For historical context, this short story was written in June or July of 2020. The story was initially supposed to continue in further instalments, hence the subtitle taken from a song lyric, but the attempts to follow it up didn’t really go anywhere & I think (with 2+ year hindsight) that it works fairly well as a standalone, self contained, piece.
I don’t wanna be a prologue to history
I’ve had to hire a private security company to ferry this manuscript to my publishers. There’s a far-right hate mob gathering outside my house. They’re angry about the title. There’s nothing more dangerous and stupid than a braying horde of imbeciles who leap to defend their skin colour at the most minuscule sign of trouble. I Don’t even know why they’re so angry. Or angry at all. All they know is the title. I haven’t released any details of what Whiteness is about. For all they know, it could be a celebration of what it means to be white. It’s not, but these head-bangers have no way of knowing that. If they stopped for one second, they might realise that they could actually be protesting against something which celebrates their values. Or lack of.
There’s one guy who’s set up a kind of bar on top of my wheelie bin. I say bar, but he’s just got a 24 crate of Strongbow and a 24 crate of Stella Artois. He’s handing them out to the already drunken racists while they wave their fists and perform Nazi salutes at the Vote Labour poster in my kitchen window.
There’s a shrine to a road accident victim just over the road from me, you know the kind of thing. Flowers, cards and photographs of the victim. Maybe a couple of pictures drawn by children. One of the racists is stood in front of it, legs apart in the unmistakable silhouette of a drunk pissing in the street. There’s more of them pissing in the doorway of the Bakery across the walkway from me. Rivers of urine are flowing from the doorway, down the gentle slope towards the road.
I’d mentioned to an acquaintance on Twitter that I was working on this, and that it was called Whiteness. He retweeted it. Two of his friends retweeted it. It grew and grew exponentially. The next thing I knew I had every racist and his racist dog dogpiling me in the comments. “Lol muzzie convert twat,” “you’d be speaking German if it wasn’t for Churchill,” “Marx would be more than happy, he was born into a Jewish home, but family converted out of it. Ethnically Jewish is the only claim anyone can make. He’d be happy sat with today’s Nazis in the UK Labour party.” You know, sensible, measured, intelligent comments.
This went on for days until I had somewhere in the region of 4,500 comments on the original Tweet. Around 2000-3000 of them were from people supporting my right to call this thing Whiteness and speculating on why it’s not racist to call a book Whiteness. Others were arguing like cat and dog with the racists. Neither side willing to give ground in this social media microcosm of the culture war the reactionaries have been screeching for.
The comments from the far-right people got nastier and less coherent as the days went by. Less coherent relative to their usual smooth brained attempts at communication anyway. And then, yesterday somebody doxed me. They published my name and address on the tweet, that was retweeted about 3000 times and the rest you know. There’s an anti-anti-racism protest going on outside my home. White stupidity manifesting itself in the desire to prevent some unknown writer who they’ve been arguing with on Twitter from publishing something called Whiteness. Because they’ve convinced themselves, in their hate addled brains, that Whiteness is an attack, a criticism against them. I mean, maybe it is, but they have no way of knowing that. At this point, if it pleases the readership, I’d like to enter a laughing emoji into the official record.
So, the private security guys. Huge, muscle bound ex-military types carrying shields and batons. They’d prefer to carry guns, I’d imagine, but that would be frowned upon in the U.K., armed mercenaries guarding private residences. It doesn’t bear thinking about. They’re also dressed in thick, cutting edge, Kevlar body armour and visored helmets. One of them points into the crowd, at a young ‘roid rager dressed head to toe in camouflaged fatigues and wearing a red beret. He has a hipster beard and is performing a Nazi salute.
“See that guy in the uniform?” Says the private security man.
“Yep” I reply.
“He’s a Walt. No doubt about it. A fucking Walt. Makes me so fucking angry. I’m fucking raging.”
“A what?” I ask.
“You know? A Walt. A Walter Mitty. A fake. Pretending to be a veteran. A cunt”.
“I see.” I didn’t see. I do now though, I’ve looked it up since this exchange. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “a Walter Mitty is “an ordinary often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs”. Soldiers use it to call out edgelords on social media who claim to have served in the armed forces. They do this to win far-right debates, to justify hate crimes or to appear more interesting and important than they actually are. Usually, these edgelords have just played too much Call of Duty and become overexcited and overconfident in their own abilities. Dunning-Kruger effect, essentially. The mercenary was telling me this dude in the crowd was essentially cosplaying as a veteran. To add an air of legitimacy to their idiotic riot.
