George recalls exploring his father’s musty old study, whereupon I realise these characters are developing far quicker in my head than I anticipated. Time for a rethink…
Margaret doesn’t want George to come home, tail between legs. He knows that now. She wants him to find whatever it is he is looking for and come home so they can grow old together.
The Jubilee Line sways. George steels himself.
Off the 171, George unfolds his map, searching for Russell Square and the sanctuary of his bed & breakfast. Distracted, he is joined by a young girl in a branded t-shirt.
Eye-contact, a smile, a quick step and she is in, walking alongside him with promises of redemption if only he will give sixteen pence a day.
The 171 grumbles north towards the city centre. George’s thoughts turn to the bed & breakfast. The lady on the phone sounded friendly, if distracted. He hopes it’s on a quiet street.
The 199 tracks the river west until Greenwich, whereupon it peels off south to Catford. George likes the look of Greenwich. He imagines it the sort of place Adam might be living had he succumbed to family life.
The end of the route takes George by surprise. He has a sense of having travelled south-east, but the scale of the city is yet to avail itself.
George starts at the beginning. Route 1. Every route from start to finish, a sticker on the window of each bus.
Come Home Adam.
There is only one Adam back home.
The bus snakes away from Tottenham Court Road, but he is nervous.
George spends much of the tube journey trying to work out why the train is moving left while the stations on the Northern Line map above the seat opposite seem to be moving right. And isn’t he supposed to be going south anyway?
Ralf watches from the steps of the clubhouse as Sylvia squats over the ball like a sumo wrestler. She has new clubs, but is wholly unsuited to the treacherous demands of the prestigious Lesser Frampton Links.
In a nondescript outhouse in the joint security area of Panmunjom, Joo-won watches as the enemy completes its theatrical changing of the guard.
He checks the clock. 2.34am.
He listens to the rolling tide of her breathing, and sighs. His bedside clock ticks. The boiler stirs briefly, whirring for a few seconds before clicking off into silence.
I kick lazily at the dead leaves and wait for them to file past and offer one last condolence before drifting back to unchanged lives.
The next day: Ring ring. Dad picks up.
We’re watching that fat nanny film.