Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Aug 31st 2009 3:00PM by Dan Reilly
Now, Cave returns to fiction with his second novel, 'The Death of Bunny Munro.' The story details a pill-popping, sex-obsessed salesman who hits the road with his nine-year-old son. Already, the book is receiving high praise -- 'Trainspotting' author Irvine Welsh said "Put Cormac McCarthy, Franz Kafka and Benny Hill together in a Brighton seaside guesthouse and they might just come up with Bunny Munro."
The book hits stores Sept. 8 but in the meantime, read an exclusive excerpt of the second chapter below.
An excerpt from Nick Cave's 'The Death of Bunny Munro.'
Bunny stumbles in the dark, groping along the bathroom wall for the light switch. It is somewhere in those dead hours, the threes and fours, and the prostitute has been paid and packed off. Bunny is alone and awake and a mammoth hangover finds him on a terrifying mission for the sleeping pills. He thinks he may have left them in the bathroom and hopes the hooker didn't find them. He locates the switch and fluorescent tubes buzz and hum awake. Bunny moves towards the mirror and its merciless light and despite the hot, toxic throb of his hangover -- the dry, foul mouth, the boiled skin, blood-blown eyes and his demolished quiff -- he is not displeased with what greets him.
He is afforded no insights, no illuminations, no great wisdoms but he can see immediately why the ladies dig him. He is not a toned, square-jawed lover boy or cummerbunded ladies' man but there's a pull, even in his booze-blasted face, a magnetic drag that has something to do with the pockets of compassion that form at the corners of his eyes when he smiles, a mischievous arch to his eyebrows and the little hymen-popping dimples in his cheeks when he laughs. Look!
There they are now!
He throws down a sleeping tablet and for some spooky reason the fluorescent light short-circuits and flashes on and off. Bunny sees, for a split second, his face X-rayed and the green bones of his skull leap to the surface of his skin. Bunny says to the grinning death's head, "Oh, man!" and throws down a second tablet and makes his way back to bed.
Showered, quiffed and deodorised, Bunny hunches over a tabloid in the breakfast room of the Grenville Hotel. He wears a fresh shirt patterned with oxblood lozenges and feels like s---, but he is relatively optimistic. You've got to be, in this game. He sees the time is 10:30 a.m. and curses to himself as he remembers a promise he had made to his wife that he would be back early. The sleeping pills still course around his system and he is finding that it is taking a certain amount of effort to turn the pages of the newspaper.
Bunny feels a ticklish interest around the back of the neck, a feathering of the hackles, and realises he has earned the attentions of the couple breakfasting on the other side of the dining room. He clocked them when he came in, sitting in the striped light of the louvred window. He turns his head slowly and deliberately and their eyes meet in the manner of animals.
A man with reptilian teeth, the bright spot of his scalp blinking through his thinning hair, strokes the jewelled hand of a woman in her mid-forties. He meets Bunny's gaze with a leer of recognition -- they're both on the same game. The woman looks at Bunny and Bunny checks out her expression free eyes, cold beneath her Botox-heavy brow. He takes in her bronzed skin, peroxided hair and gelatinous lips, the freckled cleavage of her vast modified bosom, and experiences a familiar tightening in his crotch. Bunny zones out for a while and then in a flash remembers the woman, a year ago, maybe two, in a hotel on Lancing seafront, pre-surgery. He recalls waking in a horror of confusion, his body smeared alarmingly in her orange fake tan. "What?" he cried, slapping at his discoloured skin. "What?" he cried, in panic.
"Do I know you?" says the man across the breakfast room, glassy-eyed and adenoidal.
"What?" says Bunny.
The muscles around the corners of the woman's mouth retract causing her lips to stretch laterally, and it takes Bunny a moment to realise that she is smiling at him. He smiles back, his dimples doing their thing, and Bunny feels a full-boned, bubonic erection leap in his tiger-skin briefs. The woman throws back her head and a clogged laugh escapes her throat. The couple rise from the table and the man moves closer to Bunny, like a skeletal animal on its hind legs, patting the breadcrumbs off the front of his trousers.
"Oh, man, you're a trip," he says, in the manner of a wolf. "You really f---ing are."
"I know," says Bunny.
"You're out of this f---ing world," says the man.
Bunny winks at the woman and says, "You look good," and means it.
The couple exit the dining room leaving a sickly ghostage of Chanel No. 5 that compounds Bunny's hangover and makes him wince and bare his teeth and return to the newspaper.
He licks an index finger, flips a page and sees a full-page CCTV grab of the guy with the body paint, the plastic devil's horns and the trident.
'HORNY AND ON THE LOOSE,' says the headline. Bunny tries to read the article but the words just don't want to do what they were invented to do and keep breaking formation, reordering themselves, scrambling, decodifying, whatever, generally f---ing around, and Bunny gives up and feels a mushroom cloud of acid explode in his stomach and blow up his throat. He shudders and wretches.
Bunny looks up and becomes aware of a waitress standing over him holding in front of her a full English breakfast. Cheeks, chin, breasts, stomach and buttocks -- she looks like she has been designed solely with a compass -- a series of soft, fleshy circles, in the middle of which hover two large, round, colourless eyes. She wears a purple gingham uniform, a size too small, with white collar and cuffs, her hair raked back in a ponytail and a nametag that says 'River'. As Bunny disimagines her clothes he thinks for a fraction of a second of a pile of custard-injected profiteroles, then a wet bag of overripe peaches, but settles on the mental image of her vagina, with its hair and its hole. He says, closing the newspaper with a careful, disbelieving shaking of the head, "This world, I tell you, it gets weirder every day."
