Two years ago Jake McCain encountered a compelling stranger at the Glastonbury festival. Two days later his life, as he knew it, was over. Enter Jack. They have…cohabited ever since. Much to Jack’s despair, Jake has remained dogged in his bid to be the most bloody-minded human a jackal ever had the misfortune to manage.
Phin Finley has embarked on a magical mystery campervan tour of Cornwall. Free to potter about, doing as he pleases for the first time, he wants to prove he can do just fine without having a fatal mishap. Or causing one. Or losing his trusty bicycle clips. Even if he is a tad too…Phinish for most folk’s comfort, his mum’s peace of mind and dad’s constitution.
Theirs is a tale about finding your (happy) place in the world, making (foxy) friends, and the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor.
*This is an #ownvoices story, Phin's reality reflects my own.
- 3 To Be Read lists
“I’m still ravenous…” Phin noted, ever the greedy guts.
“That’s because you need food,” Jake informed him. Bossy boots.
“Nope, it’s not…but I am peckish, too.”
“You need food. Or you might find yourself setting off in search of some, whether you want to, or not,” Jake warned, the blue clouding with worry.
“Did that happen to you?” Phin tried to do keeping his voice whisper soft, but it still sounded shouty.
“Yes. Later. Food first.”
“Oh, okay…then do I get my pudding?”
“Yeees. C’mon. UP.” Jake ordered. Phin had sprung to his feet before deciding to do standing up. “Um, I didn’t mean instantaneously,” the scoundrel chuckled.
“I didn’t do choosing…your voice did.”
“When you said ‘Up’, your tone was different…like a summons, so I did listening to it.”READ MORE
“What the—? I didn’t, well I don’t…different how?”
“It sort of did bonging, like a gong.”
“Not…on purpose. Does it sound ordinary now?”
“It could never do sounding ‘ordinary’ to me…” Phin admitted, “but yes. It is more velvety now, p’raps because I can hear its textures—like notes of perfume—it’s not doing the gong thing though. Try and do it again. Maybe…you must want me to do it. A lot. Dang, I might wish I hadn’t done suggesting that…”
“Okay…well, you need to eat, but I’d better tell you where to go, in case you start chewing the rug. Fuck, I feel ridiculous…Phin, kitchen,” Jake commanded…and yes, there it was again. A tone that did echoing round his head, tugging like a leash. Phin shot off down the hallway, Jack hot on his heels. “Interesting…” The glint of steel in those eyes glistened silver-grey-blue as the scoundrel grinned in triumph. Uh-oh.
“I think I regret mentioning it, already,” Phin grumbled, a smidge distractedly, while watching Jake tug the fridge door open. The whiff of bacon and sausage that wafted Phin’s way made his mouth do watering…enough to p’raps cause drooling. He could smell everything in there; bacon and sausage being the most scrumptious. Far more appetising than the slightly sour taint of milk—which wasn’t off—that was its stink. There was also something sharp, citrusy…and the metallic tang of cans…and some more stuff Phin couldn’t be bothered to do identifying when he wanted a sausage.
“What d’you fancy?” Jake asked, after watching Phin do snuffing the air for a few seconds.
“That’s the daftest question I ever heard, but I may as well have some sausages in the meantime.”
“Jack…will you tell me about doing changing now?” Phin asked, after gulping down his last bite of sausage sandwich. It had proved so tasty, he’d scoffed it as fast as he could, which was a bit weird when he always did savouring his food. Rather than scarfing as if someone might do snatching it away. He also felt a mite more…settled in his tum, less skittish in the marble department.
They were seated at the kitchen table, wrapped in their so-soft bathrobes. Phin couldn’t resist snuffling at the sunshine musk clinging to the one he wore, even though Jake was seated opposite, and the entire cottage was steeped in his scent.
“It was…awful. I didn’t know what the hell was happening, when I first woke. I wondered what the fuck I’d taken…acid seemed about the best bet, when everything was so…vivid, intense. That makes me sound like a bloody hippy: It was like far out, man…” Jake dipped his head to staring at the table when his face flushed scarlet.
