Ruby & the stone age die.., p.1
Ruby & the Stone Age Diet,
Martin Millar was born in Scotland and now lives in London. He is the author of such novels as Lonely Werewolf Girl, Curse of the Wolf Girl and The Good Fairies of New York. Under the pseudonym of Martin Scott, he, as the Guardian put it, ‘invented a new genre: pulp fantasy noir’. Thraxas, the first book in his Thraxas series, won the World Fantasy Award in 2000. As Martin Millar and as Martin Scott, he has been widely translated.
Visit Martin’s website at www.martinmillar.com
Praise for Martin Millar:
‘The funniest writer in Britain today’
‘Martin Millar writes like Kurt Vonnegut might have written, if he’d been born fifty years later in a different country and hung around with entirely the wrong sort of people’
‘Imagine Kurt Vonnegut reading Marvel Comics with The Clash thrashing in the background. For the deceptively simple poetry of the everyday, nobody does it better’
‘The master of urban angst’
Also by Martin Millar, published by Piatkus:
Lonely Werewolf Girl
Curse of the Wolf Girl
The Good Fairies of New York
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public
domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely
Copyright © 1989 Martin Millar
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
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About the Author
Praise for Martin Millar
Also by Martin Millar, published by Piatkus
Lonely Werewolf Girl
Curse of the Wolf Girl
LIVING IN BATTERSEA I one day arrived home in the early morning and found a corpse, it was the body of a girl who has been around for a short while, I didn’t really know her. She spent her time with the heroin users up the road.
Outside my squat there is a little garden with scrubby grass. She is dead in the scrubby grass.
Never having seen a corpse I wonder if they are really stiff. I poke her skin and it is indeed stiff, and very cold.
She has some mess around her lips like vomit. She is very young.
Finding the corpse perplexes me. It is not a normal experience and I am unsure what to think.
‘A dead body,’ I say.
‘Yes,’ agrees Ruby.
Ruby is my friend. We squat together in an Army Careers Office. She never wears any shoes.
We stare at the corpse and at that moment it starts to rain.
‘Look,’ says Ruby. Two small raindrops have fallen right under the dead girl’s eyes.
‘Raindrops like tears,’ says Ruby. ‘It is hugely symbolic.’
I feel some relief. Everything is all right once Ruby names it.
Minds at rest, we go inside and wait for someone else to find her so they can call the police.
‘What it needs now,’ says Ruby, ‘is for the radio to play “You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine.”’
‘Yes,’ I agree. ‘If that was to happen it would be immensely poignant.’
But when I switch on the radio the only station we can find is broadcasting a report from the Tokyo stock market instead, and no matter how we try we cannot work this up into any really effective kind of imagery.
I try humming it, but it’s not the same.
Some years later, Cis wants some flowers. I’m pleased. Now I can go and get something for her.
She wouldn’t mind if I didn’t. She doesn’t even expect me to get them. She just mentions that it would be nice to have some flowers around the house.
I leave the flat and walk round the corner, searching. I find a flower stall. It has appeared by magic.
I have never bought flowers before. I try and imply this, looking vacantly at the paper-wrapped bundles.
The young woman doesn’t mind me being vague, and I buy some daffodils.
‘Here, Cis, I brought you some flowers.’
She smiles. She wasn’t expecting them. I said I was going out for cigarettes. I bought cigarettes as well.
Cis is very happy with the daffodils. She smiles more and finds an old glass vase and puts them in water and puts the vase on the table and kisses me for bringing them.
I am deliriously happy. Nothing could make me any happier. I love Cis. I could not love anyone any more than I love Cis. I will go to any lengths to bring her flowers.
Later I tell Ruby all about it.
‘Cis said they were lovely flowers,’ I say, and Ruby tells me it was a good thing to do. She says there is nothing wrong with a bit of romance, even in a world where poor people have to sleep in cardboard boxes and young girls sick themselves to death on heroin.
One time I am walking home a long way after a party in North London. I have no money for the bus and possibly there is no bus, so I walk and walk. Halfway home I start to feel feverish and it comes on so rapidly that just a street or two after I first notice it I am sweating and tiring and my throat is starting to swell.
The pavement is strewn with crushed glass. It sparkles under the streetlamps. The notion enters my head that it is a design put there for me to enjoy and I say thank you for making such a pleasing design to entertain me when I am walking feverish along the pavement.
In the centre of town where the night buses start I beg money for a long time. I am too tired to walk all the way home. I’m hot inside, hot, feverish, drunk and drugged. Finally I raise the bus fare.
At home I wake up with some virulent flu germ and I lie in my one room for a long time in a flood of sweat and self-pity and dream about the rain. My muscles hurt and my joints ache, particularly my knees, which won’t support me to the sink so I have to be sick on the bedclothes.
