That is the primary chapter from John Niven’s novel The F*ck-It Record, obtainable now.

America, 2026

‘… normally, everybody asks the identical query.’

‘I see …’ Frank repeated.

This was not wholly sudden. The useless and ruined ex-wives, the useless kids. Some may say Frank Brill was an exceptionally unfortunate man born at an particularly unfortunate juncture in historical past, a second within the second half of the 20th century the place the America that had been, that might have been, was gone however nonetheless palpable. Like a child staring on the aftermath of an iridescent soap-and-water bubble that had popped on the summer time air, Frank may nonetheless really feel the vapour, the sting, of the previous America on his face. However nonetheless, right here it was, the ultimate insult. He nearly felt like laughing, laughing at destiny. Fuck me? No – fuck you.

A vivid, chilly November afternoon as Frank sat within the physician’s workplace in silence. Not fairly silence – there was the comfortable hum of the pc on the desk, reminding Frank of value, of the meter operating. He didn’t know the physician properly. Couldn’t even recall his title at this second, although Frank was sufficiently old to recollect a time whenever you would have been capable of, again when docs made home calls. ‘We’ll get Doc Wooden to come back check out you,’ his mother would have stated. These days, in America, the one manner a physician would come to your home was in the event you had been wealthy or already useless. And Frank was neither. This man’s follow had merely been on his HMO’s permitted checklist and near his dwelling.

The physician moved a chunk of paper on his desk and checked out Frank once more, ready. Frank appeared out of the window, on the little courtyard backyard, all naked and denuded right here within the Midwest. There was a magnolia tree, the buds on the ends of the branches tiny and dead-looking. Come the early spring, come March, they’d be swelling, quickly to burst out into creamy-white flowers. Frank knew this as a result of he had one in his backyard at dwelling. Generally it blossomed as early as mid-March, generally not till the second week of April. There have been in all probability causes for this, to do with the climate, how chilly the winter had been and so forth. He’d ask Alexa, when he bought dwelling. Nonetheless, at his age, how unhappy it was to see issues develop and never know the way or why. All of the flowers and bushes he couldn’t title. Would now by no means have the ability to title. There was a lot stuff he thought he’d get round to figuring out, simply by way of some type of osmotic ageing course of. (Osmotic sending him again to tenthgrade biology, him and Robbie M tearing it up in the back of the category. Robbie in his ‘Styx’ T-shirt.) Like about carpentry, or electrics. The issues previous guys appeared to learn about whenever you had been a child. However Frank had one way or the other missed all that stuff and children in the present day didn’t appear to realize it had the f*ck-it checklist existed. What was the factor his daughter had tried to get him to make use of? ‘Process’ one thing. Process Bunny?

‘OK,’ Frank stated. ‘Thanks.’ He bought up.

‘Ah, Mr Brill?’

Frank turning again, selecting his overcoat up, already placing his tattered Colts baseball cap onto his head, overlaying his thinning gray hair. ‘Yeah?’

‘You have to have some questions.’

‘Nope.’

‘We have to speak about therapy choices.’

‘No.’ Frank sighed. ‘We don’t.’

The man bought up and got here across the desk. He was younger. Half Frank’s age. One thing to do with a ship. Bow. Bowden. That was it. Frank had recognized a Lizzie Bowden as soon as, again in highschool. You reside lengthy sufficient and every thing has a resonance, an antecedent. Her tits, heavy in opposition to his ribcage as they danced to that tune collectively, on the finish of the evening, at that social gathering. Eighteen years previous. What was the tune? A ballad. A sluggish, end-of-the-night quantity. However, wait, Bowden was talking.

‘Look –’ coming in the direction of Frank, laying a hand on his shoulder, nervously. The child had accomplished this earlier than, however not many instances. ‘Mr Brill, this response you’re having? The entire “I’m not going to do something” factor? It’s way more widespread than you assume. Most individuals, as soon as they’ve bought over the preliminary shock, as soon as they discuss it over with their family members, they realise it’s smart to have a look at all of the choices.’

Process Rabbit! That was the factor. On her cellphone.

‘I don’t have any family members, Doc.’

Frank stated this with out self-pity or anger. It was only a plain assertion of truth. Good prose is sort of a windowpane. Certainly one of Orwell’s strains he’d at all times quoted to his junior reporters, urging them to maintain it clear and clear.

‘I’m sorry,’ Bowden stated.

Frank shrugged. What may you say? He needed to make it a bit simpler for the man. ‘Look, son, don’t fear about it. Shit occurs.’ In fact Frank was now preventing again an emotion the younger physician would possible have struggled to grasp.

‘Would you just like the variety of a counsellor? Somebody to –’

‘No. Thanks.’ Frank tried to edge in the direction of the door once more.

‘Mr Brill, Frank, I feel you’re in denial proper now.’

‘Why?’

‘Why?’

‘Why am I in denial?’

‘As a result of, properly, normally, everybody asks the identical query.’

