‘Scale’

Text

My wife had sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery. The co-respondent was known to her, and the place where the adultery had taken place was none other than on these self-same scales. The ones the model head had just attempted to steal. At the time they were still located in the bathroom of our London house. After the decree absolute, my ex-wife sent them to me in Beaconsfield, together with a caustic note.
It was a hot summer afternoon in the bathroom. I was with a lithe young foreign woman, who was full of capricious lust. ‘Come on,’ she said, ‘let’s do it on the scales. It’ll be fun, we’ll look like some weird astrological symbol, or a diagram from the Kama Sutra.’ She twisted out of her dress and pulled off her underwear. I stood on the scales. Even translated from metric to imperial measure, my bodyweight still looked unimpressive. She hooked her hands around my neck and jumped. The flanges of flesh on the inside of her thighs neatly fitted the notches above my bony hips. I grasped the fruit of her buttocks in my sweating palms. She braced herself, feet against the wall, toenails snagging on the Artex. Her panting smoked the mirror on the medicine cabinet. I moved inside her. The coiled spring inside the scales squeaked and groaned. Eventually it broke altogether.
That’s how my wife twigged. When she next went to weigh herself she found the scales jammed, the pointer registering 322lb. Exactly the combined weight of me and the family au pair ...

Commentary


Will Self’s first-person narrator is a divorced addict who has found a way of manufacturing morphine in the kitchen of his suburban bungalow from kaolin and morphine. His house backs onto Beaconsfield’s model village, and in the preceding paragraphs he is being burgled by a ‘model head’, one of a group who ‘congregate around the model village, venerating it as a symbol of their anomie.’ The burglar attempts to steal the narrator’s bathroom scales, which turn out to be of ‘sentimental value’ because of the important role they have played in his life as described in this extract.

Themes

Human Relationships
Time
Physical / Emotional States
Boundaries and Thresholds
Gender / Sexualities

Dominant Representational Strategies

Context

Dwelling

Type
Residential
Detail
Other / Unknown
Historical Terminology
Specified Social Level
Unspecified

Activities

Type
Physical States and Actions
Detail
Sex

Rooms

Type
Bathroom
Historical Terminology

Inhabitants

Type
People
Detail
Adults
Male
Female

Objects

Type
Equipment
Detail
Tools, Utensils and Appliances

Bibliography

Direct Cross-References

‘Scale’

Self, Will 1994

Book, CG1055

Indirect Cross-References

Names
Self, Will
Date(s)
1994
Country
United Kingdom
Historical Region
Description
Format
Book
Type
Genre
Short Story
Publication
Penguin Books, 1995, pp.38-9
Copyright
© 1994, Will Self
Location
Record ID
CG1056