Hunch
Preview
 
 
1
 
o
‘Things will be very different in the future, Geoff. In twenty years time we’ll have electrodes inserted into the mother’s womb, attached to the child’s skull. We’ll be listening to the baby as he listens to the thumping of his mother’s heart. We’ll be able to feel him feeling hungry, feeling thirsty or needing to fart.’
This is Tom Green. Dapper little man. Greased-back hair. Venomous. Dynamic
‘Babies don’t fart,’ said Geoff, ‘and even if they did – ’
Geoffrey Lomax, Observational Documentaries, ReelPolitik Productions. He’s handsome, managerial, but fading at the edges.
Tom insisted, ‘Let me finish.’
‘Could I stop you if I wanted to?’
‘This is the future of television, Geoff. In twenty years time, thirty at the outside, we’ll be able to see the world from behind the baby’s eyes. We’ll be able to see what baby’s seeing, feel what he’s feeling…’
Tom Green could have gone on for ever but it was getting late – too late for imaginary futures. In any case Geoffrey seemed on edge. ‘I’ll tell you something for nothing,’ he said.
‘Tell me.’
‘Mother-to-be is making a very big mistake.’
‘She is?’
‘Definitely.’
Geoffrey Lomax – family man. Wife, two children, guinea pigs and dogs. Geoffrey knew what having babies entailed.
‘A bigger mistake than getting pregnant in the first place?’
‘Absolutely.’
‘Which is?’
‘She’s lying on her back.’
 On the other side of the glass window, in the adjacent maternity suite currently being used both for its true purpose and as a television studio, a woman lay on her back with her shift around her hips, revealing strong thighs and an absence of underwear. She had one hand over her eyes in a gesture that almost seemed like despair. Her other hand rested on the Glastonbury Tor of her belly.
Tom said, ‘She looks comfortable enough to me.’
Geoffrey shook his head. ‘I would be surprised if she is. It isn’t a problem for the doctors, Tom. They like it. Once upon a time they insisted upon it. Legs in stirrups and all that shite. The midwives liked it too, twenty years ago. Having the mother on her back keeps everything pinned down, predictable. It gives the medical staff plenty of access and one hell of a good view. Loads of room for the waving around of forceps and the like.’
‘But…?’
‘All the negatives are for the mum. Lying on her back during childbirth is far from being a natural position. Instinctively she feels as if she’s squeezing her baby into the open air as an appetizer for whatever predators are waiting in the wings. And worse than that is the fact that gravity isn’t helping. If anything, at that angle, gravity is actually pulling the baby back into the womb.’
Tom stared at the woman behind the glass. He said, ‘I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing. If I’m reading baby’s mind correctly I don’t think the poor little sod really wants to come out.’
 
 
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On the other side of the pane of glass a doctor appeared. The midwife and her teenage trainee stood to attention while he drew on a pair of disposable latex gloves and reached down to force his milky, antiseptic fingers into mother-to-be’s vagina.
On this side of the glass there was time for reflection.
‘What do you think the baby’s thinking?’ asked Tom, more rhetorically than as a question.
‘He’s thinking, “Your finger’s in my eye!”?’
‘No,’ Tom said. ‘He’s thinking, “That’s Tom Green, out there. The TV producer. And do you know what that makes me?”’
‘He’s thinking, “And do you know what that makes me?”?’
‘Yes. And do you know what that makes him?’ Tom asked.
‘Even without your imaginary electrodes and everything?’ Geoff was fading fast.
‘Yes.’
‘I won’t even try to guess. You’ll tell me anyway.’
‘It makes the unborn fellah the star of the fucking show.’
 
 
o
This is Tom Green: expensive suit, always creased. Black hair, slicked back like an Italian gangster. Slim enough not to look short – but not exactly tall. A dynamo, all the same, in human form.
       Tom’s been filming Acts of Creation for over a year now.
       He’s getting bored.
 