Bunny taps at the tabloid with a manicured nail and looks up at the waitress and says, "I mean, have you read this? Jesus."
The waitress looks at Bunny blankly.
"Well, don't. Just don't."
She gives her head a little jaded jerk. Bunny folds the paper in half and moves it out of the way, so that she can put the breakfast down.
"It's not something you want to read over breakfast, particularly when you've got a bloody cement mixer in your skull. Christ, I feel like someone actually dropped the mini-bar on my head."
Bunny notices obliquely that a shaft of yellow sunlight has crawled across the dining room and moved up the inside of the waitress's leg, but because the waitress has started to jiggle impatiently, it gives the surreal impression that a light is shortcircuiting up inside her dress or that there is a sort of seepage of luminance over the pale dough of her inner thighs. Bunny can't decide which.
He stares down at his breakfast, adrift in its sullage of grease, picks up his fork and with a sad poke at a sausage says, "Jesus, who cooked these eggs? The bloody council?"
The waitress smiles and covers her mouth with her hand. Around her neck, hanging on a delicate chain, is a dragon's talon made of pewter holding a small glass eyeball. Bunny catches her smile, unguarded in her enormous, toneless eyes.
"Ah, there we go. A little drop of sunshine," says Bunny, squeezing his thighs together and feeling a pulse of pleasure register around the perineum or wherever.
The waitress fingers her necklace and says, "You want tea?"
Bunny nods, and as the waitress moves away, he clocks the sudden and self-conscious seesawing of her retreating haunches and knows, more than he knows anything in the whole world, that he could f--- this waitress in the blink of an eye, no problems, so that when she returns with his cup of tea, Bunny points at her nametag and says, "What's that? Is that your name? River? Where did you get that?"
The waitress places her hand over the nametag. Bunny notices that the frosted, achromatic nail polish she is wearing corresponds in a suppositional way with the non-colour of her eyes. They both have something to do with the moon or the planets or something.
"My mother called me that," says the waitress.
"Oh, yeah? It's pretty," says Bunny, bisecting a sausage and forking it into his mouth.
"Because I was born near a river," she says.
Bunny chews and swallows and leans forward and says, "Good job you weren't born near a toilet."
A crease of ancient pain ruckles around the waitress's eyes, diminishing them, then they clean-slate, blank-out, and she turns her back and begins to walk away. Bunny laughs, apologetically.
"I'm sorry. Come back. I was joking."
The breakfast room is empty and Bunny clasps his hands together in panto-supplication and says, "Oh, please," and the waitress slows.
Bunny zones on the afterpart of her lilac gingham uniform and a glitch in the pixels of the crosshatched pattern causes time to deregulate. He begins to see, in a concussed way, that this moment is a defining one for this particular young lady and a choice is presenting itself to her. It is a choice that could mark this waitress's life forever; she could continue to walk away and the day would roll on in all its dismal eventuality or she could turn around and her sweet, young life would open up like, um, a vagina or something. Bunny thinks this, but he also knows, more than he knows anything in the world, that she will, indeed, turn around and willingly and with no coercion step into the slipstream of his considerable sexual magnetism.
"Please," he says.
He contemplates getting down on one knee but realises that it is unnecessary and that he probably wouldn't be able to get up again.
River, the waitress, stops, she turns and in slow motion lies back in the water's drift and floats towards him.
"Actually, River is a beautiful name. It suits you. You've got very beautiful eyes, River."
Bunny recalls hearing on Woman's Hour, on Radio 4 (his favourite show), that more women prefer their men to wear the colour maroon than any other colour -- something to do with power or vulnerability or blood or something -- and is glad he has worn his shirt with the oxblood lozenges. It just makes things that bit easier.
"They go deep," he says, spiralling an index finger hypnotically. "Way down."
He feels a simple shift inside him, and the miserable machinery that has been grinding mercilessly in his brain all morning suddenly and effortlessly self-lubricates and moves into something sleek and choreographed and he almost yawns at the inexorable nature of what he is about to do.
He throws out his hands and says, "Guess what my name is!"
"I don't know," says the waitress.
"Go on. Guess."
"No, I don't know. I've got work to do."
"Well, do I look like a John?"
The waitress looks at him and says, "No."
Bunny limps his wrist, goes ham-homo, and says, "A Sebastian?"
The waitress cocks her head and says, "Well ... maybe."
"Cheeky," he says. "All right, I'll tell you."
"Go on, then."
"Barney?" says the waitress.
Bunny holds up his hands at the back of his head and waggles them like rabbits' ears. Then he crinkles his nose and makes a snuffly sound.
"Oh, Bunny! Suddenly River don't seem so bad!" says the waitress.
"Oh, she's got a mouth on her."
Bunny leans down and picks up a small suitcase by his chair.
He puts it on the table then shoots his cuffs and snaps the locks. Inside the case are various beauty product samples -- miniature bottles of body lotion, tiny sachets of face cleanser and little tubes of hand cream.
"Here, take this," says Bunny, giving River a sample of hand cream.
"What's this, then?" says River.
"It's Elastin Rich, Extra Relief Hand Lotion."
"You sell this stuff?"
"Yeah, door to door. It's bloody miraculous, if you must know. You can have it. It's free."
"Thanks," says River, in a small voice.
Bunny glances up at the clock on the wall and everything slows down and he feels the thunderous journey of his blood and his teeth throb at their roots and he says, quietly, "I can give you a demonstration, if you like."
River looks at the tiny tube of lotion cradled in the palm of her hand.
"It's got aloe vera in it," he says.