Now you’re probably wondering why I don’t just email the manuscript to my publishers. Well, that’s a good question. The thing is, I was gifted an antique typewriter by a relative for my 21st birthday (I won’t say how many years ago) and it’s been sitting in a box in my parents dusty, junk filled garage pretty much since then. Recently they decided to give up the garage as the rent was higher than they thought fair and they weren’t keeping a car in it anyway. They asked me to sort through my stuff before they cleared it out. I found sealed boxes of cassette tapes, old music magazines, books and DVDs. I opened one box and it had a full glass ashtray sat on top of a pile of magazines and newspapers. Decades old roaches in decades old ash. And finally, I found the typewriter that I’m ashamed to admit I’d forgotten I owned.
I took the typewriter and told my parents that everything else could go in the skip. Don’t want it. Get rid. I’m something of a hoarder at the best of times, so this was definitely for the best. It was a beautiful typewriter, once I’d dusted it down and replaced the ink ribbon. A Hermes 2000 manual typewriter in a wooden case. Like the one William Gibson wrote Neuromancer on. An absolute beauty. So, I decided, since I had the typewriter, and hadn’t actually used it before, I’d buy some paper and type my next significant project on it.
So, when I say that Whiteness is a manuscript, I mean that literally. A bound bundle of typewritten A4 pages printed on one side only. Placed inside a box file, sealed with tape and ready to be taken to my publisher. It was quite the challenge even convincing the publisher to accept a typewritten manuscript. It’s not really the done thing in 2020. Writers write their work in Microsoft Word (or similar) and send .docx files to their publishers as email attachments. The way you’re probably thinking I should’ve done it. But we’re here now, in this place, at this time, in this situation. And that’s all there really is to it.
You’re probably wondering how the publishers are going to transfer my typewritten manuscript into book form in this modern era of digitised publishing and e-readers. Probably the first typewritten manuscript submitted to a publisher in over a decade. Well, I guess that publishers used to work from typewritten manuscripts and anyway, they told me not to worry about it, so I’m not.
You’re probably detecting a few inconsistencies in the narrative in this section of writing. Maybe you’re wondering when exactly in the process of writing Whiteness, did I write this section. If I wrote about these events after they happened, how can I be relaying them to you here? Did I break the seal of the box file to add these pages to the front of the manuscript? Did I predict this and write about it in advance or is this whole thing fiction and I’m feeding you a pack of lies? Did I just switch from present to past tense, mid paragraph a few paragraphs ago? Well, none of that really matters so I’d probably avoid dwelling on it. In fact, you could have and should have probably ignored this whole paragraph. It’s meaningless. Nonsense.
Now the private security firm – or mercenary company if you like – has brought an armoured van to my house to pick up the manuscript. It’s like the kind you see collecting cash from businesses and delivering it to banks. Presumably ferrying it from bank to bank too. It’s parked up the street, about three quarters of a mile away. It has the name of the security mercenaries on the side of it, Stahlrim Security Consultancy. The crowd of jackboots and brown shirts (metaphorical or literal) are thick around my house, so the Stahlrim boys are going to be in for a hard time. Sure, they’re wearing thick, expensive body armour and carrying shields and batons, but these fascists are drunk, angry and spoiling for a fight. There’s also a woefully thin line of police keeping the crowd back as best they could.
If I could just beg your indulgence, I’m going to switch into past tense now. I believe that present tense has done its job and set the scene nicely. From here on out, I’ll be too busy for blow-by-blow narration. I’ll be recounting this to you after the events. An AAR, if you will.
“‘ere mate?” The lead merc shouted to one of the coppers on the line, “you guys got any teargas?”
The copper just shrugged and rolled his eyes. He looked scared. The coppers were wearing light armour too. You might call it riot gear if you were writing about it with a particular agenda, but it wasn’t really. Just a stabproof vest, a yellow hi viz tabard and their normal “tit hat” helmets. They looked woefully under equipped compared to the mercs, although they did carry riot shields.
“We’re racist and that’s the way we like it!” the crowd chanted, eager to assuage any fears that I may have exaggerated their sheer awfulness out of partisanship. I mean, I would. I definitely would’ve but they ended up being so vile that I didn’t even need to exaggerate how shitty they were. I started looking at their “banners”. I put it in inverted commas because most of them were sharpie pen on a piece of cardboard, torn from a box. Some said, “All Lives Matter” and some said, “White Lives Matter”. There were Confederate flags (I know, in the U.K.), Union Flags and George Crosses. The odd swastika dotted about. I even saw a couple of Ulster Banners. This was a teeming mass of white nationalist aggression and it was roiling away on my doorstep. I mean, fuck. I couldn’t even take my dog out for a piss or a shit whilst these idiots were there.
“We’re just about ready, sir,” the merc who’d done all the talking so far said to me. I could see the bloodlust in his eyes. He was desperate to crack some right-wing skulls. Probably the ones he referred to as Walts. He seemed to hate those idiots with an unquenchable passion.