 
o
‘No, you’re wrong,’ said Geoff. ‘How can the baby be the star? He’s not even made an appearance yet. But I have to admit this is a bravura performance from the mum. Look at her. I’ve never seen an orgasm like it.’
‘I have,’ said Tom Green.
‘Where, when, and with whom?’
‘Monday night. Rachael Silvermann. My place.’
Geoffrey shook his handsome head in sorry disbelief. ‘I didn’t think it would be long before Ms Silvermann succumbed to your charms.’
‘It was a damn sight longer than it should have been,’ Tom said. ‘All of a week.’
 
 
o
The baby wasn’t wired up but Tom Green was.
He was wearing a receptionist-style mike and ear phones that had a direct line to… was it to God? No. Maybe not to God, but close enough.
Geoff couldn’t help but admire his producer of choice. Geoffrey Lomax was okay with documentaries but Tom Green wouldn’t be. Not for long. He had a kind of vital energy that was driving him somewhere. Probably to FilmFour. Probably to some big project with American money and American stars. Tom was like a knife, slicing through local television pap – making for the root stone.
Leaning back in his plastic hospital chair Tom’s hand rested on a control panel that was currently patching him into the noises in the suite next door but which also linked him to the mikes and speakers of their two staff hovering like spiders behind the doctor and the midwives and the mother-to-be.
He was tuned into his team’s murmured observations, the midwives’ gossip, the mother-to-be’s groans.
For all Geoff knew, Tom was listening to the shipping forecast, too.
 
 
o
‘So what do you think he’s really thinking, Tom?’
Tom grinned – pretended he already had the science fiction technology to view the universe from within the baby’s mind. ‘Let me take a look. Mmm. Tachygraph reading’s not good. But yes, I can just about make it out. He’s thinking, “What on earth have I let myself in for?” He’s thinking, “Christ, my mum’s making a fool of herself!”’
‘It’s not a pretty sight.’
‘She signed the consent form, Geoff. Just like all the others.’
‘Beats me.’
‘What does?’
‘Even after all these years,’ Geoff said. ‘Even now I still fail to understand how people can sign up for this sort of exposure. Catherine would rather die than appear on television with her tits hanging out.’
‘And it’s not just their tits, as often as not… Has your wife ever been asked to do something like this, by the way?’
‘Of course not.’
‘Then ask her.’
‘What? Catherine? And let you get sight of her? Not on your life.’
‘Don’t you trust me?’
Geoffrey Lomax, unlike the slight, dark, intense Tom Green, was a square sort of person. Square shoulders, square chin, square mind. But he had an attractive baritone voice and an amused middle class drawl.
‘I’d sooner trust Satan,’ he said.
 
 
o
Tom said, ‘At least Satan’s a man of his word.’
‘I wouldn’t know about that,’ said Geoff.
Tom smiled. ‘I know him better than you do.’
 
