‘Shot of Short’ #21: Not Quite Joe Meek by Tony O’Neill

Title: Not Quite Joe Meek by Tony O’Neill
Date Read: 08 February 2008
Available Online?: YES (as one of the stories posted by Harper Perennial on their website Fifty-Two Stories, which promises a new (or classic) short story from their collection, posted every week throughout 2009)

Briefly: This story follows the narrator and his partner Susan as they drag themselves through day-to-day life, whilst dealing with a serious drug addiction. In fact drug addiction basically is their life, but the narrator, perhaps seeking a way of lessening the ‘crash’ between hits, or looking to instill a bit of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, begins working on a screenplay, one that dramatises the short and tragic life of record producer and songwriter Joe Meek.

Afterthoughts: If I thought the last story I read from O’Neill was powerful, then this second junkie-themed short makes the last one look like a sugar-coated walk in the park. This is a truly disturbing glimpse grimace into the world of drug addiction, and one that doesn’t make for easy reading. It’s dark and it’s grim, and if O’Neill’s aim was to shock with this story then he’s achieved it admirably; one skim of the ‘notable quote’ below should convince you of that. If you think that’s the most powerful though, wait until you read O’Neill’s narrative on the narrator’s drug-induced ‘episodes’ of temporary paralysis. An extraordinary piece of writing!

Notable Quote: “Injecting coke had a hold on me that crack never did: I get psychosomatic pains in my poor dog-chewed veins when I sit down to do the math: a conservative estimate of seven injections an hour, multiplied by eighteen hours a day (I’m knocking off the six hours to account for having to score more coke, or veins that don’t work, or any of the other bullshit that screws up a good coke run) spread out over just a short, two-day run, amounts to two hundred and fifty two injections in the space of forty-eight hours. Just think about that. And these were no easy, clinical injections. There was no time for the niceties of alcohol swabs, or even new needles. Often they would be as barbed as medieval instruments of torture, and my blood would splatter and splash mad patterns on the linoleum.”

Rating: ★★★★½

*Story read as part of my 100 Shots of Short reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).