I am sick for a week and no one visits and if I died then no one would find me till maybe the landlord thought it was time to rent out the room again.
The fever rages. After a week I feel better and go out to buy a book to get me through. In the bookshop the assistant is wearing two long silver earrings with opals in them. The opals catch the light and it reminds me of the sparkling pavement.
Back in my room I make a cup of tea and read one page of the book when the fever starts to rage worse than before and I can’t read or even finish my tea. I lie on my own for more days and wonder where you find a doctor if you don’t have one, but I’m too sick to find out.
The fever makes me shake and shake and I hallucinate slightly. I wonder why no one visits and I feel lonely and one day I am so lonely I start to cry.
After a while I recover. It was a bad illness but when I tell people about it later I can’t impress on them how sick and lonely I felt, though as it turns out that lying sick and lonely in a room somewhere with no one visiting is not such an uncommon experience; perhaps they know anyway.
I wake up in the morning with Cis wrapped around me, still asleep.
I look at her closed eyes and think about what we did last night, which was mainly nothing, watching television, making food.
Cis is a bad cook. So am I. We don’t worry about it. We ate
This morning I am perfectly happy.
Cis gets up. I watch her getting dressed and rummaging her hair into position. Her hair is bleached white and cut into a flat top, but Cis is so beautiful it doesn’t really matter what she does with her hair, or anything else. Cis is the sort of girl you see for five seconds in the street then think about once a week for the rest of your life.
Hair finished, she has to go and visit her mother. I go back to sleep, thinking how good it is to wake up with someone you love wrapped around you. I am still perfectly happy. I am happier than I have ever been before.
Ruby and I are living in a council flat. We have shared many different places to live and we get on very well. When I get home the whole place is a shambles and she tells me she had some friends round for a few drinks the night before.
‘How is Cis?’ she asks, always willing to make pleasant conversation. ‘And can you help me with my hair?’
I help her with her hair.
‘Cis is wonderful,’ I say happily, and she sneers a little, but pleasantly.
She tells me what good acid she had last night with the few friends and drinks and I say it sounds nice but really I am not keen on acid because I tend to get strong and unpleasant hallucinations.
‘Have you found a drummer for your band yet?’
‘We’re auditioning some tonight,’ I tell her.
‘Look. I cut my foot.’
‘You should wear shoes.’
‘I hate shoes.’
Ruby is always barefoot which is practically unique in the city. The only things she ever wears are a lilac cotton dress that comes down to just below her knees and a pair of sunglasses. She wears nothing under the dress and nothing over it, except a donkey jacket if it is cold.
With her dress, bare feet and sunglasses, she looks wonderful.
A broken bottle has proved too much even for her toughened soles. I bring a basin of water and wash her feet, then stick a plaster over the cut.
‘Thank you,’ says Ruby.
Cis comes round. I bound around the flat trying to do things for her. She gives me a potted plant and tells me she doesn’t want to see me anymore. I think I might die on the spot.
Ruby wanders in and offers us some tea. ‘Yes, thank you.’
‘Why don’t you want to see me anymore?’
There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason for it.
Ruby brings the tea and Cis goes away. I look at my potted plant. It is a little cactus.
‘Will you go and cash my Giro for me?’ asks Ruby and signs the back.
I go to the Post Office. It is robbed. I am surprised at this. Normally it is a quiet place. Robbers come in with machine-guns and hold me and all the other customers at gunpoint and demand a small jet to fly them to Libya. All the hostages shake with fear.
The siege lasts for hours and hours till finally specially trained police burst in and shoot all the robbers dead. There is blood everywhere, blood and television cameras.
I cash our Giros and go home.
‘Ruby, I’m sorry I was so long cashing our Giros but when I was in the Post Office robbers with machine-guns came in and held me hostage.’
Ruby says don’t be silly and I say it is true and she says it is just the acid making me think funny things and I say what acid and she says the acid she put in my tea to make me feel better about Cis leaving me and after that I can’t think of anything good to say.
‘I wrote a werewolf story while you were out,’ says Ruby. ‘Do you want to hear it?’
‘Then sit down comfortably.’
Cynthia Werewolf – her early life
Cynthia, a good but hungry werewolf, always tries her best not to eat people. Sometimes, however, it is an uphill struggle. They taste nice.
An outcast from society, she lives alone with her mother. They do not get on very well. Cynthia is always lonely.
At school she has no friends. The other children do not know that she is a werewolf, but they can sense she is different.
Every full moon Cynthia has an unbearable urge to eat someone. This, however, is absolutely forbidden by her mother.
‘Under no circumstances are you to eat a human being,’ her mother instructs her sternly.
