CREATIVE Crystal Jeans

NWR Issue 111

Extract: The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise

Most of the time Mum will use horror films to frighten us. Like when she said that Freddy Krueger sometimes hides in the drains, and if we’re not careful he’ll creep his knife-fingers up through the toilet water while we’re weeing and drag us down to the sewers. So we pee hosepipe-fast, feeling the shivery air under our fannies, and as soon as the hosepipe slows down we leap off, dripping on the seat, which we blame on Dad.

Freddy Krueger is so much in my brain that I even dream about him. This one time, I dreamt that him and Snow White were doing sex to each other in a mole tunnel underground. Another time, Freddy was there on a beach drinking a Malibu, and he goes, ‘Mmm, Malibu in the sun, mon,’ like a Jamaican, and then suddenly he screams with a banshee mouth and his face melts and the dream has turned from silly to terrifying.

When I was four, Mum dressed me up as Freddy for the school fancy dress contest. Red jumper with dark green stripes painted on, a hat, and a glove Mum made all herself with foil and cardboard and leather. I didn’t win anything. The teachers pretended I wasn’t there, like an old lady fart. A cowboy won first prize. On the way home we stopped in the chemist for Dad’s psoriasis shampoo, and I hid behind Mum and scraped my finger-knives slowly along the top of the counter, over the Fisherman’s Friends and Tunes, and the chemist lady looked at me and did a little Mary Poppins laugh, and I wondered why she wasn’t scared. I was Freddy Krueger. She should grab her crucifix.

Outside, Mum said it was because I was two feet tall and had gor- geous blonde curls poking out from my hat. I turned my face evil and poked her giant thigh with my finger-blade and said, ‘I’ll kill you slow!’ And she said, ‘OK, pooey, but do me a favour and wait till after Brookside.’

Freddy has a cousin, Robert, who isn’t in the films because he’s shy. He lives in a flat in Splott. Mum says Robert is a bit nicer to children but still a monster with eyeballs that drip like little candles and a tongue made of old scissors. She says that in the day he wears dark glasses and a big hat and works as a tax collector, and in the night he helps his cousin kill people in their dreams... and sometimes in real life. When Robert’s around, he tries to stop Freddy killing small children. He says things like, ‘Calm down, Cuz, the little bastard ain’t worth it.’ And Freddy says, ‘But I wanna kill it, lemme kill it.’ So Robert says, ‘How about you just chop the tongue off and we can have it in a sandwich later?’
It’s good to know we have someone on our side.

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Crystal Jeans’ stories, ‘Split Me in Two, Gareth Moon’ and ‘My Bukowsky’, have appeared in past issues of New Welsh Review. Her debut novel, The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise, is published by Honno on 26 May and she is in conversation with Gwen Davies at Hay Festival on 30 May. Our interview with Crystal can be viewed at multimedia.php. This extract is from a chapter entitled 'Birds for Breakfast'.


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