Eugene and Carol sat on their sagging porch outside the house they bought when they were young and oblivious to the tight grasp of this flyover country. Their land was hard, but Carol, at least, remembered when it had been harder. Hard in a way most had already forgotten.
Colin knocks on my door at 6.56 pm.
I spot him through the window at least 10 minutes before our date is due to start. His too-big overcoat is drawn tightly around his skinny torso, and his hands are rooted in his pockets. I watch him through the blinds as he approaches my door, rocks on the balls of his feet for a moment, then leans in, as if scrutinizing a notch in the paintwork
Tawny just thought people had stopped noticing her. Perhaps the bus driver hadn’t seen her outstretched hand. She didn’t speak loud enough in the coffee shop. But standing in front of the bathroom mirror that night, she saw only the room reflected back. After staring at her toothbrush for some time, she picked it up, and it appeared to float unaccompanied.
Everything was beautiful: blueschist states of mind. The night sky was complete and we knew it, thanks to the old mnemonic. Mother didn’t show us anything per se, but she bought the book in which I learned the trick: a Junior Collins Encyclopaedia that included a comprehensive chapter on the subject of Space. It was simple and beautiful, the way certain things are: nine words forming a coherent and logical sentence that perfectly aligned to its raison d’etre.
I remember the day when Charles’ parents moved to town. They came from the city, which was an intimidating thing for us in our small slice of English countryside. They hadn’t had Charles yet, but they did have another baby, about two years old I think – I never learned its name.
I pronounce the words as I scrub toilet bowls. The clerks are on their way back home. The lamps on the desks are off, but still warm. The sweat on the keypads drying. The trains murmur on a dark blue horizon.
He paid the man, got out of the car, and took off up the driveway. It was a long driveway. More like a dirt track, with various winding twists and turns. He could not see the house; the track was surrounded by large trees and high untrimmed hedges. When the driveway finally opened up, and he did see the house, he was taken aback.
I was visiting St Kilda. I’d come to see the colonies of gannets, when – for no reason I can think of – I found myself remembering Simon. Simon in his black jacket. The two of us in St James’s Park. But that’s the way with memories, isn’t it? They come to us in ripples. Then they’re gone.
I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch recently, what with Sarah leaving and everything, and, well, I guess I’ve been looking for some sort of escape, a project to take my mind off the situation at hand. I never thought that project would be joining Hetton-Le-Hole’s Premier Lazer Tag League, but then life throws you a curveball every now and then, doesn’t it?
Nancy and Sean were sat outside Coco’s Cafe, at a cast iron table that was warming in the sun. Leftover foam was drying in their coffee cups and imprinting itself on the china. Pigeons waddled close by, eyeing up scraps of baguette that had fallen to the concrete, unsure whether to approach. Sean was cleaning the lenses of his tortoise-shell sunglasses on the corner of his blue linen shirt.
I fantasise about quitting all the time. I storm into human resources, slam my notice down on Adam’s desk, say something witty and cutting, then spin on my heels and strut out of there like I’m King Arthur. On my way out of the office I sweep my colleague Megan off her feet and into my arms before heading to the stables, where I steal one of the company horses and ride off with my love into the sunset. I hear the staff applauding and cheering from the windows as we disappear over the horizon.
Somewhere, dear Reader, there exists an imaginary handbook on how writers must write their stories. The first chapter of this imaginary handbook dictates to writers how they can and cannot start their stories. There is a list of the ways in which one must not begin the plot under any circumstances. One of these rules mandates that the story must not open with its hero in bed.
“The thing is, it was difficult to get anything done when there was constantly so much to see. Because it’s not like you could simply choose not to look – whether you liked it or not, your eyes would still rest on the bed, on Auntie May’s ridiculous night robes, on your big toe or on the tomato splash on the kitchen wall.
As I unscrewed a pipe from below the sink and pulled out a knot of clogged hair, ground coffee and potato peel, he told me of his latest plan: he was going on a trip to a small caucasian republic called Kirkazstan.
