Behind-the-scenes: Heist Almighty

Credit to one of the Grand Theft Auto games – I forget which – for that delicious pun title.

I’m playing a bit fast and loose with my #TheObjects mission statement this week, as the thing I found was actually a collection of objects rather than one individual thing. So sue me. This was on the same beach, on the same day, as I snapped the scarf for The Great Magnifico, and it just looked like a lot of care had gone into creating it. It spoke to me of when I was a youngster and played with Lego, building entire cities into which I would incorporate non-Lego toys (army men in particular). I liked the mish-mash construction of it.

The most obvious reference point in this is Reservoir Dogs – I’ll make no bones about being a massive Tarantino fan – and the characters even obliquely reference it themselves at one point. Mr Black was a very specific choice of name – in the movie, the boss says that the robbers don’t get to choose their own names because ‘then you get 5 guys all wanting to be Mr Black and not wanting to back down’ (or words to that effect). My Mr Black was so clearly the professional criminal, no-one would have argued with him assuming the coolest name.

The other reference point which is less obvious is Con Air, which also features a group of criminals squabbling over a hastily (but suspiciously accurately) assembled scale model of a deserted airstrip.

con_air_prop_planning1

Whenever I watch scenes like that, I wonder which hardened criminal went to the effort of building it – there’s a sly wink to it in the Back to the Future films when the Doc apologies for the rough nature of his own immaculate scale models. ‘Bank Job‘ is effectively just an expansion of that train of thought.

That’s me nearly out of objects for #TheObjects – if you fancy seeing your own object of choice immortalised in fiction, send a pic and any salient info to nikiboylewrites@gmail.com.

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#TheObjects: Bank Job

Warning: contains strong language

‘It’s just down this way, lads. Watch your step.’

‘Sam- I mean, eh, Green, where are you taking us?’

‘I’ve got it all set up, Grey-’

‘Silver.’

‘Oh yeah, sorry, Silver. Yeah, no, it’s just through here-’

‘Mate, it’s bloody freezing,’ says Red, tripping over a rock. ‘And it’s pitch fucking black. And – is that waves?’

‘Yeah – just think of it as a day at the beach, haha’ Green says. ‘And us all with our backpacks, we’re like… uh…’ He realises no-one else is laughing. ‘Plus, you know, it was the best place to, uh, gather materials.’

Silver stops. ‘What… materials?’

‘You know, for the… the thing.’

‘Why would we need materials for the thing?’

‘Because it’s – oh look, we’re here now. Uh, although yeah, no, as Jo- as Red was saying, it is a bit dark. Uh. Has everyone got torches on their phones?’ The angry glare of five white lights immediately shines in in his eyes, blinding him for a second. ‘Ah, great. Good-o. Well, gents, if you just shine your torches over in this direction…’

The group stares. After a moment Silver clears his throat.

‘Green.’

‘Grey?’

‘Silver.’

‘Oh yeah, sorry. Silver.’

‘Green… what the fuck?’ There’s a shuffling of feet and a murmur of assent behind him. A general air of what-the-fuckness prevails.

‘What’s up buddy?’

‘I asked you to set up a fucking schematic. Not a fucking sandcastle.’

‘It’s not a sandcastle, bud – I mean, very little sand was used in the actual, uh, construction-

‘Gentlemen,’ says Black. As one, the group stiffens. ‘Time is short. Mr Green has at least provided us with some sort of plan. May I suggest we get to it?’

‘Eh, yeah, right, of course, of course,’ says Silver, muttering.

‘All right, everyone,’ says Green, ‘gather round, gather round. J- uh, Red, can you shine a light over here, bud, right on the tire? Right, and Silver, if you could, uh, illuminate the main drag there-’

‘The main drag?’

‘Yeah, you know, the, uh… the bit between the two rows of stones there. That’s the road. Great. And Purple-’

‘Peach.’

‘Peach? Is it?’

‘It’s fucking not,’ says Silver. ‘It’s Purple.’

‘It’s fucking Peach,’ says Purple. ‘It’s got more layers to it, innit? Like, life is peachy, or ooh, ain’t she a peach. Whereas Purple’s just knobs and-’

‘It’s Purple,’ says Silver. ‘It’s been decided upon. We can’t go changing it now.’

‘S’alright for you, innit’ says Purple, muttering. ‘You’ve-’

‘And, uh, Mr…’

‘Orange.’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Jer- I mean, eh…’ Silver clicks his fingers impatiently.

