The second rejection came much more slowly; it was from the Sleepers Almanac, and I'd sent the story in almost as an afterthought. It was one of the strangest things I've ever written in my life, basically an obscure joke about a romantic-primitive ballet written by Igor Stravinsky at the beginning of the twentieth century - "The first impressions of a plumber on encountering Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring."
About this story, I wrote at the time of sending in the submission, "I think I'd be more insulted if they accepted than if they rejected it." Which is more or less true. So I was almost chuffed to get the inevitable 'no, thank you' by email.
For reasons unknown to everyone, especially myself, I still like the story. I don't think it's ever going to get published anywhere else, so here for the benefit of you - my best readers - is an excerpt. (The rest of the story is lurking around in my Yahoo 'sent' folder somewhere. I'll get around to retrieving it sometime.) Enjoy. Or, at least, marvel at my weirdness...
The first impressions of a plumber on encountering Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
A solitary pipe – snaking down the wall – tantalising in its possibilities. Where does this pipe come from? Whither does it go? Is it a pipe for waste water, or no?
We follow it. It darts here and there – with excitement! Around the geometry of the house – there is a tap here – an ancillary pipe there – it becomes bogged down briefly in a clump of grass – but hark! Now it is entangled amidst a gathering network of plumbing.
The plumber rushes on, excited – he sees the pipe emerge again from the tangle – single, solitary, beautiful.
What is the future for this pipe? The plumber does not know. It stretches ever onwards, mystifying, dream-like…
A sudden rush of water amongst the pipes! A low, urgent, thunderous noise can be heard insistently through the plumbing system. A leak springs here – there – and there – and there!
Spanner in hand, the plumber whirls hither, thither, thither – suddenly, in a great rush of water, a leak springs under his feet! The metallic pipes seem to advance upon him – he SCREAMS!
It is a dream of the perfect plumbing system – shining, clad in mystic samite, beautiful, pristine and pure. It curves and loops and bulges in ways too perfect and sensuous to ever be made by man. Its stainless steel gleams with a pure, white light.
The plumber draws towards these pipes in his secret dream, and shyly, lovingly begins to caress them. They sing in sweet angelic tones as he weaves through their tangle of metal – and then, in a sudden shower of milk and gold, they release their fluid!
The plumber collapses back, exhausted, swooning – and a note of doubt enters his mind…
It is a room bare of plumbing. The plumber is filled with a sense of awe, mingled with dread.
He walks to a cupboard – he wrenches the door open – revealing fertile, savage, viridescent: a complex tangle of mouldy pipes from long-forgotten eras.
The plumber leaps from pipe to pipe with his trusty spanner – loosening here – tightening there – sealing elsewhere – suddenly, he is surrounded by a forest of pipes.
Far in the distance, in a remote tangle of plumbing, wink a pair of eyes…