Jim Giraffe: A Ghost Story about a Ghost Giraffe

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9780099445166: Jim Giraffe: A Ghost Story about a Ghost Giraffe

Scott Spectrum is being haunted by a ghost giraffe called Jim. Scott thinks he is the man who has everything - a high speed internet connection, alien-shaped slippers, a beautiful wife called Continence. But Scott hasn't touched her in years and she's been left furiously polishing the sideboards, dreaming of black stallions. According to Jim, Scott's days are numbered, and to save himself from certain death by sexual repression he must perform every sex act in the lovemaker's lexicon. Luckily Jim Giraffe knows a lot about sex. He also loves pizza and beer and has breath that smells of tree tops. The prudish Scott is at first shocked by this profane, perverted ghost giraffe, but he accepts his help. Little does he realise that the ghost giraffe has his own agenda and that his suburban idyll is about to be well and truly buggered up.

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About the Author:

Daren King was born in 1972 in Harlow, Essex. He was educated at Bath Spa University College, Bath, where he graduated in Creative Studies. Boxy an Star, his first novel, was shortlisted for the 1999 Guardian First Book Award and longlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written its prequel, Tom Boler.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

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I have of late been visited by a ghost giraffe. He steps out nightly from the wardrobe, the only item of furniture tall enough to house him, and paces the room in long looming strides, sometimes with a pair of underpants on his head, sometimes not, and stops between my wife's bed and mine.

He began as a shapeless glow, as though someone had rigged up a strip light in the wardrobe and partially opened the door. Several nights later, a leg emerged, bony and long. Followed by three others.

Then, last night, I buttoned up my moon-coloured boxer shorts, stepped into my alien-shaped slippers, passed beneath the giraffe's legs and walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where I made myself a mug of cocoa. On my return I found him still there, looking a tad peeved. I kicked off my alien-shaped slippers and sat on the bed. He put his face close to mine, so close that I could smell the leaves on his breath, fresh leaves from the very tops of the trees, and spoke. Tomorrow, he said, I will visit you during the day. Your wife will be polishing the sideboard. You will have set up a topload video, and I will play you a tape. When I protested that our video was frontload, he explained that the tape was enchanted and was not compatible with some of the newer machines.

I take the afternoon off work, borrow an old silver-coloured video player from my parents, untangle the cables and plug it in. I keep expecting my wife to ask what I am up to, but she is busy polishing the sideboard, just as the giraffe had said. And here he comes now, through the patio doors, without even wiping his hoofs, a videotape clenched between his teeth. He opens his mouth, drops the tape into my hands, and says: 'All right, mate?'

'Yes,' I say icily, 'fine.'

'Not so scary in the day, am I.'

'And what makes you think you were scary during the night?'

'You were scared stiff first time you saw me.'

'No I wasn't.'

'You hid under the duvet, you old lamer.'

'I'm not old,' I say, straightening my top-of-the-range long-range spectacles. 'I'm twenty-eight.'

'Twenty-nine next birthday. Then thirty. If you make it.'

'What a grim thought. Not my making it,' I add quickly. 'The suggestion that I might not make it. Either way, it was a horrible thing to say.'

'Plenty more where that came from.'

'So I take it you haven't descended from the heavens to cheer me up.'

'I'm here to spook you, give you the creeps.'

'Well, you're going the wrong way about it. Assuming an earthly form, you got that bit right. But not as a giraffe.'

'Always been a giraffe,' the giraffe says. 'Wouldn't know how to be anything else.'

'Then if you must insist on haunting people, you should do it back in the jungle where you belong.'

He wrinkles his nose when I say this, that long yellow nose, and says: 'I'll tell you one thing, I'm beginning to wish I'd stayed in the wardrobe. You were scared when I was in the wardrobe.'

'Do you mind. I happen to be fearless.'

'Dickless.'

'That is neither accurate nor fair,' I say in my genitalia's defence. 'Do you know what I do for a living?'

