A Cautionary Tale – Lazy Listening

From the series ‘Harry Jackson’s Cautionary Tales’ on FFS (For Fucks Sake) Magazine.

I think the voice in my head affects my ability to process important external information. By which I mean it talks over everyone else. People often mistake my poor attention for hearing loss. I’ve been called ‘deafo’ on more than one occasion.

This lack of focus has seen me perennially underachieve. Not necessarily by my standards, but certainly by those of our economically driven society. More recently my ‘lazy listening’ threatened to halt my writing career before it had escaped the stalls.

I’d sent some of my articles to a magazine in the hope they’d appreciate my wonky observations as much as my mother does (according to her I’m a fucking genius.) To my utter delight and shock the magazine people invited me to discuss the possibility of writing a feature article for them.

I turned up at their office to have a chat with the editor. Everything started brilliantly, I found the building and was actually on time. And then it happened, two-thirds of the way into her first sentence ‘Mr. Slater’s Parrot’ started playing in my head. Which meant my subconscious was left to fill in the parts of her spiel I’d missed. What she actually said was “For this assignment you’re going to have to be very well-informed.” What my brain told me she said was, “you’re going to have to be very well-endowed.”

I was a understandably, if mistakenly, taken aback.

My first thought was ‘Why does Vivian Stanshall live in my head.’ My second was ‘should I keep quiet and take the job, even if I don’t meet the requirements?’ After all this was a brilliant opportunity. Then I began to wonder what kind of ‘piece’ would require a large penis? Perhaps an ‘undercover’ exposè. Something like ‘My Night as a Male Prostitute.” My lack of requirements would be immediately exposed, in more ways than I care to imagine.

My mind ran wild so I calmed myself with some yoga breaths and attempted to deploy a rational thought process, something I rarely succeed at. I decided it might be best to just ask the lady in the suit about the subject matter, so I did. She responded, “Artificial insemination in bovines.” Though understandably shocked I continued my line of enquiry and surprised myself with the next words that slipped through my lips, “How much?” I asked. She offered me two hundred dollars. I lowered my head, sucked in my cheeks, raised an eyebrow and paused. I stroked my chin awhile, then spoke softly but with authority, “I’ll do it for three hundred.” She smiled patronizingly and reestablished her position in the negotiations. She reminded me I was a new writer and in no position to barter, she thought two hundred was more than adequate, especially as there was also a financial outlay for a photographer.

The blood drained from my face. We were now operating outside of my known boundaries, comfort zones and imagination. I stammered, “You w-want to ph-ph-photograph this?” Conflicting images of me winning literary awards or ending up in front of a farmyard jury flashed through my easily distracted brain. I chose to focus on the adulation, and after a prolonged and awkward silence I said “Deal. But If you’re going to photograph me fucking a cow, can we use a pseudonym and blur my face?”

That’s when she asked me to leave.

Whilst the exchange didn’t go to plan I learnt something valuable about myself. That I’m prepared to go to lengths far beyond what I ever imagined just to get published (and paid.) FFS clearly value a writer that will reach into the depths of depravity for his art (and a less than basic income.) So they’ve offered me this page so I can offer you tripe and onions albeit in a wordy sense.

My ‘Cautionary Tales’ are here to serve you as well as they fail to serve me. In my humble opinion they’ll offer an alternative to Aesop’s dodgy outdated fables. They’ll be ‘X’ rated and littered with very little scientific evidence or academic content. And I don’t check my sauces, I put them on my chips.

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