Friday, 29 August 2008

A door closes

How quietly one closes a door is a sign of how selfless they are, how much respect they have for their fellow human beings.
That’s my opinion, anyway, and you can have it for free. It doesn’t take any time for someone to slow the closing door, to put out a hand and soften its click with the handle. It’s a sign of how social-minded a man is; does he think for a second about doing or not doing a thing because of simple concern for his neighbours?
But then, some of them are quite aware that the noise bothers their neighbours, and some of these just do it anyway. They just let the door swing, because it’s easy. It will take a few precious seconds away from their wonderful life, it will mean making a special effort for the benefit of another person. No, that just can’t be done by these people.
It was one such person of this variety whom I tried to drown in the stream near our home. He lived downstairs from me. I could hear his every movement around his apartment.
One morning as I heard him going out I slipped out of my front door and deftly followed him down the stairs. I allowed the front door to slam shut before I left the house.
He crossed the farmer’s field in order to easier reach the bus stop. That’s trespassing, but I broke the law too, in order to teach him a lesson.
As he rounded the field edge and came onto the gravel path at the waterside, I sprinted full pelt and dived over a bush, tackling him with all my weight and we both tumbled into the stream.
His shock made it easy for me to hold him under, but I let him come up for air twice. The third time when I let him come up for air he’d stopped struggling. I dragged him to the bank and explained why he’d made me so angry.
He lay there, impassively, listening. He seemed to take it all in, his eyes bulging and staring straight into mine, but he didn’t speak or nod or barely draw breath.
When the lecture was complete I stood up, shook myself and made my way back across the field to our small converted house on the edge of the village. I turned, halfway across the lush meadow and saw that he was still lying there on the bank, contemplating how ill he’d behaved.
When I got back, so hastily did I wish to go in and get dry, that I’m afraid to say I let the door slam behind me.
I listened intently that evening, but I never heard a peep out of my neighbour again. I think he must have learnt his lesson, this time.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

On the waterfront

People think the waterfront's a peaceful place, somewhere to go and be contemplative. Somewhere to ease one's mind as you stare out at the lake, or the river or the sea you live near.
But really, we must know it's not as romantic as it first seems. I mean, we don't go there at night, down to the riverside, unless we're attempting something underhand, looking for trouble, looking for criminals.
There's no light, you see, down on the waterfront. Maybe the moon reflects on the churning waters but it barely helps you to see the edge, and it's oh so easy to step too far and slide into the soup.
I've watched in shadows as men have come to throw all the baggage of their lives over those black railings and into the tide. Sometimes these bags are still twitching.
And then dawn comes and you know the everyday will come and sweep the soot away once more, until evening. But even in the day, the sun beats down and flashes up hard from the glassy water, and the river's own vultures wait to pick you clean, razor wire tears around everything and hope either drains away back into the river or evaporates before your very eyes. And we all take a swim, before too long.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Greta and me

Now, when I go walking upon that same stretch of coast, I fear I’ll see Anne.
It hasn’t happened yet, maybe it never will, but the clicking heels of Anne behind me is a sound that makes me wheel around with fear on stronger days, and pick up my pace in ignorance on more usual days.
I dread most to see her today, because today I’m walking with Greta.
Greta is not my new girlfriend; Greta is my new girlfriend’s daughter. She has strange falling locks of boy blonde hair and a propensity to bounce and giggle. She reminds me of Millie, Anne’s dog.
I guess if I’m going to see Anne, I’ll see Millie first. I wonder if Millie will recognise me still. I wonder if Anne will.
It’s funny that as the seasons roll on by and the storms and tides come and go, it’s difficult to tell the month when you’re at the beach.
I like to think my face is like the beach, weathering the beatings of nature and standing almost timeless, just shifting sands giving away its slow changing nature. But maybe I’m the only one who can’t tell I’m changing?
The wind picks up and slaps our faces and Greta has teary eyes. I’ll get her home now. I’ve avoided Anne again.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The crimson arena

On his stay in Catalonia, he had to see the amphitheatre – the arena where the bull is slain.
Ghosts of Hemmingway had haunted his life. As a pale-eyed dreamer of a boy his father had recklessly thrown the works of the great American at his son’s head, near decapitating him with the weight of the prose.
He’d read them with remorse, more than relish, and yet they informed and educated him still, though he hadn’t touched Hemmingway’s bold lines in years.
So here he was, at the circus of death. There was to be no fight this afternoon, the moustachioed men had packed up their wagons and returned to the hills, far away from the marshes where the mosquitoes blazed. This was August, and its heat could drive back a man from his city. Even mules kick those who try to make them work in such temperatures.
And yet, here he was, a great traveller come to find Spanish gold. Come to see the drops of blood on the wire of the torero.
He’d be leaving soon and he wouldn’t even see the dust spattered crimson floor of the shallow arena. The gates were locked to him.

Monday, 25 August 2008

At the bottom of a bag of crisps

After coming home wasted from the pub for the third night in a row, Robert Young thought that he saw the meaning of his life in the bottom of a half-eaten packet of crisps.
Through dribbling fits of coughing and raving he had dropped his packet of crinkle-cut cheese and onion at the foot of the couch.
Getting down with a wobble, onto his hands and knees, he was able to peer inside the value ‘snack pack’ of fatty fried potato sustenance before him.
The large plastic packet seemed to expand before him, opening up like some magical portal into a strange land of salt and grease.
The more he stared, the more he was aware of strange lights and images floating within and upon this vista.
He wanted so very much to crawl inside, to climb the mountains of crisps, and dig beneath the crinkly caverns. An Aurora Borealis seemed to flicker like a neon sign across the white ‘stay-fresh’ lining of the inner bag, and so he climbed head first into the remnants of these snacks, crunching as he went…
The next day, his flatmate, Lizzy Prescott, found Robert passed out in a large bag of Walkers.
She removed the bag and brought him round. His entire body was covered in salt and grease.
As he opened his eyes and smiled, he told her of a strange journey he’d just taken, into a great cave of crisps. The cave seemed to go on forever, but, just as he finally made it to the end of this vast lair, in the slag heaps of salt there lay the answer to his poor life.
She asked many times just what it was, what had he found there beneath those white crystals. He never answered.
He just hauled himself onto the grotty couch, cracked opened a warm can of beer and rummaged under the gas bills and magazines until he found a fresh pack of salt and vinegar crisps beneath the TV Guide.
He opened the packet with a smile and then began to beam when his hand came to rest on the television remote.
“This, is the life,” he said, and with that Lizzy slowly rose from the carpet and joined him.