“It didn’t do sounding daft to me, my senses seem to think much-too-much all-at-once is a splendid plan. Everything feels more excessive than usual…excessively excessive,” Phin grinned, before admitting, “I’ve never done understanding what that means, not really, nothing I do is too much to me. It feels…normal. Too ordinary to know what they’re going on about. It’s akin to being told I’m in the penthouse when I’m sure I’m on the ground floor. Bonkers…but I have to do believing them, because they’re right and I’m wrong, but I can’t work out why. Did that do making any sense?” Phin wondered, wrinkling his nose…as if his words smelled too strange to pull off such a feat.
“Yes…it does. If it’s any comfort, I doubt I could’ve been as tolerant as you have. Not without snapping a few necks, at least. Excessive, compared to what, or whom?”
“I didn’t want to do bearing it anymore, so that’s why I bought my campervan. I didn’t need to be tolerant though, I just forgot about concentrating and did taking lots of no notice. Anyhoo, you still haven’t told me about doing changing and I’m very starving.”
“I know…” Jake groaned, his voice a husky rasp as he did snapping his head up to spear Phin with blazing blue; luminous, lit from within.
“Jake…” His name, barely above a breath, rifled the air half a heartbeat before Jake did throwing himself forwards, across the table in an ear-clattering cacophony of crockery. Phin (and his chair) hurtled to the floor, landing flat on his back with Jake atop him.
“S’okay,” Phin gasped, too gate-crashed, Jake-crushed, to care if his spine had snapped as a consequence. “Jake…fuck me. NOW.” Phin’s body felt as if it might do bursting into flames, so intense was the heat, both within and without.
“Jake! Please!” Phin shrieked, gouging grooves in the tiles when his fingers flexed, trying to do clinging on.
“Phin, I need to get you somewhere safe.”
“NOOOO…need you! Aaah!”
“Shit…you’d better be right,” Jake growled.
“Huh…?” Phin could scarce see straight, let alone do concentrating on what he might be right about.
“No, not you…Jack,” he stressed, springing off Phin to do scooping him up. Phin was bent over the table a bitten-off breath later, his cheek smushed to the soothing cool of pine. “Y’kay?” he asked, sweeping Phin’s robe aside.
“Ye—” The snap of heaven-sent hips did snatching the rest away when Jack buried himself in Phin’s body. “Aaaahh…” Replacing it with a sigh of sheer relief.
“Hmm…” A smile was too busy smearing itself across Phin’s mush to do speaking. His brain couldn’t be bothered, and his body was too besieged by bliss to care about bugger all. Else.
“Oh f’fucksakes…” Jake’s curse breezed along Phin’s back alongside the thunk of his forehead against it.
I have to confess I came to this story already having fallen in love with Zakarrie Clarke’s other books and I was delighted to discover the same seductive mix of humour and heart skilfully woven through this beautiful tale. It is laugh out loud hilarious in places, absolutely heart melting in others, raw and heart breaking with its honesty and openness and bursting with passion in every sense of the word. The descriptions are utterly to die for – seldom have I wanted to taste a subset or soak myself in a long hot bath of landscape so badly! It really gave the whole narrative a rich unique, absorbing quality. But what (or who) I loved most of all about it was the character of Phin. As someone who has a genetic disorder which means that I process sensory information in a unique way from most people, I actually cried to discover the rare treat of a character who experienced the world in a very similar way to me, and has to deal with many of the associated baggage which comes from that. Phin is portrayed with more integrity, love, appreciation and genuine understanding than any similar character I have encountered and there really aren’t words to express the validation I felt reading his experiences – I am so grateful that Zakarrie Clarke was heroic enough to portray such a beautiful and unique young man exactly as he should be portrayed. Both (or perhaps I should say ‘all four’) of the characters in this gorgeous tale are as adorable as they are skulduggerous – it is a fabulous love story of self-acceptance and learning to love those beautiful, unique aspects of ourselves and others which others might label ‘beastly’ or ‘monstrous.’