“I dunno,” I said. I was having a bit of a wobble. A moment of unwelcome and unexpected uncertainty. “I’m not sure the world is ready for Whiteness. I dunno if the world can handle Whiteness.”
He looked at me with an amused side eye. “Sir, that’s up to you. I must inform you though that we are unable to offer you a refund for our service.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll go and fetch it. I’m sorry. I was just having a little wobble. I’m on my way.”
I went through into the back room, the box room, where my typewriter was set up. Even here, in the depths of my house, my fortress, I could hear the rabid chanting from outside. “The Jews will not replace us,” they chanted. I was actually looking forward to seeing a few of them get a truncheon in the face. I grabbed the box file and brought it out to the lead merc. He took it from me and gave me a solemn nod.
“Please be assured sir, that now we have taken possession of your parcel, we will give our all, our utmost, to get it to its destination. That is our mission. That is our pledge. If you are satisfied with this service, please give us a review on Trustpilot.”
“ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 5,” shouted another merc from a fair distance away, straining to be heard above the vile crowd noise, “HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR EXPERIENCE TODAY.”
I didn’t know what to say. Fuck, I didn’t know what to think. These Stahlrim boys are fucking weird. “FOUR,” I shouted back at him over the din. He looked vaguely hurt. I felt I’d just pissed on his parade. Was four not good enough? I didn’t think that four was unreasonable. Four’s really fucking good. If I wanted to slight him without insulting him, I’d have said three. To make me feel worse I saw one of the other mercs pat him, consolingly, on the arm and smile at him warmly.
The lead merc took a few steps towards the police line and turned back to me. “I’d probably get back inside now if I were you, sir,” he said. I nodded at him and stepped back into the house. I didn’t close the door though. I wanted to see these fucks getting set upon by the mercs and the police. I wanted to see blood flying and beaten, broken Nazis laying in the rivers of their own piss which they’d desecrated my street with. He whispered something in the coppers ear. The copper nodded back to him.
The privateers formed up into an incredibly compact, tight formation – a kind of pointed shield wall. They started walking forward into the crowd. The police line parted to let them through and then followed them, forming a passage through the rioters and pushing them out of the route to the van. It was like Moses parting the Red Sea or an overconfident stage-diver diving into an indifferent crowd. I could see both the coppers and the mercs dishing out hefty swings of their batons and rioters going down in sprays of blood. The racists fought back but, despite their superior numbers, they were just too angry and drunk to coordinate their attacks. Their amateurish and chaotic combat saw them get pushed back again and again with little serious trouble. The mercs advanced slowly towards their armoured van, professionally swinging their batons at the knees and shins of the anti-anti-fascists and forcing them to the ground.
It did my heart good to see so many Nazis getting knocked to the ground by the police and the mercs. I took extra satisfaction from the mercs because they were doing it in my employ, at my behest. It also did my heart good to see Whiteness leaving. Whiteness getting loaded into the armoured van. Whiteness about to be unleashed on the world, unsolicited and arrogant. Whiteness as art. Whiteness as propaganda. Whiteness as news. Whiteness as fake news, flim-flam, falsification. Whiteness as an all-encompassing attitude which everyone should be expected to adopt. Whiteness as water, air and food. Whiteness as a pandemic keyworker, keeping the world turning. Whiteness as abstract. Whiteness as dream. Whiteness as palpable nightmare. Whiteness as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
When the police and the mercs had finished pushing back the protesters, they set up temporary barricades at the entry points to my street. The rioters hung about behind them, shouting racial slurs into the air, chanting their vile chants and getting more and more pissed. The crates of booze were still set up on my wheelie bin and, even though I couldn’t stand the stuff, I’d had a stressful morning, so I picked up the remains of the crate of Stella Artois and went back inside. I opened a can, fired up the Xbox 360 rerelease of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and tried to relax by gunning down Ballas and Vagos, provoking gang wars. Nostalgic vibes, good times.
Several hours later I took my dog out. The police and the racists had gone. With the object of their impotent white fury no longer present, they’d just kind a wondered off. The street was like the aftermath of a music festival, beer cans, plastic carrier bags and cig butts everywhere. Rivers of piss flowed from the doorways of the nearby shops and a burned-out police car sat in the middle of the road. My dog sniffed it as I walked her past it. She paused to piss on its charred remains.
When we got back from our walk, all signs of the fascist riot had gone. The street looked normal-ish. There was a dark stain on the road where the burnt-out police car was and another where the river of piss had been, but everything else was gone. It reminded me of San Andreas. The way that you could be battling police, massacring them by the dozen, pop inside CJ’s house to save your game and then, when you come back out, all of the corpses, wrecked cars, bikes and helicopters, even the bloodstains, all gone. As if it never happened. I went back into the house, let the dog off her lead and resumed tensely refreshing my Outlook inbox between San Andreas missions.
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