‘Orange.’

It’s not fucking Orange. That’s directly from the film. You can’t have one directly from the film.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because it- it links us back- it can be used as… Ginger! You were Mr Ginger.’

‘S’practic’ly the exact same fucking thing, though. Orange. Ginger. S’practic’ly the exact same fucking thing.’

‘So why did you have to fucking change it then?’

Mr Black clears his throat.

‘Uh, right, yes, Ginger,’ says Green, ‘If you could step over here – watch your foot on the flag there-’

Oh Jesus Christ, he’s made flags.’

‘- and if you could just shine your light on the grill there. Right. Can everyone see alright? Silver? Mr Black? Right, here goes then. Mr Silver will be driving the bus – oh bollocks, I forgot the bus. Er, Wil-’

Silver.’

‘Sorry, yeah, no, Silver, could you grab this, er, whadyoucallit… this traffic thingy?’

‘What traffic thingy?’

‘The uh… Christ, I dunno what it’s called, this thing here. The plastic, uh, fencepost. You get it at roadworks for holding the barriers up.’

‘I believe it’s called a watchman post,’ says Mr Black.

‘Ah, yeah, that sounds right, thanks – Silver, then, could you grab this, uh, watchman post?’

Silver, scowling, crosses the main drag and bends down to pick up the watchman post at Green’s feet.

‘Christ, it’s heavy. Get a move on, will you?’

‘Right, right – so, Silver, driving the bus-’ Green pats the watchman post ‘- will proceed up Carlyle Terrace to the target, making his point of ingress here-’

‘What’s point of ingress?’ says Ginger/Orange.

‘Means where we break through the window, innit,’ says Purple/Peach.

‘Ain’t got a window. ’s a tire.’

‘Yeah, no, but the tire is symbolising the bank, isn’t it?’ says Green. ‘So go on then, Silver. Uh. Make ingress.’

Silver huffs and lurches up between the stones, chucking the post through the centre of the tire.

‘Aww no, you’ve gone and knocked over the chimney stack,’ says Green, bending down to fiddle with a vacuum extension on the grill. He catches Silver’s glare and lets it fall. ‘Not important, though, not important – doesn’t affect the outcome at all, was just for verisimil… Anyway, right, then me, Red and Ginger-’

‘Orange.’

‘- drive up in Jo- uh, Red’s wife’s Megane – that’s this long stick right here – forming part of the roadblock, while Mr Black and Purple-’

‘Peach.’

‘- will stop the Nissan here marking the other half of the roadblock-’

‘They’ve not even parked across the road, mate,’ says Red. ‘They’ve left that whole lane clear, look.’

‘Yeah, no, but that’s fine, cos it’s just the demonstration,’ says Green. ‘When we do it with the cars we’ll make sure they go right across. Anyway, we, uh, make ingress into the bank via the ruddy big hole Silver’s made with the bus, we stick up the tellers and raid the vault like Silver covered in his interior briefing last night-’

‘Which I might add was fully accomplished with marker pens and a whiteboard. Indoors,’ says Silver.

‘Look, we don’t all have girlfriends in the Council and unlimited access to stationery supplies, do we? I had to make do with what I had-’

‘Mr Green, please focus on the matter at hand.’

‘Yeah, no, of course, uh, sorry Mr Black, you’re quite right – and after we’re done in the bank, we’ll make, uh, egress-’

‘Means leave,’ says Purple/Peach.

‘I got that,’ says Ginger/Orange.

‘- back through the hole and scarper off down this side alley to Venter’s Street-’

‘Hang on, what side alley?’

‘Down here, with the blue – Red, come on, shine the light over a bit, would you? – where this blue bottle-top is.’

‘That’s not an alleyway – s’blocked off. There’s buildings in the way.’

‘Nooonononono, they were meant to be the terrace café tables up here, but Wi- uh, Grey-’

‘Silver!’

‘- knocked them off when he ingressed the bus into the bank.’

‘You sure mate?’

‘Yeah, I watched him.’

Red sighs. ‘No, I mean you’re sure there’s an alleyway there?’

‘Yeah. Cycled round there today.’

‘Oh, for Christ- you were told not to go anywhere near the bank for a week beforehand,’ says Silver.

‘Well I had to scope it out, didn’t I? Besides, I made sure no-one noticed me. I took care of it.’

