putting on an air of boredom, she said: 
> Yeah, that was Murdoch... The Doc. That's all ya need to know.
> I think he was robbing people, I said.
Mum gave a disgusted look. She circled her lips, then turned away as if deliberating whether to blow away another little part of my innocence or not. Looking over towards the papered windows, she said:
> Well no, smart arse, he wasn't stealing... he was looking for dirty knickers... Fucking sniffs 'em don't he! And don't ask me why... just don't!

I didn't. Instead I laughed. Ha, a knicker sniffer. I'd heard of such men but never thought they really existed. I also didn't realize it was a sexual thing, just found it bizarre that anyone would like the smell of old knickers, especially the kind you'd likely find in the Black House. Generally they were only ever changed if they'd been shit.

The Doc, once just a word, was now a creeping presence in the house. Knowing when he came out, and why, I'd lay in wait for him, trying to catch a glimpse of him, maybe see the  face this creature who now partly terrified me. Always late through the night; always half naked; always he'd come – a pair of thin bowed legs and swinging balls, scampering about in the dark, rushing off once he'd found his queer life force. But still, for all the nights I spied The Doc, I was still in the dark as to what he really looked like. There was a shape, a movement, a smell...c but no more. I was more than curious. And as Mum had stopped saying "no following!" I decided one morning that I would follow, that I too would visit The Doc.

From the main room I listened as my mother climbed the ladder and disappeared into the roof. After some minutes I too snook out and scaled the ladder up into the darkness...

 It was the smell which hit me first, smarted my eyes like my mother's peroxide hair bleach did. Standing in the entrance of the roof I looked around. It was dark, but not totally. I could just make out the intercrossing rafters and the floor beams. To my right was the wall of the side of the  building, and to my left, a little ways down, was a section of the roof thrown open in half light. It was a point to work towards. How The  Doc got up and down so easily was now a mystery as even I had trouble and had to stoop under the rafters while balancing myself along the tops of the beams. I crept towards the light, which I could now see was a little section of the roof partitioned off, fabrics hanging over the crossbeams so as to define a confined space. With each tentative step the horrendous smell in the roof became more piercing and apparent and the surroundings began to reveal themselves. Just about every beam was coated with a thick crust of pigeon shit,  small wispy feathers stuck and  sat everywhere, sometimes in little piles on the fireproofing. It was so bad that the particles in the air tickled and stuck in my throat. On reaching the partition I  could hear my mother's voice on the other side. She wasn't really speaking but making strange sounds. From the light  in what I took to be the Doc's room the attic was now clearly visible. Out in front of the made of space, the other side of the roof arch, were strewn and piled thousands of little tied bags of shit. The smell of excrement was atrocious. But not fresh excrement, this was stale excrement, like some kids whiff of in junior school. And it wasn't all neatly bagged either. There were free turds all around, sat shriveled on the dusty yellow insulation that filled the spaces between the floor beams; shit smeared thick up the beams and over the rafters – hand marks in it where you could see it had been wiped off. Now I baulked and checked where I put my hands to keep balance. That's when I stumbled and caught sight of mum, her hair and back, her upper clothes removed, sitting on a milk crate on the floor alongside a sordid shack of a bed. I made no attempt to hide myself. I was glad to have gatecrashed the party, hoping Mum would rush me off out of this place.

I came fully into the light. Mum saw me, but not before I saw the hideous mess of bones and filth and death that was The Doc. On a self-made bed, atop a pile of filthy rags and clothes, a man who looked like he was well into his second century lay on his back with his legs parted like a frog. I caught his face, nothing more than a skin covered skull, dark West African black, his head on a cushion of long serpent dreads, sickly yellow eyes with the rim of the irises cataract. Down below, nearest to me, his feet. The undersoles were filthy and crusted and his toe nails were two inches long and bright yellow with clusters of some weird fungal build-up all around. His thin, bow legs were dusty and scarred and covered in open pink welts which resembled sexual organs. Then there was the blond hair of my mother, now tossing back, revealing a white hand with painted nails holding onto an horrendously thin brown cock, glistening with saliva, a disgusting purple helmet peeping out the top.