‘You actually need me to ask it, don’t you?’ Bowden simply checked out him. Frank sighed once more. ‘OK. I’ll play. Doc, how lengthy have I bought?’

‘Effectively.’ The child swallowed. ‘It’s diff—’

‘Yeah, yeah,’ Frank stated. ‘It’s tough to say nevertheless it might be something from X to Y relying on how aggressive it’s and the way a lot cash we throw at it. Simply … gimme a ballpark.’

‘With out therapy? Possibly three to 6 months.’

‘OK. I assume we’ll simply need to play it because it lays.’

‘Play it because it lays?’

‘Not a golfer then?’

‘Each Time You Go Away’! That was it. It will have been, what? Senior yr? 1984? Who the fuck sang that tune?

And with that he was out by way of the reception space, previous the involved look of the receptionist, and into the chilly wind of the car parking zone.

Schilling, Indiana. Inhabitants 32,000.

The physician’s workplace was in a small retail park on the outskirts of city, the place most issues had been now. There was a attorneys’ (McRae, Dunbar & Wallace: ‘all pro-bono work thought-about’) and what was an actual property place, empty for a few years now, a sun-faded banner hanging down in its entrance window: ‘IVANKA 2024! MAKE AMERICA GREATER!’ Simply throughout the freeway was a mini-mall: shoe retailer, nail salon, tanning place, an Olive Backyard and a Subway, its foresty-green signage suggesting well being meals, which it in all probability was in comparison with the KFC subsequent door, the one the place Frank used to cease generally on his manner dwelling from work to choose up a bucket of rooster, again when he would have had use for an entire bucket. When there have been different mouths. The passing visitors whooshed and churned the trash within the car parking zone in entrance of the meals locations, paper napkins and cardboard bins and soda cups and whatnot, chasing one another in dusty petrol fume circles. The newspaper’s workplace, its remaining workplace, had been simply east of right here, additional alongside the I–22. Was it nonetheless unoccupied? Boarded up? Frank hadn’t pushed by to examine in months. He stopped on the kerb to let a FedEx truck glide silently previous him – electrical, noiseless and driverless. The fucking issues nonetheless freaked Frank out, Frank who clung to the previous methods, who was even now fishing his automobile keys out of his pocket. Yeah, he guessed you couldn’t argue with the actuarial tables that confirmed how automated vehicles precipitated far fewer accidents than these pushed by individuals. He understood the logic, trying on the FedEx car now, beeping an digital warning because it reversed slowly and thoroughly right into a parking bay throughout the lot. The CPU within the driverless automobile didn’t pace as a result of it was late, it didn’t run cease indicators, it didn’t speed up angrily behind different vehicles after they’d reduce them up. The chips and sensors saved it in place on the street, throughout the pace restrict and a secure distance from different autos. They had been undoubtedly, provably, safer. Nonetheless, they freaked Frank out.

He sat down on a bench and watched the lunchtime visitors, his proper foot thrumming up and down on the sidewalk. A drink, went the reflexive thought. I actually need a drink. Simply as reflexively Frank’s hand went into his pocket and he fingered the tiny plastic penguin. 13 years now. He breathed deeply for a second or two and bought previous it. That emotion Frank had been preventing again? The one Dr Bowden would have struggled to grasp? It was pleasure. As a result of Frank had recognized for months he had most cancers. The lack of urge for food, the pains down there, the difficulties within the lavatory division. He’d been googling like a madman. Frank had at all times had an urge for food for analysis and it had helped make him a superb reporter. Simply as, later, his organisational abilities had helped make him a superb editor. And, in the previous few months, as he let the most cancers develop inside him, welcoming it as you’d an previous, long-lost good friend, he’d been utilizing each of those ability units, working tirelessly on the factor that had regularly grown into the stack of 5 information (pink, orange, inexperienced, yellow and crimson, ranked so as of imagined issue) that now sat on his dining-room desk, subsequent to his pc. And now, now that it was all good and official, it was time to place that analysis and organisation into follow. Frank was sixty. He’d by no means been in hassle with the legislation his complete life. Nonetheless, the day was right here. He was dying. And shortly. It was official now:

Given every thing he’d been by way of prior to now few years, Frank was no stranger to suicidal ideas. Ideas? Hell, he’d been on the sting of bridges, within the bathtub with the whiskey and the razor blades, within the storage with the aluminum stepladder and the noose. He was no stranger to imagining what the very last thing he’d see could be: the black water dashing as much as meet him; the cork-tiled ceiling of the toilet as the nice and cozy water turned scarlet round him within the tub; that may of previous blue paint (the boy’s room) on the shelf subsequent to his toolbox and the tyre chains, strobing out and in as he dangled, spinning in circles as blood stuffed his eyeballs. However he’d at all times been too rooster.

He wasn’t going to rooster out of this.

Frank had had three wives and two kids.

He didn’t have any of them any extra.

I don’t have any family members, Doc.

He simply had The Record.

The F*ck-It Record by John Niven (William Heinemann) is out now.

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