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The ShortRead: Irvine Welsh

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ShortRead of 7 May 2014

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The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins

Author: Irvine Welsh

What's the story: Relax. The following extract is - unexpectedly - safe for work. Or as safe as any of Welsh's work is likely to be.

The master of visceral fiction, Welsh's new novel moves from the grit of Scotland to the sickly heat of Miami. When foul-mouthed Lucy Brennan, a Miami Beach personal-fitness trainer, disarms a gunman chasing two frightened homeless men, the police and the breaking-news cameras are not far behind. Within hours, Lucy is a media hero. The solitary eye-witness is the depressed, needy and overweight Lena Sorensen, who signs up as Lucy's client - though she seems more interested in the trainer's body than her own. When the two women find themselves more closely aligned, and can't stop thinking about the sex lives of Siamese twins, the real problems start...

Release date: Out now

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Extract

2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate?

Numbers are the great American obsession. How do we measure up? Our crumbling economy: growth percentage, consumer spending, industrial output, GDP, GNP, the Dow Jones. As a society: homicides, rapes, teen pregnancies, child poverty, illegal immigrants, drug addicts, registered and otherwise. As individuals: height, weight, hips, waist, bust, BMI.

But the number in my head right now is the one that causes most of the problems: 2.

The argument with Miles (6'1", 210 lbs) was trivial, yeah, but containing enough discord to prevent me spending the night at his Midtown (equals ghost town) apartment. The jerk had moaned all evening about his bad back, talking himself out of any action with that crybaby bullshit. As his eyes grew moister, so my pussy became more arid. Not so fucking difficult to comprehend. He actually shushed me during the last few minutes of an episode of The Big Bang Theory; like, come on, dude! Also, his chihuahua, Chico, was yelping belligerently and he wouldn’t stick him in another room, insisting the bug-eyed little asshole would soon settle down.

Well, fuck that.

He didn’t take it well when I opted to split: making like a sulky toddler, all stiff posture and pouting lips. Like, man the fuck up! Some guys are just not cool enough to do anger. Chico, changing his routine by jumping onto my knee, despite me continually lowering him back onto the floor, has a bigger set of balls.

So I’m heading back to South Beach, a couple minutes short of 3:30 a.m. The night had been calm earlier, a hanging moon and a rash of stars providing shards of light which cut through the deep mauve sky. Then, almost as soon as I start up my wheezy 1998 Caddy DeVille, inherited from my mom, I’m aware of the shift in the weather. I’m not concerned as I have Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” rattling out of my speakers, but by the time I get onto the Julia Tuttle Causeway, gusts of wind are shoving at the car head-on. I slow down as sheets of rain batter the windshield, causing me to squint through the rapid swishes of the wipers.

Just as it suddenly eases to a drizzle and the speedometer creeps back to fifty, two men emerge out of the now starless, inky dark, running right down the middle of the almost deserted causeway toward me, waving their arms. The closest one blows hard, hamster-cheeked under the white flood of the overhead highway lights, his crazed eyes bursting into view. At first I think it’s some kind of a joke; shit-faced frat boys or crazy druggies playing a fucked-up daredevil game. Then a stark fuck hammers into my consciousness as I sense it’s some sort of elaborate carjacking, and I tell myself: don’t stop, Lucy, let the pricks move aside, but they don’t, so I brake hard, wrenching the car into a jarring slide. I’m holding onto the wheel, it feels like a titan is trying to tear it from my grasp, then a thump and a rustling sound and I’m watching one of the men tumble over my hood. The car slows to a halt, thrusting me back in my seat as the engine cuts out, killing the CD just as Joan is about to rock the fuck out on the chorus. I’m looking around, trying to make sense of the situation. A driver in the other lane just in front of me isn’t able to react so quickly; the second man ricochets off their hood, twisting in the air like a crazy ballerina and caroming along the highway. The car tears ahead, into the night, making no attempt to stop.

Thank the sanctified asshole of Sweet Baby Jesus that there’s nobody else behind us.

Carjackers never had balls that size or were as scared. Miraculously, the guy the other car hit, a small, chunky, Latino, staggers to his feet. He’s dripping with terror; it seems to override any pain he’s in, as he doesn’t even look at the fucker who bounced off my car; he’s glaring over his shoulder back into the murky night, as he hauls himself away. Then, in the rearview mirror, I see the guy I clipped, a skinny white dude. He’s right up on his feet too; blond hair, greased back in lank tendrils as he hobbles quickly like a semi-crippled spider toward the bushes at the median strip dividing the downtown and beach lanes of the highway bridge. Then I see that the Latino guy has double-backed and is limping toward me. He hammers on my window, screaming, — HELP ME!

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