Mum shot back, her mouth still shaped in the small '0' she had been sucking the Doc's cock with. The Doc's outstretched right hand was caught full of sloppy Irish tit. A cheesy, acrid, dairy smell now floated in the air. On the floor were more shit bags, unfolded soiled nappies and bottles and jars of dark yellow piss all piled up and sat around. The Doc's long yellow toe nails were the last things I saw before turning my back and scarpering, now not caring if I got my hands coated in excrement or not, breathing in the pigeon's dust and feathers as I hurried back into the black. 

Back down in the flat, amongst the early morning drunks, I sat waiting for Mum to come down in a mood after me, maybe even belt me. But she never did. She returned after her usual twenty minutes with cash for The Doc's booze and, as usual, money for herself. She shot me a mean look, then put her coat on and hurried off out. .

So, it's sex again, I thought. It always is. Men don't pay women to go to the shops and they certainly don't care who goes for them. And neither was it desirability that my mother was showing at being The Chosen One, rather she was squirming with the joy of a lucky break and the thought that she'd made it, that she could chemically chase away the winter's cold a little easier than yesterday. As for The Doc, he was revered for his money and nothing else. An old miser, he had been hoarding away pennies and pounds for the last ten years and now had a little saving that would barely pay three months rent in the real world, but here, in this Other World, relative to the absolute nothing that everybody else had, he was the Black House's most eligible bachelor. To get a little of what The Doc had people would do just about anything. So, in a way, he was a shaman... a witch-doctor – for in sober days he could conjure up spirits, and as long as he was safe and happy and alive, the Black House would be healthy too.

Unfortunately The Doc wasn't happy and alive for too much longer. He was indeed ill: stomach cancer. Refusing any medical help The Doc sat out his illness alone, still refusing to come down even when he could no longer get out of bed. So one afternoon, in the freezing month of February, four of the men went up and got him. They carried him down with all the pomp and respect he was owed, and sat him in the big comfortable armchair over by the fire. He sat there like that, rotting away in silence, for almost three months. By that time he was way past wanting or needing any sexual relief. He was so ill that all he could do was drink, smoke and occasionally eat. When he was finally too weak to even do that himself, Vangine, the only woman he'd never chosen to take his beer order, nursed and took care of him, pouring liquor down his throat when he wanted it and force feeding him mashed stew when he would take it. And like that, refusing all medical help and wallowing in pain, The Doc wasted away before us, slowly sinking lower into his chair and shrinking into his own filth. The smell was appalling, like an old scabby dog curled up with an arse full of dribbling ulcers. Though, like everything, we got used to it, became desensitized, until finally shit didn't smell at all. And then one morning I woke up and the Doc was staring straight at me, as if he finally recognized I was the boy who'd disturbed him in the roof: he was dead, just a reflection in his eyes of the future to come.

After the paramedics  had taken what was left of the Doc's body away all that remained was the rotting, decomposing armchair he had died in. It  was burnt right through to the springs by all the acidic bodily fluids The Doc had expelled. The men pushed the chair out, carried it downstairs and dumped it out along the big steel communal bins. For weeks it remained there, eaten through and stained black by death, a reminder to everyone of certain dark nights in a certain Black House with death wincing away through the night.

Above the ceiling, after the roof, is the sky. And in the sky, past the pigeons, nothing stretches on forever...


  1. I haven't really got any words as such . . . so why am I trying to comment?
    Thanks, that's all. Thanks for sharing your memories, your life and your poetic soul so beautifully.

  2. oh you got me there Shane. Speechless at last. Quality in flow and flux, you mad diamond fucker

  3. Anonymous10/18/2012

    How old were you Shane?

