There isn’t the terror in his eyes that I was expecting. It’s more pathetic than that, like he can’t decide whether to plead for my help or ask why I pushed him in the first place.
‘I don’t usually do this sort of thing,’ smiles Jess.
‘What, kill people?’
‘Oh no, I do that all the time. I just don’t usually tell them beforehand.’
Susan’s Nail Bar is sandwiched between a bridal shop and a defunct Blockbuster in a scruffy parade of shops set back from the A24. Walking past Abra Kebabra, Laura notices she is alone and now that she thinks about it, she was alone yesterday too.
It’s taken two stops on the 5.12pm from Waterloo, but Alfie Twitch finally catches the eye of the girl sitting opposite. He smiles and asks what she is reading.
‘The Girl On The Train,’ she says.
‘Oh, the irony.’
She smiles a wan smile and returns to her book.
Keith is smart, quits the 4am starts and high-stakes gambling with the nation’s mortgages for a country reboot before the breakdown. He buys a van, a ladder and a squeegee. Life will be simple.
You can tell when there’s real trouble because Morrisons goes quiet. People stop hollering and fighting and for a few blissful moments silence blankets the cold, metallic shell. Then, there is the unmistakeable click-clack of boot heels marching up the frozen foods aisle. Someone’s getting it today.
Jarrod calls me over to his desk. Jarrod writes Game of Thrones fan fiction and since seeing me read Vonnegut in the canteen, has me pegged as his literary friend.
Alfie Twitch is always switched on, never offline. Out-of-office makes him sick. Alfie Twitch is always moving, always manoeuvring, invades personal space, is handsy, your best friend, really wants to hear about your weekend.
Oscar stands on the landing for a few seconds, staring at the blue wall, his breathing heavy with a hint of drool. His four squat legs threaten to buckle under his barrel torso. Climbing the stairs is gruelling these days.
I walk back down the 86 flights of steps and look for Tyke in the basement of Tower One. Tyke’s name isn’t really Tyke, but he’s from Yorkshire and I can barely understand a word he says. He’s carved out a niche in this Brave New World by acquiring knowledge
Steve: Where’s Eric?
Dave: Floating in a paddling pool three gardens down.
Steve: What? Why?
Dave: The kid was flailing his arms around like a lunatic, so he bum-dropped him.
My second attempt at Whiteout Wednesdays. Thank you to Black Cat Alley for this week’s text. I’m going to call this one ‘Donald Trump’ and is redacted from a poem called February Elegy by Mary Jo Bang. You should have a go. It’s fun taking words away rather than putting them on the page once a week.
The reassuring aroma of freshly-cut grass and freshly-baked pies wafts across the ground. George watches on from square leg as the spinner stands at the end of his mark, tossing the ball from hand to hand, a reflex as natural as breathing, contemplating his next move.
The young girl at the counter of Susan’s Nail Bar looks surprised, startled even, to see Laura walk through the door, bell tinkling as she does so. A glance around the salon reveals five empty stations.
He despises himself even as he presses record, red light blinking at stabilisers discarded, front wheel wobbling at new-found freedom.
Everyone remembers where they were when The Fall came. Evie was in a meeting about how to get fresh water to those in the city centre. Clive says he was fishing his sister out of the river.
I am a liar who cannot be trusted. After a self-pitying post about how I was going to fail to post anything for the first time in two months, I’ve snuck in before midnight and written something. I have no idea what this is, it fell out of my brain in about 10 minutes, but it is something and it’s late.
How will we know when we’ve got it all wrong?
Another Saturday, another Spread the Word, featuring some of my favourite writing that I’ve discovered across WordPress this week.
Buzz flips open his wings .
‘Hey Woody, want anything from the kitchen?’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘I’m going to the kitchen, you want anything?’
Evie and I live on floor 43 of Tower Three on the south side of Central Square. We share our room with a couple called Amy and Graeme. Graeme used to be a fitness instructor and DJ. He still talks about football as if it exists.
‘She’s chatting shit mate, she loves you.’
‘I ain’t chatting shit, it’s over.’
‘She is chatting shit.’
‘I ain’t chatting shit. I’m movin’ on.’
She seems a nice woman. Her kids are well-behaved, and he feels a little ashamed this is the first time he has spoken to his neighbour in the two years since she moved in.
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.
George’s room is on the basement level of the Golden Guest House. Outside his rotting sash window is a shabby courtyard, walled in by the rest of the U-shaped building and the street above. There is a broken bench and child’s bucket, bathed in the dirty orange of a street light.
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 town is abandoned inside an hour. Sixteen thousand people, gone. I sit on the pavement and watch a family cram as much as they can into their car.
Dad looks worried.
‘We absolutely have to leave in five minutes.’
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.