'Surprise me.'

'Head Script Writer, Science Fiction Channel.'

'A writer, eh. Well, if you're so good with words, how come all that time I was in the wardrobe, you never even said hello?'

'You're a giraffe,' I say sensibly. 'Had I known you could speak-'

'If I couldn't speak, there'd be no point me coming here.'

'You sound like you're on some sort of mission.'

'Wouldn't have bothered descending from the heavens,' the giraffe says, 'if I didn't have something big to say.'

'Then get on with it, and get out.'

'Not yet. But believe me, it's heavy shit.'

'Ready when you are,' I say, settling into my high-tech armchair.

The giraffe just flares his nostrils, shakes his head. 'Don't feel like it.'

I rise from the chair. 'Then let's start with something easy. The name is Spectrum. Scott Spectrum.'

'Jim.'

'Nice to meet you, Jim,' I say, shaking his right front hoof. 'So tell me. How does it feel, Jim, to be a freak?'

'Eh?'

'There can't be many ghost giraffes stalking the earth.'

'Giraffes die too, you know.'

'All that lives must die,' I recite, 'passing through nature to eternity.'

The giraffe smiles when I say this. 'None of us is getting any younger.'

'Come again?'

'Well, Spec, it's like you said. All that lives must snuff it-'

'Is that where this is leading? You're here to remind me of my mortality?'

'Bingo.'

'With each passing year I grow closer to the grave. Then, when old and withered-'

'Steady. You're getting soppy, not to mention optimistic.'

'Middle-aged then, with all my imperfections on my head.'

'On the bog, your head in a porn mag.'

'Oh, I don't read pornography, Jim.'

'You should, while you've still got the chance.'

'So it's imminent then.'

'More or less, yeah.'

I just sit here, enjoying my high-tech armchair, recollecting a conversation from the previous night. I was watching television, a time-travel show, and my wife was watching the clock. She asked me why I never speak, and I said nothing.

'Cheer up, Spec. You're better off out of it. I mean, face it, what have you got to live for?'

'I assume you are being ironic. You happen to be looking at the man who has everything. High-speed internet connection. Beautiful wife-'

'Who needs a good seeing-to.'

'A good what?'

The giraffe winks, and the penny drops.

'Oh, you mean sex. Continence has no interest in it.'

The giraffe laughs. 'Continence? Continence Spectrum?'

'It's a beautiful name,' I say in the name's defence.

'Well, Continence Spectrum is in need of a good seeing-to. Would do her myself, Spec. If bestiality weren't illegal. And if my dick wasn't so big. And if I weren't dead.'

'Excuse me, but Continence and I happen to be in love.'

'Then why is your life so shit?'

'Fine,' I say, changing tack. 'Let us suppose. For the moment. For the sake of argument. That my life is, as you put it, shit. Which it isn't. And we both know it isn't. But if, and I stress again the word "if ", my life is shit, then what in heaven's name do you intend to do about it?'

'Eh?'

'Wave a wand. Grant me three wishes. What?'

'You're stepping into the realms of fantasy now,' Jim says. 'I'm a ghost giraffe, not a fucking wizard. If you're going to be an idiot, Spec, I might just as well go down the pub and leave you to it.'

'Point taken. But will you please stop calling me Spec. You make me sound like a small spot or particle. My name is Scott Spectrum, or simply Scott. Now can we just watch the tape?'

He lowers his head, level with the silver-coloured video player, and pops the tape in, pushing down the top with his chin. Then, in a clumsy attempt at pressing the play button, he starts hoofing the front of the machine. I point the remote control between his legs.

'Scott Spectrum,' he says, 'this is your life. Past, present and future.'

Fuzz. Then, the thick mist of a school playing field. Two boys emerge, one of whom I recognise as myself. That's me on the left, with the floppy fringe and spectacles. At my side is Tinpot Wheeler, the only boy ever to show me his willy. His tie is askew and two of his shirt buttons are missing. He puts his hand into his blazer pocket, pulls out a crisp and stuffs it into his mouth. 'Want one?'

