Nutshell by Ian McEwan – digested read

‘Hanging upside down inside my mother with my head pressed against her pelvis is enough to give a foetus a migraine’

To be or not to be. Not to be just yet, for hanging upside down inside my mother with my head pressed against her pelvis while getting repeatedly battered by Claude’s cock thrusting inside her isn’t what I call a meaningful existence. It’s enough to give a foetus a migraine. My mum is up to something. I’m sure of it. I can hear her plotting with Claude. As you may have guessed Claude is not my father. I’d recognise his cock anywhere. The shame of it.

“O that this too unsolid flesh would melt.”

They’re drinking again. If I’m going to get another hangover then I’d prefer a Chateau Elsinore rather than a cheap Sancerre. Claude and Trudy do a lot of drinking. Too much I’d say. Sometimes I think she isn’t the slightest bit bothered about me. I’ll give her a kick to remind her.

“The baby’s kicking again,” says Trudy.

“Not long now. We’ll soon be rid of it.” That’s Claude. “So here’s the plan. We invite my brother round for a drink and put some anti-freeze in a smoothie. Once he’s croaked I’ll get to keep the St John’s Wood house and we’ll be £7m to the good.”

My brother! That means Claude must be my uncle. That’s disgusting. God! What a piece of work is a man. And a woman for that matter. I’ve got to think of a way of putting an end to this.

“I’ll bide my time until vile Claude be pissed
And passed out in Trudy’s incestuous bed.”

Let me tell you a bit about my dad. He’s called John. Yeah, I know you thought he was going to be called Ham but we’ve all had a few nasty surprises lately. So John writes and publishes poetry which basically means he’s broke. Apart from the St John’s Wood house which he inherited. And is now about to lose, along with his life if I’ve heard correctly. I really ought to do something about it.

“If I were man enough, I’d take revenge.
Though p’raps tis best to give myself a break
For I still lack sufficient evidence.”

The place is a dump. Trudy’s a complete slob. I don’t want to blame her too much as she’s only 28. She got married far too young and isn’t ready to settle down. Still, I do think she could make a bit of an effort for my arrival. She could get the Norwegian cleaners in.

There’s a ring on the doorbell. It’s my father with another woman.

“Hi Trudy,” he says. “This is Elodie. She’s a poet and we’re planning to get married. Don’t come over all surprised. I’ve known about you and Claude for a while. I’m sure you’ll be very happy together. So here’s the deal. You’ve got a month to get out of the house. I’ll be over tomorrow to sort out the details.”

What? My father’s got a girlfriend? I’m pretty sure that was never in the script. Everyone’s started to ad lib badly here. Nor did he even mention what was going to happen to me. Neither of them seem to want me. No wonder I’m having an existential crisis before I’m even born.

“Or could it be that I o’er think my life
And take my torment far too personally
From too much thought doth little action come
Thus conscience makes cowards of us all.
So man up, foetus, get thyself stuck in
Remember this: I think, therefore I am.”

Nutshell book cover by Ian McEwan for digested read

To cut a short story shorter. Claude and Trudy fucked and got pissed, before Claude went off to mix up the anti-freeze. The next day John came round and I’m moving and kicking as best I can to make Trudy think twice about offing him. No joy, Claude sneaks up and tips the poison in his ear. Just kidding. I shout ‘Don’t drink it’ but no one hears. Next thing I know there’s a news item saying he’s been found dead on the M1. How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!

The police have come round. They haven’t arrested them yet but they don’t seem to be buying the suicide story. Can’t say I blame them. They’re getting pissed and fucking again. I’ve got a headache and bruises all over me. I’ve had enough, I’m going to hang myself with the umbilical cord.

“And when I die, make sure the whole world knows
I was a decent bloke for the most part.”

I couldn’t go through with it. Claude and Trudy are planning to do a runner. They’re going to dump me. God, I don’t want to be alone in exile in Poland. I must do something.

“Get off thy butt, foetus! From this time forth
My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth.”

“Oh my God,” yells Trudy. “I’m giving birth.”

I just need to hang on till the police arrive. The rest is silence.

Digested read, digested: In utero veritas.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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