  4. Hey Shane,
    This is the one that needs to be a film. Atmospheric to the point of, as above, speechlessness. It lingers in the mind long after the page has gone.
    Get it out there Shane: it's fucking legendary.
    Vee X

  5. Anon, I purposely didn't state my age as I'm not the focus of these texts and my age doesn't matter. These are about the men who found their way in my mothers bed and that's their and her tragedy and not mine. During the Blackhouse years I was 9 -11... it was over aperiod of a couple of years. X

  6. shane this is writing of the like i've never read before. the last time i was excited to read someone was, erhm, let me think, NEVER. Daz

  7. Hey Bugerlugs... Thanks for reading. The words don't exist if they never get read. X

  8. mad Diamond Fucker... I like that! You know Russell, regardless of what the writer thinks of his work, ultimately it is others who decide what worth it is... if any. I know when I've written something that feels good, even something I consider better than other pieces, but a writer would be a fool to believe in his own deluded thoughts on his work. It's why it still means a great deal when people get what I do and kinda confirm the hope I have in the words. I've only been taking this really seriously a little while, and the words and the structure and the style is improving all the time. Others may not notice, but I do... same as I know the parts of my writing i'd really like to do away with or improve.I think my writing will become stronger.i'm at thios moment looking at my own and others words in ways i'cve never done before, desperate to make an inadequate medium work. I'll send you a mail over the next days as there's more I'd like to say. X

  9. Hey Vee.... all the pieces will kinda tie in in the end. Not as a story but as an idea of something, a tragedy. They will all come together during an analysis of all the lovers and the loved in a final concluding post. For the Novella I will also be rewriting the first two posts, as for a book it doesn't quite work as it is (or can be much improved). The idea is evolving each day and I think it will finally be one ofmy best works. X

  10. Hey darren... yeah I think maybe if the old weekly or daily serials were still run in newspapers you'd find that more often. Even me, great writers, I snap their books up when they're released but don't sit waiting for them. I think it's more the times than me. X


  12. oh fuk, I can't read it another time, its too much. this is as someone already said, the stuff of legends, the twilight zone and Lynchian fantasy with some dashes of Shakesperian depth and, most strongly, purely Shane-ian sauce and flavour, polished close to perfection in some unknown way. You must have sold your soul (Neil Gaiman 'reckons' [in Sandman] that Shakespeare did... sort of). fuckin yum, over and out of it

  13. Anonymous10/20/2012

    Dear Shane,
    What is your process? How much time do you spend writing? Does this magic happen over the Span of days or weeks?
    Do you work on more than one item at a time? What do you do when you're not writing? Are there always stories taking shape in your mind? Or is it all just recalled and then shined up for us? However it happens, please don't let it stop.
    Yours, Mary Jane.

  14. Hey Mary Jane... I spend an enormous amount of time writing, or thinking about writing, or trying to improve the craft of writing. That includes reading, as I don't read as you would read. I NEVER read for the story but read for the expression and the style, taking a very keen note of everything from use of punctuation to sentence structure. Every book I read I take notes on and mark out parts I think work or parts I think don't work and must never do myself. But I very rarely ever finish a book. I've taken all I need from it well before the end. However, there are a few great writers who it is a pleasure to read every word... and even the spaces inbetween.

    Yes I work on multiple texts at a time. For this comment I've just counted through the pieces I am working on right now and I have 42 separate documents in a continual state of being written. Suddenly one will push itself to the fore, or i'll get a sudden new idea and will then work that to a finish over two days, rewriting it three times. But, and I've mentioned it a lot in the comment sections, I detest writing and find no pleasure in doing it. It's a tedious task and even sometimes depresses me. Not the subject matter, just the thought of having to sit down and do that crap when I could pass my time doing something much more to my liking. I enjoy the end, finished text. It's the thought of that which pushes me on each time... and has done for years.

    The process is always different for me. I have no formula which I work to. But generally, yes, if I go for a walk or shopping or scoring, I am playing with texts in my head and coming up with new ideas and sentences. I use my mobile phone quite a lot for this. Either making draft texts of my idea or a voice recording. Other times I'll have a nice title and will type of an entirepost just like that. Actually, more often than not, that's how most my pieces are born:
    a) a nice title which conjures up ideas and poetry.
    b) a sentence or description that comes to mind

    But every piece I start is very hit or miss. Only 1 in 4 I feel happy enough with to post and the others are either deleted or put aside to have their good lines stripped down for use another time. The problem is saying something that is more worthwhile that the bare tale - to say something about life or death or existence or consequence, etc. If I feel the piece lacks that kind of depth it will not get posted. So it's an all consuming process... at least to write seriously is, I think. To write a detectivenovel or a romance is easy as it's all story... but that's not what I'm about. The words must transcend the face subject.