'Yes please.'

'Prawn cocktail. Nicked them from my dad's pub.'

I take a bite from the crisp.

'You started wanking yet?'

I shrug.

'Slow starter, are you?' he says with his mouth full. 'Bet you have loads of wet dreams then.'

'I haven't wet the bed since I was eleven years old.'

'Not that sort of wet dream, you flid.' He picks pocket fluff from another crisp and stuffs it into his mouth. 'Do you know what spunk is?' He punches me between the legs and says: 'That white stuff in your balls. Comes out when you wank.'

'When you what?'

'Don't you even know what wanking is?'

Evidently not, for I shake my head.

'Must be a flid then. You know when you're in the bath and your mum comes in and you get a stiffy?'

I nod.

'It's called wanking. Ain't you never done it?'

'Not on purpose.'

He picks his nose, his finger reaching deep into his brain. The thing he pulls out looks valuable, a precious stone, but all he does is wipe it on to my blazer. 'You going to that party?'

'What party?'

'Lisa is having a party, at her house,' Wheeler says. 'Didn't she invite you?'

'No.'

'Ask her if you can go.'

I turn red, and turn away.

'You scared?'

'No.'

'Then ask her.'

'I'm not allowed out Thursday nights,' I state truthfully. 'It's bath night.'

'Don't be a wanker, you flid.' He punches me in the stomach and runs off.

The scene cuts to an afternoon geography lesson. Tinpot Wheeler and I are sat one desk from the back. Lisa is sat directly behind me.

The teacher taps the whiteboard with his pen. 'Capital of Egypt, anyone?'

I know the answer to that, surely I do, but I say nothing. Cut to a close-up of my armpits, damp with spreading maps of sweat.

Lisa leans forward and pokes Tinpot Wheeler with her ruler. 'Oi,' she whispers. 'You still coming to my party?'

Wheeler nods.

'Who else is coming?'

Wheeler elbows me in the ribs. 'He is.'

My body stiffens, awaiting the prod of Lisa's ruler, but no prod comes.

The teacher steps up to our desk. 'You know this one, Scott. Capital of Egypt.'

'No, sir.'

'What have you got there?'

'Nothing, sir.' But there is something. I'm hiding it under my hand.

'I do hope it is something geographical.'

Evidently not, for I scrunch it up and stuff it into my shirt pocket. Wheeler snatches it and stands up, waving it in the air. 'I know what it is,' he cries, unscrunching it. 'Love letter.'

The teacher is not amused. 'Give it here, Wheeler.'

'Lisa Lisa shining bright-'

'Wheeler, sit down.'

'- let me be your love tonight.'

The rest of the class are in hysterics, punching each other and calling me a flid, unaware, no doubt, that the word refers to victims of thalidomide, a morning-sickness drug found to damage the foetus.

I wipe the salt from my spectacles. 'It was a long time ago.'

'Soppy it.'

'It was a difficult time.'

Jim passes me a tissue. 'I don't know how you could hang around with that Wheeler boy. Zits the size of custard creams. Hairstyle you could have a fight with.'

'I wonder where he is now,' I say, glazing over. 'Doing time, one would imagine.'

'If you say that word just once more, I'm going to hoof you.'

'What word?'

'Time.'

'Now that is what we call a bad repetition.'

'Call it what you like,' Jim says haughtily. 'I call it a pain in the udders.'

'Then allow me to rephrase.' I compose myself, then say: 'I wonder where Tinpot Wheeler is now. In prison, one would imagine.'

Jim opens his mouth to speak, then closes it, shakes his head and says: 'I forgot what I was going to say now.' He trots off through the patio doors, turns round, and comes back in. 'Yes, the Wheeler boy. Just because he was a loser at school. People can change, Spec.'

'Now who's being soppy?'