 
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Geoffrey Lomax: Head of ReelPolitik Production’s Department of Observational Documentaries. This excluded participatory game-show material but included the sort of programmes that Geoffrey loved most: intelligent, challenging reflections upon the nature of the world. He wasn't as well paid or as famous as some of his contemporaries though he had once championed a costume drama which ReelPolitik sold to Channel 4 and which won them a Bafta. But the attention brought on ulcers, so Geoff had hurried back to what he knew best.
He told his friends there was less stress in documentaries, whatever the subject. It was all just other people’s lives. And that was true, he felt, even here at the coalface – with his protégé producer Tom Green, watching a woman going through the ordeal of giving birth.
‘Look at mum now,’ Tom said.
Geoffrey shook his head. ‘Poor Little Mike. He’s almost on top of her. Give me the headphones.’
‘Here.’
‘Mike. Mike – you poor sod... He can’t hear me, Tom. Patch me in or something, will you? She’s swearing at him. She’s telling him to piss off.’
‘Who? The doctor? Mike? She’s telling Mike to piss off? I’ll have those, Geoff.’ Tom grabbed back the headphones. ‘Mike! Mike! Can you hear me?’
Little Mike whispers: ‘Of course I can hear you, boss. Shout much louder and I’ll hear you through the glass.’
‘Just ignore Mother, Mike. She’s signed the consent form. Keep on filming. This is the right stuff. Just keep your head down and keep the camera rolling.’
‘Will do, boss.’
‘And talk quietly, Mike – she’s looking straight at you.’
‘Keeping mum, boss.’
‘Silly cunt.’
‘Mike?’ Geoff asked.
‘Yes. Speaking aloud instead of whispering. He knows we’ll have to filter that out. It’s a pisser of a job.’
‘Look at mother now!’
‘Tell me, would you describe that as a howl or a scream?’
‘Middie looks worried.’
‘Trainee Middie looks even more worried. Mike, keep filming. We’ve got ourselves an emergency.’
‘Yes, boss.’
‘Prime fucking time.’
‘Boss?’
‘Yes, Mike?’
‘They’re squeezing me out. It’s like an ants’ nest in here.’
‘Just keep in there. Even if you have to back off into the corner. Keep in there and keep filming.’
‘Tom?’ Geoff said.
‘Yes, guv’ner?’
‘Don’t expose us to a grievance.’
‘From mother-to-be or from Little Mike?’
‘Little Mike, of course. Exposure to trauma.’
‘Not a chance. I’m taping every word. He’s calm as hell.’
‘It’s hell in here, boss,’ Mike chimed in, unbeknown to Geoff.
‘Keep your fucking voice down.’
‘You talking to Little Mike?’ asked Geoff.
‘Doctor’s saying to get out,’ said Little Mike.
‘Ignore him,’ Tom said.
‘I can’t ignore the bloody doctor.’
‘Ignore him. He hasn’t got time to think about you.’
‘Tom?’ – Geoff again.
‘Yes?’
‘What’s going on in there?’
‘Nothing, Geoff. It’s hot, that’s all. Red hot.’
‘Don’t go exposing us to a law suit.’
‘What the fuck for?’
‘“Impeding hospital staff in the carriage of their duties.” Something like that.’
‘Little Mike’s not in the way.’
‘Long Mike is though.’
‘Oh fuck! Steve! Steve! Back away with Long Mike! You don’t need it right up her fucking arse!’
‘Backing away, Mr. Green.’
Little Mike, the cameraman, was actually extremely tall. The joke was that the person they all called ‘Big Mike’ was almost half his height: Mike McDonnell, the assistant producer and part-time lighting expert. Little Big Mike had done his stuff and left. They wouldn’t see him again today. To add to the confusion, ‘Long Mike’ was the sound boom, hanging like a black, hairy caterpillar above the mother-to-be’s birthing bed. The hairy caterpillar edged away, nearer to the wall.
‘Is that okay, Mr. Green?’
‘That’s okay, Steve.’
‘False alarm, Tom,’ said Little Mike.
‘Oh, Jesus,’ Tom whispered.
‘Don’t act so disappointed,’ Geoff reasoned. ‘From the look on her face, mum-to-be was really in pain…’
‘Pain makes good television.’
The main player in this scenario was the digi – the high-performance Sony Digital Betacam which was recording its images on forty minute cartridges of half-inch digital tape.
‘What I really want,’ Tom said, ‘and what we haven’t had yet in this series, is a haemorrhage.’
‘Never mind,’ Geoff reassured him. ‘You’ve got some good footage. And more to come, I think.’
‘Keep writhing, baby,’ Tom muttered. Then, ‘Mike. Doctor’s heading for the door. Now’s your chance. Get right back in there… I think – ’
‘Baby’s coming, Tom.’
‘Keep right in there, Mike. The mid-wives are too busy to kick you out now. Lovely! Bloody lovely! Keep in there, boyo. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. It’s the head, Mike. It’s the fucking head. Wow. I’ve seen this a dozen times, but wow!’
Geoff: ‘I hate it.’
Tom: ‘Don’t watch, then.’
‘I won’t.’
‘Keep it rolling, Mike. Oh wow, it’s coming! I just love the way they come out like that! Oh shit, Mike, that’s wonderful. Pinky-blue bod and all that slime and blood. You know, on days like this I feel like I’m the fucking dad!’
 
 
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‘You won’t feel like the fucking dad in a minute, Mr Green.’
‘What’s that? Steve?’
The sound recordist turned his pinched face towards the glass. ‘I think the baby’s dead.’
 
 
 
© 2011 Luke Andreski. All rights reserved.

 

 
 
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