    Ok, I think I've whittled on enough... probably broken my quota for max comment length again... Wishes, Shane. X

  15. I read this post today on my lunch break at work. It made the call centre drudgery fly by much faster! Hope that all is well with yourself, Shane x

    1. Hey Ya Ben... glad I could help pass a few moments. I owe you a letter and that little surprise I promised. God, I'm terrible at keeping any kind of time... (you've heard the music!! hahah)And tone! But I'm gonna make that my week 'must-do'... Get Ben his book back and something on top... X

  16. Hey Shane,
    I think it's perfect, or near-perfect as a book. This is definitely my favourite, though, and The Twins.
    Have you ever written a screenplay? If I worked for Channel 4, I'd snatch it up. OK, so I don't.
    The writing's just slipping off the page here, though, it's so moreish and easy to read. It is hard to judge your own writing, it is, but you're right, this is some of the very best. I always feel when I'm reading through something I've written and I'm tripping over the words, feeling it dragging, that it's not worth the paper it's written on; then someone will tell me how great they think it is: liars! Not so here: believe the praise.
    I'm sure I'm not the only one to say, and mean this: you're my favourite writer. Bollox to Shakespeare.
    Love, Inspiration&long life,
    Vee XXX

    1. hey Vee... Well I've decided that I'm ONLY going to write novellas. Little books between 80 and 150 pages each. They've always been my favourite reads and they allow me to work outside a formal structure. I made that decision just before starting this project and the more i think of all the little Novellas i'll do the more exciting and right it seems. Everyone tells me that Novellas don't sell, but they'll have to, because it's what I'm gonna do.

      No, I've never written a screen play, but I've written a couple of short film scripts. One, called 'Bottom', we even started filming here a couple of years back, but the edtor went AWOL with all the film and we never saw him again. He was halfway through the first cut and just disappeared. So we lost all the film (except a ten minute idea piece/sketch piece. But screen play isn't really for me as I hate writing dialogue. Not because I can't, but because I enjoy the more atmospheric/descriptive side of writing and script writing offers very little in that sense. When I was younger I even dabbled with the idea of NEVER having any dialogue in any of my works. It still attracts me that idea but I don't think I'll ever use it now.

      I don't think it's hard to judge your own writing in terms of comparative quality towards other pieces of your work, writers can do that, but it's impossible to say yourself if your work as a whole is any good or has any worth other to yourself. most writers imagine their own stuff is a work of unrivaled genius and most are knocking out absolute trash. many just can't write... not even in a correct, bland, average way. And yet they are blind to it. So writers have to accept that it's not them who decides these things. If 2000 people read your words and no-one likes it, you've kinda got to wonder why not dismiss them as missing it. If they've read your words and missed what you're saying maybe you've not said it! But it's complicated. You need a wide group of different people standing in judgement.

      Getting back to comparative quality, I kinda know what will be great pieces before I've even written a word. It's a feeling. Something that buzzes even in the birth of the idea. Those works kindda feel almost written before you start and this series felt like that, just in the planning. AsI thought through my mother's lovers and made my very first mental sentences they were already so good that I had the urge to start writing them immediately. When that happens you can feel great poetry will flow out, and so almost know it before you've ever typed a word.

      God, I keep saying be patient with my email reply, "i've not time tonight" then leaving comments that'll probably be longer than my eventual mail reply! hahhaha

      Well, even Saints have faults... X

  17. Hahaha, that's okay!
    Yeah, they call it the muse, but I never liked that though someone else is writing it...when it just pours onto the page and rarely needs much if any editing. And when you read it again a year later and still like it.
    That's when I enjoy writing.
    Love&long life,
    Vee X

  18. Hi Shane the Vein,I don't know if its because I'm doing my rip off ye old brown( more of a transition back to meth) but I can see what you are writing, I can see Lloyds 'beercan', I can see the Docs sack swinging in the dark and I can see your Mams dyed red fadge.Carry on the good work fella.
    All the best,


"You'll destroy me too," she said, "I think I want to die."
- - -

Make a little history and leave what words you have.. X