An Artistic Temperament?
The third section of Three Men on the Edge (I’ll get to the second section next time), is a sequence of 36 micro-fictions called ‘Chewing Glass’, and it revolves around the life of Martyn.
Martyn is a young, melodramatic and impotent artist in love with his best friend Anja, and probably too her husband Rob.
He struggles to reconcile his love-hate feelings towards them, barely keeping a grip on the violent impulses that shadow his day-to-day routines: even at the supermarket checkout, he’ll daydream about stabbing people in the eye. In his love-sickness, he swings between depressed inertia and manic productivity.
At night, he uses one of Anja’s leotards as a mask to help him sleep; he studies yoga and breath-exercises with her, beguiled by the other lycra-wearing participants; he dreams up non-existent ex-girlfriends to bolster his public reputation.
When he’s not arm-wrestling or bear-hugging Rob, he’s sickened simply by the noise of him eating, or talking, or walking. (The man is insufferable, despite his physical charms, and it makes no sense for Anja to be married to him!)
But when out in Rickmansworth with Anja, Martyn lives in dread of being greeted by other members of his community therapy group – such is his lack of self-acceptance; he lies to his doctor, because he doesn’t want to be sent back to hospital; he fantasises that he’s Odysseus – and Anja Penelope, fending off suitors as he travels homeward – all the while not realising that Anja is perfectly content in her marriage.
A self-deluded fantasist then, and hardly coping with life; but Martyn is intensely creative too, and all his neuroses feed into a rich seam of art projects – watercolours of the Grand Union Canal, oil portraits of Anja, an Olympian project to document the local lakes throughout the seasons.
Will Martyn keep it together long enough for his artistic career to take off? Will he confess to Anja his passionate admiration? Will he try to break up her marriage to Rob? Or will he lose his nerve and be provoked into violence?
Below is a Superman-themed micro-fiction from the sequence, first published in Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief (Flash: the International Short-Short Story Press, 2017)
[Find out more about Three Men on the Edge here: Link to V. Press]
Sometimes Anja praises Martyn so highly she makes him feel like Superman. He has the Superman dream always the same way: not the caped crusader saving the civilised world, but Clark Kent the reporter wearing preppy spectacles and befuddled by Lois Lane—except Lois is Anja—and Anja’s nipples are made of kryptonite. But this is a dream and Lois-Anja is also somehow Lex Luthor at one and the same time—looking like Gene Hackman with his big-collared 1970s shirt—and Lois-Anja Hackman takes off Clark Kent’s glasses, kisses his brow sadly, then draws his head closer to her deadly, trembling chest.