‘How?’

‘Had me helmet on.’

Silver presses the heel of his hand against one eye. ‘Right, and after the alleyway?’

‘Well, there’s a bin down there where we can dump the balaclavas and what-have-you-’

‘Ski masks,’ says Silver.

‘Right, yeah, ski masks, and then we all hop into different taxis at the taxi rank on Venter’s Street and take off to our various locations until it’s time for the rendezvous.’

‘Means where we all meet-’

I fucking know what rendezvous means.

‘Well, gentlemen,’ says Mr Black. They all turn to him. ‘This is all looking quite excellent. And especial thanks to Mr Green for setting up the display – the demonstration was most effective.’ Mr Green beams. ‘I feel we are quite ready for Thursday now – the final step is for me to secure the passports for our onward journeys. I take it you’ve all brought the required funds?’

One by one the men shrug off their backpacks and hand them to Mr Black. Except one.

‘Is there a problem Mr Green?’

The group turns to stare at him.

‘Uh, no, not as such – not with the money in any respect,’ he says. ‘It’s just – well, the backpack, it’s actually my boy’s, and he’s got school tomorrow-’

‘Jesus H – here,’ says Silver, snatching the backpack from Green’s hands and emptying its contents into his own, taking care to snatch the handful of notes that slip out the side. He thrusts the empty schoolbag back at Green and, somewhat more deferentially, hands his now bulging backpack to Mr Black.

‘If it’s short you can put that down to me, not him,’ says Silver.

‘I’m sure I’ll find everything as it should be,’ says Mr Black. ‘In which case, I’ll go secure the passports now, and I’ll see you gentlemen at the café on Thursday morning as planned, yes?’

There’s a murmur of assent.

‘Very good. Get some rest gentlemen. The day after tomorrow you’ll all be very rich men.’

The group stay at attention until Mr Black has fully faded into the night. Silver turns to Green.

‘Well, all things considered I suppose that worked out alright.’

‘Yeah, no, he seemed happy enough with it though, didn’t he?’

Silver nods. ‘Although you fucking pair,’ he says, turning on Ginger and Purple, ‘what the fuck are you playing at with all the name bullshit? We’re trying to act like fucking professionals here. I don’t need you showing us up in front of him.’

‘Don’t see why we’re botherin’ with all the colouring-in bullshit anyway, innit,’ says Purple. ‘We all know who we are.’

‘Yeah, but he doesn’t.’

‘So, who the fuck’s he anyway?’ says Red.

‘I told you, he’s someone with experience. With expertise. Gary recommended him to me.’

‘Fucking Gary?’ says Ginger.

‘Yes, fucking Gary,’ says Silver. ‘And he’s as solid a POC as-’

‘Wait, what do you mean POC?’ says Green.

‘Of all the fucking people, Sam, I though you at least would know what point-of-contact-’

‘Yeah, no, I mean I know what it means, but I mean, uh – you haven’t been in touch with this, uh, Mr Black directly? To arrange meetings and that?’

‘He’s a professional, Sam,’ says Silver with a sigh. ‘He does everything through a liaison. He doesn’t want anyone directly associated with the job knowing his own phone number. I call Gary, he calls Black, and that’s how it all gets arranged.’

‘So we’ve each just given him five grand, and he’s gone off into the night, and now we’ve got no way of getting in touch with him?’

‘It’s- he’s- look, it’s not nearly as suspicious as you make it sound,’ says Silver. He sighs in response to the blank expressions around him. ‘I’ll even call Gary right now, and you can all speak to him and get some reassurance.’

Silver puts the phone on speaker and the group gathers round to hear it ring. And ring. And ring.

And ring.

A short drizzle begins to fall.

 

#TheObjects is a weekly short story project, each edition inspired by something or other I find in the street. If you’ve found something interesting (or own an object you’d like to see immortalised in fiction), send a pic to nikiboylewrites@gmail.com along with any info you feel is relevant and I’ll see what I can do.

Behind-the-scenes: The Beautiful Clarissa

‘Jesus, what the hell is that? … Is it some sort of massive tongue?’ Genuinely my first thought when I saw that streak of red on the beach at Granton Harbour. Indeed, the first draft of this instalment of #TheObjects was initially set aboard a whaling ship, where some high-minded but inept Greenpeace/PETA-style activists attempted to steal a whale’s severed tongue from the whalers and use it as an emblem of their campaign. Then I realised a whale’s tongue probably wouldn’t be red, and couldn’t get past that fact. Despite enjoying the mental image of a radicalised art student slapsticking around a boat carrying a massive tongue, I couldn’t get it to work, and let it sink.

