12.10.19 / General Fiction / Raven Crest Books / Paperback / 245pp / 978-1999780395
About 46% Better Than Dave
A novel of jealousy, muddy shoes and giant barbecues.
Dave Brookman’s new next-door neighbour is ruining his life. Because in a bizarre coincidence, he’s also called Dave Brookman, he’s the same age and he even grew up in the same town. There is one big difference, though. This new Dave is vastly more successful in every way.
As Dave starts questioning everything about himself, suddenly his perfect life seems a lot less than perfect. And what starts as friendly rivalry soon turns into obsessive jealousy and crazy behaviour that could see Dave lose it all. Can he get a grip before it’s too late?
46% Better Than Dave Extract
[Excerpt taken from Chapter 12]
In all 45 years of my life so far, I can honestly say I’ve never wondered what a raisin sounds like. So, it was something of a surprise to find myself sitting in a circle of misfits, eyes tight shut, holding a raisin close to my ear. Trying to hear it.
“What sensations are you aware of?” asked Marcus, the mindfulness instructor. He wore grey trousers, a white shirt and a loose-fitting, navy blue waistcoat. He had curly black hair and a weathered face that made him look older than I suspected he really was. He talked with the air of a born-again Christian – all worthy and caring, though you can’t help but wonder what secret past they’re hiding behind the soft voice, imploring eyes and loosely-clasped hands.
“And how does it make you feel?” asked Marcus.
It was my first session of mindfulness training. I was sitting on a plastic chair in a draughty council building meeting room in the centre of town, feeling uncomfortable for a number of reasons. The session had started with Marcus teaching us a series of breathing exercises, then guiding us through something called a ‘body scan’. It required us to leave the discomfort of our moulded plastic chairs and decamp to an even less comfortable position lying on the cold surface of the rough, blue council carpet. Then we had to lie there, breathing deeply and thinking about the various parts of our bodies in turn, considering any sensations we might be feeling. I can only assume the whole exercise was designed to make us look and feel as stupid as possible. If so, it was working well.
Finally, we had to imagine filling our entire bodies with breath, and then ‘give ourselves permission’ to let our minds wander before bringing them ‘back to the centre of our own experiences.’ I winced every time he uttered one of these soft, hippy-like expressions.
I’d assumed mindfulness would be a relaxing experience. But, with cramp in my back and a cold draught whistling up my shirt, it was having the opposite effect. Worst of all, as I lay there trying to achieve something close to calm, my mind kept wandering to New Dave. I thought of the giant watch glistening on his wrist. I thought of an endless parade of builders ruining my flower beds. I thought of New Dave’s busty, ex-model wife. I thought of his perfect kids, his vastly improved house, his swimming pool and his fucking sauna.
I turned every single statistic from my spreadsheet over in my mind. I thought about everything New Dave had and I didn’t. I thought about the injustice of Zack being promoted instead of me. And I thought about how that meant I might never catch up with New Dave now.
After just a few minutes, I was feeling angrier than ever – the very thing that had landed me in this stupid position to start with.
“Now, if it’s something you feel comfortable with,” said Marcus, “just try really thinking about what you’ve got there in your hand. What does it feel like? What sensations are you aware of? And how does that make you feel?” He spoke annoyingly slowly, each syllable taking twice as long as it needed to.
I wasn’t actually supposed to know what was in my hand. That seemed to be the whole idea. First, we were told to close our eyes and hold out our hands. Then Marcus went round the circle, placing something small in each of our outstretched palms. We were instructed to ‘engage with it’ however we felt most comfortable.
Marcus suggested rolling it in our fingers, examining the textures and ‘exploring any sensations’ we noticed. I couldn’t be doing with that, so I just held it between finger and thumb.
I’d already guessed it was a raisin. As soon as he put it in my hand, I knew it was a raisin. It was small and raisin-shaped. And it felt like a raisin. It wasn’t exactly a Mensa test.
We were invited to hold the ‘mystery’ object to our ears and see if we could hear anything. I tried. I didn’t hear anything. Of course I didn’t. It was a bloody raisin. It’s not like it was supposed to have Beethoven pumping out of it.
I opened my eyes and took furtive glimpses at the other faces in the circle. They were all concentrating hard, really trying to hear it. I wondered whether they actually did hear anything. Maybe mine was just broken.
After a long minute of raisin listening, we were invited – if it was something we ‘felt comfortable with’ – to place the object in our mouths and explore how that made us feel. At that point, it seemed only sensible to re-examine my unwavering raisin conviction. Because I didn’t mind putting a mystery object in my mouth if I was certain it was a raisin. But what if it wasn’t?
It seemed quite unlikely, however, that this soft-speaking therapist would pull the old rabbit poo switcheroo joke (surely that sort of thing would be heavily frowned upon in the Mindfulness Community). After a couple of seconds of internal debate, I tossed the object into my mouth, figuring that if I did get a nasty surprise, I’d be well within my rights to jump up and punch Marcus in the face.
I examined the object with my tongue, making mental notes of the sensations, then gave myself permission to bite into it. And… yes. Raisin. Knew it!
About Alastair Puddick
Alastair Puddick is a writer and editor who has spent the past 20 years writing for a variety of magazines and websites. His work has spanned many different paths, from jetting off to exciting cities across the world to writing about dating advice, data centres, facilities management and the exciting world of flooring. He also once wrote an agony advice column posing as Elvis Presley’s ghost.
Alastair still works as a copywriter and lives in Sussex with his wife, Laura, and cat, George. He has written three novels: The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring, Killing Dylan and his newest book, 46% Better Than Dave.