He blushes at this, bright yellow, the first time I have ever seen Jim Giraffe blush. So he does have a sensitive side. I must work on that. He gives me a hard stare. 'You're the one bawling his eyes out.'

'Oh, and whose fault is that?' I say, claiming the moral high ground. 'Why would you want to stir up bad memories?'

'I'm trying to educate you, in the ways of the world.'

'Superfluous,' I say cleverly. 'I may have been awkward as an adolescent. But look at me now, look at my wife.' Which reminds me. Continence. Wherefore art thou. I rise from my high-tech armchair and look round. Hmm. 'It's a clever trick, Jim.'

'What trick?'

'Looping time.'

'Eh?'

'She was polishing the sideboard before we watched your film. End of part one and still she rubs. How do you do it?'

'Do what?'

'She is house-proud,' I say proudly, 'but no sideboard demands that level of attention.'

'What are you on about? Looping time, my hoofs. She's having a sexual fantasy.'

'She's polishing.'

'Rubbing.'

'Rubbing then. But what has that got to do with sex?'

'A lot if you're a woman. It's how they masturbate.'

'Jim, women do not masturbate.'

'Your wife does.'

'My wife has better things to do with her fingers.'

'What, like sew up the black holes in your space socks? The world has changed, Spec. Women want orgasms, and they want them now. And another one in a minute.'

'I know that, Jim.'

'Then why are you such a dickhead?'

I laugh. 'And what makes you think I'm a dickhead?'

'You use your head, Spec, when you should be using your dick.'

'But Jim, sex is dirty.'

'So is your wife,' Jim says, picking his nose with his hoof. 'If you paid her more attention, you would know these things.'

'Oh, I pay her plenty of attention.'

'You should dump her. The two of you have grown apart.'

'Our relationship has barely changed since the day we married.'

Jim pulls a face, wrinkling his nose and teeth. 'But you sleep in separate beds.'

'An arrangement which dates back to our honeymoon.' My eyes turn to the ceiling, which clouds over. 'Continence kept tickling me. I instructed her to stop, but she would insist on tickling me. So I built a wall out of pillows. Pretended they were sandbags. When she scaled it I retreated across no-man's-land to the sofa. Where I spent the remaining fortnight in a huff.'

Jim is staring at me, open-mouthed. 'Have you finished?'

I remove my spectacles, wipe them on my shirt. 'It is important in a marriage to lay ground rules.'

'No wonder you suffer from erectile problems.'

'Hardly,' I say, flicking my fringe.

'You don't even know what erectile problems are.'

'I do.'

'What then?'

'Erections. And they're a bloody nuisance. Get in the way when you're rummaging for change for the cocoa machine. Not sure why I still get them, I'm not even an adolescent.'

'You don't need to be an adolescent to get an erection, Spec. I've got one now, and I'm dead.'

'Oh, you haven't.'

'What do you think that is, a fifth leg?'

I peer beneath the giraffe's flank. Disgusting. And huge. It seems to be dribbling. 'Put that away, before my wife sees it.'

'Where do you want me to put it? Up my arse?'

'How about the back garden,' I say drily. 'Oh, Jim, why must you be so dirty?'

'Eh?'

'That's right, dirty. It's not just your mind, either. Look at the state of your teeth. And your breath carries a strong stench of nature. That's why I was afraid of you,' I say cuttingly, 'I thought you might breathe on me. Do you know what I used to say to myself, when this all started? Here he comes, I would say. Ol' Treetops Breath. Ol' Tree Breath.'

Jim just stands there. His long yellow-blue nose droops and his eyelids half close. Even his penis has gone flaccid, hugging his coconut balls. 'That hurts, that really hurts. Leaves act as a natural breath freshener. And as for teeth. Nothing wrong with my teeth.'

'I've seen rhinos with better teeth.'

'Bad example. This mate of mine, Barry, he's a rh...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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King, Daren
Published by Vintage Books USA (2005)
ISBN 10: 0099445166 ISBN 13: 9780099445166
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