I was actually tempted to write three stories off the one object – lead with the tongue farce, follow up with The Great Magnifico and end with something much more sombre: the drowning of a refugee wearing the shawl, told from the perspective of her young son who’s left in the boat. In the end I decided not to – I didn’t feel up to the challenge of writing something with such weight, especially given the more frivolous tone of the other #TheObjects stories so far (and in particular the ones based around this particular object).

A final word on the title: I toyed with calling the story ‘The Beautiful Clarissa’, as she’s what you’d call the hero of the story – she gets the first thoughts and the final words, after all. That said, Magnifico is the one who dies, so I felt I had to pay tribute to that somehow; it’d maybe also tip my hand too early if I put her in the title, hinting that he’s not going to be of such importance by the end of the story. In addition, ‘The Great Magnifico’ brings to mind the way he’d be marketed on the boat – giving the short story the same title as his hypothetical performance gives the non-existent show a bit more life, without going to the bother of actually depicting it (or specifically what went wrong – in my head it was the sawing-the-lady-in-half trick, though I guess a disappearing act would have more of a pleasing symmetry with the ending). In any case, I got to use both titles: Magnifico on the original, Clarissa on this post. Everyone’s a winner.

Remember, #TheObjects is my weekly short story project inspired by stuff I find in the street. If you’ve found something interesting (or own an object you’d like to see immortalised in fiction), send a pic to nikiboylewrites@gmail.com along with any info you feel is relevant and I’ll see what I can do.

#TheObjects: The Great Magnifico

Warning: contains salty language

The Beautiful Clarissa crosses her bare arms and leans against the railing, watching her breath make wispy clouds in the air before vanishing over the North Sea. She looks up at the stars and enjoys the brief shiver that whispers over her skin, raising goosebumps on her arms. The sequins on her dress glitter like the night sky. For a single moment, she feels like there is magic in the universe. Only for a second though.

‘You cackhanded bitch!’ the Great Magnifico says, scurrying out of the Entertainment Lounge. ‘What the fuck do you call that?’

She sighs. ‘I call it-’

‘Not fucking professional is what I call it,’ he says, his whiskery moustache catching flecks of spit. ‘I’d call it complete fucking amateur hour bullshit. What in fuck’s name would you call it?’

‘If you’d let me finish, Magnifico, it was-’

‘And less of your fucking tone as well – that sort of shiHello, madam, sir!’ He snaps back to cordiality to greet two figures behind Clarissa. ‘Enjoying the night air?’

Clarissa turns to see a burly man with day-old breath and a face like corned beef. ‘’Ere, you’re that Magnifico, innit?’

The Beautiful Clarissa issues a faint snort and turns back to face the sea. The Great Magnifico nods and dons his toothiest shit-eating grin.

‘Great show, mate, great show,’ the man says, grasping the magician’s gloved paw and pumping it between his own sweaty sausage hands. His wife, a perfumed poodle, pants a pained smile behind him.

‘Why thank you sir, it’s always nice to know when one’s talent is apprec-’

‘Ain’t laughed that much in fahckin’ years mate, ’ave we darlin’?’ says the man, launching into a guffaw thick with phlegm. The Great Magnifico’s yellowy smile stiffens. ‘You always know these cruise ship acts are gonna be utter shit – s’nice to meet one cunt who knows ’ow to embrace it! Good on yer!’

Releasing Magnifico’s hand, the man rests a shank on his wife’s faux-fur shoulders and steers her down the deck.

‘Do you see?’ the Great Magnifco squeaks at the Beautiful Clarissa. ‘We’re a fucking laughing stock. A – a fucking parody of what magic should be. And it’s all – your – fault!

Oh, give it a break, Mark,’ the Beautiful Clarissa yawns, sighing. ‘you know fine well-’

‘Do not use that name on this ship!’ says Mar- er, Magnifico. ‘Jesus, if you remember one fucking thing, make it that. We can’t upset the plebs’ suspension of disbelief.’

‘You walk around in a bloody top hat and cape, for fuck’s sake,’ she retorts. ‘If you want people to suspend their disbelief, you shouldn’t start by making yourself look like a total phony.’

‘Not that you’d understand, but it’s called tradecraft and elegance, you dumb bitch.’

‘David Blaine doesn’t need to-’

‘Oh, I dare you to say his name again, I fucking dare you.’

‘Or Dynamo. Even David Copperfield had that whole tshirt-and-shirt deal going. You, you’re just… you’re far too bloody camp, darling.’

The Great Magnifico seethes.

‘And if you want people to take you seriously, maybe you should aim higher than doing card tricks on some bloody cruise shi-’

The Beautiful Clarissa cuts off mid-sentence as the Great Magnifico lunges for her neck, misses his mark and somersaults straight over the safety rail into the inky waters below. She stares after him, static, unsure of whether to breathe. For a brief moment, all is frozen still. Only for a second though.

‘Where’d ’e go then?’ She spins round; the rumpsteak from before is leering over her.

‘I, uh… I beg your pardon?’

‘The red cape guy. Magnificunt. Where’d ’e get off to?’

The Beautiful Clarissa falters only briefly, then delivers a serene, unflappable smile.

‘Disappeared,’ she says with a wink.

The chop stares blankly at her for a moment, then bursts into a meaty laugh.

‘You fahckin’ magic people, you never let it slip, do ya?’

The Beautiful Clarissa’s smile does not waver for a second.

‘Well, you know magicians. Now you see them…’

#TheObjects is a weekly short story project, each edition inspired by something or other I find in the street. If you’ve found something interesting (or own an object you’d like to see immortalised in fiction), send a pic to nikiboylewrites@gmail.com along with any info you feel is relevant and I’ll see what I can do.

Brian Eno to deliver Edinburgh Uni lecture

Legendary record producer, artist and musician Brian Eno will deliver this year’s free Andrew Carnegie Lecture at Edinburgh University’s George Square Lecture Theatre on May 10, 2016.

The news comes one day after Eno unveiled his latest song, ‘The Ship’, a 21-minute epic taken from the forthcoming album of the same name. The Ship LP is out on April 29, 2016 on Warp Records, with a series of installations scheduled to coincide with the release… [read the rest on wow247.co.uk]

Eight of the best kebab shops in Edinburgh

As recently reported on our sister site, the Edinburgh Evening News, the winner of this year’s prestigious Best Kebab in Scotland award was Nawroz Restaurant (you can find it in the student hot spot of Potterrow).

While we’re fully on board with Nawroz picking up the main gong, we feel the full shortlist is also worthy of celebration – and we’re not the only ones.

Here are some heartfelt recommendations from the people who value Edinburgh’s kebabberies the most, the humble punters (aka you guys)… [read the whole thing at wow247.co.uk]

 

 

Behind-the-scenes: At the fire that Gregor was at

I have a confession to make: I didn’t find the camp fire like that. Anyone who tells you a photograph is the truth is a damned liar, and probably a photographer, which amounts to the same thing. The firework tubes (if that is indeed what they are) and the bathmat were indeed on the scene, but after struggling to find a good angle on them, I ended up moving the bathmat. Tampering with the scene, if you will. Yes I touched it with my bare hands. Yes, I washed them after.

I’m not even entirely sure it’s definitely a bathmat – it could just as easily be from a carpet warehouse sample catalogue, but after wrestling with it for a while (the idea, not the carpet), I couldn’t think of a good enough story about a disgruntled carpet salesman settling fire to his sample book. Not one that believably factored in the firework tubes anyway, though I guess you could reconstruct those as something else – toilet roll tubes or something. I await your versions of this story in the comments.

Gregor was initially going to accidentally drink pee at the party, a story inspired by an unfortunate friend of mine who just thought the Jack Daniel’s was ‘a bit salty’. I wanted Gregor to feel the full brunt of the shame, though (the pee-drinking prank would’ve shifted some of the blame onto the pranksters), plus having that clammy stain on his crotch for the journey home was a much more visceral image in my mind. I also liked Liam’s line about the comfort blanket – sometimes you make up a truly awful character and they take over, speaking their own dialogue far better than you could ever write it.

Oh, and in case you thought Gregor maybe deserved a better ending than that… I did too. It just didn’t work out that way. He’ll probably go on to be a Nice Guy on Reddit and wear a fedora. So it goes.

Remember, I’d love to have #TheObjects submissions from you guys as well – send me a pic of any interesting objects you come across (to nikiboylewrites@gmail.com) and I’ll see what I can do.