But he didn’t. He kept looking at the hanged man. I glanced about; no one seemed interested in doing something. I thought to myself, perhaps I should act. Yes, I should. Well, I did nothing too. I kept looking at the dead for a while then continued walking, aware of the music that started to fade behind me.
The day, ten months ago, when his parents had told him and his brother, Filip, they were moving to England, had started in peculiar fashion. It was a Saturday and both his parents were at home when Jakub woke up. Mama and Tata should have been at work for at least two hours.
Your daughter sits crosslegged on the living room floor with a shoebox resting on her lap. Tiny clusters of mould creep up its sides. You stand there, keys dangling from your fingers, the mud from your shoes seeping into the welcome mat.
She had been a student of history, three years his senior. He worked at a tyre factory though he was, in his spare time, an avid reader. They were to elope four years later, in the autumn of 1968, though the exact details of this ceremony remain unknown.
I could never tell if it was a robot, or a microphone, or an actual person standing on the other side. I would say her name, and just like that, she would appear.
He took everything away when she passed. Shoved into boxes in the garage. There was only one thing left, a painting of a smiling, rosy lady holding a chocolate bar to her lips. Quite hideous, Mariella, he had often said. They could see it from their bed, where they would lie like two curled up watchdogs.
For all these actions he alone has been given credit, and from the whole gang he alone became an angel, while his friends have been sent to burn in hell’s thieves section.
After about an hour, the bus deposits us on the side of a road marked ‘Laoshan’. Green and imposing, the mountain looms ahead of us as we follow signs for the visitor’s centre. Walking up the long, open drive, we’re surprised to see a race set-up, complete with banners, a podium, and a finish line.
As soon as the words formed in Arthur’s mind he corrected them. The bench was not his. It belonged to the council or some such faceless body. It was just one of a number of identical wooden benches spaced alongside the path that meandered round the edge of the park.
“Is she going to get us out of this hole?” Gary asks, though not seriously. If he was asking a serious question he’d stare at his duty manager to press for a serious answer, but instead he continues sorting paperwork.
She’s meant to be at the movies tonight with Sal and Nancy and Marigold who she doesn’t like. Marigold’s thick as mud and thinks she looks like Barbara Streisand, but she’s ugly as sin. I’m glad she can’t go. It means he won’t have to put me to bed later on.
Tabitha was different though. She seemed to like me without the assistance of alcohol, which was good because by the time I snuck her in, Dad was onto my antics and had locked up his stash.
Sadie and Riz. Riz and Sadie. It seems as if no one thinks of them as two individual people with separate thoughts and ideas anymore, but as one whole entity that lives and breathes in unity. They are an institution, their friends say. A perfect match, their families say. People ask themselves, are Sadie and Riz coming tonight? Or, do Sadie and Riz know about that? What will Riz and Sadie have to say about this?
Hold on a minute. Start again. You’re at an art gallery, expecting some sort of critical explanation of a painting from an art student and you get a death threat instead? Maybe I was missing something or maybe I just needed to work harder at being good company. I leant in to inspect the painting more assiduously. Down at the bottom two men, who wouldn’t be warlocks at all as that would be childish, were hidden in the shade, one heaving forward as though fighting a mighty wind.
Being crucified was nowhere near as painful as Sonny had always suspected it might be. True, whatever drugs his abductor had pumped into his veins were likely dulling the intensity of the experience somewhat, but watching the second stake being driven through his right hand, he felt no more than a peculiar ache as the bones split to make way for the iron.
It felt a touch brutal. Like signing my own death warrant. And like they wanted me out. It wasn’t even a friend they were lining up to replace me. Maybe I should leave after all. In my head it was 50:50. In case I left – and just because – I’d been clearing out: old notes and notebooks, clothes, junk. Everything I had was junk.
Follow My Blog
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.