I’m standing in the middle of the tube carriage. We pull in to a station. The lady sitting down and to the left of me rises to exit. I wait for the seat to clear so that I may sit. While I am waiting a man two bodies away from the empty seat stretches out his hand and, with a gesture, offers the vacant seat to the lady standing just behind my left shoulder. The lady accepts and steps around me to take the seat. She is not old, pregnant or physically handicapped in any way. The man who facilitated the hostile takeover of the seat, no skin of his nose, exits the tube at the next stop. I am left standing for the rest of the journey.
Monthly Archives: January 2012
Every day I exit the tube, stand in the lee of the station and light a cigarette. It takes seven minutes for me to finish the cigarette and by that time I will have just passed the Post Office and be approaching the off licence. I flick the filter away, aiming for the gap between the bins that line the brick wall. There is a decaying pile of filters here, all mine. I smoke too much. It takes me another ten minutes to reach the office.
This morning I finished my cigarette and went to flick it away before stopping, puzzled. The doors to my office loomed ahead of me. Directly ahead of me. The cigarette smouldered between my fingers and I turned to check where I was, though I don’t know why I did. My feet knew the crooked paving slabs outside my office and my body knew the cool shadows thrown from the high rise buildings. Gaps of sunlight striped the street. I was at the office, and yet I shouldn’t be.
Between the Post Office and my office there are three corners (a left, a right and another right), one zebra crossing and two sets of traffic lights. On the first corner there is a florist, on the second nothing of note, and on the third, the entrance to housing estate . I discarded the cigarette and began to walk back towards the tube station.
The route back to the station was the same as I had taken for the last five years. I looked at my watch. I was five minutes early for work every day, but I was now, officially, late. Twelve minutes late. Which made sense.
A stream of bodies had exited the tube as I approached and now they engulfed me. I stood and waited for the flood to subside and then I stood back where I had been when I first lit my cigarette. I was fifteen minutes late now.
One final test. I lit a second cigarette and begin the walk to the office once again. Ahead of me were a small group of suited Japanese men. Their suits were all different shades of grey and at the lead of them walked one man. While the rest clutched briefcases by their sides, he held a map between both hands, out and up in front of his chest. He seemed slightly taller than the others, though possibly this was a projection on my part. He certainly seemed to be the leader of this group. Continue reading
This was written for the Electric Literature Holiday Contest (a short short of 30 to 300 words, that uses each word only once). This being the holidays though I got distracted and didn’t manage to submit on time. Still, 111 words, no repetition. Worth posting up I think:
He beats the shit out of James.
Pounds his knuckles flat against soft pink skin.
Shatters cheek bones.
Me, huddled in a car park corner; streaked mascara, salt tears.
Tell myself: Close your eyes.
Two cracked ivory stumps glisten wetly by my foot.
Say: Scrunch them tight.
Imagine green grass and dappled sunlight.
Blood pools on oil-stained concrete.
Forget everything else.
Silence echoes off hard grey walls.
Crack each lid open. First one. Then another.
See him turn.
Thin, spittle coated lips now split apart.
A drunken grin.
Huge arms, giant belly, muscle turned half to fat.
I am screaming.
Over Christmas I planned a lot of reading, but instead found myself fixed in front of my laptop, watching countless episodes of Sons of Anarchy. I grew attached to the episodic nature of the television show, the relentless driving forward of plot, the multiple cliff hangers and the ease of watching an already fully realised world.
Novels on the whole require more concentration, more imagination, and often take longer to get going than television shows. This isn’t to condemn novels. What you put in you get out and, generally, at least in the past (hello HBO), novels have had greater depth in almost every area; character, theme, subplot, and so provide a richer experience for a reader than a television show does for a viewer.
Comics seem the cross over point, and recently I have found myself reading more and more of them, specifically DMZ (parallels the politics of the Iraq/US war) and I Kill Giants (the anxiety of adolescence).
I’ll get back in to the swing of novels again soon, perhaps I just needed a break after the slog that was 1Q84 (good, but slow and repetitive and repetitive and repetitive). Dickens wrote his novels as serials so perhaps I should start afresh from there (added impetus, I‘m going to the British Library hosted The Penny Readings at the end of January), but really I’d prefer something less than 150 years old.