‘Not even a little baby that no one would miss?’ pleads Cynthia.
‘Particularly not a little baby. Babies are absolutely not on the menu as far as we are concerned. And nor is anybody else.’
Cynthia, never very happy, annoys her mother, who tells her continually that she has a lot to be thankful for.
‘Outside it is a beautiful world.’
Hungry and lonely, Cynthia can’t see it herself.
I get a job for three days on a building site in Wandsworth. It is meant to be for longer than three days but the foreman tells me not to come back because I am not much use.
I am a little hurt because I have been trying my best but I know that it is true. I can manage clearing rubble in wheelbarrows, although I am not very strong, but when it comes to levelling out wet concrete with a sort of vibrating machine I am hopeless.
I often do this sort of temporary work when I am broke. It is the only work I can get.
On my last day a man in my shift tells a joke.
Everyone laughs. I am still waiting for the joke to end. I seem to have missed a bit. I will have to ask Ruby to explain it to me.
But Ruby is not home so I go to my room and feel bad about being sacked after only three days. If I had been able to practise a bit more I’m sure I could have worked the concrete-levelling machine.
Outside my window a nice-looking boy walks past. He is just the sort of boy that Cis would like. He might even be her new boyfriend. He might be going to see her right now. The thought of Cis with a new boyfriend is too terrible to contemplate.
I would like to phone Cis but I know she doesn’t want to hear from me.
Where I am standing everything becomes unbearable. I walk to the other side of the room to see if it is any better there.
No success. This side of the room is just as bad.
I figure maybe I should do something to take my mind off Cis. I will tidy the flat.
My room has cobwebs in the corners but when I think about how to clean them away it seems to be an awful difficult thing to do and maybe not worth the trouble as they are sure to come back in a while.
Ruby must be across in the next block with her boyfriend Domino. I wish she was here to talk to.
I don’t like Domino. Ruby is very smart. He is dumb.
Ruby is writing a book. Domino can hardly read.
Outside the window is a pathetic little window-box with a dead weed and five cigarette ends. I think about planting some flowers in it then taking them to Cis. Looking out the window I see her go past. I walk back to the other side of the room but nothing has changed there.
The next day I am captured by a spaceship. It swoops down on me when I am walking through Trafalgar Square and takes me away for some tests. The aliens look quite normal but I am worried they might be wearing masks and underneath they are really horrible and scaly. Still, I am not one of these people who is totally paranoid about space aliens. After all, there is no real reason for them to be unfriendly.
So I try and co-operate the best I can with their tests and after a while, when I have taught them some English, we get on quite well and they show me round. Their spaceship is full of luxuriant flowers, all lilac and yellow and bursting with life. They try bringing me some tea as they read in my thoughts that I am very fond of tea but the machine that makes it gets it a little wrong. Still, I appreciate the thought.
Ruby arrives back. I go for a talk with her but she is busy writing a letter.
‘Who are you writing to?’
‘I’m writing to my genitals.’
I borrow her book of myths and fables and sit beside her, reading.
‘Just back to Trafalgar Square,’ I say, and they drop me off.
I wander round for a while thinking about the aliens and wondering if I should tell anyone about it but just down the road at Charing Cross I lose concentration when I suffer a dreadful hallucination that there are rows and rows of people living in cardboard boxes, so I hurry on past and catch the bus back to Brixton. It is raining and this makes my knee hurt and I wish I had remembered to ask the space aliens if they could cure it, because my knee is often sore.
Back on Earth I start missing Cis again. I cannot think of any reason that she would have left me. Disappointingly, Ruby is unable to explain the joke the man told on the building site.
I show her the potted plant that Cis gave me as a leaving present. Two tears dribble from my eyes.
‘Never mind,’ says Ruby. ‘At least it is a nice cactus.’
Afreet, says Ruby’s book, is the evil God of Broken Relationships. If you offend him your lover will leave you.
‘I met Izzy today,’ says Ruby. ‘She is having terrible problems with her boyfriend and she has bought two weights to build up her body.’
‘What sort of weights?’
‘Little ones. She wanted something bigger but the woman in the shop told her that she had to start off small. Apparently it is the repetition that counts. Her boyfriend is secretly fucking someone else.’
I would like to phone Cis but I know she doesn’t want to hear from me.
Cynthia eats the first of many victims, or the first one that is discovered
Cynthia and her mother live on a small croft in the Scottish Highlands. They live alone. A few years ago her father left the family. He ran off with a younger werewolf.
Cynthia’s mother insists that her daughter should go to university. In the modern world werewolves always try to integrate themselves with society. Cynthia is not keen. She wants to go and sing in a rock band and play her guitar loud.
Ruby & the Stone Age Diet by Martin Millar / Fantasy / History & Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes