45% - nearly halfway

Friday, 11 August 2017

Hello, dear supporters. We've just reached 45%, so I am marking this milestone with another extract. Just a short one: this scene occurs very near the beginning of the book (before Adam has his wishes), when he is walking to school with his best friend Dirk, and realises for the first time that he fancies Natalie Forbes. 

We are so close to the halfway point now! If it's at all possible to persuade any of your friends to pledge - well, there are 170 of you, so if each person could get one extra pledger, we'd be close to completion...

Here's the extract. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Once upon a time, I was walking to school with my mate Dirk. It was a bright, sunny Friday in early February, the kind of day that makes you think spring's nearly here, but you can't really relax and enjoy it because it's still winter, the trees are still bare and any moment an icy gale could come sweeping in and freeze your bollocks off. If you'll pardon my French.

So, anyway, we're having one of those conversations, Dirk and me. His sister Fran's doing philosophy at university (she's proper fanciable, as it happens, but too old to be interested in me) and she'd been doing some stuff about what the purpose of life is or some crap like that, and she'd told Dirk about it and now he was telling me.

'Spose there was this machine, right, called an Experience Machine - and you could get in it and you'd be in a like trance, and it would make you completely happy, cause it'd make you think you were having all the experiences you wanted.'

'OK, spose there was.'

'And spose you could spend your whole life in it, right, it would be just like a fantastic dream that lasted eighty years or whatever, only you wouldn't know it was a dream, you'd think all the stuff you wanted to happen was really happening.'

'Right.'

'Well, would you get in it?'

I was like, 'Course I'd get in it. A lifetime of getting everything you wanted? Who'd turn that down?'

'Yeah, but it wouldn't be real. You'd just be sitting in a machine.'

'Yeah, but once you were in, you'd think it was real. You could make all your wishes come true!'

'It would only seem like they'd come true.'

'That's good enough for me.'

'What would you wish for, then?' goes Dirk.

I stop and think for a minute. And then I'm like, 'I'd go out with Natalie Forbes.'

Now, I've surprised myself here. Natalie Forbes is - well, she's not what you'd call a babe. She's clever, a bit of a boffin, she'll get a whole bunch of A-stars in her GCSEs this year. She wears small square black glasses and has short straight black hair. She's not bad-looking, she's quite OK in a dark, quiet sort of way, but she hasn't got that sort of upfront sexiness some girls have, the ones who are well-known for being babes, you know. And at this time I didn't even know her all that well, only just to say ' Hi' to. So like I say, I was surprised when I realised how much I fancied her. But it was the sort of surprise you feel when you've just realised something that in a way you knew all along, and you wonder why it took so long to see it.

Dirk's a bit surprised too. He raises his eyebrows in this sort of quizzical way he has (I reckon he practises in front of the mirror). 'Really?' he goes. 'You fancy Natalie Forbes?'

'She's all right. Wouldn't say no, you know what I mean.'

'Yeah.' Dirk nods now, thinking about it. 'Yeah, she's all right.'

For some reason, even though he's agreeing with me, I feel annoyed. Who does he think he is, to judge and grade Natalie like that? Plus, I sort of liked the idea that only I could see how sexy Natalie was, like there was something special about me that was able to pick out what was special about her. It seemed to show that we were meant for each other. I didn't want other guys fancying her. So I didn't wanna get in a debate with Dirk about how attractive Natalie was.

I'm like, 'Well, anyway, that's what I'd wish for.'

'But you don't have to just wish,' Dirk goes. 'Why don't you do something about it?'

'Like what?'

'Like ask her out.'

I'm like, 'Yeah, maybe.' Casual, you know. But I don't feel casual inside. I've suddenly got this feeling that - well, it's difficult to describe without using really embarrassing language. Like a hot, tender, melting, yearning sort of feeling. I just think, if I was going out with Natalie - and it could happen today, today, if I just get up the nerve to ask her - and she says yes - if that happens, my life'll be completely different. It'll be like divided in two, the years before Natalie, call them BN, and the years after Natalie, call them AN. And the AN years will be about a million times better - all the crap, like Mum and Dad arguing and snapping at each other all the time, and me worrying about failing all my GCSEs, and Mr Delaney the maths teacher being sarcastic to me, and never having any money, and always getting left out of the football team, and missing buses, and wondering if I look like a jerk in my duffle coat and getting horrible zits and feeling lonely in the evenings - all that crap I just won't care about. Because I'll have Natalie. Natalie! Even the name seems sexy, somehow. It makes me think of naughtiness and nakedness and nudity...

'You're blushing,' Dirk goes. 'You look like a tomato.'

'Oh, do I? Well, you look like -' (I run a quick mental search for some insulting-sounding fruit or veg) - 'an uggli fruit. And what's more, you look like that all the time.'

Dirk goes, 'Oh, touché.' He knows a lot of flash words like that. He's another one who'll get a whole bunch of A-stars in his GCSEs.  

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